ORGANIZERS of the Pilipinas International Marathon (PIM) are standing their ground. Not only are they not going to reschedule their event, which, admittedly, is understandable, they insist that a 25-kilometer race, by Patafa diktat, is a marathon.

Pataka (nonsense).

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“It is already accepted worldwide, even by the International Association of Marathons; they also accepted that they can use marathon as their ‘lingo’ if it goes beyond 21K and there is a 25K marathon,” International Pharmaceuticals Inc. advertising manager Tito dela Merced was quoted as saying in a Sun.Star Cebu report on Saturday.

The debate on the use of the term might be getting tiresome, but it is necessary.

Standards are important for any sport. They are the foundation for records on which we gauge performances. A key component of any set of standards is the correct usage of technical terms.

I think the improper use of the word marathon can affect Cebu’s reputation as a sports, specifically running, hub.

Ultramarathoner Jonel Mendoza, publisher of Frontrunner magazine, says, “‘marathon,’ as a word, should be used properly. This is to give due recognition to the true marathoner’s efforts and sacrifices that he gives and takes during the course of his training for the event.

Just think, early morning or after-work runs, rain or shine sometimes and all the pain, blisters, missed dates, highs and lows that go with marathon training.”

When I say Jonel is an ultra-marathoner it’s not just because he has run more than 25K. He has run 102 kilometers. He’s a true “ultra-marathoner,” in the correct usage of the term.

The word “marathon” has multiple meanings. The unabridged Webster’s Third New International Dictionary describes it as, among other things, “a long distance race” and qualifies it as “a footrace run on an open course of now usually 26 miles and 385 yards.” It also describes marathon to be “an activity that tests or demonstrates the stamina or endurance power of the performer.”

To watch DVDs from evening until dawn is to do a “movie or TV marathon.” To read a book in one go is to do a “marathon reading.” To make love to your wife for an hour is, for some, a sort of marathon (but for Sting, that’s just a dash). When it’s not a technical term, we can be loose in the usage.

But when used in the context of a race, the marathon becomes a technical term with a very specific meaning—a foot race that is 42.195 kilometers long.

Marathoner and long-time race organizer Raffy Uytiepo, who has been running since Elvis Presley was still alive, says that when used in the context of a road race, the word “marathon” specifically refers to a 42.195-kilometer race. Uytiepo, who has directed more than 250 races since 1986, also clarified that organizers only use the word “international” to describe a race with at least five runners with world-class marathon times of 2:20.

A 25K marathon, in the context of its usage by PIM organizers, is an oxymoron akin to “monthly anniversary.” Young people’s outlook on relationships is such that a year may be asking too much that they mark the time they are together by the month.

At least most young people grasp the contradiction in the phrase that they formulated a new term—monthsary.

In Friday night’s press conference, Merced and race director Joe Deresas showed reporters a certification by Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (Patafa) president Go Teng Kok to support their usage of the word marathon in their “international” race.

That was rather disingenuous. The certification merely said, “This is to certify that the 25KM road race for men and women is a standard distance as per IAAF Rule 240 paragraph 1.”

Nobody is questioning 25K as a valid race distance. But nowhere in the certification does Go Teng Kok say 25K “is a marathon.”

I went through the listing of marathons accredited by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (Aims) and nowhere does it list a shorter marathon. But Aims does certify shorter “road races” like the Big 25 in Berlin, a 25-kilometer race.

Again, note the absence of the word “marathon” in the name of the race.

Yes, people use the word marathon to describe a 21-kilometer race. But it comes with a modifier—a 21K race is a “half-marathon.” In the same usage, a 25K race is a .592 marathon.

But that’s not marketable, is it? Well, let’s just retain their acronym, PIM for Pilipinas Indi (Ilonggo for “not”) Marathon.

Uytiepo said the original Pilipinas International Marathon in the early 1990s was an actual marathon with an international field. In an effort to lend their event some pizzazz, PIM organizers played loose with definitions. What’s next? Organizing a New York Marathon, a 25K race that will start and end on New York St. in Cubao or a Boston Marathon from Boston St. a few blocks away?

I can’t understand the organizer’s insistence on using “international marathon.” The event’s website address is a good race name—Pilipinas 25K.

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