A long, busy weekend of strides and stumbles
It's not about who wins, it's about how silly we* running pundits look from our custom-designed shitbird's nests
In recent posts, I mentioned three then-upcoming marathons that took place over the long U.S. Columbus Day weekend. One of these “mentions” was a dedicated write-up of a first-time event here in Boulder; the second was a bit of impulsive rambling about a single elite runner’s chances in the Chicago Marathon; and the third was a preview of the latest installment the LieToya Show as its cast-and-crew-of-one prepared for a trip to Boston. In the Boston Marathon-centric post, I also made a passing remark about the 2021 Major League Baseball Playoffs.
To the extent any of these dispatches matter in any defensible concept of a Grand Scheme—a flimsy and ever-fraying premise—at least two of those three posts obligate me to now expand on what I loaded them with.
There is no crime in making a really bad guess about someone’s upcoming marathon. But when you go as far as to, say, make confidently haphazard use of statistical equations in the process, you look like a special kind of dumbass in the aftermath.
I didn’t follow the Chicago Marathon while it was in progress, and my first indication of how Galen Rupp’s race was going was logging on to the race website and seeing a “2:06:35” next to his name, minutes after he’d finished. Was I surprised? Not as much as I thought I might be. Was I annoyed? Of course! This wasn’t one of those “I hope he proves me wrong, but I think he’s toast” matters; he proved me wrong, and while that sucks, it’s not half as annoying as the simple fact of his success itself.
Not only did I badly misjudge Rupp’s fitness for the Chicago Marathon, I didn’t even really try to narrow down how badly I believed he would do, basically saying that he could run 2:08:30, but more likely would run 2:09-2:10…or at least finish. Despite giving myself this almost unlimited latitude—as hard as it is to see this now, a 2:08:30 would, in fact, have been seen as solid by almost every pundit outside Rupp’s camp—my prediction was like a wild pitch over the on-deck-batter’s head, as Rupp did the one thing I loudly ruled out: He ran a spectacular race.
One reader wrote, “This was entertaining, but man, you were off.” I have no idea why this email was not ten times as insulting, which it should have been. (Someone else wrote in, “Ryan Hall is the fastest American marathoner of all time,” which is true, not counting quite a few wheelchair athletes. But Khalid Khannouchi still holds the American record, 2:05:38 from 2002.)
I can’t stand Galen Rupp, and, absent serious brain trauma, will probably never treat anything about his professional career as legitimate. He was groomed by an admitted doper to be the best in the world at a sport that same groomer—along with his groomer—is acutely aware remains dominated by dopers; to suggest that Salazar would manically dedicate his life to coaching while knowingly handicapping himself and confining his shenanigans to “gray areas” requires a great deal of lawyerly bullshit, not just in an open discussion, but inside any given head attempting to reconcile it all.
That said, I admire any athlete who knows he is widely disliked or, even worse, suspected of chronic cheating, yet comes back and sticks a perfect landing anyway, right in the haters’ faces. Especially late in his career. Granted, this has to be easier to do in competitive cardio, which is what flat road racing basically is, than in sports involving thrown objects and a correspondingly wider array of tactical approaches. But no level of doping insulates anyone against choking in any sport. A healthy Rupp is as focused and capable as they come, and remains seemingly impervious to poor in-race decisions (which are harder to make when you’re in 2:06 shape, as this guy occasionally is).
The thing is, if Rupp races in the spring, I, provided I survive the winter, will find a way to forget what I have done here and pick against him again, rushing to humiliate myself and probably seeing a similar result. There is a good reason I would never bet money on any of my own sports picks, because those picks are all driven to some extent by emotion. Our emotions allow us* to select the most convenient logical framework from among individually defensible but mutually incompatible such frameworks, as the work of every current pseudo-luminary in the running media proves (the ones, that is, who even bother with reasoning, even poor reasoning, to make their points).
Alison “I don’t want to complain even though that’s the entire point of my newsletter” Wade was unhappy with the television coverage of the women’s race. This included being displeased with both the dearth of screen time and a jittery camera—which, thankfully, was minor enough to be mostly the complaint of other people (who in general also hated the coverage even more than she did).
