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

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Random ideas experienced on the plod lately

  • Sometime after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, cities in the U.S. and around the world began honoring his memory by naming new streets and renaming existing roads after him. It's a gesture, not a meaningful move in the direction of civil rights, and some of these roads are in very nasty parts of the cities through which they run.

    I have been staying with friends in Concord, New Hampshire, close to where I grew up and lived until about fifteen years ago. While running on the local roads and trails, I've noticed that many of the streets in residential developments that weren't here when I moved away bear girls' names: Lisa, Jennifer, Judith and Susan have all been given nods just in the East Concord section of town.

    I've noticed this in other parts of the country as well. This seems to be to feminism what MLK Jr. Drive is to race relations: We can't achieve anything like genuine equality, so we'll at least name things after underrepresented or otherwise beleaguered groups of people.

  • Not for the first time, I own a pair of shoes that feel sublime on my feet but have laces that come untied every two minutes no matter how I knot them; likewise, for at least the twentieth time in the past 30 years, I have a pair worn-out shoes that at least have miraculously reliable laces. Yet I can almost never be bothered to remove a pair of great laces from a pair of shitty shoes and put them  in the great shoes. I guess this idea will simply never occur to me.
  • The other day, I was running on a trail and was confronted by a puddle so extensive it might have been better classified as a bog. (It's been raining at least two days in three since I got to New England at the beginning of the month.) I had been on this trail for about two miles, and I could see the paved road I was hoping to reach right on the far side of the puddle,  maybe 200 feet away. Despite my shoes already being somewhat wet anyway, I decided to pick my way around the puddle rather than plunge through it, hoping to keep my feet from being absolutely soaked for the last 2.5 miles of the run. This resulted in a 10-minute side trip through some underbrush and a fair number of new scratches on my legs. When I was about ten feet from the road, I stepped into a puddle I had somehow failed to spot with both feet, right up to mid-calf. When this happened, I just stood there for a moment in the cold water, ruminating.

    This experience seems to encapsulates the entire state of my running at the moment. Wander, plan, try some workarounds, commit, hesitate, and blunder in the end no matter what.

  • Scott Douglas' new book Running Is My Therapy is proving to be an excellent read. I admit that I expected no less and would probably praise it even if I found it wanting, but the chances of Scott turning out a less-than-super piece of writing are very small. I'll post my Amazon review here once I, you know, write it, which means finishing the book.
  • I did a couple of workouts this week. One involved running a set distance on a track in a specified amount of time, while the other was effort-based on confined to the road. I did these on the basis of what my coach instructed, and strayed only slightly from the prescribed sessions. Clearly, this is progress.
  • See if you can figure out who "Literal_Crap_Bag" is, other than, obviously, an intoxicated person (the Subreddit is called "Crippling Alcoholism") blaring lies about the man she's obsessed with -- a guy who, according to her, is a drunk and dishonest social-media user who wants to have sex with her.

    If projection were a felony, Kim Duclos would get 35 years to life.

  • With some regret -- I'm loving seeing my friends, but hating the N.H. weather -- I'm heading back toward home, a 2,000-mile drive, at the end of the week. I will be giving a talk to a youth running group outside a major city along the way. That will no doubt make those of you convinced I am the spawn of Satan, a drunken woman-beater, or both deeply distressed. 





This week in Steve McConkey: Delusions of agency and the usual panopoly of jibber-jabber

April 30, 2:21 p.m. EDT update: 

Steve has posted a comment that reads: "[Beck] has been doing it six weeks. Finally had to stand to dispute the lies. Sometimes you have to stand. My counsel says yes as he makes things up. I will now move on."

Steve, of course, has done no such thing. He has not disputed a word of what I have written on my blog. He has instead labeled me an atheist and a supporter of homosexuals, which I cheerfully admit to. He has also claimed that I am responsible for a number of Facebook accounts that are not in fact mine, but I don't care about that. He says that I have written "lying articles against [him] at the blog" (he's no Shakespeare) but has not pointed out a single lie. And he himself is lying because he said yesterday that he wasn't going to address me anymore. I hope he's looking forward to a toasty experience in Hell for his long, ugly streak of prevarications and other sins.

