Former 2:24 marathoner, now pushing 50 and reduced to a pitiable spastic shuffle • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on distance running since 1999; mostly a crank since approximately 2016 and possibly long before • Coach and adviser of less pessimistic perambulators • Dobie-mix owner Sentence-fragment impresario

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Worn down

The area shown below is known as the Muchyedo Banks. I took the photo on a drizzly Halloween mid-morning, a few days before leaving New Hampshire. This spot is about a half-mile into the run that morning capped my streak of 365 days. I'm facing approximately northwest. The soil is a lot sandier than it looks, and the drop from where soil yields to sand down to the waterline perhaps more pronounced as well -- according to Google Earth, about 80 to 85 vertical feet. That's significant, not only in its own right but because it's about a quarter of the entire way down to sea level itself.

About 18 years ago, I wrote a story called Swing Time based mainly on this spot. In my imagined version, a giant oak tree has managed to spring from the soil near the base of the water and rise to a height of well over a hundred feet. This forms the basis for an appropriately scaled rope swing and an interesting hoax. I wrote a number of bad short stories in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but this one I am somewhat happy with even with the passage of so many years and writing lessons learned and attendant reasons to shit on anything I wrote a long time ago, or this morning.

I did have some fun rope-swing experiences as a kid, not terribly far from hear but on the northwest edge of town, at Broad Cove. It's surely for the best that that place gets a lot of public foot and bicycle traffic now.



The spot is a little over a mile west-northwest of the house where I spent the majority of my life in Concord, marked below with an H. Starting in about third grade, in 1978, I and my neighborhood friends used to ride our bikes west along Hoit Road across the interchange with I-93 and, often, to the nearest grocery store, which was in Penacook, close to a three-mile ride from my house. 

Sometime in the past ten years, a long-overdue service station with a Dunkin' Do...a Dunkin' franchise was installed on Eli Whitney Drive, which in turn only started to exist on the 1990s, when Wheelabrator, a garbage-to-energy facility, built a plant and a giant waste emitter (can't call it a smoke stack, but it's the undisputed eyesore of the general northern Concord-Boscawen-Canterbury skyline) at what used to be Hannah Dustin Drive.


Before Interstate 93 was built in the late 1950s, Hannah Dustin Drive was the conduit from East Concord to Penacook. It ran southeast and intersected Mountain Road right at the spot where this unfolded. Portions of Hannah Dustin Drive west of I-93 are still paved even though they're only reachable on foot, and only then by people with an exploratory agenda. This strikes me as ectopic city tissue


To get to where I started my Halloween run, I just drove from Hoit Road (U.S. Route 4 at this point) out Old Boyce Road, which becomes Riverland Road as it just to the west, which becomes Oxbow Pond Road as it makes a hard left turns south, toward a commercial (sort of) bed and breakfast.

Today, there's a small parking lot at this location. The trail leading north is part of a state-designated conservation area. When I was a kid, Old Boyce Road ended in an unnamed dirt lane paralleling the railroad tracks and leading, via trails, to the eastern bank of the Merrimack, close to the Route 4 bridge. I explored this area on numerous runs both in high school and in my return to Concord from about 1997 to around 2003, and once followed the dirt path along the tracks all the way north to West Road in Canterbury, neat Exit 18.

That exact trip would not be possible today. I took the photo below from close to the same spot I grabbed the photo above from, obviously having rotated about 45 degrees counterclockwise.


I was standing on the remains of a path that ran straight north-south without interruption within the past 20 years. Here is a view of that spot as one approaches it from the north. The path is simply gone. If you want to get around the space, that's easily done by using the railroad tracks just to the left. But it's a jarring reminder that some events that occur slowly in relation to human lifetimes, like the inexorable changing of a river's course, occur with astonishing speed in geologic time.


You may find it odd that anyone could be titillated by this stuff, but it makes for a lot of inexpensive fun. For example, when writing posts like these aren't enough of a way to waste time, I can make a personal adventure game out of exploring a familiar area using Google Earth Pro's ground-level navigation feature.



