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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Vigilantism looks better and better every day

I'll try to describe an event that took place on Saturday without littering it with too many editorial comments en route. That way, I can pack almost all of my unrestrained hate into a few dismal paragraphs at the end, where all of you who read that far will be punished for your morbid fascination with the words of someone who fantasizes about depositing all but nine of you into massive porta-john and launching it toward the moon, using powerful binoculars to ensure seeing the septic projectile smash into the surface of our only natural satellite with lethal force amid a silent but awe-inspiring explosion of shit, plastic, bungwipe, blue chemical, and -- count on it -- a few stray cell phones.

I left home at about 11:20 to watch the Jerry Quiller Classic, the first of two home meets the University of Colorado hosts every spring. Because C.U. (and it really should be "U.-Col," in the spirit of "U.-Conn," since nobody asked) doesn't enter its best runners and no good teams show up -- which understandable because the college indoor track season officially ended just a week ago and  mid-March rarely presents good racing conditions -- this would be an easy one to pass on watching. But a lot of my friends were entered, it was actually nice out, and Rosie likes to be out from under a roof and moving around as much as possible. So a cheerful obligation this became.

Although Potts Field is only a mile away on foot and I run past the track early in my runs (meaning, near the beginning the middle or the end) at least once or twice a week, I decided to drive over in jogging garb and do a run at noon, after the 1,500-meter races and well before the other distance events. (When one usually considers 5 miles to be a full day's work, one finds the challenge of "squeezing in" runs laughably easy.)

As is often the case on somewhat ill-fated adventures, this one started off on a series of positive notes, which I believe amounts to a positive melody or at least an optimistic arpeggio sound. (Just as often, people who run into problems describe everything in the previous hour as some kind of omen. Retrospective analysis is great because anything you think might be correct, you can declare true by incontestable fiat.) We did the first part of this on the Skunk Creek Path east of the track, then merging onto the Boulder Creek Path and heading under Arapahoe Ave and the Foothills Parkway. We jogged along with some people who had just raced and some others who were going to. We met John and Linus, one of whom is a dog named after a scientist and the other a chiropractor with a 3:42 1,500-meter best. The day was cloudless and almost breeze-free and the midday sun was warming the air quickly.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

When life is a living hell

...because App Satan is destined to ensure that you never get to say the words "I walked three miles" and really, totally mean it.


This comment thread continues to be an absolute gold mine of people trying to outdo each other on the First World Problems scale. Every once in a while someone who is clearly on the autism spectrum checks in and fucks it up by giving a clear view of just how painful this "gimme my hundredth of a mile in real time" stuff actually is for some folks, but for the most part it's a joyless merry-go-round of some of the strangest grievances I have ever seen in this terribly disfigured running world of ours.

I have a friend who says cyclists are far worse about shit of this nature, so it's reassuring to know that as always, there's always a layer of slime separating runners from the bottom of the sporting barrel, now for the most part a large cask of drug-soaked piss.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Orts aplenty

On the first Friday evening of 2018, a couple of bastards from Texas tried to screw me. This was not a complete surprise; bastards (and here I mean this word maliciously, not descriptively or even truthfully) are everywhere, and bastards, at least by my definition, attempt to sexually penetrate others with tiresome regularity. In this respect, and indeed in others, they resemble fuckers; some even dabble in motherfuckery. Just yesterday, I tracked the bastards* down and shot them both in the back of the head, double-tap, splat split, with a plastic pistol loaded with my own septic urine, and now the show is over; every falsifiable sentence in this paragraph is true except for this one.

Now that I've weeded out the lightweights, some quick background: I just replaced the mirror that was mortally wounded in this episode, and was reminded by the crass negligence of the unknown perpetrator of an incident that took place at about 7:30 on a Friday evening early in the 2018 yare. In that instance, I was at the wheel of a friend's car and, while preparing to ease out of a parking spot onto the quiet street, was lightly side-swiped by a passing minivan. There were no witnesses. Neither I nor my passenger, the car's owner, was hurt, and it was unimaginable that anyone in the other car was, either. My friend either called the non-emergency police number or stuck her head out the window and yelled "NEED SOME FUCKING COPS OVER HERE, PLEASE!"; I think it was the former, but as fucked up as I was on bath salts, my memory is shaky, other than knowing with certainly the precise details of the incident I am describing here. I do know that my friend had put me on her insurance policy at some point because I drove her car so often, but this turned out to be irrelevant.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

"This one got a little stalled" (or: Pulling the plug, part 2)

Were my editors mostly lazy about dealing with my article or mostly lying about planning to publish it in the first place? You decide! (Feel free to present other possibilities for me to shoot down.) And if you get stuck, try this: On December 10, two days after her last look at the Google document holding my article draft, the main editor launched a women's running online newsletter. That's great! Except when you're already shirking your duties at your day job and telling your freelancers your Outside plate is perpetually far too full to keep up with. (Some people can do more than one writing-related thing at a time; others plainly can't.)

