The one where I get kinda angry with a “real” journalist

This article makes me angry. I mean, when I read it I saw RED. My face got hot and my blood started boiling. The title alone pissed me off because I knew where the writer was going: “How Oprah Ruined the Marathon” I knew this writer was going to start criticizing the fact that everyone runs marathons now. It’s a goal people actually fine attainable. And I knew this person was about to insult that.

I don’t know where to begin breaking down Mr. McClelland’s article and the way it angers me. But, we’ll start with this paragraph which might have upset me the most:

Like Oprah, Bingham deserves praise for luring insecure, overweight novices off their couches and into running shoes. He’s also terrific for business. In the last 15 years, the Chicago Marathon field has increased tenfold, to 45,000. But with this change in the running culture, the average finishing time for men has dropped from 3:32 to 4:15 — not far from the Oprah Line, or my own performance. Last month’s Chicago Marathon had to be shut down mid-race, because undertrained five- and six-hour marathoners couldn’t handle that much time in the 85-degree heat.

First of all – if you don’t know who Bingham is – take a quick moment to go here. Damn. The site’s down. Save it for later. Essentially he mainstreamed the marathon by making everyone believe that if he could do it? Then they could. He sells t-shirts on his site that say things like “Who Cares If I’m Slow.” (Which, for the record, is a depressing thing to see mobs of people passing you wearing.)

So, essentially this author is first saying that the droves of novices that Bingham brought to the sport is a bad thing. But he’s also saying that the disaster at the Chicago Marathon is the fault of the novices? Pardon me for saying so, but when I read the reports about that marathon being cut, there were just as many seasoned runners in those first-aid tents as there were novices. And I know one of those runners who did not want to quit. (For the record, she finally became a marathoner here. Go tell her congrats.) And I hate the contempt in the voice of this author for those people. For MY people. I finished my marathon in an embarrassingly slow time. I mean, Oprah would have run laps around me. But does that mean that my participation lessens the integrity of the sport?

He ends the article with this:

If the marathon is populist enough for everyone to pin on a number, it’s also populist enough for everyone to kick ass. If you’re running the New York City Marathon this weekend, remember, it’s a race. True, no matter how hard you push, you’re not going to win a gold medal. But maybe a kid in high school will, someday. If the pack can drag the best runners back, we can push them forward, too.

You know what? Who is this guy to try to act like that just because my time is slow doesn’t mean I’m kicking ass? Anyone who crosses that finish line is kicking ass. This guy wants to blame the lack of a US marathon hero on the masses of us novice/walkers on the course. And that makes no sense. Yes, the average has gone down. But that’s mathematically expected when more novices jump in. I can’t imagine the woman in the front of the pack in Nashville saw me in the back of the pack and thought, “You know? That curly-haired girl is going slow. I’m going to slow down too.”

The idea that anyone in our increasingly unhealthy culture can actually point negatively to the newfound popularity of marathon running makes me laugh. And I love that he’s passive aggresive about his insulting with such wonderful statements as:

I just didn’t get it. After my knee injury, I’d returned to the 5K. I pushed myself into the pain zone, puked after races, and fought my way back down to 20 minutes — a far more satisfying feat than a four-hour marathon. I was doing all I could do, with what I still had. Yet here was a man whose legs would carry him 26 miles, and he was content to stop for walking breaks.

Mr. McClelland, I apologize that those of us out there who take walking breaks are such a bother to you and your bum knee. It is unfortunate you blame us “Penguins” (It’s a Bingham term) for the low average like it’s a black mark on your precious marathon. I’m sorry if this newfound love for running by couch potatoes over the country takes away the pride you feel in that 26.2 miles. But you know what? I just have to say one thing to you: Screw You. It is not anymore your race than it is mine. I am proud of you for finishing at whatever time you can finish. I look at the first person who crosses that finish like with admiration and respect. Actually? I am in awe of anyone that finishes faster than Oprah because I knew from the day I started training that her goal was too lofty for me. In other words? Before today I would have seen you cross that finish line at your best time and thought, “Man. He’s fast. I wish I could be fast like him.”

But you know what? No longer. I’ll be proud of the person before you and the person after you. But of you? I’m not going to waste my admiration on someone who thinks people like me are not kicking enough ass. I’ll save it for the person who comes in dead last. Do you know how hard it is NOT to give up when they’re closing the course behind you? I’ve been the last one in a race before and had the cops picking up the cones behind me as I slowly crept towards the finish line. It was my first half-marathon and I poorly paced myself and ended up in a lot of pain. And also in last place. It hurts. It made me embarrassed and ashamed and worried that jackasses like you were rolling their eyes at me as I hobbled down the road.