I wish I could be at the "New England" Championships this weekend; they're being held in the same place they were staged my senior year, Wickham Park outside Hartford, which is actually an unusual site. But if nothing else, I am back to making high-school-level competition my main running focus at the moment, and probably moving forward until the sport, the planet or all two are eradicated, preferably amid the clamor of a gleeful cosmic drunken belch. Some of the reasons for this should be obvious to you, while others are ore personal but not exactly recondite.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

N.H. Meet of Champions recap

First, if you would rather watch the races in their entirety, with solid commentary, than risk reading reading a bunch of my choleric observations, that's easy (girls, boys). But that's clearly not the case because even the most arrant twits among you don't read this blog looking for glorified agate results. Besides, I have nothing choleric to offer today, although I'm annoyed that my hamstring is sore (if it's not going to heal, I want it to actually snap, loudly enough to be heard 40 feet away and preferably in G minor) and not thrilled about either the end of DST or the long journey back west I'll be starting shortly.

I predicted the top five girls' teams correctly, but in the wrong order (results). Picking Concord over Bishop Guertin was a bit of a reach and was predicated on more momentum than the Tide was likely muster. But Concord still ran a terrific race. Also, I did not count on Coe-Brown's usual number-one girl having unresolved Lyme disease and having to be pulled from the race. That, or something, resulted in Coe-Brown falling behind Exeter. So my 1-2-3-4-5 wound up going 1-3-2-5-4. Of note, the individual winner, Caroline Fischer, also had Lyme disease, which in effect robbed her of half of her high-school running career because her illness went undiagnosed for so long. What a fantastic kid. And now I'm thinking that half the state's runners have been infected with B. burgdorferi at some point, and here I am having spent as much time as possible in the woods in shorts and quarter-socks for the past week.

My boys' predictions were similarly decent (results). Coe-Brown would have won yesterday even if the places of their sixth and seventh runners had been scored. My forecast of an average time of "about 15:40 to 15:45" for their top five was cutting it close, but they managed to thread that needle with a 15:44.16. The Bears are ranked 23rd in the U.S. by Milesplit right now despite having a total enrollment of 700; I'm not sure how I feel about this because Milesplit is awful in virtually every way and will hopefully be gone soon, but they are right to recognize Coe-Brown's 2019 boys' team, and next year they won't have as much discretion because the team is almost certainly going to be even better next fall.

I actually called 1, 3, 4 and 5 on the nose, but I did not count on Londonderry losing one of its varsity runners in an unexpected and probably disruptive way, and they wound up sixth (claiming the last New Englands berth). I also didn't count Pinkerton running a stellar race, which is fuckin' obvious or else I would have said they were going to, which is the nature of wrong predictions. Pinkerton has been semi-regularly punking Concord for at least 35 years now, and it's time someone bitterly pointed out the school has over three thousand students and therefore should never lose in anything. (I know it doesn't quite work that way, but it's good to have handy, difficult-to-refute excuses on hand to both explain your own shortcomings and devalue the achievements of others.

It remains surreal to me to watch Coe-Brown's Aidan Cox, believed to be one of sixty thousand kids named Aidan in New Hampshire alone and a freshman who looks like he skipped at least two grades, chasing the top runner in the state down the homestretch and then tossing his cookies in a trash can. The one time I puked after a race, it wasn't even after an especially hard effort, and I didn't know if was coming for sure until the initial surge was somewhere in the vicinity of my incisors. Yet there happened to be a trash can there, and I hit it perfectly -- not the opening but the side. Maybe if there were no cans available in finish chutes to vomit in, runners wouldn't have the urge to puke. They ought to start putting porta-johns in the chute area to see if that triggers similarly ignominious outbursts of an even more socially awkward sort.

Apart from the results, the day presented the usual array of faces I was happy to greet but in some cases could not match to a name with the immediacy I would have liked. I got to chat with my first coach, Rusty Cofrin, whose initial season at Concord High coincided with my freshman year and who went on to teach math and coach for about 25 years before brain cancer forced him into retirement. I had a chance to talk pretty extensively with some of the parents (at least three of whom I graduated with) and a couple of the kids. They seem like a nicer bunch than my team was, not that we were bad, but it's weird to consider some of the things we could get away with in the 1980s thanks to simple technological barriers to being caught, like speeding away from cops on snowmobiles at 80 miles an hour up right the middle of Route 132 and watching the police try to plow their Crown Vics through 8" of snow to catch up. Come to think of it, it's probably even easier to do that now, but if they really wanted to catch someone doing that and not just random teenagers cackling and trailing clouds of marijuana smoke (well, not all of us) and worse, all it would take is GPS and heat maps.

