Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How distance running gets media attention in the United States, in brief

1. A well-known running proponent dies during a run.
2. Terrorists' bombs go off at a major race.
3. A celebrity wobbles through a marathon at any pace.
4. A politician lies about his running exploits (and arguably remains consistent if nothing else).
5. Some combination of these.

This morning brought an example of #5, when U.S. Senator Thomas Tillis collapsed during a 3-mile race in D.C. (yes, a Wednesday-morning race) and was hospitalized. It looks like he'll be okay.

This underscores why it's not likely that U.S.A. Track & Field, an organization that simply cannot be abused or mocked too harshly, will ever be moved to up its game from the sub-basement level.

I won't get deeply into the institutional-level corruption and endemic incompetence that has followed this gang of cheerless idiots around since, I would guess, about the tie Craig Masback left. Instead I'll do the easy thing and rip the communication skills of USATF's minions.

Contrast this news release with the coverage of any randomly selected event on the IAAF site, or any press release issued by the NFL, NASCAR, the WWE, or any other sports governing body. All of these oft-maligned entities clearly put a higher premium on communication than USATF does. This isn't a knock on the guy who wrote it; it's just inexcusable that an organization with a CEO who rakes in as much as Max Siegel does, serving as a de facto extension of a single shoe company and reputedly operating like a far less crafty version of the mob has the means to employ proofreaders and editors, and to furnish race coverage with photos and something with more visual appeal than the bland dreck they serve up time after time.

The very mission statement of USATF -- buried in some forgotten ghetto of its site -- is flagrantly in opposition to its practices. Simply put, if USATF wanted to attract more people to track and field it would operate in vastly different ways.

Now that I'm thinking about this, how many times have you gone looking for results of a USATF-administered event 12 hours or more after its conclusion and not been able to find them on USATF's own site even when they already appear elsewhere?

Obviously I'm not the only one who complains in some way about USATF. There's a very active Facebook group devoted just to levying fair criticism against its practices toward top athletes and events. My concerns are more parochial, but no less ill-founded.

USATF is just a dismal organization. If I were younger, elite and had dual citizenship I would strongly lean toward running for the non-USA country solely on the basis of my governing body being inept and, worse, lackadaisical.

But why should they give a rat's ass? The American public is repeatedly informed that track and field, or at least the distance arm of it, is little more than a curious spectacle, a vehicle through which famous people can either hurt or embarrass themselves. And sewage seeks its own level as reliably as any other fluid.

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