The increasingly parochial observations of a casual runner in his fifties. Was "serious" about "the sport" until personal and sociocultural inevitabilities prevailed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

This here patch of a newly nebulous world

Toward the end of February, as what is now a crisis of uncertain but still-growing magnitude was still at worst an abstraction for most of us in these gloriously United States (remember these races?), I was doing a twilight 30-minute run and thinking about some ancient interview with a runner-on-the-street type in the wake of the Boston Marathon, probably on WBZ out of Boston in the 1990s. I don't know why my memory apparatus seized on this nugget, but in it, the ebullient, endorphin-powered subject was going on about how running is different from other sports because the pros line up with the rabble and so everyone is literally racing them, sort of. This is a common and longstanding observation, pre-dating the "second running boom" of the early 1990s characterized in large part by the emergence of intentional walk breaks in marathons.

But this reality has taken on enormous gravity in the age of social media, in particular in a sport that arguably has no real professional locus and in which user-generated content on sites like the Letsrun forum, a smattering of podcasts and blogs, and Twitter essentially serve as the media. And in recapitulating the evolution of both the public arm of the sport and society in general over the last 20 years, I realized that a significant chunk of what I will call my own confusion over the way some observers have chosen to cover professional running is a precise and inevitable consequence of this reality, the commingling of elite and everyday, blog-equipped human presences.