Since my first post about this just two days ago, input from a number of readers with personal and second-hand experience suggests that having business dealings with Outside almost invariably comes coupled to various degrees of misery. Somewhat more to my surprise, it seems that Outside's star has fallen drastically in the eyes of most longtime readers since the current crew took over and decided that, among other things, the fitness world needed its own version of Jezebel. And to the extent that anyone in a position to at least put a tourniquet near the wound even hears of these gripes, I suppose they could attribute this apparent shift in popular opinion to people like me being too old to appreciate their jazzed-up mission, but they could also consider the possibility that they've been systematically ruining a formerly esteemed source of real information, and are forcefully unprofessional in any case.

If it's typical for people to not get paid for almost six months after invoicing Outside, I'm guessing one of one or more things will happen soon. The will either pay their freelancers less, which they can easily get away with because as it is they're running garbage a lot of up-and-comers would happily barf up for the publishing credit alone (and to be fair, $600 for 700 or so words in this industry is generous, although it's far less so it's never actually paid); they will shift their model away from page views- or clicks-for-revenue toward something else, and simply run fewer articles from random writers; or they will get really drunk, tell each other falsely "We tried our best!" and proceed to burn the offices down for the insurance money, which will then arrive 171 days late. 

Ironically, the only things I'm tempted to be embarrassed about concerning this whole fiasco are how polite I was in my e-mails after about the first four months of this shit, and the way I effused dishonestly over unremarkable feedback in in effort to get a mediocre editor to run the damn piece. I think, though, that the lack of a basic acknowledgment of my message from the editor-in-chief was really what bothered me the most; that's just a classless move, one no one would have gotten away with before social media came along and normalized being unproductive as hell at media jobs.

I should invoice the company just for the thousands of words I dedicated to trying to get meaningful attention from this bonehead.

When I look back on this, I expect my predominant source of aggravation will be having talked at length to so many people who believed, rightfully, that their words and efforts would appear in a media outlet and therefore not be wasted. Because of this editor's airy inattention to the entire show, I contend that she has screwed all of them over as well.

On a final note, I know exactly what the fatal flaw with my piece was, and there is absolutely nothing I could have done to facilitate its publication other than change some of the names of the people involved. I have left clues about this, but anyone who has already gone even partway down the rabbit hole with this knows what I'm talking about.

From: Kevin Beck <kemibe@gmail.com>
To: <M****@shitmag.com>
Tue, May 29, 2018 at 3:18 PM

Hi M****,

**** tells me you're the go-to person for pitches. I'm a former senior writer for Running Times and have been a frequent contributor to other outlets that. like RT, are now either dead or moribund. It's somewhat surprising that Outside has come to feature the best running content of any of the remaining publications, but with RW having morphed into a version of SELF or Prevention, I'm thankful!

My idea is perhaps not what you're generally looking for, but I do think it's a story.

Running is disappearing from the U.S. conversation; the early promise of the internet to help raise its profile is being compromised by consolidation in the streaming world that’s making it harder than ever to follow the sport, even at a grassroots level. Track fans are sliding toward endangered-species status. But while distance runners and their fans often bemoan the low visibility of road racing and track and field, but in the finest American tradition, complaining is about all anyone does.

In New Hampshire, an unlikely alliance of involving coaches, a running store, and a timing company has produced a heartening situation: A pair of websites created in recent years by active high-school coaches now offer free live-streaming of all of the New Hampshire state championship meets as well as a host of midseason invitationals. Often, commentary is provided by a blend of current coaches, recently graduated (e.g., collegiate) NH athletes, and people's parents. They do a slew of interviews. It is all centered on a positive presentation without it being nothing but a series of vacuous promos, if that makes sense.

The webcasts are pretty sophisticated, with onscreen clocks and, in the case of cross-country, multiple cameras set up at different point around the course to capture entire races. And in a wag-the-dog aspect of all of this, kids and coaches are actually using the webcasts to scout each other and plot race strategy.

I don't know if you've heard of Flotrack or MileSplit, the for-profit, ramshackle operations who have a near-monopoly on streaming events these days, but NHTrackAndField puts what they do to absolute shame, and again, at no charge. That itself is a big deal.

