The Biggest Loser – Marathon Edition

I will admit it. I am a religious watcher of The Biggest Loser. You might even say I’ve drunk the kool-aid (See? I even use the term to refer to myself!). But to my conscious knowledge I didn’t start my journey because of the show. I have at times used it to encourage my journey – “As long as I lose more weight than [insert name here] this week I’m doing good!” and so forth. But I don’t remember consciously saying while watching it “I want to change.” Maybe there’s more subliminal messaging going on than we realize?

Regardless, Season 12 saw the return of The Biggest Loser Marathon.

I know that the marathon on The Biggest Loser has been a controversial topic before – and it continues to be. For several reasons.

Other than on the treadmill and an occasional challenge, we almost never see them doing specific run training. There are times when they’re running on the treadmill, yes. And there are some races they run, yes. But we never see any kind of formal plan like a marathon training plan.

I’m still a new runner – my first marathon will be at a running age of 18 months, and according to some I’m still too new of a runner to be attempting it. The majority of these contestants have been sedentary for most if not all of their lives (there have been some exceptions – Antone this year, the wrestler guy last season whose name I’m blanking on, etc.) and in what…16 weeks or so they go to a marathon.

There has been talk of them pulling an RnR trick and shuttling slower runners closer to the finish. There has also been talk that the trainers have been against the marathon challenge in the past.

I will say that in terms of training and the marathon, this season seems to be the most honest. There was someone with a stress fracture early on and we saw how her ability to work out was limited is the best example of this. Yes there have been injuries in the past, but I don’t recall them showing quite the level of impact they did this season.

The marathon seemed more realistic than before – and I have to say with all those loops that is one course I would NEVER in a zillion years want to do. It looked AWFUL. The times definitely seemed more realistic than in the past as well. I’m not saying someone can’t discover an inner athlete and find that they are a gifted runner – Tara for one has proven to be an amazing athlete, and she’s even an IronMan now! But 5+ hours for a first marathon definitely seem much more realistic for people who have largely been unactive the majority of their lives.

I realize that it’s for TV and they want people to look pretty, but it was a little annoying to see them with sweat-free shirts, dust and dirt-free faces after a windstorm, and by and large hair in perfect for tv condition. I think anyone who’s run a race of pretty much any distance knows that we simply don’t look that pretty running or finishing. 😛 But then we know from the article a few months back in Runner’s World (here) that they each have their own support vehicle, etc. on the course, so I’d imagine part of that was a change of clothing.

One thing that I did see that I greatly appreciated was the doctor on course monitoring the contestants. Yes, there was one contestant who did not start due to upcoming surgery. And there were two who the doctor pulled from the course. One went willingly – he knew he was done. Joe I truly felt for. He was within 5 miles of the finish. He wanted it so badly. But he also has a partially torn ACL among other issues. I was in tears along with him as he struggled to do what he knew was best (stopping) vs. do what he desperately wanted to (finish). I know for me that’s my biggest fear…to want something so badly but not be able to accomplish it. (Per some of my ROTE friends I’m not allowed to say DNF…)

And we saw some typical (as I understand them) newbie mistakes – which I can hopefully learn from. The biggest being Courtney going out fast and at mile 2 saying “I feel great! I can keep this up for the distance!” Of course, she was not able to maintain that pace for the entire time.

I was pleased to see a group employ a run/walk strategy from the beginning! That’s how it’s supposed to be done. 9 times out of 10 if you hear someone say “I tried that run/walk thing. It didn’t work for me,” when you go further into detail you learn that they decided to try it at Mile 18 or something. I was a little surprised to see that they went 5/5. But they clearly had been working on techniques for marathon running that we didn’t see on-camera as they knew the terminology and how to go about executing it.

As for the finish? Well…I’ll just say that 1st place and 3rd place have never been my favorite contestants. Though I’m happy it was 1st place who won and not 3rd. I honestly didn’t remember 2nd, but she went home early on and it’s clear she’d done a lot of focusing on marathon training. Jess did her best and started out looking strong, but she had some GI issues and had to drop back. We never saw them taking nutrition (might be a nice thing to see sometime so that people realize you don’t just go run…there is fueling involved during the race as well), so I don’t know if she had something she’d never had on a run before or if it was just one of those things.