She also made sure to stick it to Ruth Chepngetich’s male pacer, who was evidently the reason Chepngetich failed to hold on to 2:11-2:12 pace on an imperfect weather day.
Okay, then. From a television producer’s standpoint, when a woman marathoner takes off far to the front of her race in a mixed-gender field, as Chepngetich did on Sunday, this must cause immediate headaches. Especially when the second-place woman is also by herself, running a probably suicidal pace in her own right. Even if you have five cameras dedicated to covering the lead women, wherever they are, it can’t be easy homing in on them on bikes or with drones in real time.
Since I didn’t watch the coverage, I’ll assume Wade is right and that it sucked. But I would also invite her to consider that she always complains about this, and exactly what she thinks will happen if she gets her dream about making an already over-bloated Olympic Marathon Trials field even larger. Would she demand that every one of the 500 or more qualifiers be assigned her own bike camera? I really wouldn’t be surprised; in Wade’s world, the money and means to make things perfectly just will always be there somehow.
Maybe if enough people tuned in to marathons, the networks would be forced to get better at showing them, which would necessarily involve minimizing coverage of wheelchair races that practically no one, if they’re honest, cares about. After the runners start, that stuff is best relegated to a corner of the screen. If two racers are duking it out at the finish at 20-25 MPH, that’s different. But wheelers are almost always alone from early on in their competitions, and watching them is even more boring than watching an international assembly of toothpick-shaped people pitter-patter along America’s ugly city streets dodging potholes and exhaust.
Right after learning I’d fallen on my prognosticating face, I headed out to watch the inaugural Boulderthon. I picked a spot about 23.7 miles into the full marathon and 10.6 miles into the half-marathon. It was a nice, mild, somewhat cloudy morning, and the volunteers were fired up and having a nice time. The two races drew close to 3,000 runners, which is probably around $400,000 in gross entry-fee receipts. (I’m guessing at the fraction of those ~3,000 who chose VIP bibs, wildly so, but while I may not be the most trustworthy of motherfuckers lately in that department, I can’t be too far off with this math.) This means that the prize-money purse of $2,800 wound up amounting to less than 1 percent of gross receipts.
I was also having myself a fine time jabbering with a volunteer until some guy pulled up in a truck and demanded to use a closed driveway to cross the path of the runners into a parking lot serving a bunch of warehouse-based businesses that were not open on a Sunday morning. Alternatively, he could have parked close to where we were, then walked two minutes to wherever he said he was headed. But based on the condition of his truck, which was unregistered, and his teeth, which were sparse, I am guessing (WHEEEE!) that the parking lot is where this guy parks his truck when he needs to sleep.
As the guy grew more animated in his bitching at “my” volunteer—who, much to my silent delight, lit a cigarette during the debate, ten or twelve feet from a stream of passing joggers—the boxer-style dog in the cab of the guy’s truck hopped out the window and materialized in a flash right next to Rosie, who dislikes surprises of this nature and immediately tensed up. And of course the guy said what every fucking moron says in these moronogenic scenarios: “Ah, he’s friendly.”
Maybe, but this was not at all the point, and I was done watching the Boulderthon from that spot. And for the rest of the day. I have no idea how anyone who ran felt about the event, but they got a lovely morning and it looked well-organized, like something that could prosper in the future. I have no idea what the winning times were—not fast at all—but someone probably does.
Later in the day, I was walking Rosie near my home when we turned a corner to see an unleashed dog regarding us from about 100 feet yonder. A woman was standing a few feet away, her back to me, yabbering at unseen figures on the porch of the nursing home she had presumably emerged from. I pass this facility often, and it has a prominent BEWARE OF DOG sign on the front door. Until Sunday, I had never seen the advertised animal, but I had heard its growls, and it always sounded to me like some kind of big-ass hellhound.
As it happens, I was right, at least about the size. Assuming the dog I was now looking at was the one to Be Wary of. It stood unleashed with an eight-lane road on one side, a woman who was at least 60 years old and 250 pounds on the other, and me left to negotiate this Scylla and Charybdis-style bullshit from one end.