I have no special reason to be as pleased as I am about this visit. which officially ends in a few hours. Last fall, when things didn't go my way (which is code for "I pussied out of running a couple of races and then bailed on other shit") I cut my three-week trip in half and came back to Colorado before I started setting things on fire. This time, off the bat, I could have adopted the same ah-why-bother attitude when, right off the bat, annoyances started flying my way. Factors beyond my control kept me from watching the state divisional races last weekend, my hamstring kept me from running seriously, and I accepted even before arriving that I'll probably never see my dad again. 

That was offset by some good stuff that's not suitable for a blog, not because it's tawdry but because I don't have the verbal dexterity to convey exactly how my experiences this week have revitalized me. I seem to be embracing the fact that there are things I simply don't like as much as I used to, primarily because I have gone from mediocre to pitiful, and so it's fucking dumb to even feign aspiring to competence in these areas. Since this is, in the main, a positive post, I figure my plane has at most a 35 percent chance of crashing, because I'm really superstitious about these and other things. In case that happens, here's a pictorial summary of my more public endeavors. (I like cemeteries generally, not because of the morbidity factor, but because they are never, ever crowded in November. I like the ones I find in the woods better because I can invent lustrous false histories about the people they memorialize. I will have more to say about a few of these if I survive my flight.)















Friday, November 1, 2019

God knows there were holes in that barn

When I met my mom and Harper, her five-month-old Golden Retriever, for a walk at the Sewalls Falls Recreation Area on Tuesday, I happened to bring up a story about a different dog that took place about 30 years ago about a half-mile from our meeting spot, and a little over a mile south of the house I lived in for most of my childhood and young adult life outside of school, and visited regularly until my parents sold the property and moved to Dover in 2004. I'll describe that episode first, because it's kind of funny, and what follows as a result of watching a documentary film my story prompted my mother to describe is not funny in any way at all, and is in fact nothing short of horrible.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Concord High teams pull off an unprecedented double

In accordance with making this space what it is at the expense of uncluttered information, I have to describe how, in brilliant stepwise fashion, I dismantled my chances of watching the making of some modest history in Manchester, N.H. last weekend.

A few weeks ago, I decided on something resembling an extremely thoughtful impulse to travel to New Hampshire to see the state divisional championship meets, which were held on Saturday, and the statewide Meet of Champions, set for this Saturday at Mine Falls Park in Nashua. Coming to Concord and staying with my favorite couple -- and I'll be damned if that phrase doesn't look unavoidably creepy -- has been an annual tradition for me for a long time, but the last three years I've been here every fall while managing to either not stay around long enough for the prep championship races (2017) or skip them despite being less than 20 miles away because they weather sucked (2018). My nephew is in his first season of cross-country at a D-2 school, so I had a dash of extra incentive to be there this year.

The first way in which I started ejaculating obstacles into the path leading to my watching the races that started at 10:00 yesterday morning at Derryfield Park was by choosing a red-eye flight. That was okay and nothing unusual, but this time I failed to account for my take-off and landing dates being different despite thinking that I had. I didn't mind the idea of landing at 1 a.m. on Friday, driving the 75 or so minutes to Concord, waking up, and having a day to get everything together before spending an entire day watching races and then going to (or staying for) the annual Halloween party my hosts (who are not into Eyes Wide Shut shit, if only for lack of wealth and status) were staging. I was less happy to see that I had scheduled myself to land in Boston at 1:00 on Saturday morning, leaving me barely enough time for a nap at my hosts' even if everything about my Turo rental went smoothly. It did not, which this time was only in small part my error, so I didn't make it to Concord until almost 7:00 a.m.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A few steps ahead of EPO

Synthetic EPO in theory became available for athletic use in 1987, when the world record in the men's 1,500m stood at 3:29.46 (1985, Said Aouita, Morocco). Hicham El Guerrouj's current mark, which has stood since 1998, a drop of 1.65 percent from the pre-EPO era. In reality, no one knows exactly when EPO became a major thing in distance running, but you can be certain that athlete managers were hunting for it the moment they learned it could be made in labs as well as in kidneys.