I'd like to write about exactly how this came into being, because it could serve as a model for others to follow. The big ideas are that 1) the coaches and others behind this are dedicating enormous amount of time to this with no promise of monetary reward (or more accurately, a guarantee of no financial reward) and are doing so because 2) their goal is to greatly elevate the profile of track and field/XC and the kids who do it. And it's working, albeit in a state with 1.4 million people.

Let me know if this sounds like anything you're interested in, and if not I am sure to pester you with other ideas in due time. Getting Alex was a huge score for Outside, but you have others doing fine things in the running realm as well.

Kevin
--------
On Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 1:10 PM M**** wrote:

Hey Kevin,

Thanks for the note and the kind words! I do think there's a story here. (I'm actually from NH, so that may have biased me just a little.) I think this would work best at around 1200 words, largely how you described it: first, detailing the efforts in NH and tying that back to the broader issues we see in the sport and what the rest of the running community could learn from this subculture. We generally pay $600 for stories like this one. How does all that sound to you?

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns!

M****
--------

Monday, March 4, 2019

Inside a movement to elevate youth running

This was originally supposed to be appear in Outside Online. As I've explained, I decided I wasn't going to wait forever for the editors to get around to publishing it. And this is not a purely spiteful move; even after accounting for my obvious resentment, from a practical standpoint, developments over the past nine months have rendered the piece almost worthless. To name just one, Flotrack executed a "takeover" of the webcast of the Massachusetts All-State Indoor Championships on Feb. 23 that BaystateRunning.com was originally going to produce (I don't know the details). I was not surprised, but if this piece had run last summer or fall, it might not have altered this or related outcomes, but it may well have given people some ideas and catalyzed communication between coaches and other players in different states.

Outside doesn't operate using contracts, which is only one of its endemic editorial problems, so I'm not in violation of anything here except for possibly exercising bad judgment in throwing away the $600 they ostensibly planed to pay me for my work. Besides, the accounts payable side of Outside is apparently as dismal as its editorial arm.

I actually gave up months ago on
Outside publishing this in a timely or usefully edited manner, but for a while afterward, I continued to grudgingly acknowledge that if I deep-sixed the arrangement, far fewer people would learn of the efforts of the people profiled than if I contained my exasperation and waited. After all, Outside may want for competence, but it offers a far larger platform than this electronic urinal ever could.

Then I admitted: No one outside the region in question really cares anyway. Men and women who have been involved with youth running for a long time might appreciate the occasional spotlight being shined on their efforts, but it's not what motivates them. Anyone who has ever coached high-school sports gets this.

I hope everyone understands how absurd it is to have a piece accepted for publication by a paying, professional entity ($600 is not chump change in the running-writing niche, which is to the greater world of publishing world what Top Ramen is to fine cuisine). As I noted in the chain of correspondence between myself and the editor that I will post as soon as I decide what, if anything, to redact from it, even when I was writing for print publications, I never experienced anything remotely close to this level of delay, neglect and all-around bullshit. I expect
Outside to eventually be purchased by a Chinese billionaire and somehow made even worse as a result for everyone but the dickheads who own it.

Anyway, enjoy!


American running fans usually accept that their sport represents a very small slice of the media pie. For example, ESPN’s 2018 list< of the 100 most famous names in sports didn’t include a single track and field or road-running athlete, and neither did their accompanying list of the 25 most famous sportswomen. And unsurprisingly, traditional outlets haven’t jumped to seize broadcasting rights to most track and road events, with the exception of national championships.

As a result, most live-streaming of the sport happens on a trio of sites: FloTrack, NBC Sports Gold, and USATF.tv. As a rule, running fans aren’t happy with either the pricing or the output, citing grievances ranging from announcers’ bad math to the quality of the video streams. As former pro runner Lauren Fleshman tweeted earlier this year: “Did the math, it costs $339.86 (including a discount going on right now) to watch track and field per year between three digital subscriptions.”

