By Mike T.
Frank Shorter had the full attention of the 6 people sitting closely, clinging on every word about his gold medal Olympic marathon win. The other 16,400 people running the half-marathon walked by oblivious to the fact that one of the greatest marathoners ever was sitting there dispensing advice and tactics that each of them could use.
Yet, a lot of those same people will watch televised poker tournaments, but not track or a road race. Recreational soccer, tennis, basketball and baseball players usually have an encyclopedic knowledge of elite players and also tend to watch those sports even if it involves seeking them out at odd hours and with the broadcast in a foreign language. They can debate the finer points of technique, gear, the greatest players, and list specific records and important dates related to their sport.
However, ask your typical runner who won Broad Street in 2017, the current mile world record holders and their times, or the most popular shoe worn by the top marathoners at the IAFF World Championships and you’d be met with a blank stare or the question what is IAFF? In case you’re wondering the answers are Dominic Korir and Askale Merachi for Broad Street, Hicham El Guerrouj (3:43.13) and Svetlana Masterkova (4:12.56) for the mile, and the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%. I’ll let you look up IAFF.
So why should you learn about track and field or road racing? Why should you read about elite runners or watch a race? There are two major reasons. First, if you want to convince someone that your running isn’t serious and isn’t a sport, the easiest way to do that is to be unable to discuss anything about running. Because guess what? Soccer, tennis, basketball and baseball all include running as part of their sport. Not the major part either but a less important part that is a means to the end of scoring a point or goal. As a result, participants in those often believe that since running is part of their sport, it obviously isn’t a sport on its own. And since you can only run and don’t play soccer, tennis, basketball or baseball, you also are less of an athlete, if one at all. If you were a real athlete you would be playing their sport, where they not only run but do other things as well. Without some basic knowledge, you’re fending for yourself with no answers when you try to explain but the best runners, like Frank Shorter, have been there and have the answers to the questions your friends are asking.
Second, have you ever been injured, wanted to run faster, lose weight, gain weight, get stronger, or have better form? All of these questions can be answered by looking at the elite runners from running’s past and present. Just watching a single race can show you simple things like what to wear and how to drink when running or more complex racing aspects from drafting and running the tangents to pacing tactics. Want to learn more? At your next race expo, attend a clinic and ask a few questions. Not only will you learn something but the next time someone says running isn’t a sport, you can make Frank proud.
Disclaimer: The author has watched soccer matches in Portuguese, played in basketball leagues, enjoys playing cards, has a world-class golf slice and cheers for the Oakland Athletics.
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