Friday, October 19, 2007

I Heart NY(rr)

…kind of.

A few vocal members of our running community (or maybe many, I can’t be sure unless wejo makes people register to post on that damn message board) have been passionate in their outrage at NYRR and Mary Wittenberg in particular. Criticism has been focused mainly on the corruption that the evil Frau Wittenberg has brought upon our innocent sport, which was apparently uncorrupted by money and politics until she came along.

Some would have you think Mary simply sits high above the city with a bellyful of kraut and bier, signing millions of dollars away to the fat cats at USATF, all the while smiling through cabbage-dotted teeth. That is (probably) not true.

They wonder how a person can think that American distance running could be improved by simply throwing a (relatively) large crapload of money at it.

The unromantic truth: that is exactly what needs to happen sometimes.

I am all for those 60 year old guys who’ve run Boston 30 times and saw Rodgers and Shorter do well without fat cat support. But, the times, they have a-changed. There is more competition, both in the pool of athletes and in sports marketing, and dollars just plain help when it comes to developing runners and, moreover, quality events.

This is not a hardcore capitalist’s view, it’s the truth. If there is to be exciting distance running events filled with high quality athletes, then someone has to be willing to put up the money for huge events in huge venues.

The NYRR so far have set such a quality stage. They have also engineered an unprecedented amount of build-up toward the meet. Of course, I do not think they have gone about it perfectly (more on what they have done wrong later), but they have created a (relatively) large crapload of hype.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that they are hyping the best American field in history. But, it also doesn’t hurt that it is in the most famous park and the most famous city in the nation. I don’t care how pure it might seem to have the trials in small town America, NYC is exciting and hip and has lots of shit to do after (and before) the race (see: Terre Haute after xc nationals). Wittenberg and NYRR have provided that venue and have at least made an attempt at providing serious hype. It has been a good start so far.

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