In the state of New Hampshire, which has a population of 1.4 million, a unique experiment aimed at addressing these issues got underway a couple of years ago. A coalition of coaches, business owners and parents began producing and delivering high-quality Internet streams of many of the state’s high-school cross-country and track meets -- and at no cost to viewers. Lest this be seen as a limited undertaking suited for a small state, it’s vital to note that the motivation for this -- to elevate the profile of youth running and legitimize the efforts of the kids and their supporters -- is universal among running fans, and that the model has in fact already spread.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Pulling the plug, part 1

This morning, I somewhat mysteriously lost a draft of a "potpourri"-style post that would have detailed a range of uninteresting topics. There was a section describing how painful it is to watch track announcers try to give splits and projected times in a mile or two-mile race held on an indoor metric track, because almost no one gets this right. There was a passage about how funny it is that Ohio and Colorado are in the same Foot Locker Cross Country region, and how two kids who live in cities connected by I-80 over 1,600 miles apart, Grand Junction and Youngstown, could meet at the Midwest Regional Championship held every November in Wisconsin. There was a brief and pointless analysis of some heartfelt garbage assembled by a religiously ailing cretin who recently found this place and, after dribbling a bit of his opinion-spooge into a comment, decided to have a full-on blog-wank to his own various misapprehensions; talking to or even about people that brain-dead is generally a bad idea anyway, because a lot of them are charged with that special-needs brand of persistence that keeps people arguing well past the point where they should have pounded about a gallon of Drano and put themselves out of the Internet's misery.

It's just as well I lost all of that shit, because it was just more noise. Harmless, but as superfluous in the grand scheme as the rest of the jibber-jabber my feeble hate-scape of a mind has concocted and my fumbling fingers have then converted to a form most of you can cognitively process, albeit to a shockingly limited extent in some cases, and in a way that leads some of you to respond in ways that make me wonder if, and how, you manage to feed yourself unassisted, and what sort of grim detritus would be found caking your unkempt anus if someone were ambitious enough to investigate.

I have long assumed that as long as my relationships with my friends and family members were up to snuff, I wouldn't agonize about how painfully incompetent, dishonest, or malicious Earthlings as a rule are. You don't even have to be capable, wise, or decent yourself to grasp how feckless this species is, and to appreciate what a dangerously rotted branch it represents on the evolutionary tree. Sadly, by the time we manage to do something righteous for once and wipe ourselves out, instead of just sawing that one deadweight branch off, we'll take out the whole goddamn forest and leave our morbid ass-prints behind for the next round of creatures to ponder, should they ever emerge from the smoldering 60-million-square-mile landfill we bequeath

Obviously, this is not the case, and probably wouldn't be even if I were a zillionaire with no need to interact at all with anyone else on a "professional" level (and I'm using quotation marks to emphasize the fact that money changing hands alone doesn't make a transaction "professional"). I would still hate society even if I could become as detached from it as possible without actually being institutionalized or killing myself, and I'm counting on escaping this shitshow via the latter route, though not imminently. And you can all relax, because as much as you probably deserve to be culled from the mammalian herd, I am not the sort of dickwad who dreams of taking others out out of spite. This is not because I am a humanist; it's because life is a prison and I find more pleasure in the idea of shit

All of which is a preamble to describing a situation that began as annoying and has since progressed to being dully infuriating and a howl by turns.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Boys in girls' races

"Boys don't belong on girls' sports teams" is about the most noncontroversial assertion imaginable. Yet in a country where unpopular positions are invariably rewarded because someone, somewhere, is always quick to equate fighting the social tide with righteousness and courage, it is.

There is no need to pedantically explore the differences between being biologically intersexed and choosing to conduct oneself as a member of the opposite gender, or between formally transitioning from male to female and choosing to conduct oneself as a member of the female gender. I understand that some people experience an undeniable conflict between the sex of the body they were given and the one their minds are compelled to identify with. Neither of these issues justifies boys competing in girls' races.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

If cheating in races is widespread now...

...what about in the pre-chip mat, pre-GPS days?

Mid-race timing mats, which have been a feature of most major marathons for close to 20 years and now routinely crop up even in smaller, shorter events, are a handy way for PC and smartphone users to keep track of runners' progress on the course. But they are also a reliable, if imperfect, way to make sure that runners who wind up in the finish chute have actually run the whole course. Similarly, GPS watches and the websites that display the data collected therefrom are an easy tool for sharing workouts online for the benefit of coaches, rubberneckers and potential sexual partners; they are also helpful in determining whether someone did or did not complete a claimed run.

A fellow in Ohio named Derek Murphy has been operating a website for a few moons now, Marathon Investigation, with the aim of rooting out course-cutters, bib-swappers and other malignant elements as well as confirming the occasional disputed but legitimate finish. I won't dive deep into anything on the site, but understand that Derek, who does this work in his spare time, has been placed on a pedestal by the running community at large while becoming a target of vitriol of the cheaters he nails. At least one such cheater recently used an unjust accusation of copyright infringement to have, Derek's site pulled offline for a brief spell (the general practice of ISPs is to treat such claims as legitimate until shown otherwise, making them a useful tool for spiteful pieces of shit to temporarily scrub evidence of their malfeasance from the Web.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Status quo

Another week, another few incremental slips toward the bottom of the pit of nihilism, which is of course as deep as one chooses to envision it. But first, the crap you didn't come here to see.