Yesterday, I forgot to mention a particularly vile and underhanded move Steve made -- one typical of hucksters and scammers like this clown. Yesterday, he mentioned deaths and illnesses in his immediate family in an effort to gain sympathy that he can then use as leverage in his misguided attacks. Feeble-minded people are prone to blind spikes of outrage, like Chihuahuas, and Steve, though a dullard himself, knows this. He actually has the audacity to liken the passings of his wife's parents in quick succession and his sister's cancer diagnosis to "600 plus attacks by atheists and homosexuals," as if the latter just sort of happened and are not a natural consequence of his monomania and yammering over the years. He puts these attacks in the category of "a real crises" (sic).



April 29, 8:15 p.m. EDT update especially for visitors from Steve McConkey's Facebook page, before he deletes the post he made containing the link to this blog (screen shot):

* Steve says I've lied about him. Feel free to point any of those lies in the comment box below.

* Anyone who complains that I'm guilty of hate speech for maligning someone does nothing but howl about atheists, homosexuals, and others should see a neurologist. Steve can, of course, say these things all he likes -- and I can say whatever I please about these things in return.


* Steve implores his Facebook readers to "keep judging." I am merely taking him up on this. I have judged the weight of the evidence, and concluded that Steve is some combination of unintentional joke and profoundly disturbed and conflicted asshole.

* Steve says I "spent hours getting (the picture of him I use here) off the TV." I spent about three seconds using my laptop to get a screen capture. Also, as a friend just put it, "I find it amusing that his primary concern is how he looks in one picture." Maybe Steve should spend a few moments praying for the insight to appreciate why I write things about him in the first place. HINT: It's not because of either demons or George Soros.


* Steve is attempting to repay the favor of my posting what he feels is an unflattering photo of him by posting more and more pictures of yours truly. I can save him some trouble by reminding him that the photos he's using are photos I posted to the Internet myself. That should be a sign that I'm not especially embarrassed by them.

* Steve says I am a stalker for writing posts about him, which I started doing six weeks ago at the rate of one a week. Well, gol-lee, folks. Steve has been writing untoward "articles" about gays and transgender people almost daily for a long time now. He has operated a "ministry" for almost 40 years to attack gay people who have nothing to do with him and have never even heard of him, and just want to live their lives. Steve pretends that this is "God's work." Well, if he can say that, so can I. My god is obviously smarter and cooler than his, because I can write in complete sentences and don't look like someone who was just extruded from the bunghole of a diseased yak.

I realize that this exhortation will not resonate with you folks for multiple reasons, but I'll say it anyway: Do the fucking math. 

* I bet none of you have even gotten this far, but just as a check: Because Steve's posts are public, so are the comments you all leave on his page. As a result, I can see your real names. Obviously, at least a few of you -- as hard as it is for me to believe -- have jobs, and you probably want to keep them. If you find yourself expressing opinions that strike me as uncivil, I may take it upon myself to convey these opinions to folks in your immediate sphere of operations who can influence your employment status. 

* Steve has repeatedly complained that I have alluded to his eventual death, as if this constitutes a crime of some sort. Do any of you remember him celebrating Stephen Hawking's actual death? Or that of James Cone last week? No? Better keep reading.

* This comment, in which Steve declares that he will stop mentioning me, is assuredly another of his lies. Actually, two of them. Either that or Steve really needs better counsel.





Suppose I stepped back from my obvious contempt for Steve McConkey -- a pathetic basket case, a coward (the post on which Hemant focuses is gone) and the apotheosis of every awful thing about Christianity -- and merely approached his body of work as an academic might. Even if I were to explore his demented output with utmost clinical detachment, I'd still find it easy to write lengthy posts each week about multiple facets of his corrupt thought processes and behavior. Part of this is because I'm still learning things about that reveal that there is basically no bottom to how much of a scourge he is, but for the most part it's because he continually generates new madness. He's like a version of Aladdin's lamp in the form a wrinkly ass pointed upward and outward. He waits, bent over at the waist and grasping his ankles, and when someone wanders by and rubs those nasty old cheeks, a geyser of semi-solid rhetorical shit spews out: some delusions this time, some whining the next time, false appeals to scripture the next. This metaphor, in addition to being a tad nauseating, breaks down at the level of the number of wishes Aladdin's genie was willing to grant. Steve's ass-genie doesn't stop at three or thirty or even three hundred; it's a bottomless well of foulness that will keep erupting for as long as its keeper continues toiling away sadly in his Wisconsin home, subsidized by donations from the dolt brigade and most likely his progeny.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A foolproof method for identifying the toughest runners