But overall it did feel more real than in years past. I’m not sure I like them having the marathon – especially without showing that the contestants do have marathon-specific training before they go home – but I have to admit it’s moving.

It’s cheesy I know, but I was very teary watching most of them finish and realize what they’ve done. I couldn’t help but think of what I’ll be doing in a month, and that made me emotional as well. To the point that I quipped on Facebook that I need to practice crying while running so I’m not doing something new on race day. 😛

Perfect? No. And I know the show isn’t – and I know a lot of people who have either never watched or have stopped watching. But the bottom line is it’s encouraged many people to try and get active and change their lives. And that’s a check in the win column as far as I’m concerned.

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12 thoughts on “The Biggest Loser – Marathon Edition

  1. That course definitely sucked. Not only loops, but loops on a boring dry lakebed? GAH And it wasn’t just Joe who was 5 miles away, Vinny was at 20+ miles too, wasn’t he? I was surprised that they both didn’t attempt to rest for a while and walk in super slowly. I would have BEGGED to do that…I really felt for both of them. It would have been one thing to make it 5 miles and realize you weren’t going to make it, but 5 miles left. ZOMG

    As for the clean shirts, when they interviewed the old guy from Boston with the hat (blanking on the name) he had his clean shirt on like the rest of them, but it was in the daylight and he finished at night, so they obviously took them all out the next day and did the interviews after they were all recovered. I wish they’d be a bit more transparent about that, yes.

    As for the winner…meh. I’d have been happier if #2 had won, honestly. #3 is going to gain the weight back after the finale, don’t you think? It’s all about the finale, not about the life change. Sad, because the trainer sees it too.

    • I wasn’t sure where Vinny was. He seemed a bit more willing to stop than Joe did. I know Joe was begging to keep going. I felt so bad for him!!!

      I’ll have to go and look at the recording again (love the dvr), but it seemed like several of them had dry shirts on as they finished. And definitely none of them looked like they’d been through a dust storm. Though I have heard of one race (maybe Nike Women’s?) that has a “primp station” close to the end. LOL. I’m gonna rock that sweaty “I look like I’m dying” pic at Disney!! 😛

      And I agree on all counts. I’m not outraged that #1 won, but I would have been happier if he’d been chicked. And I agree 100% about #3. He’s only in it for the game and that weight is going to pile back on.

      • I guess they weren’t all that sweaty at the end, but I wasn’t either. I definitely didn’t look camera ready, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d had a makeup fixing station 1/4 mile out or something. They did show at least one water tent during the race, btw.

        Also, and this is kind of bad, but I wondered last night if they stopped the clock during food/water stops for them. Because a few of them had WAY too much energy at the end, bouncing around and stuff. The more I think about it, the more they MUST have had a stop at the end, or they reshot the finish after they rested up. Because they should have just been dead at the end.

      • Very true. And from the article, they do film the start several times. So perhaps they filmed the finish later too. But it would be interesting to see full disclosure on if they stop the clock. Ada said they didn’t for the time she was in the bathroom during hers…but she didn’t say if they were allowed clock-stopped rest breaks.

      • My guess is that they don’t stop the clock – I was just a little surprised that the times were even as quick as they were, particularly the first few. Sure they’ve been training like maniacs for a few months, but that’s still a lot different than running 26 miles.

      • Right. Though some past times have been faster. I do think that those who were sent home earlier possibly had a better chance to do actual marathon-esque training. We’ll never see a full-disclosure on it, but it would be interesting for sure.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Beth. I also do not like #1 and #3. However, I think # 1 ran the race smart while # 2 did the same newbie mistakes we all do. Thinking the pace feels too easy and it would feel the same 20 miles down. Doh!

    Overall, I’ve watched the series on and off and this marathon episode was the more realistic. However, I hated the fact that all they did for the first hour was cry their hearts out. Overall, the episode was boring.

  3. The one thing that bothered me about this one was the lack of the fueling. Until the end – we really never saw them take water, food, etc. and I think that is misleading to the general public that do not know about running. All in all it was better than in the past. I banned myself from watching it because I was so mad at how they did the first BLM.

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