As the dog started trotting our way, and the woman became half-attuned to our mutual surroundings and swiveled ponderously around, I had finally had enough of this shit, which really does happen every day, and started screaming more or less at the top of my lungs at the dog—now circling slowly around us, with me rotating to follow its blocky head—and the woman at the same time. I led with “GET AWAY, YOU FUCKING MOTHERFUCKER!” or something close. “GET THIS FUCKING SHITFUCKER AWAY! FUCK OFF!”
For all my profanity and sullen rage in written expression, and my unbridled distaste for the lack of panache in collective c. 2021 human behavior, I am not keen on making displays like that, be they in front of a nursing home or a frat house, as they usually solve nothing and are traditionally not in my nature, as I am more forgiving in some ways in person than I am from a literary pulpit. But in this case, the dog backed off and headed for the porch, dodging its sorta-lunging owner along the way. I kept mumbling as I stalked by the nursing home on the sidewalk, looking over at a building that suddenly looked more sinister and beat-up than it had the many previous times I’d seen it, and noticed three very skinny teenage boys standing agog on the porch; the woman and the dog had retreated inside, where I could hear them fussing.
My initial impression was that these boys were dipshits, as they—and the woman dog-owner who was the wrong hue to be related to them—had all looked at me with goofy, wide-eyed, open-mouthed expressions. Then it dawned on me that I had just thrown, seconds before, an extremely noisy and profane—and, to them, disproportionate—tantrum, and that they were scared. Good, I thought—so had been I, for more than a few seconds, and for the second time in the same way that same day. Later, I just felt bad.
I can’t stay in this town for much longer, or one of these encounters is going to rip through the shouting stage soon and right into more fraught territory. I usually carry a loaded twelve-gauge shotgun with me when I walk, which sounds unlikely until you consider how easy it is to conceal one of those under a long all-weather trench coat with nothing underneath. But I would use it on a skateboarder well before going after other offenders. In all seriousness, though, as much as the most generous side of me is continually reminding the rest of me that everyone makes mistakes, the sum of those individual non-malicious mistakes in a city even this size seems incredibly high to a pious “All I really want is to walk with my dog without someone fucking it up” sort like me. I really do need to make a decision about this soon. What little I do, I could do from literally anywhere in the country, and this place is a pinworm-infested asshole of inattentive bitchmonkeys. Maybe I should just drive around aimlessly and observe the world from Holiday Inns instead of Motel 6s.
A long-dead version of me would have been awed enough by C.J. Albertson’s race in Boston to write a whole post about it. It’s not so much that he hung on to run 2:11:44 for tenth place after leading by an improbable amount early on and passing through halfway on 2:08:16 pace; given sufficient raw endurance and resolve, plus the kind of leg-resilience a pure rhythm-and-strength guy like Albertson possesses, the result on paper is “just” a guy who probably could run 2:09+ with better pacing having a good-but-not-great-day, the hard way. The truly remarkable thing was him falling back to 15th with a mile to go, after the field caught him near 30K, and running that last mile in 4:52 to move up five places—and into the final prize-money spot, making that crazy extended lunge worth $5,500. That kind of resurgence almost never happens in the kind of marathon Albertson ran, where the only late-race option after a slow-motion crash is harm reduction. It was something to watch.
Albertson is an animal, but I think he treats that level of pushing himself as nothing extraordinary, just a part of his job. He reminds me a lot of former American record-holder Jerry Lawson, but with a little more control at the right times.
But you’re not here for that world-class white-boy shit, are you?
Latoya Shauntay Snell’s Boston Marathon experience was far easier to predict at every point than anything about the above two events. From her nonstop avalanche of pre-race medical excuses (which she was happy to drink to) to her nonstop whining about pre-race anxiety (the truly anxiety-paralyzed don’t livestream their whole lives; this is as coherent as someone screaming “I’m soooooo constipated!” while noisily shitting her pants) to her bailing five whole kilometers into the race, the whole thing was the egregious continuation of a transparent swindle by a blunt-force bullshit machine. From the moment she was granted a free bib, Latoya was going to sit on her listless ass and then go to Boston for the freebies.
The woman is a gibbering sociopath, and everything she said and did as she retreated to the womb of her social-media profiles reflected this. I was flooded with screen captures of her raving post-race anti-jubilance from a host of sources throughout the day, and maybe I’ll trot some of those out. But as far as I’m concerned, the matter of Snell herself is not in dispute—she’s a disgusting, unrepentant liar, and no one has argued that point with me or anyone else. Not a single damn one.