Have you ever wondered if competitive distance runners vary widely in how tough, gritty, strong-willed, gutsy, etc. they are? That is, when you scan the results of, say, a 5K race in which the times of the top 25 male finishers range between about 14:30 and 15:30, do you wonder how much of the variation in outcomes at this level are owed to basic differences in how deep into the well of effort or pain these runners are willing or able to go, versus basic differences in their fitness and ability levels? (For purposes of this post, I am talking about runners in everyday events, i.e., track races and road distances up to the marathon. Ultras and all of the "adventure racing"-style bullshit represent different species of competitions. I'm not judging the value of that bullshit, just saying it's not the same as straight-up conventional racing, although certain ultras sort of are, maybe.)

In fact, there's an easy screening tool; it just takes a few decades to collect meaningful data.

This week in Steve McConkey: A snowflake who courageously deletes everything

Ir's time to explicitly observe a number of things about Steve McConkey that I should have understood from the moment I was first directed toward one of his Facebook posts. In short:

1) He's not the most astute philosopher or scholar out there. This has been clear from the beginning and is a requirement for maintaining the views he does.
2) He's a fundamentally indecent person -- slothful, malicious and dishonest and determined to extract enough cash from fellow dimwits and crazies to offset his inability or refusal to hold a job. This, like low cognitive wattage, is de rigueur for Christians of his ilk.
3) He has overt mental problems that interfere with his everyday functioning, but are not sufficiently severe to absolve him of accountability for his behavior. This aspect of his persona drives most of what I focus on below.
4) He no more a Christian at heart than I am, and is probably less so. This is true of most people who make public proclamations about their religious belefs, which are almost invariably a ploy for self-enrichment. Steve McConkey's "faith" is not more than a shield for his fundamental distaste for gays and transgender people and a mechanism for begging.
5) He's going to retain all of these traits for the rest of his life, because God dealt him an unfavorable hand, and because people who behave like he does for as long as he has virtually never shift toward more accommodating points of view.

Having followed Steve for all of five weeks now, I've gained a sense of why he hasn't garnered more negative attention over the years. Sure, he's plainly a goof and easy enough for reasonable people and everyday Christians to ignore, but he's been trying to make a name for himself in a relatively limited sports niche for at least 37 years. On this basis alone, it seems that his controversial blather would have been called into question more energetically than it has.

As it happens, a big part of the explanation is fairly simple. At any given time, Steve's online presence is a remarkable not for what's posted under his name -- on his personal and "Steve report" Facebook pages as well as his "4 Winds" site -- but for what was once posted in these places but is now missing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Occult excellence

This morning, I watched a short Instagram video featuring a distance runner who recently won a major international championship. This was at least the hundredth such Internet clip I've seen in the past couple of years, and adds to the canon of similar television clips and -- reaching further back into the technological Pleistocene -- VHS videos I've watched that feature accomplished runners doing impressive things.

For perhaps the first time, I was struck by the full reality of why running as it exists today stands no chance of being a major spectator draw in in the United States in particular and worldwide more generally: With distance running, it's simply not possible to immediately recognize breathtaking excellence or be impressed by what you're seeing, at least not to the extent this occurs in other sports.

Monday, April 16, 2018

When it rains, it pours...unexpectedness: Boston 2018

For the fourth straight year, I was in at the 23-mile mark of the Boston Marathon waiting for a couple of athletes I work with to trundle by and, of course, to take in the fullness of the race up close.

