OK, we closed the books on the 2016 campaign, which was a bit of a momentous year both in the sport and around the wider world. Now we move on into 2017, which is an odd year, but at the same time it remains all pink and fresh and unsullied. That won’t last for long, of course, but at present we are all once again full of potential and optimism. As always there will be lots of ups and more than a few downs over the next 12 months, but as a grizzled curmudgeon there were a few lingering thoughts that rattled around year’s closing. So here we go with a few random considerations.
I know they mean well, but don’t you sometimes wish bad things on the good people standing on the sidelines while they blithely cheer on passing runners? Yeah, they can be a godsend, but late in the race when things have gone sour, and you just want to be invisible and get the darn thing finished, that one-cheer-fits-all lack of effort, I mean, depending on your state of affairs, can’t they sometimes just make the long journey that much more arduous?
First of all, the only reason races like the six Abbott World Marathon Majors have crowds the size they do is because their courses run past peoples’ houses. It’s not like folks drove to the game; they just walked outside. And with races starting so early to avoid upsetting even more of the driving public, you run through entire neighborhoods where half the people are standing out there in their pajamas, scratching their private parts, drinking coffee while mumbling encouragement with half-chewed cheese Danish hanging from their yap.
And if you have already gone about 20 miles, you’ve burned through your glycogen stores, lost all contact with endorphins, have sore feet, achy legs, bad breath, and the formation of a chip on your shoulder the size of Rhode Island. So when some normal in PJs yells out, “you only have six more miles left”, thinking they’re being part of your effort, what they don’t realize is if there was a gun handy, and you could reach it, you’d shoot yourself in the head (and maybe them as you fell).
Don’t be telling me I’ve got six more miles to go! That’s like Moses telling the Israelites, “Suck it up! You’ve only got the Sinai left to cross to get home from Egypt.” Not helpful.
Back in 1980 when only about 25,000 people completed a marathon in the entire USA, it was easy to accept the premise that 25,000 folks had “run” a marathon. These days for many, many tens of thousands of medal-earners the only thing running is the clock.
Once you start having to use both hands to count the hours you’ve been out there, you can’t be claiming to have run a marathon. No, you went to a sweaty street fair that charged you $175 to walk on streets you are already paying taxes for. But because they give you a medal Flavor Flav might turn down for being too gaudy, somehow that translates into an athletic achievement of some sort.
Truth is you didn’t “run” a marathon, you “did” a marathon. Not the same thing. I’m not saying what you did isn’t consequential. In fact, I applaud the effort regardless of the time. And I certainly can’t do it anymore, myself, so I’m not comparing. But did you try the entire way to challenge yourself, or did you walk around for half the day while people handed your water and told you how “awesome” you were as you listened to a bad cover-bands plow through their set-list with a paint-stripping hangover cause they didn’t get to bed before 3 a.m.?
Is anybody watching tape on the marathon? You know, like American football teams do, studying the film from one game to prep for the next? Is running that kind of sport? Or is it all about your own training and nothing else?
I always wondered if you deconstructed enough marathons whether you could learn anything by watching where the eventual champion took up his/her position in the pack during the bulk of the race? Is there an unrealized “best place” to hold yourself in relation to your opponents that somehow gave one person an advantage in the critical later stages?
We see the unspoken rules of the track where the top guys take up their positions behind the pacers, and no one else in the field encroaches on that order under penalty of losing future invitations. But the track has space advantages that go with running near the curb. Not so the roads. Though I’ve heard that some runners are partial to one side or the other in the pack, or like to get lost in the middle of the gathering, is there that one place that saves the most energy (given a benign day weather-wise)?
They always say what makes Tom Brady Tom Brady (quarterback for the New England Patriots football team) is his relentless devotion to his work ethic, including watching film. So does anybody, or any management team do opposition research in the marathon game? Should they? Or is it all about getting yourself as fit as you can, then just run the race, and the opposition will come along with the territory? Is that it?
Why when you turn 40 do they call runners Masters?
Master? Are they kidding? It’s like they’re mocking you. Believe me, by the time you hit the big 4-0 you’re no master.
Look, a master craftsman is one who gets better with age and experience. I get that. But that’s woodworking and plastering, the building trades. As a runner you don’t get better after 40 (much less 50 or 60), you just get slower and easier to hurt. Plus, it takes forever to find a race photo that shows you with both feet off the ground. It’s pathetic, not masterful.
Sure, I remember the days when I could feel the wind blowing my hair back when I stepped on the gas in a race, kind of how Keninisa Bekele and Wilson Kipsang must have felt in Berlin last fall (well, if they would have had long, flowing hair). But add a couple decades onto those two 30+ year-olds, and they’ll be hoping to still have more hair atop their heads than they have coming in tufts out of their noses and ears, or growing like a chia pet on their backs.
I’ll tell you, the first time you go to a hair salon and the nice looking young woman starts clipping at your nose and ear hairs, well, that’s a crossroads day. So, enjoy it while you can, kiddies, ’cause it ain’t no endless road. One foot in front of another is one thing, but blowin’ in the wind at some point just becomes another old Bob Dylan song.
OK, that’s enough curmudgeonly activity for the first of the year. Good luck and good fortune to all over the coming span.