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

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Linkless scrap heap

Imagine if the NFL playoffs had best-of-five and best-of-seven series, like other pro sports. Given that they would still have to wait a week between contests, individual seasons would stretch out into multiple years. The Super Bowl would be held every two years instead of annually and therefore assume twice the level of sporting importance, but at the same time it would also become a joke because rosters would become decimated throughout the endless postseason. Bookmakers would have no meaningful way to set useful odds. Of course I think this should be instituted immediately.

While running past an old folks' home the other day, which always makes me feel curiously guilty, I saw I license plate with the characters DTPANIC. I figure there are three ways to interpret this: Donald Trump panic, "Don't panic," or delerium tremens panic, the sort people experience while in withdrawal from alcohol. I was probably one of the few people I know who would have even though of the last one, but it was the first "explanation" that occurred to me.

I am going to have some things to say about the Frank Meza debacle in a subsequent outburst, which in turn will follow the relating of an uncomfortable personal experience that was timely enough to have even a skeptic like me looking for cosmic machinations behind the apparent coincidence thus produced. But one thing of the dozens that jumps out at me is that timing mats, while ostensibly a safeguard against illegitimate times, have surely made cheating more attractive to the members of a limited subset of deceivers: Those who are crafty enough to have the timing-mat data from the their faked marathons stand as the entirety of their "evidence" of fitness. That is, we've reached a point in this arms race where a bunch of missed mats in the results is all the evidence needed to identify cheaters; some of them have become sophisticated enough to work validity measures reliant on chip timing to their advantage. Catching these "organized" scalawags definitively this requires photo evidence, and in turn a measure of crowd-sourcing.

In the 1980s, no old dude whose form alone revealed he was plainly incapable of even a single seven-minute mile would have tried hopping out of the bushes onto the course in the last mile or a marathon and shuffled across the line with 2:55, give or take, on the clock. Not unless he was legitimately delusional or maybe hammered into the next dimension. People would have immediately called bullshit, and he wouldn't have been able to say "look at the data" while gradually slinking back to his private life, because no one would have been scoring the obvious shenanigans on the basis of the cheater's social contributions. At the same time, no one really gave a shit about masters' prizes. If I remember right, per RRCA guidelines, the divisions went masters (40-49), grandmasters (50-59), seniors (60-69) and veterans (70+). Which is kind of irrelevant, like all of this nonsense.

I may be going to watch the USATF Championships in Des Moines with a college teammate who lives up in the mountains west of here. As if there are mountains east of here. Well, there are, in Virginia. Which I miss, a lot, but not yet enough to consider pulling the trigger and migrating back to Roanoke thanks to the usual unspoken things that tend to keep people in place when they have both the freedom to gallivant around and an occasional defiant form of wanderlust.

I have been doubling on most days lately, mainly because it's gotten nice out. That means shorter runs during the day to keep Rosie from overheating (she never goes more than about 15 minutes without a dip in the creek, or maybe a trench) and usually a second one around dusk. None of this ever adds up to more than 60 minutes of near-jogging. In terms of fitness acquisition, I am basically just a racewalker who is constantly cheating, or in other words, a racewalker.

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