This past weekend I was in Houston for a book signing at the Houston Marathon expo. Not participating in the race, I was elated to see the marathon would be covered live on television. Eschewing a run outside, I instead hit the treadmill, so I could watch the race on TV.
First things first, I have to say I am indeed pleased the race was even covered on television. As the headline of this article states, that’s a start. But so much needs to be done to bring running back to the forefront of the American consciousness. Surveys have shown that there are over 40 million runners in America. That means about one in every 7.5 people classifies themselves as a runner, regardless of their finishing time. That is far and away the biggest participation sport in our country. Yet, coverage of the sport, when and if it is done, is often wrought with horrible clichés, typical reporting faux pas by the local celebrity reporter, and lacking in any depth whatsoever.
Part of the problem revolves around the participants themselves. Knowledge of the sport of running is very low. I am unsure if this is a by-product of this me-centric society we live in where Facebook and Twitter make every excruciatingly numb and dull moment one to be shared with anyone who will read, but the lack of knowledge of significant icons in the running world is shockingly prevalent. Dean Karnazes and John Bingham should not be the only two names that the vast majority of other runners should know. Scott Jurek’s amazing accomplishments should be much more well-known and appreciated. Devon Crosby Helms’ ability to smash decades old records almost every time she races should illicit oohs and ahhs. Furthermore, it should not be only ultra and trail runners who know the names of Akos Konya, Nikki Kimball, the brothers Skaggs, Geoff Roes, or sundry other runners from the mile distance on up to hundreds and beyond.
I cringed watching Suzy von Perky of whatever news station was covering the Houston Marathon when she said she could not even imagine running a half-marathon. Well, imagine it. Also, do some homework about the sport you are covering. Or, if you are unwilling to do so, hire the countless other runners in the area who would probably be happy to share their limitless knowledge of the sport to make your telecast worthwhile. Sure, there is a general lack of knowledge amongst Americans, even runners, about the sport that they are participating in, but there are plenty out there who do know and would be willing to share.