Friday, November 6, 2009

Yet another absurd NY Times Op-Ed about the marathon

I feel like I should mention it again, but I have always been a fan of the New York Times. But they've had a couple of marathon stories over the last two weeks that have really driven me nuts. I talked about their article questioning slow runners. Based on your comments, it sounds like you agree with me.

Now there's an opinion piece called "Running Without a Narrative". In the piece, the author predicts (incorrectly, mind you) that we won't have an American win the NY marathon this year. Does he blame in on the fact that running is a global sport and it's become incredibly competitive over the last 30 years? Nope. Does he blame it on the fact that marathons are becoming significantly more popular than they ever were before and that means that more runners become serious runners than there were 30 years ago? Nope.

He blames it on the "lack of narrative" about the competitive runners. His argument is that we don't focus on the race itself but rather on the race as an "event". He goes on to say that the media has focused on the human interest stories rather than on the professional athletes themselves. In other words, the US isn't as competitive because the media doesn't focus on our top runners.

Well, talk about flawed logic. First, our top runners don't need media coverage to run fast. Their training allows them to do that. They don't run faster or slower based on how many stories are written about them.

And do you think the competitive runners would fault the media for human interest stories to make the marathon accessible? I doubt it. If they're like the typical runner, they're happy to have as many people interested in the sport as possible. We're a very welcoming sport if you hadn't noticed, NY Times.

Why are stories written about cancer survivors who decided to run a marathon? Or someone legally blind running while being led by a seeing-eye dog? Because they're inspirational and because seeing people who persevere running is a huge motivator for other people to get out on the roads. Stories about people who have overcome adversity make the idea of running a marathon accessible to the rest of us.

We cheer for these people because they are the people that define this sport.
We cheer for these people because we had adversity in our lives and we had to break through to succeed.
We cheer for these people because they're us.


Mel-2nd Chances said...

what is up with their articles lately? Is it me, or are there a lot of stories about running.... mostly a negative view?!

Marlene said...

I'm with Mel - what's up with the negative edge in these articles?!

They should have RUNNERS writing about running.

ShirleyPerly said...

Well, you've just convinced me that I'm not missing anything by not reading the NY Times. Sounds like they're resorting somewhat to what tabloids do (writing outrageous stories) to just get people to read their stuff. Right or wrong, it gets people talking and visiting their site so they can keep their advertisers happy.

EndorphinBuzz said...

I'm late to comment and haven't read their article but the logic isn't necessarily flawed. If there was more media attention given to elite runners, they might be elevated to superstar status (think Phelps for swimming, Armstrong for cycling) and would have a much easier time to get big money sponsors. That would likely increase the amount of people who would want to compete to be a full time well paid runner.

Can the general public name one competitive long distance runner? Why would the big advertisers invest huge sums of money to sponsor athletes that common folks won't recognize.