But you know what? Luckily the people on my race weren’t like you. Many kept at the finish line until the last person crossed, cheering us all on. Many ran backwards when they were finished to encourage those of us still on the course. They patted us on the back and commiserated in our agony. They didn’t look down on me for walking a small bit. They let me in their club of finishers. They told me to be proud. And I was. And I’m sure as hell not letting you take that away from me. Or from Oprah. She ran her marathon in 4 hours and 29 minutes. Scoff at my time all you want, but don’t knock hers. That chick is fast.

Done

41 thoughts on “The one where I get kinda angry with a “real” journalist”

  1. How many people can say that they can run/walk for seven hours? I think that is pretty ass-kicking.

    I saw this on someone else’s website before Chicago and it really struck a chord with me:

    After a marathon, the first place finisher and the last place finisher were interviewed together. Upon hearing each other’s times, the last place finisher turned to the elite and asked with astonishment, “You can run a marathon in 2:10?!” In turn, the first place finisher asked in amazement, “You’re capable of running for more than seven hours?!”

  2. Am I allowed to curse on your blog? I REALLY feel like cursing. The only comments coming to mind contain technicolored four letter words.

  3. I love Simba’s mom’s comment about the 1st & last place finishers.

    Zoot realize that:
    1) this guy is an ass (I think you got that)
    2) he’s trying to piss you off becuz you’ll tell your friends & they’ll read his article & send him hate mail which will in turn help increase his salary potential
    3) ANYONE who can attempts, much less finishes, a marathon is a hero in my book–and I’m not alone on that.
    4) if you have half a brain you realize that the runners who were failing in Chicago dehydrated! It doesn’t matter how good you are if you don’t know how to treat you body properly–novice and professional suffered this problem that day. When it comes to dehydration I have found that I will start to dehydrate if I don’t have a bottle to drink during the night (yeah, while I’m sleeping–that’s my endurance training); So you’re writer buddy; He’s an idiot.

    Running something like a marathon (or even that first 5K) is about commitment. Sure it’s running, but doing something that is physically hard for you and pushing yourself to do it is as much mental as it is physical. This guy is lucky enough to have never had to deal with the mental part of it, YET. I would bet that when that day comes for him, he’ll fail. AND THEN, he’ll be sorry for what he wrote. But until then he won’t understand truely committing yourself to finishing something. Anyone can FORCE the physical part, (and throw up later) but the mental part is something that really requires stamina & commitment.

    You’re 10x the runner he’ll ever be honey!

  4. “It is not anymore your race than it is mine.” That’s the best thing I”ve heard all day. As long as it’s open to the public, expect the public to attend. Plain and simple. I’m so impressed with you and everyone else who makes the commitment and has the discipline to run a marathon. I still have yet to run an entire 5K race – but I will someday!

  5. Wow… just, wow. Excellent retort. You are still my hero for having run like you did. And I hope after this baby comes you get to run some more.

  6. “Oh boo hoo, I’m surrounded by amateurs in my very own marathon that thousands of other people happen to be running in.” What a jerk. >:(

    I have dreams that I’m jogging. Does that count? ;)

  7. Things like this make me really angry. Who CARES how long it takes a person to finish? The fact of the matter is, they did it. They crossed the finish line! And they should be proud. Quite frankly, I am in awe of anyone who tries it.

  8. What an arse!

    First, I live in Chicago and it was oppressive that day. And I have plenty of friends, who ARE marathoners, who were forced to finish because they were TOLD TO. They wanted to keep going because they were fine AND prepared, but the marathon people shut it down.

    ANYONE who finishes a marathon deserves a big huge gold star. It is an amazing feat! That guy needs to shut the eff up!

    Kudos to you Zoot! Don’t let him take away what you accomplished! You rule!

  9. Hear hear sister.
    My biggest pet peeve on earth is people getting all judgey about running. So what if you’re slow or you walk or you listen to music or you do whatever you do to get through it? You’re a runner no matter what, and it’s not up to anyone else to say that you aren’t. And you kick ass for finishing that marathon, no matter what.

  10. Forget him! I’ve been in awe of you and your running ability since you first posted about it.

    This jerk needs to be kncoked off his high horse, that’s for sure.

  11. Anyone who finishes a marathon has all the reason in the world to be proud of herself, no matter what her time is. Silly me, I thought it was about setting individual goals, not proving athletic prowess. Awesome post, zoot.

  12. Damn Zotting Right! Why are there snobs everywhere. I imagine the “pros” don’t mind the $$$ they get for promoting certain lines…Maybe we can come up with a slow shoe line and only buy those… Just Dot It Slow sposored by Trike’!

  13. Not sure if you heard about it or not, Zoot, but there was a woman who walked the New York Marathon… She suffers from MS and from Diabetes. She finished it in 29 hours. Pretty impressive in my mind. I thought that might share that with you. Sadly, I fail at the internet today, and cannot find an article to link you. =( But thought you might enjoy hearing about that ~ especially after this jackass!!

  14. I ran my first marathon yesterday and made the mistake of taking the first 13 miles too quickly. About mile 14, my right knee cramped (or something) and I had to basically hobble the last 12.2. I definitely DID NOT beat Oprah’s time and I will agree with you that she is fast!

