Betty Says: A Math Lesson

Miles, Kilometers and Distance

The 6-mile mark, or 9.66 kilometers into the 10 kilometer race course.

I’ve been holding on to this one for a while.

Dear Betty,

Could you please do a quick metric system math primer? People clearly have no clue how far a kilometer is.

– Distance Challenged

I don’t think I quite appreciated this question until I went to Boston for my conference last month. I talked about Team in Training and how I was training for a half marathon. Without fail, there were the half dozen people who asked me why I wasn’t training for a full marathon.

Then I mentioned that I was running in a 10k in Boston that weekend. The very same people said, “Oh wow, a 10k! I could never run that far.”


I blame the metric system. There’s no other explanation.

So here’s a little race-related primer for the distance impaired. Ready?

  • 5k = 3.1 miles
  • 10k = 6.2 miles
  • Half marathon = 13.1 miles
  • Marathon = 26.2 miles
  • Ultramarathon = More than 26.2 miles

So yes, people, in spite of the fact that “half” is in its name, a half marathon is more than twice as far as a 10k.

Does anyone else notice this math deficiency? And do you think that the half marathon needs a better name so it’s not always in the shadow of the marathon?

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2 Responses

  1. One of my favorite tweets ever was, I think, by Scott Simpson. Something along the lines of “The term ‘half-marathon’ sounds unfairly diminutive. It should be called ‘ten miles farther than your fat ass can run’.”

  2. Alisa says:

    I think that needs to go on a t-shirt!

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