Thursday, February 14, 2019

Mirror mirror

Someone took out my driver's side car mirror one evening in the wake of a snowstorm last week. I found the wrecked remains of it on the ground the next morning. There was no note, of course, or anything else in the way of apology or acknowledgement. Just the evidence that some filthy fuckface had made his mark on someone else's life in a way that is all too typical of the diseased members of this feckless species.

I take solace in knowing that, unless this person dies suddenly -- a statistically unlikely scenario, but one I can passively root for -- he will be lying in his own excrement one day, enfeebled by age or disease or both, and terrified beyond measure because he fears, correctly, that there is no afterlife and that that he will soon be nothing but a decomposing, stinking, and forgettable mess. His stupid brain will race with panic as he accepts that he was a failure for decades on end and a morbid stain on an already putrid world, and that people only wanted him for whatever money he had, just as he only bothered with others so that he could try to divert resources from them in turn.

Hopefully, he will be overwhelmed by knowing that, inasmuch as anyone will remember his sad and ugly face at all, he will be recalled as utterly stupid, replaceable, and unlovable, as is true of almost all of us. His ebbing spirit will fray as he grasps that his existence was as unsolicited as it was pointless and undeserved. If he has children, he will have unquestionably helped fuck them up and turn them into whatever gibbering inadequates they became in their own right; if he had a job, he was probably a substandard employee who could and should have been replaced by either a machine or a literal moron. He should have become an incidentally miscarried splotch of mucus or an actively aborted zygote, embryo, or, for all I genuinely care, 38-week-old perfectly viable foetus. He may have been a country music fan.

To those of us who fail to hold a great deal of concern about whether we make it through any given day alive, annoyances are almost worse than crises because they aren't sufficiently distracting. When I was routinely setting fire to whatever prosperity I had managed to achieve in life, I rarely had time to stop and ponder the absurdity of this fucking circus. Consider the sheer lunacy of supposedly sentient primates regarding this whole awful shitshow of humanity and actually thinking, ceaselessly by the millions: "Let's bring another human victim or two into this fucking nightmare! We don't have the couple hundred thousand it'll cost us, but who cares because vanity!" Now that I am sober and stable, the same basic abhorrence for simply being here and having to participate in this ruinous scrum (I expect to die by my own hand someday, just not yet) that I have always held is a more insistent force, as I am no longer trying to assemble the elements of basic survival.

In short, if nothing else, I comprehend why I drank so destructively all along: I don't like being here, and I don't like the way I or pretty much anyone else behaves. Yes, I have a special distaste for certain themes and practices, notably toxic Christianity (right down to the fact that these malformed dunces seem to be incompetent at everything besides breeding, that great equalizer, the one thing abject fish-eyed dipshits can do as well as anyone else).  People as a rule are incompetent, life is a series of annoyances, and no one should be sorry about the prospect of leaving the world.

This has nothing to do with running other than giving me reason to note that running is the only thing that takes some of the sting out of being here. I don't even have a difficult life and never have, and my unhappiness today stems entirely from my own bad wiring. But I didn't fucking ask to be here and I deeply resent ever having taken part in this shit, and I offer no apologies for saying as much. People and their habits as a rule are fucking disgusting.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Sports "diets" are about the process, not the outcome

That's a basic statement of fact, not an indirect endorsement. Put another way, it means that, in my experience, people sign on to "diets" not because they have good reason to expect stellar results, but because it gives them a point of focus shared by thousands of others at any given time. If enough people are engaged in a given thing, jumping on the bandwagon may not better your life, and it may not even be medically or psychologically advisable, but you'll automatically gain a bunch of new de facto allies. The pursuit in question may be watching Real Adultresses of Botox Junction, summiting a specific group of mountain peaks wearing only a cowboy hat, or deciding that vaccinating your kids will cause them to be even more fucked up than you are.

Many have suggested that were it not for parents instilling religious ideas into their kids' heads before their brains are old enough to respond critically, the whole scheme would largely collapse, at least at the level of obviously untenable claims like six-day creation, dead people coming back to life, and the Bible -- errors, contradictions, atrocities and all -- being authored, or at least dictated, by a being of unimpeachable wisdom and utmost kindness. After all, tell any educated 18-year-old who has somehow never heard that Christianity is not merely mythology that people rally around but an actual account, and that the account established that the cosmos is between six and ten thousand years old with Earth at its center, and the response would be incredulous laughter.

