Gosh, I’m sorry you don’t feel special anymore

From the “Everything can be blamed on a woman” files: Oprah Winfrey is single-handedly responsible for ruining the marathon.

The piece is an extended, and dishonest, whine about how they let just anybody run marathons nowadays, instead of special, dedicated men who did it for the thrill of competition and the frisson of self-denial — oh, and Americans aren’t winning marathons like they used to, which is Oprah’s fault.

The American runners of that era were propelled by a “double wave” of self-abnegating philosophies, theorizes Tom Derderian, who trained with Rodgers and Salazar at the Greater Boston Track Club. They were “heirs both to the warrior mentality of their World War II fathers and the new consciousness of the 60s and 70s,” he told author John Brant for the book “Duel in the Sun,” an account of the 1982 Boston Marathon, considered the last great American distance race.

And did I mention the generous helping of fat-shaming?

I had to give up marathoning just as everyone else was getting into it. Not just the rest of the running world. Everyone. The mid-1990s gave us two new long-distance heroes. The first was Oprah Winfrey. If Frank Shorter inspired the first running boom, Oprah inspired the second, by running the Marine Corps Marathon. And it was a much bigger boom. This was not a spindly 24-year-old Yalie gliding through Old World Munich. This was a middle-aged woman hauling her flab around the District of Columbia. If Oprah could run a marathon, shame on anyone who couldn’t. . . .

Once the supreme test for hardened runners, the marathon became a gateway into the sport. Soon, gravel paths were crowded with 5-mile-an-hour joggers out to check “26.2 miles” off their life lists. Team in Training, which raises money for leukemia research, promised to turn loafers into marathoners in 20 weeks. I met a lawyer who started running because, “They say if you can run a marathon, you can do anything!” The marathon was no longer a competition. It was a self-improvement exercise. . . .

Like Oprah, Bingham deserves praise for luring insecure, overweight novices off their couches and into running shoes.

God forbid those flabby, overweight loafers everybody’s always after to exercise might just do so, and do it in public. I mean, don’t they know that *real* runners are trying to get past their fat asses on those gravel paths in public parks?

In the last 15 years, the Chicago Marathon field has increased tenfold, to 45,000. But with this change in the running culture, the average finishing time for men has dropped from 3:32 to 4:15 — not far from the Oprah Line, or my own performance.

Note that he’s conflating a few things in the piece: the lack of American men winning marathons and the average time of American men running marathons. Yeah, if you get a bigger field, with more first-time runners, you’re going to get slower average times, for a couple of reasons: one, more first-time runners means more slower runners, which will bring down the average; and two, in a gigantic field, it’s very hard to run at any sort of pace until the field starts breaking up; it could take you half an hour just to reach the starting line. If you’re in the back of the pack, you’re not going to be setting any world records. However, that’s why they start the elite runners up front — and those elite runners continue to set world records, course records and personal records even as the average finish times of the overall field get slower. That more American men aren’t at the top of the heap of elite runners has a lot less to do with the democratization of the marathon in America and a lot more to do with the quality of international runners, particularly the Africans.

By the way, did you happen to notice that there’s a sizable gap between 1982, when the “last great American distance race” happened, and the mid-90s, when Oprah supposedly ruined marathoning by making it accessible to middle-aged flabsters? Yeah, I thought you would. In a case of burying the lede, McClelland acknowledges that maybe Oprah and the Penguin Brigade aren’t actually primarily responsible for the decline in American (men’s) marathon dominance that began long before they got involved:

You can’t just blame the Penguin Brigade for messing up the curve. The last year an American-born man won a major marathon? 1983. (We have produced one first-class female marathoner — Deena Kastor has won in Chicago and London — although we’re still waiting for another Joan Benoit Samuelson, gold medalist at the first Olympic women’s marathon, in 1984.) The running bum — that post-collegiate dropout who works in a shoe store so he can train 100 miles a week — has almost disappeared. Despite the fact that marathon fields are the size of Sauron’s host, more guys broke two and a half hours in the 1980s.

