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  1. #1
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    3 hr Marathon vs 5 hr Century

    I wonder if anyone out there who has done an ironman can help settle an argument I am having with a friend of mine who is a marathon runner. What is more difficult, a 3 hour marathon (running) or a 5 hour century (cycling)? Of course, I realize the marathon is probably much harder within the context of an ironman, since it is your last event. What I am asking is, if each race was done in isolation, which would be the most difficult accomplishment?

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    Interesting question. I've done both at those times and better. I assume the century is without drafting? If in a pack race then the century would be considerably easier, in fact, a 4 hour ride is easily done. If done solo then the effort increases significantly. But in either case I'd give the edge to the marathon requiring more training and considerably more recovery time. I'd rather bonk on the bike than hit the wall running. Of course, neither is a pleasant experience. The wheels will keep rolling but the legs will quit on the run

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    marathon.

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    I'd say 5 hour century, but then again I'm still mainly a runner. I assumed solo for both

  5. #5
    Senior Member skydive69's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old and Slow
    I wonder if anyone out there who has done an ironman can help settle an argument I am having with a friend of mine who is a marathon runner. What is more difficult, a 3 hour marathon (running) or a 5 hour century (cycling)? Of course, I realize the marathon is probably much harder within the context of an ironman, since it is your last event. What I am asking is, if each race was done in isolation, which would be the most difficult accomplishment?
    As an ex competitive runner (and coach) and a minimum of a 5 day a week cyclist, let opine that running a three hour marathon is no great feat. Doing a 5 hour century is!
    www.brokennecktobrokenrecords.com

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    Senior Member juciluci's Avatar
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    to run a 3 hour marathon, you have to be smokin'( average runner speaking) a 5 hour century is relatively easy...
    however depending on weather conditions and health.. 5 hours may not be enough for the average cyclist.

    5 hour to 5.5 hour marathons are average.. and it is a heck of a lot harder to run than cycle, for most ppl.( average)


    while training for the subaru half ironman, i met many triatheletes and a 3 hour marathon is not average times. i have had centuries less than 5 hours.. depending on the course.
    ..life... ya gotta ride it til the wheels fall off.

  7. #7
    Senior Member skydive69's Avatar
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    I can tell you as a long time runner that a three hour marathon is an average effort. I have never known a runner even half worth his salt that couldn't run at least in the 2:40's. How many people can average 20 mph for a hundred miles?
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    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skydive69
    I can tell you as a long time runner that a three hour marathon is an average effort. I have never known a runner even half worth his salt that couldn't run at least in the 2:40's. How many people can average 20 mph for a hundred miles?
    Wow. Not for me. I could probably do a flat hundred in 5 even, but my best marathon time is 3:40. I guess I'm worth a quarter of my salt.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  9. #9
    Senior Member skydive69's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by caloso
    Wow. Not for me. I could probably do a flat hundred in 5 even, but my best marathon time is 3:40. I guess I'm worth a quarter of my salt.
    Where are all these people who can average 20 mph for 100 miles? They sure don't seem to show up on any club rides that I can find. We get up in the mid 20's for considerably less distance and drop everyone's butt! BTW, one of the guys I ride with did 2:47 at the age of 55 - 3:40 is incredibly slow which is surprising for someone who has the aerobic capacity to average 20 mph for 100 miles on a bicycle!
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    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Huh, well maybe next time I won't stop for a burger and fries at mile 20.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  11. #11
    Senior Member skydive69's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by caloso
    Huh, well maybe next time I won't stop for a burger and fries at mile 20.
    You should be able to stop for a burger and fries at mile 20 and still have time to run a reasonable six miles to beat an incredibly slow time of 3:40!
    www.brokennecktobrokenrecords.com

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    Tough question. Nearly everyone that runs a marathon runs against the clock. How many people do centuries solo w/o stopping or messing around for at least part of the time?

    3-hr marathon an average effort? Average effort among whom? Sub 3hrs is certainly a great time among any age grouper. Sub 3hrs is good for the top 2% of men in last years NY marathon.

    Neither would be much of an accomplishment for a really serious athlete, both are great for most of us though.

  13. #13
    Meow! my58vw's Avatar
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    I could never even run a marathon so that would be harder. I do think I could do a 5 hour century though with a little more training...
    Just your average club rider... :)

  14. #14
    MHR
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    Depends on the person, weather, course, etc....but
    as someone who is an Ironman triathlete who also runs several marathons/year (4 last year) .... I would say the 3 hour marathon would be harder - for me anyway. I have averaged near that pace on the bike at Kona, so as a single event just me and the bike with no swim and run - yes, but it would also depend what Mother Nature had in store for me too. I have not gone under 3:00 in a marathon as a single event, at best I'm a 3:10 guy...and that's on a perfect day on a flat and fast course. I have however cycled near a 22 mph/average and ran a 1:35 in a 1/2 IM. But than again I don't have the natural running talent of the poster skydive69 - in fact I claim no natural talent at all...I just work hard at what I do. At almost 47 years old I will take what I can get.
    A friend and former training partner who has done 13 IM's, (several in Kona) is a national class swimmer and has finished in the top 15 out of the water in Kona 2-times. Can bike that pace in an IM also (I'm sure he can do that without question on the bike as a single event, he's also a bit faster on the bike than me and has made me pay the price on our weekend long bricks) - but has a marathon PR of like 3:15. He agrees the run would be harder for him also.
    Last edited by MHR; 01-31-05 at 06:14 AM.