Friday, February 8, 2019

My uncle the child molester is dead and other indicators of a wondrous cosmos


My mother grew up with two brothers and no sisters, which for you non-genealogists means I had two maternal uncles and no maternal aunts. I'm using the past tense because the younger of those two uncles recently died. I think he was 73. And he really was the "uncle with wandering hands" motherfucker of holiday horror-joke lore. Starting in 2001, he served a six-year sentence in the New Hampshire State Prison after his three children -- that is, my first cousins, who as you'd expect are all about my age -- learned from their own kids that my uncle had molested all eleven of them. In other words, my uncle went to prison for sexually abusing his eleven grandchildren after those kids became old enough to start reporting his behavior to their parents.

He was kind of a lifelong fuck-up even without this in the mix, so my mom was never especially close to him even though both of them never left New Hampshire. He and the mother of my cousins were divorced when I was very young (this is perhaps not a surprise given the various details already provided) and my dad used to take my sister and I used to visit my uncle, my three cousins, and whoever my uncle's new girlfriend was maybe once a month on weekends, about a 30-mile drive. We would do some things I liked, like play frisbee, and other things I didn't, like go fishing. I wish more fish were like sharks and ate the fuck out of folks. Anyway, my Uncle Fondle rented some little red shack in a place called East Sutton, which was and remains about as boonies at it gets. At one point he had a goat, which seemed cool at the time, but now who the fuck knows how that damn goat was treated and what it saw. He smoked pot that he grew himself (Uncle Fondle, not the goat) which a lot of people living out in the New Hampshire sticks did and continue to do, and it's funny to consider now that in the 1970s, this seemed the most deviant thing about him. They should be putting cannabinoids in the municipal fucking water supply by now. And this is really nothing to laugh about.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Effective drug testing is the "taxing the super-rich" of athletics

The sport's powers-that-be (USATF in the United States, the IAAF internationally) claim to want a banned-drug-free sport. That's a hard position to not publicly take.

These governing bodies, at least the latter one, have tacitly admitted that world records currently on the books may be drug-aided. This was the basis for the dead-on-arrival proposal to erase all world records set before 2005.

Everyone, however, likes world records. Meet promoters, athletes, fans and -- critically -- sponsors.

Thus the sport faces a perennial dilemma. With a truly clean sport in place, there is little chance of new records being set, and fan interest may wane. With a continued doping free-for-all or the perception of same, records may fall, but the sport will be perceived as a bleak laughingstock.

As a result, the governing bodies sort of have to try, but not their very hardest, at all. If this assessment is accurate, it is borne out by the reality that this is exactly what appears to be happening. A horde of big-name Kenyans have been busted in recent years, but as yet no Ethiopians, and this is almost certainly not attributable entirely to real differences in PED usage patterns. If athletes aren't being rigorously tested, for whatever reason, than there is no assurance at all that they are running clean.

At any rate, this scheme seems sufficient to generate a solid degree of fan interest. Road records are more often the target now, especially Radcliffe's 2:15:25 marathon record, and these can only occur so often, and not to packed stadiums in their entirety.

People, broadly speaking, want a clean sport, but not the sum of the results of what that would require. This is where I see parallels with the debate on how much to tax the ultra-rich. It's an idea that almost everyone can get behind, because almost everyone really has no problem at all with higher taxes on people who have a lot more than they do or ever will. Many people don't want higher taxes on well-off, but not really wealthy, people because they (however feebly) often envision themselves joining the ranks of those nicely situated not-storybook-wealthy types. Problem is, those very ultra-wealthy have the power to dictate public policy as long as they can continue garnering enough votes. So much is likely to be said in the next two years about far higher taxes for the top 0.1 percenters, but in reality it's probable we'll see a tepid compromise that sets off no rebellions but makes no one very happy.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Altitude training may not be worth it, and other scatterings and orts

It is practically a given that any American distance runner with so much as an outside shot at reaching the Olympics will relocate to high altitude at some point, or at least do training stints of several weeks at high altitude. (For purposes of this discussion, think 5,000' or higher.) This is in spite of the fact that there appears to be no evidence at all that taking a sea-level native and training him or her at altitude produces a more successful runner.