It could just be that the running bum has moved onto other sports, or has figured out that if just anybody can run a marathon, why not up the ante and get into triathalons, particularly the Ironman, which has not just a marathon, but challenging swimming and biking components? Or it could be that, what with the professionalization of the sport, those running bums have sponsors. Plus, it ain’t as easy to live on a shop clerk’s salary anymore, what with the cost of proper equipment, travel and race fees.

Oh, and McClellan shows his ignorance in another way: his assumption that last month’s Chicago Marathon was stopped because of novice runners:

Last month’s Chicago Marathon had to be shut down mid-race, because undertrained five- and six-hour marathoners couldn’t handle that much time in the 85-degree heat.

Actually, that kind of heat is a danger to *any* runner, no matter how well-trained, as Frank Shorter discussed in this piece (and since McClelland mentioned the 1984 Olympic Women’s marathon, he can’t possibly have forgotten Gabriela Andersen-Schiess, who staggered into Olympic Stadium, dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion, and literally fell across the finish line. I’m still a little traumatized by that). The issue with Chicago was not that novice runners couldn’t handle the heat because they were untrained; it was that they were still on the course after the temperature began to climb. The elite runners finished well before it became 85 degrees.

Cross-posted here.


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49 comments for “Gosh, I’m sorry you don’t feel special anymore

  1. kate
    November 3, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Oprah inspired the second, by running the Marine Corps Marathon. And it was a much bigger boom. This was not a spindly 24-year-old Yalie gliding through Old World Munich. This was a middle-aged woman hauling her flab around the District of Columbia.

    The running bum — that post-collegiate dropout who works in a shoe store so he can train 100 miles a week — has almost disappeared.

    These two quotes make my blood boil. First off, this classist asshat wold probably much rather say: “Once a fat black woman had the nerve to run in the Marine Corps marathon, we could no longer think of it as the exclusive run for upper middle white males.”

    Second, presently, thanks to the high cost of student loans and the cost of living these days, a college drop-out hasn’t the luxury to work a low wage service job and take on a rigorous training retinue, unless of course he’s thoroughly financed by his parents. Frankly, in my experience those who live by the comforts of someone else’s effort usually don’t have the self discipline to achieve much of anything.

    Either this Bohemian runner he speaks of either exists only in his mind if ever at all or only two exist in the country; one working at the Cambridge bookstore in Harvard Square, the other working at a bookstore in Berkley.

    What an ass.

  2. November 3, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    Boo-bloody-hoo!

    I was a runner in a past life, and I have to say that these self-righteous gate-keepers make me want to hurl worse than the humidity in August ever did.

    The slow people are descerating the holy marathon? They’re TOO FAR BEHIND! A guy like this wouldn’t even SEE them!

    The schizophrenic attitude toward “the fatties” is a whole separate neurosis, meanwhile. So on one hand they’re disgusting for being fatties – but, as you pointed out – they’re also disgusting because they’re trying to do something about it. Guess they all should hang out in the Fat People Ghetto, as to not damage the delicate sensibilities of lithe Athletes intent on Kicking Ass (but not fat ass, of course, the soles of their running shoes are too good for THAT).

    I noticed that one letter-writer cruelly suggested that out-of-shape people who come to marathons are only doing it to “brag” about it later. I don’t know what kind of universe she or he inhabits, but in my experience – many of these people are trying to test their bodies’ limits. Permoring poorly in a marathon encouraged most of the people I talked to go to the gym, not “back to the couch.”

    How the hell any of this affects the people ahead of the pack is honestly beyond me. When the mere mortals are tripping the Elite Runner Country Club, then I’ll tell you we have a problem.

    Until then, Edward McClelland can cry me a river.

  3. November 3, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    Kate, you’re right to pick up on the extreme classism of this article (or should I say rant?). That’s the cherry on top of a freakin’ rhetorical dung-heap, honestly.

  4. Bruce from Missouri
    November 3, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    (and since McClelland mentioned the 1984 Olympic Women’s marathon, he can’t possibly have forgotten Gabriela Andersen-Schiess, who staggered into Olympic Stadium, dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion, and literally fell across the finish line. I’m still a little traumatized by that).

