For for than a decade now I’ve pursued the goal of being a ‘jack-of-all-endurance’ trades. I have aspired simultaneously to train so that I could both ‘do anything’ and ‘do it well’. For quite some time I’ve left the notion of what ‘doing it well’ meant purposefully vague but have long contemplated the phrase, wondering what, at least for an ambitious recreational athlete like myself, it should actually mean. The time has now come to offer up a more concrete criteria.
I’ll begin by admitting that these criteria are going to be largely (entirely?), arbitrary. But in truth, at least from a suitably wide perspective, everything else is largely arbitrary too. Arbitrariness is unavoidable. That being said, arbitrariness can be more (when backed by reasoned arguments) or less (lacking any meaningful justification) sensible. The bit of arbitrariness in question here falls into the former category of course–in my opinion anyway and since this is my article, I guess no more justification is required. So without further ado:
Doing something well (as an age group, non professional athlete) implies–at least when concerning athletic endeavors that are measured by ‘time to completion’– finishing within a time no more than 50% greater than that of the world’s top athletes in the given discipline. In other words, you’ve done it well if you are ‘Off by 50’ or less.
If you think that this sounds too easy – that 50% is too generous a cushion – consider the following examples:
- The fastest marathon time is just over 2 hours. By my criteria, an age grouper who runs a 3 hour marathon is doing dandy. In fact, they’ll qualify for Boston with time to spare. This evidence clearly supports my thesis and scarcely have I seen a better start to a well reasoned argument. So far so good.
- The fastest IronMan (IM) distance triathlon is somewhere right around (slightly under) 8 hours – so breaking that 12 hour barrier puts you in pretty good company. Additionally consider that if you look at the results of most general registration (no qualifying time is required) IM distance races on reasonably flat courses, a sub 12 hour performance would put you in approximately the top 35% of the field. Considering that there are no ‘average’ athletes running such a race and you get an idea of the achievement. If you ask me the logic, at least for efforts at the top end of the scale, is simply infallible. But what about shorter endurance efforts?
- Well, what about them? A sub 4-minute mile is clearly in the realm of elite runners at this distance (the world record is 3:43). This translates to a good goal for an age grouper like myself being a sub 6 minute mile, or if we’re going with the hardcore expression of the criteria (50% increase over the WR) a time of less than 5:35 is needed.
Wow. I think I’ve nailed it, don’t you? It’s hard to find fault in such an arbitrary criteria that is also so sensible. Completely coincidentally, it just so happens that these numbers pretty closely define the edges of my own abilities which is pretty awesome. The target goals created by the criteria are met often enough to placate my ego but challenging enough to require quite a bit of hard work and focus which keeps me lean and keen. Not that these two coincidental factors have any influence on such a well reasoned, logically derived, but arbitrarily chosen measure of meaning, because that’s just silly.
No, it was chosen simply because it makes sense. In fact, it’s so good that I’m convinced it’s just a matter of time before it catches on, becomes the industry standard, and enters our everyday lexicon:
Athlete A: So how’d you do in your race Saturday?
Athlete B: Excellent! I was only ‘Off By 50!’
Athlete A: Whoa! You’re really doing well!
Can’t you just hear it?
Here are some more ways to be ‘Off By 50’. How many can you manage?
100 meters: 9.58 seconds. Off by 50 time: 14.37 (equivalent to running 3:53 mile pace for 100 m)
1 mile: 3:43 Off by 50 time: 5:34
10 K (road): 26:44 Off by 50 time: 40:06
Half Marathon: 58:23 Off by 50 time: 1:27:35
Marathon: 2:03:06 Off by 50 time: 3:04:39
50 meter freestyle: 20:91 Off by 50 time: 31.36
1 mile (open water): 16:23 Off by 50 time: 24:35
10 K (open water): 1:54:30 (approx) Off by 50 time: 2:51:45
10 mile: 17:57 Off by 50 time: 26: 55
40 km time trial: 47:36 Off by 50 time: 1:11:24
[Note–this piece was originally published back in 2012 on my early blog, three hours a week, as two separate posts.]