Aouita also held the outdoor 3,000m record for a spell, being the first to dip under seven and a half minutes (7:29.45, 1989), breaking Henry Rono's 11-year-old record by over two and a half seconds. If I had to guess, which I obviously do, I would say that Aouita was probably the last world record holder in a distance event who can be almost definitely removed from EPO suspicion on logistical grounds alone, which isn't to say I think he was any cleaner by the standards of his day than anyone else. In any case, Aouita's 3,000m record has dropped by 1.95 percent. The record (7:20.67) has also been static since Daniel Komen set it in 1996, and in fact hasn't been seriously threatened. (I think Yomif Kejelcha has as good a shot as anyone has in the past 20 years now that Kenenisa Bekele has missed his chance.)

The 3,000m steeplechase record has fallen from 8:05.35 in 1989 to 7:53.63 today, with hat mark now fifteen years old, although it seems unfair to discount Brahim Boulami's 7:53.18 from 2002, since it's known he was on EPO. That's a drop of 2.39 percent.

The 5,000m record fell from Aouita's 12:58.39 in 1987 to Bekele's 12:37.35 in 2005, s drop of 2.70 percent, and the 10,000m mark was trimmed from Arturo Barrios' 27:08.23 in 1989 to Bekele's 26:17.53 in 2005, an improvement of 3.11 percent. Both records still stand.

The marathon is an outlier here, and not merely for being a road race and involving unique physiological demands compared to the aforementioned events. There is also a great deal more financial incentive at the world-class level, in large part because of the introduction of the World Marathon Majors in 2006.

Surprisingly, the world record in the marathon did not change during the 1990s until Ronaldo da Costa ran 2:06:05 in 1998 to take 45 seconds off the record set by the insanely anonymous Belayneh Dinsamo. The longest period without a new record since 1998 is 4 years and 2 days. Eliud Kipchoge's official mark of 2:01:39 from 2018 -- which Bekele came within two seconds of matching last month on the same course in Berlin -- is 4.09 percent faster than Dinsamo's.

I am hoping at this point that putting these distances in ascending order makes it clear that the records in the men's distance events have fallen by greater amounts with increasing race distance. There are a number of obvious issues with this rough assessment, among them the fact that the records listed aren't all from the same time frame (outliers in any sample will do that); otherwise, a graph no one will look at would be useful here. If one attempts to account for this to some extent by using Tergat's marathon record from 2003 (2:04:55), the drop from Dinsamo's record is only 1.51 percent, and the improvement level seen between the late 1980s and the mid-"oughts" in the 10,000 (about 3 percent) wasn't observed in the marathon until 2014, when Dennis Kimetto became the first man under 2:03:00.

I think the running world, of which I remain a mostly cognizant part, is coming around to the fact that the latest racing shoes really can make a phenomenal difference in the marathon on the right set of feet. That last disclaimer does a great deal of work, because most people who run marathons would be extremely ill-advised to run marathons in ordinary flats, much less something with zero cushioning at all. The runners who benefit most from the VaporFly 4% shoe are most likely those who are already extremely efficient, making this a case of the rich getting richer.

I don't know how much a factor EPO is on the roads, but I can say with confidence that most of the improvement in elite marathon times (and the improvement of the all-time top lists down to whatever ranking you pick) in recent years have been owed more to the shoes then to the drugs. I don't know if running will ever confront the issue of whether such footwear ought to be judged an unfair advantage, but unless they actually provide electrical power or something, they represent nothing more than one more clever engineering innovation. A few people my age will eventually start blare on about how much faster they would have been if better shoes had been available in their day, and anyone who hangs with other runners probably already knows which goon or two in the group will be the first to do so.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

More comedy from the Salazar suspension

File this in the overspilling drawer labeled Public statements that should have ended exactly one sentence earlier. From Sarah Lorge-Butler, to whom you should always devote your limited free RWOL clicks:


In sum, Sifan Hissan invites the reader to presume that she either knew nothing about the journalistic and legal investigations into Salazar before she joined the NOP or she didn't care and joined anyway; furthermore, she's basically admitting there's a shady pre-Hassan version of Salazar and that this one happened to be replaced by an upstanding one when she arrived. Maybe I am reading a lot into a few words, but I don't think so. I mean, what she's telegraphing, maybe without her own permission, might be more brazen: "Yeah, he's dirty. So are most people. If you think I am, prove it." Hassan appears uncomfortable speaking in public under any circumstances, and on the track generally looks like she wants to murder someone while trying to hold in explosive diarrhea at the same time; none of this is likely to temper this presentation one bit. What a goddamn shame.