    You know, don’t think anyone who saw that will ever forget it. It was one of the most compelling pieces of live TV I have ever seen. From my experiences with dehydration & heat, I’m sure she was hallucinating, but she still had the wherewithal to avoid the officials trying to help her (automatic DQ if anyone does) while staggering around for the final 2 laps and finishing. To me, as a distance guy myself (bicycling), she was almost as big a hero in that race as Benoit.

    Anyway, this guy is an idiot. The more participants the merrier. Back in my distance days I would have loved to have 10 times the participants that we did. And who cares about average times. Everyone has their own reason for being there. One of my best friends did the Las Vegas Marathon in almost 8 hours, but in the course of his training he dropped from 335lbs to 260. That’s just as important as running 2:08.

  5. AJ
    November 3, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    I just read that article earlier today, and it’s just awful. As a runner who’s training for her first marathon, I take offense to the fact that I’m partly responsible for ruining the sport just because I average 9-10 minute miles. I’ve run half marathons, and it’s amazingly emotional, rewarding, and one of the most intense things to think that you’ve trained and worked hard enough physically and mentally to make it to that finish line. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, but where your heart and mind are at. Heck, anybody who gets out there and walks, jogs or runs any distance at any pace for fitness, health, or just for the sheer love of it, is, in my mind, much more of a runner than the author of that article.

    In the words of the awesome John Bingham, “waddle on, friends.”

  6. November 3, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    It occurs to me that wheelchair athletes generally complete the marathon in much faster times than people using their legs for motive power. Perhaps there should be a rant about how all these twoleg wannabes are dragging down the average finishing times of American athletes and should be banned from taking part…?

  7. alsojill
    November 3, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    What the hell is going on with people lately? This sounds very much like a more well-written version of this screed, which lets everyone know that anyone who participates on NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) is ruining writing for the “real” writers.

    Apparently, once us regular folks take on a challenge just for the fun of it, we threaten the special snowflakeness of the so-called “elites.”

  8. Hector B.
    November 3, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    I thought Americans quit winning marathons when Kenyans started being able to afford shoes.

  9. Aja
    November 3, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Why does someone else’s finish time affect his ability to run? Or is it just that his delicate sensibilities are assaulted by the mere knowledge that people who aren’t as “special” as him are running?

  10. November 3, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    SnowdropExplodes,

    It occurs to me that wheelchair athletes generally complete the marathon in much faster times than people using their legs for motive power. Perhaps there should be a rant about how all these twoleg wannabes are dragging down the average finishing times of American athletes and should be banned from taking part…?

    Don’t laugh, that’s already happened, sort of.

  11. Cecily
    November 3, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    You know, I heard a bit on NPR the other day about the current ‘world’s best rock climber’. He was talking about how the sport keeps pushing itself, so he’s climbing things that they said in the 1940’s couldn’t be climbed, and he’s looking forward to seeing what crazy things will be possible when he’s an old geezer, out of the sport.

    Maybe this running purist guy should take a leaf out of that guy’s book. If you’re pissed other people can do it, go find something more extreme and do that. And not extreme whining, you’ve already mastered it.

    P.S. Wow, that NaNoWriMo thing was crazy. The few people I’ve known who do NaNoWriMo are reasonably good writers for whom it’s hard to find the time to write. Yeah, they probably don’t ‘finish’, but they commit more time to writing for a month, which can only be a good thing. As a writer…I think anyone who posts to livejournal about how threatened they are by the presumption of NaNoWriMoers…isn’t in any elite. ;)

  12. Jae
    November 3, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    This definitely made me think of that NaNoWriMo discussion of the other day.

    Basically the short version of all this is: “WAAA WAAA! NO FAIR NO FAIR!! THIS IS MY HOBBY AND YOU CAN’T HAVE IT!”

  13. preying mantis
    November 3, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    “This sounds very much like a more well-written version of this screed, which lets everyone know that anyone who participates on NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) is ruining writing for the “real” writers.”

    Which is really bizarre, because you’re neither required nor expected to show your output to a real person. The organizers’ website allows you to publish excerpts for other users to read, but if you want to count as having finished, you submit the final work to a bot for a final word-count rather than uploading it in its entirety for other humans.