It is plain that people who are born in places like Boulder are suited for high-altitude running in a way that no migrants can replicate if they move here as adults and perhaps even if they arrive as teenagers. This is evident not so much in the surreal performances some of these natives can throw down here as it is in the unfortunate fact that they don't usually gain as much as the charts would predict (about 3.5 percent).

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Alternative engagement

I get regular reminders that anything I do for pleasure or gain that is unrelated to running adds more non-quantifiable satisfaction to my life than any running-related stuff does, apart from the requirement that I actually jog a little every day. Importantly (he snickered, as if any of this shit were important), "running-related stuff" can be broken down into three fairly distinct categories: Doing it, advising other people how to best do it, and writing about it. To get even more granular, "doing it" means either training or jogging.

The daily runs I do with Rosie constitute jogging, which is not a pejorative or even a loose description of speed but a euphemism for "moving around outside" -- something from which I invariably draw satisfaction. Any running I do that involves noticing my pace in a way that sets in motion even faint thoughts of racing again is a warning sign of a relapse into training, and that crap is toxic. The catch is that, as I hinted at above, some of my "jogs" are done at pretty quick paces, at least over shortish segments. As I noted last time, I have stopped recording most of my runs with my GPS watch, but I have a pretty good idea of when Rosie has dropped the pace into the low-6:00 range, which she almost always does in cool weather.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Heisenberg principle, recovery-run style

When I was racing well, or at least racing regularly and feeling confident about attaining a new performance level, my easy days were often very slow compared to others at my level. I embraced this, which was the proper response. As I was building toward my best period of running between ages 31 and 35, I did a lot of my 15 or more daily miles with the high-schoolers I was coaching, usually at no faster than 8:00 per mile and often considerably slower. To the extent I kept even a loose eye on the paces of these runs, I didn't have a GPS watch, so I was often making informed guesses anyway. I was usually doing a couple of pace-specific harder sessions every week; everything else was filler, and when you're nailing the workouts, you're basically pitter-pattering around for a couple of days -- albeit for up to two hours a day -- in anticipation of the next hard session. If you know that on Friday you'll be throwing back 15 vodka shots in the company of some outstanding prostitutes, you probably aren't particularly concerned about only getting to nurse Bud Lights while pleasuring yourself alone at home on Wednesday and Thursday. When the peaks are redeeming, you don't worry about the troughs in between.

Now that my return-to-racing experiment is over, my pace on any given run shouldn't matter to me one bit. There is nothing cumulative about my running other than the fact that if I only did it once a week or something, it would become harder and less enjoyable. In theory I could record every running step I take and never even look at it at the output, or I could just glance at the numbers from these efforts with the same level of concern as I do when noting in passing how much junk mail arrived this week.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Famous runners I met in high school

I started running in the fall of 1984, when, as hard as it is to believe unless you were alive and sentient at the time, there were two basic ways to interact with people in real time: You talked to them in person, or you spoke with them on the phone. Video footage of pro athletes was limited to television and VCR recordings; a few people might have their own photos of star sportspersons that they had taken themselves, but for the most part, pics of these luminaries were found only in magazines and newspapers. There was, for better or otherwise, a far clearer boundary between famous folks and the rabble (and between citizens of Earth more generally).

At the Space Coast Marathon in Cocoa Beach, Fla., Nov. 2005. One of us won the half that day; 
the other won four Boston Marathons.
In the summer of 1985, after my freshman year, a runner from Colorado traveled to Manchester, New Hampshire to run a now long-defunct summer road race called the Bud Kings 10K. It was de rigueur at the time for alcoholic beverage manufacturers to sponsor road races, mainly because during the running boom that had started after Frank Shorter's 1972 Olympic Marathon victory, someone noticed that runners liked to drink like fish, or, almost equivalently, that abusers of ethanol liked participating in road races. A cursory search failed to uncover any real evidence that this race ever existed, although this is somewhat helpful.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Gimme gimme gimme

On the first day of summer in 2015, long after human life should have been relegated to God's drunken memory by a massive meteoroid or triumphant supervirus, someone started a thread on the Strava forums to complain that the mobile app displays distances to only a tenth of a mile or km, which is an order of magnitude less precise than the website offers.