This event had enjoyed the makings of a truly historic Boston for months. The American field included almost all of the leading lights of the very recent and somewhat recent past: Galen Rupp, Dathan Ritzenhein, 41-year-old Abdi Abdirahman, and a contingent of Kenyan-born U.S. entrants from Colorado on the men's side, and Shalane Flanagan, Molly Huddle, Jordan Hasay, and Desi Linden on the women's. Ritz withdrew about a week ago and Hasay pulled out yesterday citing a possible foot issue, but this still left a great domestic field ready to roll.

The weather went to hell during the weekend and it was assured that it not only would it be very cold and rainy at the start, but also that a 20- to 25-mile-an-hour wind would be blowing almost directly in the runner's faces the entire way out of the east-northeast. This meant that times would obviously be slow, but also that attrition -- always a big factor in any world-class marathon but especially at Boston -- would play a major role. Usually, the East Africans are hit even harder than others when it's as raw as it was guaranteed to be today.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

This week in Steve McConkey: Crank-calling the FBI, and getting some real attention

First, Steve McConkey will be happy to know that his "worldwide press releases" are being picked up and mentioned by at least one high-traffic blogger outside the Evangelical clown-bubble. Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist, who made a note of Mr. McConkey's antics in 2015, has addressed Steve's grousing about transgender runners being allowed to run the Boston Marathon. The only thing Hemant gets somewhat wrong is calling Steve the leader of anything. Steve is the president of 4 WINDS in the same way I am the chief executive of this blog, except that I am 1) not illiterate, 2) not asking anyone for money, and 3) not a lunatic, although I certainly seem to be involved with crazies to a suspicious extent.

Second, Steve is none too pleased about my blog posts mentioning him, though of course he's too much of a coward to link to them for the benefit of the jabbering imbeciles who follow him:

Monday, April 9, 2018

This week in Steve McConkey: "The end is imminent, so fund my eventual trips to Iowa"

The raging anti-gay Evangelical garbage-stream called Steve McConkey continually erupts with dire, self-contradictory posts that would make no sense at all but for one unlikely but undeniable fact: The people in his target audience are even dumber and more deluded than he is, and Steve wants not only their approval but their money. That PayPal donation button is by far the most important thing on his website, because without a "ministry" or his family to support him, Steve McConkey would have to actually have to support himself through something resembling honest labor.

First, let me emphasize my immovable and eminently justifiable position that any self-described Christian who supports Donald Trump has, incontrovertibly and by definition, given away the game and can be derided as a joke and charlatan with restraint limited only by the mercy of the critic (and these days I possess little). This is not because I can't stand Trump myself, although that's true and has been ever since his vaginiform grimace first washed up on television in the 1980s. It's because I understand that supporting Trump as a Christian is a logically untenable position, case closed, full stop, et cetera. It's akin to agitating for women's rights while simultaneously arguing that rape should be reclassified from a felony to a low-level misdemeanor, or going on television and gravely telling America's young athletes to stay off steroids while wearing a T-shirt that says BODY BY DECA-DURABOLIN. It would be precisely that bad were it not in fact far worse.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

In the bud

This weekend, I did a couple of runs on land-patches close to my childhood home, tracts that were mostly unsullied by the presence of hominid life forms until fairly recently. By "fairly recently," I mean "until about 15 to 20 years ago." That may not qualify as "recent" by most standards, given that only about 1.14% of dogs alive at this moment were alive on April 8, 2003. But I haven't been a permanent resident of Concord since 2002, meaning that I've missed a lot of goings-on here. Furthermore, my useful life ended somewhere between roughly 1996 and 2001, and as a result, my mind is often stuck a couple of decades in the past, when I sometimes envisioned a future that didn't include being a seething, cynical misanthrope with a strangely persistent pro-social streak.

Yesterday, close to a snowmobile trail that threads its way along a power-line corridor that passes within a hundred yards of my old house in northernmost Concord, I saw a sign that did exactly what it was supposed to do: It succeeded in getting me to investigate an issue of public interest.