    And, you know, because some of the more widely-recognized writers of genre fiction have come out with variants on the advice that if you want to be a successful writer, you need to be able to get past the “It must be perfect!” thing and be able to settle for publishable, otherwise you’ll never actually submit anything to anyone, and it will molder in your desk drawer for all time instead of reaching an audience.

    Are they even correct about the 50,000 words != novel thing? It was my understanding that the line between novella and novel was not nearly as sharp as the line between short story and novella, particularly given the number of seminal works that are really quite short by today’s standards.

  14. zuzu
    November 3, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    BTW, Ed McClellan hasn’t actually finished a marathon himself, because he pushed himself way past his physical limit, puking and damaging his knee. But he feels perfectly entitled to expound on how back-of-the-pack runners are ruining the sport.

    Meantime, top American Olympic marathon runner Ryan Shay dropped dead on mile 5 of the US Men’s Olympic Team Trials marathon today.

    Some really bizarre things fell 28-year-old Olympic-caliber athletes.

  15. Ledasmom
    November 4, 2007 at 12:09 am

    The most entertaining thing about Joan Benoit Samuelson’s Olympic marathon win was the commentators saying, basically, “Yep, she’s fucking up by not taking more water breaks. Nope, she’s going to fade before the end. Er, wait a minute -” I note that not only could Joan Benoit have beaten the pants off the whiny idiot who wrote this piece back in her prime, she probably could do so today.

    Anyone who has the nutbar idea that it’s only the slow runners who are in danger from overexertion should note the death, at the U.S. Olympic trial today, of the elite runner Ryan Shay. And U.S. runners are winning fewer marathons because other countries got better at it. It’s just so damn whiny for anyone to complain about this country, for goodness’ sake, being deprived of athletic victories – and you hear it every winter Olympics, ad nauseum, ’cause god forbid there should be a major competition at which we come close to sucking. There are people out there who are not gonna be satisfied until the United States regularly medals at biathlon, bobsled, ski jumping, ice dance and curling, because, ya know, that’s the spirit of the Olympics: waving a flag with one hand and a giant foam finger with the other.

  16. zuzu
    November 4, 2007 at 12:15 am

    And, you know, because some of the more widely-recognized writers of genre fiction have come out with variants on the advice that if you want to be a successful writer, you need to be able to get past the “It must be perfect!” thing and be able to settle for publishable, otherwise you’ll never actually submit anything to anyone, and it will molder in your desk drawer for all time instead of reaching an audience.

    Interestingly, honest-to-gosh elite marathoners, despite being name-checked by this dipshit, actually are very supportive of amateurs. In fact, oh, 12 years ago (which makes me all self-conscious about it being half of Lauren, Jill, or piny’s life), when I first started running, I did the Hood-to-Coast (with some people I met in an AOL chat room, because there wasn’t much else in 1995), and both Nike and Adidas, being more or less local, field teams. And it was actually a fairly back-loaded race, in that the slower teams were started first. Still, my team got lapped by the elite runners somewhere in the Cascades.

    I mean, we just stood there, slack-jawed, after watching a woman from the Adidas team shoot down a mountain at an inconceivable pace, while we were waiting to hand water to our teammate. Finally, one guy just said in awe, “Did you see that? She’s a machine.”

  17. Blunderbuss
    November 4, 2007 at 12:19 am

    Yeah, this reminded me of the pretentious gits whining about the NaNoWriMo too. Because, gosh, if just ANYONE can do something, then you’re not a speshul unique snowflake anymore!

    And it’s even worse when you have FUN. You’re just sullying the work of REAL professionals who bleed sweat and tears! HOW DARE YOU.

  18. Ledasmom
    November 4, 2007 at 12:40 am

    And I forgot to add that it’s not as if the category of published authors and the category of NaNoWriMo participants don’t intersect. Janet Kagan, for example, an actual published author-type person, has a NaNo username. For that matter, the fellow who started the whole thing published his book about writing.
    Besides, as far as I can tell, everybody knows they’re mostly writing crap. However, it’s awfully fun to write crap in company, just as nearly everything else is more fun done in company.