Excellent comic timing

I haven't read this story yet and was just alerted to the headline. My own headline derives from the fact that the IAAF World Athletics Championships are being contested this week in Doha, Qatar, probably among the least hospitable heavily populated environments on Earth for non-sadists to stage distance races. My own motivation for seeing renewables replace oil, which won't ever happen, has little to do with the environment and everything to do with driving these nations into sufficient financial ruin to prevent world-class athletes from training full-time for four years to run a 10,000-meter final at 11 p.m. when it's still hot enough to fry the corners of your own balls on the track if you seat yourself just so.

It's important to throw out some of my initial reactions without assimilating or even perusing the details of the story, because I wasn't sure what exactly these reactions would be if the sport ever got around to sanctioning Alberto Salazar's program for perpetrating Trump-caliber excesses in plain view. (Well, it appears that my first reaction among these initial reactions is to liken the ethics of the Nike Oregon Project to that of the current White House. That doesn't feel like an inner conflict, praise Jesus.)

Besides, it's been a while since I rapped at ya, and if I weren't waiting on one thing I consider somewhat important by my standards, I would have posted a lengthy, tedious, and somehow captivating string of paragraphs at least a week and a half ago that would have included no distinguishing features except for exactly one strategic use of a word or phrase guaranteed to spike someone's blood pressure -- not always the same person of even an identifiable one at all. So this gives me an excuse to make one last Septemb...nah, not gonna make it at this rate.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Liberty Bell Invite results exemplify an ongoing Colorado youth bonanza

I closely follow high-school running in my home state of New Hampshire, and manage to stay on top of the rest of the New England prep scene as well (the latter partly by default; interstate competition is frequent in neighboring states that are all practically small enough to fart across on a clear, dry day). Now that I seem to have settled in Colorado permanently, I keep tabs on the kids here as well. But I'd like to think I'd be paying attention to Colorado high-school running anyway, because there are some notable things happening here at both the once-in-a-generation level and the top-ten-in-the-U.S. level. While Colorado appears to be enjoying an unusually strong ripple, I think the reasons for this are manifest in the rest of the country as well, and that these reasons fairly easily explain why we're seeing about the same number of superhero-level outliers as before, but quite a few more kids in the "extremely good" range.

At the Liberty Bell Invitational at Heritage High School south of Denver last weekend, an affair that ranks among the biggest regular-season cross-country events in the state if my guess is close, both the boys' and girls' already impressive course records were broken. Cole Sprout of Valor Christian, arguably the top prep runner in the country, ran 14:38 to break the 2007 mark by 13 seconds, while junior Sydney Thovaldson, now considered the second-most-influential woman in Wyoming behind Liz Cheney but overwhelmingly the more popular of the two, erased Brie Oakley's 16:43 standard from 2017 by three seconds. The finish line of this course reportedly sits at 5,466' above sea level.

I'll delve into the influences of the physical setting as a whole on the times at this event, but as a glance at the winners through 2015 reveals, some very talented athletes have raced at LBI in its forty-one year history. When future Olympian Adam Goucher of Doherty (Colorado Springs) broke the course record by over 18 seconds in 1993, the same fall he proceeded to rip a 14:41 to win the Foot Locker National title in San Diego, his blistering new mark was "only" 15:05. The next kid to get within even 15 seconds of Goucher's time was Brent Vaughn, who recorded a 15:16 in 2002 and went on to run 9:05 for 3,200 meters the next spring, a time that stood as the state record until quite recently and is now decisively held by Sprout. The next year, Ryan Deak of Smoky Hill of Aurora, at one time a veritable talent factory, was the first to break fifteen minutes (14:58); in 2007, Williams, who'd go on to reach FLN and run 8:51 for two miles at sea level the following spring, notched the 14:51 that had stood until Saturday.

