Saturday, June 5, 2010


"You learn a lot about people when you play games with them". - Laura Moncur

Hi guys - OK, my cork has popped. Over the past decade and a half I have had the opportunity (and the privilege) to coach runners for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. When I first began, this was a little scary in that most of them had decided that they were going to run 26.2 miles as a vehicle to raise money to help find a cure for this killer. As a coach, it was literally a "Couch-to-marathon" program (with apologies to Danny Haralson's incredibly excellent Couch-to-5K, Couch-to-10K,...etc). I had been running marathons for over 15 years and coaching for 10 by this point, and KNEW that you had to take it in steps, putting your body through increasingly progressive distances of races and's done this way because it's always been done this way! But, these marathon newbies didn't know any better, so off we went here, there, and everywhere, raising money and running marathons, dispelling my fears that you can't go from zero to 26.2. Yes, these runs were slow, especially to us veterans of the 70's and 80's who regularly raced with a "nuts & guts" attitude and had absolutely nothing left in the tank at the finish line. Believe me, I was more surprised, even as their coach, that they COULD finish a marathon. Seeing them train in the same conditions, put in the same long runs, have the same aches, pains, and injuries, it never occurred to me that some grumpy veteran marathoners would take serious offense to these "stragglers". They actually felt that this new breed of athletes somehow "disrespected" the distance. What a giant bunch of hooey!! The charities grew with TNT, Diabetes, Arthritis, Fred's Team, Dana-Farber, etc., and race numbers swelled. Runners who could run fast, could still run fast, but felt that the bar they had held so high was suddenly lowered to a level that cheapened the marathon. The cry "you can do 26 point 2" was followed with "no matter how long it takes you". Most of the time I just steamed inside, knowing, as usual, that I was right and they were wrong. Even Boston Marathon runners complained about all these "charity runners" taking up slots of "deserving" runners. THEY'RE SAVING LIVES FOR PETE'S SAKE!
Now, to me, a former (almost) 3 hour marathoner, a coach, a 5 time Boston Marathon participant, and currently a near Medicare age slow runner with arthritic ankles, I view it this way. Even putting aside the charity benefits, this new breed have set a bar themselves that is much higher than us "older marathoners". Good grief, 26.2 miles is a long way, no matter what time zone you finish in. In their attempt to reach a goal, they are an example to those fighting the ravaging obesity problem and inspiring others to get off their rumps. Some point out "they're not racing - they're just participating". What kind of lame-brained, holier-than-thou statement is that? Let me tell you that the shirt and the medal mean a lot more to someone who has laid everything they have out on the road for 6 hours than a runner who is hacked because he just ran 3:22 instead of 3:20.
So, what finally popped my cork? This...Pearl Izumi has had an ad campaign for the past couple of years - WE ARE NOT JOGGERS. If you get any of the running magazines, you've seen their full page ads and I spew smoke every time I read one. The latest ad I read last night in Runner's World and obviously I'm still smoldering. I'm sure you can find all their ads on the Internet, but here are some excepts from previous ads:
...They're jogging - a half-hearted movement of the legs that, mechanics aside, has about as much in common with running as billiards.
...If it feels like something you would do on a treadmill, or at the helm of a tricked-out baby stroller, you're probably jogging
...No matter how fast you run on a treadmill, you're still jogging
...Runners sometimes jog, but joggers never run
...Joggers can never run. It feels terrible to them - like they've been doused with gas and set ablaze'll see a lot of people out there with MP3 players. Blasting some Indie music to make the miles go by a little faster. Everyone of these people is a jogger
...Jogging is a synonym for half-assed
...Now you have all these joggers calling themselves runners. We won't stand for it
Well, what I won't stand for is blind, bigoted meanness to a group of good folks that I know are a positive influence to the sport and an inspiration to others, and putting forth an effort just as tough and as meaningful in their 6 hour effort as my buddies putting in their 3 hour marathons. Why does everything in this world have to be "US verses THEM"? Why would Pearl Izumi have an ad campaign so idiotic that it alienates half their client base? This is too much for me. I think I'll go out for a jog. I'll see you on the roads - AL


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I will go barefoot before I wear Izimi's

Anonymous said...

Well said, Al. Love your passion for the cause.