I want to kick off today’s post with a quote from one of my favorite elite runners:
"We don’t always get what we want. Sometimes we work so hard, only to stumble. But our hard work is not lost. The work we do happened and although we may not have been able to show it on the day we hoped, it will be realized later on. " Kara Goucher, post-NYC Marathon 2014.
A lot has been said, and continues to be said, about Kara’s emotional nature and her unconventional re-entry into elite racing. Her tearful interview immediately following a difficult NYC Marathon showing either broke your heart or made you squirm in your seat. Personally, I found it refreshing. Athletes are human beings, not robots, and not products being churned out by a sponsor. I am glad that I don’t get the same canned response normally seen during a post-race interview.
I appreciate her honesty and I think it makes her more approachable to fans and fellow athletes. If being emotional about your life’s passion is a weakness, then I feel for all those who just put their head down and run. I don’t see their commitment as clearly. I don’t feel their anxiety, joy, or disappointment. We as fans of the sport love to see joy following triumph. But sadness after a dream denied? Move long.
If sponsors want fans to
buy their shit engage with and root for their newest darling particular athlete, the first thing they should
be concerned with is showing us that they are human beings. I don’t want to
hear the finish places of their previous 5 races this year. I want to hear
about the work they have been putting in when no one but their coach is
watching. The missteps and the imperfections along the way. That is what makes
me care about the outcome of your race today and the races you aspire to run in
the future. None of us is foolish enough to believe the path to the start line was sunshine and rainbows.
It wouldn't surprise me if someone out there disagrees with me. It is, after all, only my opinion. The opinion of a back of the pack runner who won’t stand on a podium or qualify for certain race entries. Perhaps that means I am not aware of proper elite athlete behavior. Or what a sponsor or coach prefers is said or not said. But in a time of almost unfettered access to anyone through social media, it is getting increasingly harder for athletes to remain separated from the sport and its followers.
Unfortunately, I only need to spend five minutes watching SportsCenter to get the latest in athletes behaving badly. I’d rather spend those five minutes watching Kara or Rinny or Meb laugh, cry, and generally share with me what that race felt like in that moment. I think we can relate to those race moments on some level and have that “me too” feeling. Whether it was the urge to walk or cry or quit, runners of all levels have been there and I find it comforting to know that it happens to the best of us, not just the “meh” of us. I carry that with me on the trail, in the gym, and at the physical therapy clinic. Highs and lows, joys and sorrows. Me too.