On the girls' side, the erratic nature of the progression is even more evident. When Lize Brittin ran 17:50 at LBI in 1983, she broke the course record by 47 seconds, but the race was then only five years old, and it also may not have made her 17:36 the next fall seem as phenomenal as it proved to be, even if Lize did run those times in campaigns in which she placed 15th and 7th at FLN. Lize was the furthest thing from an open-road time-trialer as you'll ever find, so of her various course records from the 1980s, her LBI time would have looked the most vulnerable. But even as the race grew to include more and more out-of-state athletes, no one even came close. The first runner to go under 18:00 after Lize was Megan Kaltenbach of Smoky Hill in 2000 -- sixteen years later. In fact, Kaltenbach would win the race three times, with finishes of 17:40, 17:49 and 17:36.0. For good measure, in 2003, Katelyn Kaltenbach, also of never the hell mind because don't be a dumbass, ran 17:42 to put two extraordinarily hot sisters (as I would have seen them as a high-schooler, but not either in real time, when I was over 30, or now, when I am pushing 50) a total of about 31 seconds outside Lize's record in four combined tries.

As you can see from that PDF, which I won't link to again because I'm trying to get to the point as quickly as humanly possible before the missiles hit, the Smoky Hill sisters ushered in a new era (a phrase I just used on purpose because it should be abolished from the vernacular and is probably incorrect anyway) of faster winning times, but Lize's mark stood until 2011, when Eleanor Fulton broke it by less than a second. Then, one year later, Jordyn Colter of Cherry Creek (Denver) appeared to do the equivalent of hitting a baseball clear out of the old Tiger Stadium with a 17-flat. This meant that a record that had stood for 27 years and fallen by about half a second was now over half a minute in the dust. Colter would run 2:04.5 for the 800 and 4:41.1 for the mile as a senior in 2015, so anyone speculation that her record would stand for a good spell would have been reasonable. But in 2016, Lauren Gregory of Fort Collins ran an unbelievable 16:52 -- and lost the race by nine seconds to Oakley. You may remember Oakley running 10:09 to win the 2017 Colorado 5A 3,200m title (where Gregory ran 10:16; never, ever, ever again will a high-school girl finish second in 3,200-meter race at 5,560' with a time that fast, mark my or someone more reliable's words on that one) a few months after running 15:52 to set a national high-school indoor record in the 5,000m.

That sets the table for discussion of current events, now that I myself am sick of writing about them. I'm taking a break, but the rest will appear below the "Read more" link when I'm good and ready.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Coleman offered leniency owing to exceptional efficacy of doping regimen

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Citing the youth, promise, and above all remarkable success of U.S. sprinter Christian Coleman, the figurehead organization U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) declined to apply its rules and uphold its suspension of the decorated athlete from competition.

Coleman, who holds bests of 9.79 and 19.85 for the 100-meter and and 200-meter  dashes, was reportedly unavailable for between three and sixty random drug tests in a 12-month period between April of 2018 and this year. Coleman's lawyers, who candidly note being professional shit-sacks whose ideal ultimate fate is being found face-up, naked, and badly defiled in filthy roadside drainage ditches, were able to provide Coleman's sponsor, U.S.A Track and Field (USATF), with a plausible excuse to allow its wayward athlete to continue racing and typically besting the world's pre-eminent international dopers.

One of Coleman's attorneys, also an official in Nike's human development division at USATF's main offices in Indianapolis, expressed gratitude for the language intentionally placed in the USADA guidelines at the organization's inception that allows for especially successful dopers to continue competing after clear rules violations while allowing for the occasional sacrifice of over-the-hill talent to provide a veneer of concern for rules enforcement.

"Christian is young and doesn't understand that skipping tests outright is dumb and attracts attention," said the attorney, who was visibly intoxicated during the conversation and late for his third disbarment hearing of 2019. "He doesn't quite get that dirty urine goes down a biochemical rabbit hole if it comes from the right bladder. But the kid's only 23."

One of Coleman's trainers was more sanguine, emphasizing the willingness of USATF to limit its punitive doping-related actions to aging athletes whose real value is limited but whose name recognition suggests to the public that someone gives a rip. "They'll pop some American over 30 before Tokyo," the lawyer predicted confidently as he pleasured himself to a rare VHS video of Scrooge McDuck ejaculating into the face of an impoverished gosling. "Someone who ran 9.95 to 10.00 four years ago. It won't fool anyone, but it'll push enough attention back to the Russians and Turks so that we can absorb our own fucking carelessness. I mean really." The official said her real name was Ann and that the reporter could probably figure out her true identity if he wanted.