Friday, April 6, 2018

A solid example of why this blog should be repealed and run through a shredder

In a recent four-day span, I drove about two-thirds of the way across the country, leaving Colorado last Friday morning and arriving in Concord, N.H. on Tuesday afternoon. In theory, my two primary purposes here are visiting my family and friends and being at the Boston Marathon in the services of a couple of athletes who inexplicably trust me to advise them.  Just as appealing, though, was the idea of spending a lot of time by myself, free of the self-imposed lunacy of social-media engagement and other Internet bullshit, which is the main reason I drove instead of flying.

The most interesting, or at least distinctive, thing in the Jayhawk State.

On Friday afternoon, I stopped in a nowhere town in Kansas off I-70 and ran 3.3 miles. It was fairly unpleasant, in part because of the wind but mostly because almost every time I run these days, even for just a few steps, I am fighting the biological tide. The fact that my legs, knees, hips, and arms work with sufficient synchronicity to permit me to move in a mostly straight line at about 10 miles per hour for short spells doesn't imply that it's wise, fun, or remotely useful to do this. When I was younger, I could make a weak case for the amount of time I spent trying to be proficient at distance running to the exclusion of pursuing more productive and beneficial things. Today, however, the only defensible justification that I can offer for running every day is that I have irrevocably failed at everything that was once important to me, and I'd like to navigate the rest of my life free of both harmful mood-altering drugs and the insistent desire to destroy myself. Running doesn't induce physical pain (well, my knee sometimes sings) so much as remind me of my overwhelming purposelessness and the futility of continuing to do very basic and necessary things such as consume food, drink fluids, and draw breath. I mean really, why even take steps to maintain this unsightly bag of decaying cells? Yet I insist on bumblefucking my way along toward a long-overdue but natural demise, and physical activity, even as it ratchets up my demand for food and water and oxygen and drives home the fact of how much less capable I am at various things than I once was, is the most reliable means at my disposal to keep the noises driving me toward ruthlessly maladaptive behaviors to a comparative minimum.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Runners born before 1970 who should even bother: a comprehensive list

The people named in this post, and only those people, have defensible reasons to take running seriously. While they are strongly advised to avoid indiscriminately volunteering their status as "competitive runners" owing to the high risk of rightful ridicule, they may unreservedly self-identify as such in the right settings if prompted, although the label "athlete" should be altogether omitted from such conversations.

"Taking running seriously" in this context means aiming for given times, placings, accolades, or awards in the manner of genuine distance runners (e.g., Olympians, World Championship team members, paid professionals, or members of high-school or collegiate teams) and engaging in goal-oriented machinations toward those ends (e.g., track workouts, hill repetitions, and tempo runs). It notably excludes those who participate in road races --- especially "getaway" marathons -- simply to finish them as well as those who take part in organized running events mainly for the social aspects; such activities can indisputably add utility to people's lives by giving them reasons to keep "fit" and "healthy" without exacting undue physical, psychological, or emotional costs.

Note that while it is possible for formerly competitive runners to morph gracefully into participant-runners, there are no known or even theorized instances of people making the transition in the other direction.

The data used in compiling this list was collected via an informal but thorough review of race results, in-person interviews, blog analyses, and on-site observations over a period of approximately many years.

Monday, April 2, 2018

This week in Steve McConkey: lies, futility and inanity

Steve McConkey, who claims to have operated a ministry for Christian track athletes (read: "I'll try to help you not be gay anymore") since 1981 but doesn't have a single endorsement on his websitecontinues to complain about mindfulness meditation. He is concerned that this secular practice, the efficacy of which has a modicum of empirical support, is is replacing Christian prayer in the professional and sports world. He also cautions against engaging in yoga, which is evil for reasons Steve chooses to not disclose. He proposes in yet another "worldwide press release" (i.e., an Internet posting) that non-Christian prayers carry "the potential of opening up the user to the darkness."



This development, from the standpoint of a babbling idiot, is indeed a gross injustice. As anyone with only slightly less insight than a gnat is aware, just as no one can be both a weightlifter and a runner, it's absolutely impossible to be a Christian and engage in any sort of contemplative reflection besides prayer ("prayer" in this context meaning "beseeching the God of the Holy Bible to enact certain Old Testament precepts while complete ignoring the foundational tenets of Jesus' message").