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

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").