"Fuck this shit," a sprinter with knowledge of Coleman's thinking reportedly added sometime late last week. "I'll answer the door when I'm home and if I'm out, I'm out. I do what I need to do, which is what everyone does. Sadly, it's considered uncool to say that, so I won't."

Coleman, who is carefully being groomed for an eventual 9.65 on today's pharmacological aids but expects to break 9.50 in 2022 after a new class of rapid intramuscular kinase enzymes is secretly introduced, declined to go on record for this report.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Dear adults in the Runner's World editorial room

Last week, an article about the difficulty of breaking four minutes for the mile at high altitude and centering on an event at which I was present appeared on the website of Runner's World, the magazine that seems to boast the highest circulation among the few remaining print publications of its type. The article seems to have been published without any editorial oversight whatsoever. As in, the RW site, or part of it, functions as the author's personal blog, or did for the purposes of this mess. Another possibility is the editor who was supposed to review it was somehow compromised, maybe by a massive blow to the occiput to conclude a hilarious backward fall on roller skates after being drilled in the face by a love rival; I'm leaning toward higher-probability scenarios such as the author being the editor, or the transparent inattention and mail-it-in work ethic that appears to predominate wherever enough people congregate in an effort to produce a fitness periodical. Especially if enough of them are under 30.

With this post representing yet another opportunity to provide my jaded middle-aged perspective on the innumerable troublesome issues with contemporary running journalism (and facts per se as a matter of general relevance), I probably don't need to again explore the possibility that the entire running world, including you, me and everything actually not included in the set of things in the running world, is utter misery incarnate and in urgent need of violent dissolution by the most apocalyptic means imaginable, because we still owe Jesus more than the U.S. owes others. I could even suggest that without the existence of Alex Hutchinson, who is so much better than the rest us who have ever tried this have ever been, shows just how awful we are by showing that even the good ones sit in a cluster a solid delta behind Alex, and as result should either immediately strive to improve or immediately quit. As true as these things may be, though, they're hardly important, since I, like you, am weak and lack the means to do anything historically influential and downright vivacious such as amassing and constructing the necessary implements of doom without forgetting something important, like a trustworthy jackknife.

I could even offer a bland aside about how people's basic choices about how and where they seek and find their running and other information (or at least ideas) and how much they're willing to pay for it (note: This variable is "null" except in cases of extreme drunkenness or stone credit cards), but for whatever reason, magazines focusing on endurance sports are about as much of a growth industry as asbestos and saccharin, with Outside and Runner's World well outside of the top 100 in U.S. circulation and lagging behind various magazines you've surely never heard of. Runner's World's circulation is less than it was a dozen years ago, and the outfit appears to be trying to survive by selling even more garbage to naive and deluded readers than before, not that I would observe such a thing in a dry analysis like this one; Outside, like a number of companies, may be trying to expand its brand by focusing on things like Outside TV. Either way, the startling number of de facto place-holders who are now contributing to and employed by online and even print running pubs may represent a proxy for the incipient failure of whole components of businesses. If running articles are still being recycled after 20 years in circulation (like this "2016" example, published in print and online in 1999), demand for fresh content is obviously low, and what would original content outside of hi-tech product reviews even look like? Apparently like the story I decided to review over a period of days, not at the expense of work, but at the expense of 24, which is worse. RW is now putting its stuff behind a paywall, which is funny because if it's inaccurate or useless as a randomly chosen personal blog, it's basically worse than what you can see for free because of all the ads, every one of them a grotesque eyesore. And, yeah, I was going to link to the sources of some these claims, and maybe I went back and did, or will, but I decided to close all of those shimmering tabs instead because they were harshing my mellow.

More to create an interesting writing exercise for myself than out of some moral imperative, I will try point out the worst of the flaws in the article itself, with minimal editorial commentary to match this terse introduction, aiming for the perspective of a fact-checker who knows next to nothing about distance running and was ordered only to list the most glaring errors and biggest pieces of missing information. I know won't succeed in this, and will instead veer off into the weeds multiple times, as always, because bitching is just so easy. I will look this over when I'm done and maybe excise some of the more acidic output, and then I will remind myself that no one, no one at all, is listening, except for four distinct people who are madly pushing pins through the eyes of voodoo dolls who all look like someone who lives in my house.

But like I said, time to focus. This actually gets a little wonky, as Paul Krugman might say. (He writes for a bigger newspaper than this one.)