Tag: Harold Bloom

THE FESTIVALIZATION OF SPORT — Respite from the competition of life

“Charming, smiling fellow”

In our center-right, celebrity-saturated society it is all but apostacy to say, as Yale University Sterling Professor of Humanities Harold Bloom did in a C-SPAN interview in 2000, “The country was almost destroyed by Ronald Reagan, that charming, smiling fellow.  He assured us we could all emancipate ourselves from our selfishness, which we proceeded to do on a national scale.”

Bloom’s biting assessment arrived on the heels of the dot-com bubble, but a full eight years before the housing bubble burst, a collapse that plummeted the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Today, we are still on the long climb back to full recovery, if such a thing even exists.

In our modest running world, a similar emancipation has taken place.  Over the last generation, running has witnessed its own emancipation from effort, better known as the “Everyone’s a Winner” phase of the second running boom.  Runner’s World’s Mark Remy wrote about it this past January – OK, Time to Retire the Finisher’s Medal, and just yesterday the Wall Street Journal took up the issue – A lack of competitiveness in younger runners is turning some races into parades.

In June 1982, the late president of the New York Road Runners and race director of the New York City Marathon Fred Lebow told me, “You talk of a running boom, but we haven’t seen a boom yet.  This has only been a boom-let.  The one area that is completely behind the times is women running.  Most races see 15-25% women, yet the population is over 50% women.”

As with most things, Lebow was a seer.  Today, mass marathons in the U.S. are generally over 50% women with some tilting over 60%. Even registration for next April’s Boston Marathon, the oldest continuously run marathon in the world, has skewed heavily female.  Much of that is the consequence of last year’s tragic bombings at the Boston finish line, but some of it is Lebow’s prophecy coming true.

Though the 2014 Boston Marathon registration will skew slower and more female than usual with addition of the 4700 entrants from 2013, predominantly women, who were unable to complete the distance due to the finish line bombings, it is still a long way from 1979 when only 520 women entered Boston compared to 7357 men. (more…)

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RELEASING THE ATHLETE WITHIN

     Trends come and go, but despite a balky economy running events throughout the country have continued to experience a wave of women participants as the overall numbers in the sport show steady improvement year to year. According to Running USA, women filled 53% of event fields in 2010, men only 47%, a sea-change from the statistics found in the early years of the first running boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s. 

     Notwithstanding this participation boom, and despite the fact that the world’s best runners have continued to produce faster and faster times at the tip of the running spear, there has been no echo boom in terms of competitive improvement in the everyday runner.  Participation alone has become the mantra of the masses.  

But as I found out when my wife Toya began coaching local runners in San Diego this year after receiving her ACE-certification in personal training and exercise science certification from UCSD, there are still runners who have an old-school desire to seek out their limits and discover what literary critic Harold Bloom calls “the difficult pleasure”.

     A mid-30’s marathoner with a demanding full-time job, Jesu Claridad was in many statistical ways today’s typical female runner.  She had run seven marathons with a PR of 4:50. Then she met Toya. (more…)