I've been mentioning this for years among friends, but it's time to try to get it established.
Not long ago, I met a woman who told me she had finished a marathon in Hawaii. She was well over 300 pounds, so I guessed she had done it a long time ago, but it was in the past year. It's possible, I thought, as there are some people who manage to be fit and fat at the same time, but it's very rare. She told me how she had trained for 9 months, getting out every day to get in her mileage. "It was hard, but I did it." I asked her what her finish time was. "11 hours and something." Eleven hours! It's absurd for a race to allow people to finish with such times; it makes every other runner's finish seem worthless. Yet... she did the work; it was a real accomplishment, just not something that even an average runner can accept as being comparable to their own finishing.
That's why we need the term "Quality Finish." A quality finish is achieved by finishing a race in less than twice the course record time - and this does not get divided into genders or age classes. Most ultramarathons have cut-offs that are about twice the course record, whether it's the Hardrock 100 (23:23 vs. 48 hours) or the JFK 50 Mile (5:40 vs. 12 hours. But notice that they're now allowing early starts and 14 hours!) Triathletes talk about the 17 hour barrier, which is required for finishing the Kona Ironman (record just under 8:04). In the 1970's, marathons shut off their clocks at 4:30 (about twice the course records), because few people ran marathons that weren't capable of running 10 minute miles.
We can't stop races from extending cut-offs to ridiculous times and we can't stop people from finishing races after we've had a meal, driven home and had a shower and a nap. We can, however, create a standard for what is "respectable." Twice the course record is respectable.
So, when people tell you they finished a race, ask them "Quality finish?"
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