  15. #15
    don d.
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    FWIW and just as a point of reference, the two events that have traditionally been compared between running and cycling are the marathon and the 100km 4 man team time trial. They share comparable times and physiological demands at the world class level. It is virtually impossible to compare the two sports below the highest levels of competition because of discrepancies in talent level, fitness, commitment, etc... that exist below the highest level.

  16. #16
    On Your Right ZackJones's Avatar
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    Without a doubt the 3:00 marathon would be tougher than a 5:00 century. You have to average 6:52 miles to complete a marathon in 3:00. My personal best for a century is 5:56 - most of which was solo. I'm planning on running a marathon in April of 2006 and I'll be very happy with a sub 4:00 finish time.

  17. #17
    Industrial Strength BS hoodlum's Avatar
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    The marathon is way harder to do in this time frame. Just look at what it does to your body. The day after a century I can swim, run, or at least have a normal life. The day after a marathon I feel like I've been in a horrible car accident.

  18. #18
    Real riders break wind. pedal's Avatar
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    I've ran one marathon, and ridden several centuries, all solo.

    Marathon 3:36
    Best century 4:50
    "When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that
    the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me."

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    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Thank jeebus you guys are backing me up. Skydive69 was having me feel like an invalid with my pitiful marathon time.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  20. #20
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    Maybe we should just accept the fact that some people are stronger cyclists than runners and vice versa... I came from a time trial background so hammering out a quick bike split is not much of an issue, but running still feels awkward. One of my friends will most definately drop me on the run, but I will drop him on the bike, so who's fastest when combining the two? Interesting challenge...
    "Suddenly the thought struck me. My floor is someone elses ceiling"-Nils Ferlin

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    Quote Originally Posted by skydive69
    I can tell you as a long time runner that a three hour marathon is an average effort. I have never known a runner even half worth his salt that couldn't run at least in the 2:40's. How many people can average 20 mph for a hundred miles?
    I guess I'm not worth my salt then. I just ran the most recent Marine Corps and Disney Marathons, and I along with about 20,000 or so other finishers, failed to break three hours. Of the entire field of finishers in the Marine Corps Marathon, less than 100 finished in less than three hours. Your assertion that a three hour marathon is 'average' is way off the mark and comes off sounding a bit elitist IMHO.

  22. #22
    Real riders break wind. pedal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kid charlemagne
    I guess I'm not worth my salt then. I just ran the most recent Marine Corps and Disney Marathons, and I along with about 20,000 or so other finishers, failed to break three hours. Of the entire field of finishers in the Marine Corps Marathon, less than 100 finished in less than three hours. Your assertion that a three hour marathon is 'average' is way off the mark and comes off sounding a bit elitist IMHO.
    Agreed. I'm a Navy Diver and no slouch. Although I've only been a runner for a year I was told by many that 3:36 is a great 1st marathon. I was #382 out of approximately 2600 competitors, so I don't think under three hours is average at all. The world record is what, 2:10? So how can a 2:40 finisher be 'not worth his salt'? In my age group, a BQ is 3:10 and most marathonners never qualify.
    "When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that
    the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me."

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  23. #23
    Real riders break wind. pedal's Avatar
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    Call me crazy, but I think SkyDive69 is a runner who happens to own a bicycle and the rest of us are cyclists who happen to run. Especially if he thinks a 5 hour century is a great feat.
    "When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that
    the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me."

    -- Emo Philips

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    Quote Originally Posted by skydive69
    Where are all these people who can average 20 mph for 100 miles? They sure don't seem to show up on any club rides that I can find. We get up in the mid 20's for considerably less distance and drop everyone's butt! BTW, one of the guys I ride with did 2:47 at the age of 55 - 3:40 is incredibly slow which is surprising for someone who has the aerobic capacity to average 20 mph for 100 miles on a bicycle!

    Just thought I would point out that in this years NY Marathon of the top 100 male finishers, 15 of them did not finish in under 2:40...so I guess they aren't worth their salt either. Another NY Marathon fact...only 3,785 racers finished in under 3:40 this past year, so how is it possible that 3:40 is "incredibly slow"? Out of 36,000+ only 3,785 finished with a time better than 3:40, that's just above 10%, 3:40 is looking pretty damn good to me. Also, how can you say that a 3 hour marathon is no great feat when only 482 people achieved it in this past years NY Marathon?

  25. #25
    cycles per second Gonzo Bob's Avatar
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    It's different for different people. For me, I'd have to say a 3hr marathon would probably be harder. I've never run a stand-alone marathon (I have done 6 ironmans) but I don't seem to hold up well running for more than about two hours - too much pounding for my joints. I guess I've never ridden a timed century either, but my IM bike splits are right around 20mph with my best being 20.3.

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