Keira Knightly or Heidi Klum. Who is prettier?
Boerewors roll or hamburger. Which is tastier after a long run?
Robert Mugabe or Idi Amin. Who is Africas worst dictator?
In short, toughness is in the legs of the participant. For some the Comrades is an impossible distance of murderous, quad-burning torture while the Ironman, while certainly not painless, is less brutal on the body. For others the prospect of swimming 3.8km, cycling 180km and then running a full marathon is only for the truly exercise-obsessed and borders on the outer reaches of masochism.
Having just completed my second Ironman triathlon on Sunday, and having also done Comrades, my own conclusion is this: Comrades is physically a more painful challenge, while Ironman is a much more mental battle. But that is purely a personal assessment and there will be those who will argue the merits either way.
What both events do have in common in perhaps their biggest attractions: A sense of deep life-changing satisfaction when you finish. Events like these are more than just athletic achievements. They are personal triumphs.
In his victory speech to the Ironman finishers in PE on Monday night, winner Stephen Bayliss of the UK paid tribute to every finisher. For us pros, this is all we do. We eat, sleep and dream about triathlon, he said. But for you guys out there with regular jobs, families, kids, etc completing an Ironman is an amazing achievement. I think it is incredible.
The same could be said of the Comrades, or any other endurance event. They are events that showcase ordinary people doing extraordinary things and their value lies in celebrating the wonderment of human achievement.
Eds Note: Congrats to all the Runners World team members who completed the Ironman Triathlon on Sunday, especially to Amy Northam on earning her first Ironman medal:
Raoul De Jongh, 9:31:07, 26th overall (24th man)
Ashleigh Bird, 12:39:04, 776th overall (87th woman)
Mike Finch, 14:26:44, 1233rd overall (1067th man)
Amy Northam, 16:40:46, 1401st overall (217th woman)
PS: Stop by the Weekly Poll on the homepage and answer the question: Which is the ultimate race, the Comrades or the Ironman?