More Thoughts on the Marathon

UPDATE: The Marathon has been canceled or postponed.  Who knows.  This was probably the right decision.  The level of vitriol that was being heaped on NYRR and the running community was extreme.  Now let’s see if the New York Post will try to get the Giants game canceled. 

I am rethinking the post below about this year’s New York Marathon.  I continue to maintain that this is not a zero sum game where if the Marathon  is canceled there will be more resources for those effected by the storm.  I don’t think it works that way.  And I do think this city could use the money, and the excitement of the race.

That said, I’m sharing my opinions on the race from my coach, with the power on and the internet humming.  It has become clear in the last twenty-four hours the race is deeply unpopular with many in the communities hardest hit by the storm.  I can’t ignore that, even if I disagree.  Perhaps I and New York Road Runners have been too quick to try to get life back to normal.  Perhaps rescheduling would have been a better option.  I’m not sure.

But the race is now in two days.  It will go forward and thousands of runners who trained hard for months will be running.  I will be out there cheering them.  I hope other New Yorkers are as well.

Running Heroes – The Six Women of the 1972 New York Marathon

The primary means of political dialogue in America is through sports.  The fight for racial integration took place on the baseball field.  We have wrestled with the equal rights for women in school sports, on golf courses, and in distance running.  We use sports to argue over who is an American*, to champion animal rights, and to combat homophobia.

Whether as spectators or participants, we reflect our politics through our discussions of sports and our actions on the field of play.  We always have.  This intersection of sports and politics is part of what makes the stories of the first running boom so fascinating.  At the same time that runners like Frank Shorter were experimenting with their own bodies to see how far, and how fast, a human being could run, runners like Katherine Switzer were breaking down the gender barriers in long distance running.

All of this was in my mind as I read the fascinating article in the November issue of Runners World about the six women who sat down at the start of the 1972 New York Marathon.  I’m not going to go into all the details of the article, you should buy a copy of RW and read it for yourself, but suffice it to say in 1972 the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) was still treating women as second class runners.  In protest, a group of women runners, Lynn Blackstone, Jane Muhrke, Liz Francechini, Cathy Miller, Pat Barrett and Boston Champion Nina Kuscsik, with the cooperation of race director Fred Lebow**, orchestrated a sit down protest at the start line of New York City Marathon.  A month later, helped along by a lawsuit filed by Kuscsik, the AAU began to change its policies and distance running became a more equal playing field.

Blackstone, Muhrcke, Franceschini, Barret, Kuscsik and Miller changing running forever at the 1972 New York Marathon.

All of the women who sat down at the starting line that day were runners, but not all of them were fast.  In fact, only Barrett and Kuscsik finished the race.  Kuscsik won in 3:08, Barret finished in 3:19.***  But whether they finished the race or not, won or not, all six of these women are running heroes worth remembering.

* Discussions over Meb’s status as an American continue to enrage me by the way.

**The article hints that perhaps part of Lebow’s enthusiasm for this protest came from his desire to promote the NYC marathon.  We’ll never know Lebow’s motivations for sure, he died in 1994, but I hardly care.  Whatever his reasons, he was on the right side of the fight.

***It is worth noting that Kuscsik remains the only women to have won both Boston and New York in the same year.

Nativist / Racist / Enough of This

For the people out there who know me in real life, you know I am a pretty political person. I have spent most of my adult life working in political organizations. But this blog isn’t suppossed to be about that, it is suppossed to be about running. And then, Meb Keflezighi has to go and win the New York Marathon, churning up a whole bunch of nasty “he isn’t really an American” crap.

No to all of this. First of all, Meb has been running in the U.S. since high school, which means he has been an American runner longer than I have. And no one would ever say someone with my skin color and name isn’t an American, no matter when they started running here. But that isn’t the point. I wouldn’t have cared if Meb had moved to the U.S. the day before the marathon. This is a country of immigrants. We are at our best when we are welcoming to people who want to come here, bringing their talent and hard work with them. We are at our worst when we start setting up criteria for who is “American”. So lets call this for what it is – nativism and racism. Nativist envy that someone who came from to this country with so little has done so well. And racism because I am willing to bet this wouldn’t be news if his name was Tom Smith and he had immigrated here from Canada at age 12.

So, when you’re reading a running forum, or chatting about this at a social event and Meb’s “american-ness” comes up. Speak up for him. He just did a great thing and we should be proud of him.

New York Marathon

Congratulations to

Lindsay from Chasing the Kenyans setting a new PR in  3:33:02

Derartu Tulu winning the women’s division in 2:28:52

Meb Keflezighi becoming the first American in 27 years to win the NYC marathon, finishing in 2:09:15

I am especially moved by Meb’s performance. The American running media has expended gallons of ink on Ryan Hall (a great runner, no doubt) while Meb has not gotten nearly as much press. To have someone with his life story be the first American to win the race in 27 years is incredible. He should be really proud. As should everyone else who was out there yesterday.

New York was my first (and so far only) marathon, and I loved the experience. Man I am looking forward to getting back there.

Not this year.

Thank you for applying for the ING New York City Marathon 2009. Unfortunately, you were not selected in the lottery drawing. Please understand that we have to limit the size of the field to ensure a top-quality experience.
Well, that’s that. I am not running New York this year, looks like I’ll be doing the Hartford Marathon after all.