    This article totally upset me in my fragile/walking like Frakenstein state. Just because I was towards the back yesterday doesn’t mean I didn’t deserve to be out there. I got up early weekend after weekend to run, ran countless miles after work, etc. etc. And yesterday, when I felt like my whole race was falling apart, I still gave it all I had. At a few points, that was barely walking, but I kept at it.

    I say congratulations to you and everyone else who gets out there whether they run four-minute miles or walk all 26.2. Just having the courage to try is enough.

  15. I hate running. I have always found it to be the dumbest sport in the world. I mean I run FROM something, I run TO something, but just RUN.

    Well, that was then. Now, I have started learning to run after far too many sedentary years. It is excruciatingly slow, and somewhat embarrassing at times. And you know what? I don’t give a damn.

    I ran my first mile in 20 some odd years just a couple of weeks back. How slow was I? My seven year old could keep up with me the whole way. I still got encouragement and cheers from others as we finished long after everybody else was done. And it was on that day, that I really got it.

    Sad to say, this idiot never bothered to look around him, presumably because he was too busy looking at himself in the mirror, and he will just never get it.

    The only thing about this that really makes me sad? He actually gets paid to be that stupid.

  16. How sad that someone could be that idiotic and actually believe his own rhetoric. And get paid to do it.

    I don’t run. More to the point, I can’t run. At all. Ever again. I really do have a “bum” knee. I had an accident at work four years ago. Three knee surgeries later and I can walk without pain. For the most part. The last surgery was for that reason alone. I can’t crawl,run,jump,climb, or bend anymore. I don’t want to hear about some dumbass who still “pushes through the pain”. He doesn’t know pain.

    I applaud all the runners out there. Be it the first timers or the seasoned pros. It takes a lot to run a marathon and not give up. Never let anyone make you feel like you didn’t accomplish your goal.

    Don’t give that bastard the satisfaction.

  17. He’s an idiot. Noone is slowing anybody down – that’s why you start in times. And the popularity of the darn thing increases the top finishers profiles. I’ll say it again; he’s an idiot. When a friend of mine began running marathoners, I began flying to other states to cheer her on by trotting from spot to spot on the course and yelling for all the runners I saw during the day. And I traveled to do it because it was incredible – not just her feat of running for around 6 hours, but two friends running together so that the seeing could lead the blind, the faster members of running clubs essentially re-running the course to encourage the newer/slower members, moms and daughters running together, cancer survivors and those that love them claiming life with every step, and a million other sights like it. And RUNNERS cheering ME, because they kept seeing me at different points in the course yelling for them. It was a generous and amazingly supportive community, and they included me as part of it just because I’d take the day to cheer them on. I was floored, and honored. That idiot? He is NOT part of it, because he doesn’t want to be. His loss.

  18. Two words: condescending asshole. That guy can’t touch you (or me, with my 3:30 half marathon time!) no matter how fast he finishes because he is bitter and he is mean.

    What makes me really angry is the idea that anyone would read that and think that the whole running community is like that. Thank God it’s so totally not!

  19. Excellent post! I hate that writer’s elitist attitude. And anyone who can keep going, whether running or walking, for 26.2 miles has my respect. (Except this guy who ruined it for everyone.)

  20. In my book, anyone who is walking/running/whatever is a winner, and ESPECIALLY one who has the chutzpah do that for 26.2 miles, however long it takes them. We should be applauding any American who puts down the Ben & Jerry’s, gets off the couch, and gets moving.

  21. Whoa! I couldn’t read his entire rambling article at work (it wouldn’t open), but in my barely able to finish a 5K world, a marathon is what I am aiming for. Someday. And no matter what, I’ll be proud of my time, as should anyone who FINISHES a marathon. I WALKED a marathon last year in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and it kicked my ass. If you can run that? You are AWESOME.

  22. I have to wonder…Why does he care? Is he an avid runner who’s passion was smashed by the other 36,999 runners? Didn’t seem like he had a reason to care to make comment. He sounds like just another opinionated Jackass who had nothing to do that day but right yet another article cutting down thousands of people. Maybe he’s jealous because he’s too fat to run a marathon…LOL

    Don’t let jerks like that get to ya Zoot.

  23. He’s just mad because he ran his one and only marathon in 4hrs 16mins. Thought he was a badass and then Oprah did hers in 4hrs 29mins. He’s a so-called “serious runner” and someone like Oprah did just about as well as he did without lifelong training.

    In his mind he made a poor showing at his marathon and it haunts him. Due to his knee he may never be able to improve that time. This is one of those “if I had it to do over again” things.

    And guess what dude? The people that win these races didn’t just wake up one day and run these incredible times. It’s practice, training and hard work. The first thing they did was get up and decide to try and that’s what the so-called slow runners are doing. They are putting forth the effort. They are setting and accomplishing goals. I admire them all!!

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