  19. preying mantis
    November 4, 2007 at 12:46 am

    “Interestingly, honest-to-gosh elite marathoners, despite being name-checked by this dipshit, actually are very supportive of amateurs.”

    It only stands to reason. Most elites started out as amateurs, and the more amateurs there are, the bigger pool of potential elites you have to pull from. Not to mention the more people out there who understand and support what you do, the easier it is for you to be widely appreciated for your skill and make a living doing what you love. Nike isn’t going to be handing Marathon McGee a terribly large endorsement or sponsorship deal if there’s a grand total of 10,000 who might conceivably care what brand of performance running shoe s/he prefers.

  20. sigh
    November 4, 2007 at 1:19 am

    I did know some professional runners who lived on very little and trained very hard, but they were white males with families to run (heh) home to, if the bottom fell out. The professional runners I knew were all very gracious about lowly sweepers like me. They encouraged all levels because they loved the sport.

  21. Jamie
    November 4, 2007 at 1:29 am

    This is some pretty stupid, elitist stuff. I don’t get what kind of message they’re trying to say in telling people not in picture-perfect shape NOT to run on top of the message to lose weight?

    Aside from working out where they can’t see them. ;p

    Frankly, I admire anyone of any shape that gets out there and works out to improve themselves and their health.

  22. exholt
    November 4, 2007 at 3:56 am

    What the hell is going on with people lately? This sounds very much like a more well-written version of this screed, which lets everyone know that anyone who participates on NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) is ruining writing for the “real” writers.

    This mentality is endemic in the computing field, especially if you did not prove your chops by majoring in computer science or another mathematically intensive field or have a long history of tinkering with computers since elementary school. It was funny how much crap my non-CS/math intensive field major got from “real hardcore computer geeks”* in our workplaces even though we were performing the same jobs. One interesting thing was that this behavior was common among “geeks”* who were not as proficient in the computing field as they let on and felt the need to put down others to assuage their feelings of inadequacy. Though they did this to anyone who did not measure up to their “standards”, many tend to double this crap on women due to sexist prejudices and seething resentment/entitlement for being social outcasts in high school due more to their anti-social attitudes. Most really had no right to put down others as I and several other “non-geek” co-workers had to frequently correct technical mistakes they made which delayed projects and angered clients. Not surprisingly, many of them were fired and were not terribly missed by the rest of us.

    *Incidentally, if they attempted to assert their “geek cred” by bragging about their CS/Math intensive majors and their actual computing knowledge to friends in my high school social circle, they would have been laughed off as arrogant wannabe poseurs. On the other hand, these friends respected anyone who expressed a strong interest in learning more about computers, even if they did not tinker with computers from a young age or were more academically inclined towards the humanities and the social sciences. They were the reason I started to become more deeply immersed in computers in the first place.

  23. November 4, 2007 at 7:30 am

    BTW, Ed McClellan hasn’t actually finished a marathon himself, because he pushed himself way past his physical limit, puking and damaging his knee. But he feels perfectly entitled to expound on how back-of-the-pack runners are ruining the sport.

    The lady doth protest too much. ;)

  24. November 4, 2007 at 9:27 am

    When Oprah expanded the sport, she also lowered the bar for excellence.

    Damn that democracy shit, ruins everything, doesn’t it?

    This article made me furious, too!

  25. November 4, 2007 at 9:28 am

    I trained for a marathon once (never actually did it, only got to half a marathon) and there are just so many factors going against anyone who tries to do it that they don’t need any more barriers. It’s fucking hard.

  26. November 4, 2007 at 10:36 am

    No, the part that pissed me off most about this article was when he criticized the guy who said he could probably do the marathon faster if he really pushed himself, but the “cost” in terms of physical damage would be too high. He berated him with some “I’d love to be able to do the marathon faster and I can’t, but you can and you’re wasting it” bullshit.

    As if somehow pushing yourself past your physical limits is a good thing. Pushing yourself, yes (I’d say that traveling 25 miles by foot at any speed is pushing yourself). Pushing yourself to a point where you think that you might be physically injured? Um, no.

