Monday, December 22, 2014

The Number Forty Two

“Forty two” seems like such a random number at first glance. For the baseball fans out there it has pretty special significance due to the fact that it was worn by two of baseball’s more celebrated players: Jackie Robinson and Mariano Rivera. So for baseball fans, this beginning will seem a bit inauspicious because of the sheer significance that number has for them. Bear with me, baseball fans.

Other than that (at least to the point that I am aware of) that number in and of itself means relatively nothing. It holds no special mathematical value that I’m aware of, but then again I am no expert on mathematics…

But for runners and, by extension, triathletes that number holds a very special significance in their minds. It is a love/hate relationship with that number because of what it represents.

me thinking about IM

The origin of that number’s importance traces back quite a ways and I honestly have no desire or intention of plagiarizing wikipedia’s great entry on the “marathon” so I will assume that most readers are educated - however basically - on what the “marathon” is and go from there.

Needless to say then is that a “marathon” is supposed to be 26.2 miles or 42 kilometers and about 165 additional meters or 42.2km. The same holds true for the run at the tail end of an Ironman (or, if you’re a copyright/trademark kinda reader, the full distance) triathlon.  Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 (ish), and run 42.2km or 26.2 miles to round off a long work-day.

I am reminded of this number for several reasons.

  1. I just signed up for 2015 Ironman Louisville on my 30th birthday. I had been contemplating this for a while for many reasons, a few of which I have discussed prior to this point in my blog.
  2. 2015 Ironman Louisville is exactly 42 weeks from now.
  3. Number 1 means I’ll be running 42.2k 42 weeks from now
  4. See?

To be honest, the concept of an Ironman is a fairly ridiculous athletic endeavour.  The sheer distance of the event and the “required” training for it (I use the word “required” somewhat loosely, for reasons which I am sure you can imagine as that completely depends on the context of the person doing the training) to be completed successfully are massive. The time investment is massive. The financial investment is massive. It causes stress for yourself, for your family, and at work among other places.

What’s the point then? Is it really worth all that so you can raise your hands in tired resignation at the finish line? What compels people to spend oodles of money in order to inflict pain, fatigue, and a general sense of suffering on themselves?

That’s a good question, one I have often asked of myself. I’ve also asked it of other people. Lots of other people. So far, there have been some interesting responses. I am excited to, over the course of the next 41ish weeks, share those with you. And many more anecdotes on IM racing. My usual blog stuff; you’re probably fairly used to it by now!

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