Monday, November 05, 2007

Soapbox Blog

Excuse me while I get up on my soapbox...

Over the weekend a friend sent me this blog post on salon.com. You can read it by clicking on blog post in the last sentence. But beware, feelings of anger and thoughts of throwing something across the room may happen. :)

The Cliff Notes version is he writes about how Oprah, the Penguin and all the slower runners have wrecked the competitive spirit. He writes:

"With all these runners, and all this technology, you'd think America would be turning out faster and faster marathoners. Instead, the opposite is happening. The more we run marathons, the slower we get -- an average of 45 minutes slower over the last 25 years. Ryan Hall is the swiftest American-born marathoner ever. His best race isn't in the top 250 of all time."

He must not have done his homework when he wrote this blog on Friday because Ryan Hall beat the Marathon Trials record from the early 80s with an outstanding 2:09:02 on a very challenging, hilly Central Park course. And it was only his third marathon ever. That, and the top three men (Dathan Ritzenhein and Brian Sell) a spot on the Olympic Marathon Team are training on "Teams"sponsored by Nike, Brooks/Saturn, and Asics. These companies are investing in developing elite US marathon runners BECAUSE of the masses. And it is working.

He also fails to mention Deana Kastor who broke the American Marathon record and won a bronze medal in Athens. Little does he know that the elite runners are getting stronger because of the masses of mortal runners toeing the line at marathons. The elite runners are also the first ones to encourage mortals to run. They are by no means negatively affected by the slower runners. The larger the race, the larger the prize purse and sponsorship. Runners fast and not-so-fast contribute to their winnings.

It also hit a cord with me because he blames Oprah and the Penguin, who just happens to be my loving husband. I don't know Oprah but I love who she is and what she's done. Her marathon was all about transformation in her own life. And she ran it in a very respectable time too. John has spent the better part of 12 years motivating inactive people to get active and discover the runner within. With obesity creeping up to being the most deadly disease in the nation, getting people active is a very good thing.

And yes, the average finish times are slower than they were 20 years ago, but there were a mere 1,000 or fewer runners in marathons then too. The times are slower because there are 30,000 runners not 1,000! It simple math. Not to mention, had the author tried to run a marathon 20 years ago, he would have been in the back of the pack. Which is the group he is blaming for the dumming down of the sport. Speed is relative. Anyone who doesn't win the race is slow in a race. We're all slow so how can a 3:45ish marathon runner call a 4:30 marathon runner slow????

Today's runners fast and slow are motivating tomorrow's champions. The sons, daughters and even grand kids are watching their parents finish the race and that not only motivates them to run it also gives them permission to try. Life is short. Get out there and run, cycle, and be fit. And never let anyone tell you that you can't. Because being a marathoner is not about how fast you get to the finish, it is about having the tenacity to train, prepare and gather up the courage to show up at the start line. If you happen to run a faster time that is a bonus.

Getting down off my soapbox and going for a slow run...

Jenny

3 comments:

Vendelascity said...

I'll join you on your soapbox, Jenny. If it wasn't for Grete, Joanie and Mary Decker setting benchmarks for women runners back in the '80s, I wouldn't have begun running seriously, nor continued to do so 20+ years later. Yes, I'm one of those middle of the packers and I'll never win a race but today's female athletes (Paula!) are breaking down barriers, and narrowing the time gap between men and women. They inspire many of us slower mortals to run in their footsteps.

For everyone who gets their butt off the couch and toes the starting line at even a local 5K, remember that Confucious said, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!"

L said...

I'll probably always be slow. you and John need to keep up what you are doing. Thanks for the inspiration.

George Dosher said...

Jenny, I am with you, the guy's thinking is a little off. Many of us start slow because we are new to running. Some of us only have the courage to even try running because someone like John convinces us that it is okay to run even if we are slow. Some of us get better, some don't. But even the slowest runner is faster than a couch potato. (Not sure, but I think a Wise Penguin said that or something like it.)

I was afraid to run my first 5k because I did not want to look like a fool coming in around 30 minutes, but when I read about John struggling to make it to 30, I felt like I could do it. My first 5k was just below 28, my last one was just below 24.

Thanks John for helping me have "The courage to start"!