Just as I feared, the final challenge on "The Biggest Loser" was a marathon.
I have nothing against the marathon itself, but I really think that a race like that should be done for your own personal satisfaction, not because you're forced to do it. I know how horrible a half marathon can feel even when you feel ready for it. From the way the contestants were running, with their arms held in tight angles next to their chests, it didn't seem like anyone had taught them proper distance running form, and I'm not sure any of them had run very far before they got their "care package" letting them know what their final challenge was.
On the plus side, though, it was not a race this time. Contestants were free to walk or run, or switch back and forth between the two as much as they wanted. Everyone who finished the 26.2 miles got a $10,000 donation to the charity of their choice. The contestants also seemed to be getting plenty of support along the way. Water bottles appeared and disappeared. When Danny started having trouble with his knees, he was able to stop and get them iced down until he was ready to continue. There were also special support runners who appeared to help the contestants through rough patches: Friends, family, former contestants, Bob and Jillian. Everyone finished the race and won the $10,000 for the charity of their choice. Rudy ran the entire way and took a little more than 5 hours to finish. Amanda, though she had times when she was crying and said she couldn't do it, ran and walked and finished about 20 minutes later. Liz and Danny ended up walking a lot and taking some breaks, and took more than 7 hours to finish. When you consider that the contestants were used to working out 5-6 hours a day on the ranch, the marathon seems a little less extreme.
I think the reason for the marathon is to answer critics who say the rate of weight loss on "The Biggest Loser" is unhealthy. Juxtaposing footage of contestants looking fit and finishing a marathon with footage of them practically dying on the first day just walking or running a mile is a pretty definitive answer to that criticism. Obviously they are better off than they were before. Obviously they are healthier. Sure, it's not realistic to expect that people in normal situations could lose weight at "The Biggest Loser" rates when they're working and spending time with their families. That's why contestants are so nervous about returning home.
That was the other element to this episode: Footage of the contestants at home, struggling to maintain their weight loss routines in the environments where they gained their weight. Danny and Liz both seemed to be struggling to fit back into married life. (Thankfully, there weren't a lot of specifics given on this. The couples deserve some privacy.) Rudy had a demanding job and his daughter seemed to have severe separation anxiety. He said he had to sneak out of the house to go to the gym because she was so afraid he would disappear again. He also was learning to talk about his feelings for the first time with his wife, which seemed awkward. Amanda said she was finding it harder to stick to her diet in an environment where all kinds of food was readily available.
Despite all of these challenges, the contestants posted some impressive weight losses. Danny actually averaged almost a pound lost a day while he was at home -- 59 pounds in 60 days. Rudy wasn't far behind with 43 pounds. Liz and Amanda both lost 16, which puts them below that famous yellow line, with viewers able to choose which of them will compete in the finale. I tried to get on to vote for Amanda from my iPhone, but either it wasn't mobile-friendly or I wasn't looking in the right place. Voting is now closed.
I'm looking forward to the finale. As you can tell, I'm rooting for Amanda, but I really do think all four of these finalists are winners. We will also get to see how the at-home contestants did.