I think Snell was emboldened when Derek Murphy seemed to back off after she gaslit him in 2019, as he has not been especially aggressive on his own sites toward Snell during her subsequent laughable-before-Wokism rise to even greater Instagram and Internet-media prominence. But she is fundamentally just one more babbling fount of greasy weak-sauce, because you’ll notice that for all her complaining of being abused, she only refers to anonymous cutting comments on her own profiles—never to more methodical, damning reviews of her with names attached to them like the ones I’ve written. I don’t think that Snell, in her rampaging High Priestess of Hate-on-crystal-meth travels, expected to encounter a critic who couldn’t care less about her nearly impenetrable oppression-armor and efforts to yell “LOOK! A BIGOT!” at her interlocutors, and who will simply keep calling the show what it is. Like I’ve pointed out, strip away how systematically unpresentable to children and small animals she is, and the fact that she and I don’t look much alike, and all that remains is one more grifter whose countless lies—even after today’s flop, she was still pushing the “over 200 races, 25+ marathons” thing—reveal her to be an unbelievably foul human being.
If I keep following the Snell thread, it will be more to question the actions of people who—be it out of ignorance, fear, or rejoicing Wokishly in seeing people like me ad Murphy fret—offer succor to this shitbag. For example, elite HOKA ONE ONE athlete Stephanie Bruce has long been outspoken about events that lack doping control, and was one of the few elites to come close to expressing displeasure over the general early handling by the media and many of her fellow athletes of the Shelby Houlihan doping revelation.So @CRBridgeRun doesn't drug test, due to finances. They offer $10,000 for 1st, $3000 for top American. Guys, if I came and ran your race I'd donate half of my prize $ if you implemented testing. In fact any race I'd love to help you fund drug testing if you don't. #cleansportYou might not hear many athletes comment on Shelby’s case as they/we are preserving energy for our own races at the trials. That being said I hope that our system of testing and rulings are upheld, and exceptions aren’t made for any athlete. Doing so sets an unfair precedent.
Okay, so Bruce doesn’t like it when cheating or its mere specter threaten how much she can earn in her own professional career. Which is more than fair! And which is why I have to wonder how much she knows about Snell, since Bruce is, one hopes, correspondingly at least somewhat protective of the interests of people who legitimately qualify for the Boston Marathon based on the cut-off time for their age and sex, but aren’t admitted for lack of space. Recall that this year, there were over 9,200 such runners.
While purposefully being as disgusting a person as possible does carry a disabling flavor in most settings, this is not itself a disability. And it’s important to recognize that even Snell’s Internet fans clearly know this. Otherwise, why would they have not been clamoring for Snell to withdraw from Boston for her own safety? She’s been claiming so many different illnesses lately that even observers who know nothing at all about running or medicine would have been screaming “SIT THIS ONE OUT!” if they believed her, so grave were the attendant risks. The other possibility is that these “fans” are all sadists in disguise, which, while an appealing thought, does not reflect reality.
The truth is what I have already said it is—Snell is a prop, and an increasingly obvious and incapable one. Watching people trip over their own brains trying to say the right thing given all the trumpeting elephants in this room is more mortifying than entertaining, but I am trying to get past feeling anything besides bemusement, scorn, pity and cheap laughter at all of this.
I chirped about the possibility of the Red Sox being eliminated from the playoffs, in Boston, on the day of the Boston Marathon. If this chirp appeared aspirational, it wasn’t—it’s just that the Red Sox don’t have much of a team this year. Instead, their win last night eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays and sent them to the American League Championship series against either the Astros or the White Sox (Houston leads the best-of-five series 2-1 going into today’s Game 4).
Mass marathons need to go, anyway, and I’m not the only former or current member of the running media who thinks so, although the others who do attribute this idea to catastrophic climate change, and don’t make the case explicitly. If only climate disasters were really happening at the rate the wackos say! No hurricanes here in the Rockies yet. But jeez, it’s late, this is again over 3,000 words, and I really ought to get back to studying for my marriage-counselor licensing exam.