    This is the exact kind of guy who will bitch about how fat everyone is and how lazy those fat people are and about how people need to exercise more — and then bitch when they don’t do it to his satisfaction. Personally, I think that it’s a very good thing to teach people that you can still get a strenuous workout without having to worry about being some kind of champion. I think it’s a very good thing that people who are not athletes are getting the guts to exercise in public. And it’s also a very good thing to teach people that exercise and physical punishment don’t have to be the same thing.

    On the surface of it, it looks like this guy is obsessed with making sure that exercise is connected with physical pain. But I’m actually with Kate. Here are two sports that people do publicly, without being professionals or trying to be: tennis and golf. But wait, I don’t hear anyone complaining about all of the old guys and business men don’t these sports on the weekend. Oh wait, because they’re rich, and you have to have enough money to even get the equipment, let alone get into the private club where they can play. And though he makes some big deal in the beginning about the old runners being broke, that’s really what it’s about — anyone can run, and since the marathon takes place on public property, they can’t keep out anyone who can pay the small fee. Notice how the elites don’t have to look at the people playing tennis down at the Y with their $10 rackets, and therefore don’t care. So he just wants to shame out all of the people — lower-class, overweight, female, of color — who are used to being shamed out of the public eye, anyway.

    My biggest question is actually why Salon printed this horrid piece of shit.

  27. Sniper
    November 4, 2007 at 11:28 am

    God forbid those flabby, overweight loafers everybody’s always after to exercise might just do so, and do it in public. I mean, don’t they know that *real* runners are trying to get past their fat asses on those gravel paths in public parks?

    Well, fat people never exercise, or they wouldn’t exist, therefore nothing they do, including running a frickin’ marathon is exercise. Right?

    Of course, no amount of exercise will make a fat person thin, although it will make that person much more dangerous when he or she decides to beat the living shit out of writers like this hack.

  28. CBrachyrhynchos
    November 4, 2007 at 11:51 am

    Well, that and if I remember right both the New York and Chicago ones were still limited-entry qualified competitions when I was shopping around for a slow-pace friendly one about 5 years ago. There are marathons out there which say that you must have qualified with a competitive time in a previous marathon.

    And in regards to NaNoWriMo, I’d say that the lack of support for amateur performance is doing more to kill the arts in the United States than any other factor.

  29. kathel
    November 4, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    It never fails to astonish me how exercised some people can get about things that wouldn’t affect them in the slightest if they didn’t use them to get themselves pissed off. This guy doesn’t even run anymore so he wouldn’t come across a single amateur if he didn’t go out on purpose looking for people to hate. And if that NaNo douche has a problem with people who post fiction on the net, nobody’s holding a gun to his head to read it.

    I know it’s really the special snowflakeness talking, but you’ve got to be a superpowered kind of sick, sad soul to get your shorts in a wad just because lots of other people run or write. I hate to tell you, white guy — you have to do something impressive to get people to be impressed by you these days. It’s sad for you that you can’t do it with any of your actual qualities, but we can’t all have everything.

  30. Hector B.
    November 4, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    the more people out there who understand and support what you do, the easier it is for you to be widely appreciated for your skill and make a living doing what you love.

    True. The vast pool of well-off amateur golfers willing to watch PGA tournaments on TV, and willing to buy the paraphernalia of the stars, enables the pros to make a very nice living, even though the funereal pace of golf (not to mention the funereal tones of the announcers) makes baseball look like Rollerball.

  31. kate
    November 4, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    So he just wants to shame out all of the people — lower-class, overweight, female, of color — who are used to being shamed out of the public eye, anyway.

    Eggzactally.

    I hate to tell you, white guy — you have to do something impressive to get people to be impressed by you these days.

    Again, which I think is why most white guys hate the ‘others’ spoiling their precious turf no matter where it is; it doesn’t lower the bar for them — it raises it as they must now work so much harder to prove their mythical prowess.