First, in the event you just awakened from a multi-year coma, Strava is a service that integrates data from a GPS watch or even a mobile phone to tell you how much distance you have covered in a given time. Those who received advanced math degrees from Trump University will recall that if one knows the distance of a trip and the time taken to complete it, one may invoke a complex algebraic expression to compute average speed. Runners are often concerned with all of these, which is why so many of them now have GPS watches and corresponding online accounts. (Garmin, the company that is synonymous with the term "GPS watch," has its own mobile app and web interface, but you can import your data from these into Strava and proceed do a lot of fun, pointless things with it, like show it to people who don't give a shit because they're busy showing you theirs.)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

One glaring lie

I just realized that as a corollary to doing literally all of my running with my dog beginning on Nov. 1, I have now done about 75 consecutive runs without listening to music. I haven't assembled this long of a no-earphones streak of running since, I believe, the early 1990s. Actually, for all I know I have never done it because it's nothing I've ever formally or passively tracked. I started listening to a Walkman while doing runs alone for the first time in the winter of 1984-1985, in my freshman year of high school. I had run cross-country on a last-minute suggestion, so this was my first experience with off-season running prep. On that cassette tape I used over and over while running mostly in the frozen slop of the dirt roads of Canterbury, N.H. were such forgettable top-40 numbers such as Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, I Want to Know What Love Is and Let's Hear It For The Boy. Except that they aren't forgettable, either to me or to a great many radio stations. I'm not sure that in those days anyone realized what a lasting and powerful influence George Michael would become, but no one ever sees the upper echelon of pop culture coming.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A glimpse 25 years into the future

No, I am not offering an idea of what the running world will look like in 2044. In a best-case scenario, human civilization will exist only in the form of irradiated rubble that persistent insects can build homes in. But if I'd been able to magically ascertain in 1994 -- the year I ran my first marathon and one of the last calendar years in which I was an optimist about most aspects of the world -- how things would develop in this niche over the next 25 years, I'm positive I would have said "Fuck that noise, I'll have moved on long before it gets that stupid." But here I am anyway with the rest of the dipshits, because I lack the sense or the resolve to get out and am a natural at demeaning the rabble.

Running was far better when it was far less popular than it is today. Every sane economic and sociological argument applied to the running world I knew as a kid and young adult would have foretold much of the bullshit that has helped fuck it up. Increasing demand for road-races entries has driven up the cost of entry fees far out of proportion to inflation, meaning that people who are serious about these affairs not only pay a lot more money to get into them, but enjoy the experience of being surrounded by hordes of screaming waddlers at most venues.

I've already covered most of the economic aspects of running's blighting, but one thing no one I know saw coming even 15 years ago, by which time the Internet and running had become well acquainted and enmeshed, was a shift in the direction of a flesh-based kakistocracy. Every sport has boasted mostly nude fitness models in its ads and self-aggrandizing goofballs among its ranks, but I doubt anyone predicted that some of these yutzes would become running's self-appointed and widely respected voices and coaches.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Locals who should be put to the the sword: Part 1 of a limited series

I run with my dog, every day. (Lately my knee's been acting up more than it has in a while, so both of us may be out of the formal running picture soon.) I usually take her to off-road locations on public land, such as the South Boulder Creek Trail, the East Boulder Rec Center, C.U. South Campus, Teller Farm, the Cottonwood Trail, Twin Lakes, Davidson Mesa...now that I'm considering the range of our travels, it is apparent we enjoy more variety than I realized. I am usually too busy castigating my own lameness to appreciate this.

I've noticed that there is virtually nowhere in the area that is safe from the phenomenon of idiots allowing behaviorally challenged dogs to roam free, often in spite of immediate evidence that this is not just rude but unsafe. I know this is not unique to Boulder, but it may be more pervasive here because people labor under the delusion that their dogs and their children are inherently more valuable and less prone to disrupting other people than "normal" pets and kids (and to me these are more or less the same thing). Rosie is always, always on a leash when I run with her. Part of this is because I don't trust her not to behave aggressively toward other dogs. I've never seen her attack one, but I've known her to lunge at dogs now and then. Maybe only once in every 10 or even 20 encounters, but to me, if there is any chance that she might hurt another dog, there is zero chance I will create conditions that would facilitate such an event.

I am in the overwhelming minority on this issue. Wherever I go, people are taking advantage of the fact that dogs do not have to be on their leashes. This is fine to the extent that your dog is docile or at least remains 100 percent under your voice command at all times. It is plain, however, that some people understand full well that their dogs might be anywhere from over-exuberant to actively violent, and choose to simply roll the dice and let these animals roam free anyway. This most often happens in places where people don't expect to encounter other people walking or running, e.g., when it's really cold or along a rarely used rec path. These people are stupid for thinking this -- we're in Boulder, Colorado, where even the kinds of people who will be dead of natural causes within a year are out roaming the landscape for exercise. But more than that, they are assholes.