  32. bloix
    November 4, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    This article makes no sense at all. I have run the NY Marathon once and watched it along the course a dozen times, and the elite racers never come into contact with the commoners (like me). They go to the starting line separately and they are off the front from the starting gun – they never even see the rest of us.

  33. November 4, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    I totally agree about the class stuff that someone mentioned earlier. However, I don’t think anybody has mentioned the additional (related) nationalism/xenophobia in the article. This comes up when McClelland basically dismisses Meb Keflezighi as an example of a world-class American distance runner because he’s originally from Eritrea and “didn’t see a car until he was 10 years old”. I have no idea what the connection is supposed to be between the first age at which you see a car and whether or not you “count” as an American.

  34. November 4, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Oh my god. That NaNo screed is the most unintentionally hilarious thing I’ve read all year. How DARE anybody have fun writing and not give a shit if they Get Published?! Banish the heathens to a remedial garret!!!1!!!

  35. alsojill
    November 4, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    a remedial garret!!!1!!!

    mythago FTW!!

    I love the idea of a remedial garret. In fact, I will mention it to my colleague in the Writing Center this week–our office is literally a closet, so I think she’ll appreciate the idea of us running a remedial garret.

  36. November 4, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    Oh my god. That NaNo screed is the most unintentionally hilarious thing I’ve read all year. How DARE anybody have fun writing and not give a shit if they Get Published?! Banish the heathens to a remedial garret!!!1!!!

    I know! The next thing you know, any self-righteous moron with a keyboard and an internet connection will be able to publish their capslock-ridden screeds of disproportional anger on the internet with no barriers to display! They’ll probably call the site that lets them do this “livejournal” or some stupid shit like that.

    …Oh, wait…..

  37. preying mantis
    November 4, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    “In fact, I will mention it to my colleague in the Writing Center this week–our office is literally a closet…”

    Are there any Writing Centers that aren’t literally a closet? That’s where we put ours, too. The worst bit is that our a/c system is so hosed up that they have to keep a basket of sweaters and wraps for use during meetings and workshops.

  38. alsojill
    November 4, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    Are there any Writing Centers that aren’t literally a closet? That’s where we put ours, too. The worst bit is that our a/c system is so hosed up that they have to keep a basket of sweaters and wraps for use during meetings and workshops.

    According to the peer tutoring conference I attended a couple of weeks ago, there is at least one super high-tech, schmancy one–at Texas A&M. Which the people from Texas A&M felt the need to remind us at every possible opportunity. (I kid you not, I was trapped in one session whose entire purpose seemed to be showing slides of the new center.) I hated them a lot.

    We have two writing centers here at the Big Eastern U. One is for undergrads and one is for grads. The former has a big, airy room with lots of computers and tables and plants. The latter has a closet with a printer so old it might once have been used by Jesus.

  39. kate
    November 4, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    What the hell is a “Writing Center”? That sounds like some utopian dream… where…lemme just close my eyes for a minute…I would actually get paid to write something? I’d actually be put in hole somewhere and someone would command, “Write Heathen!”.

    No, no, there’s a catch, I know there’s a catch, tell me because right now I’m seethingly jealous. Probably some requirement such as being able to write constructively and not just pen aimless screeds right?

  40. Luther
    November 4, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    Yeah. I liked this article better when Gabriel Sherman wrote it for Slate … last year.

  41. preying mantis
    November 5, 2007 at 12:16 am

    “What the hell is a “Writing Center”?”

    Usually a place where students can go for help with writing papers and proposals. The one that’s housed where I work also handles creative writing classes and projects, does workshops in things like written word aesthetic and writing for performance, and compiles contest resources for students, since it’s a small school.

  42. November 5, 2007 at 2:37 am

    “No, you don’t get to have consumption; you’ll have to make do with a head cold. This is a REMEDIAL garret. ”

    So true, Isabel. A REAL screeder would have written his anti-NaNo rant with a quill pen.

  43. little cabbage
    November 5, 2007 at 5:03 am

    The running bum — that post-collegiate dropout who works in a shoe store so he can train 100 miles a week — has almost disappeared.

    Any serious runner will get injured at some point, or at the very least will need easy access to a sports medicine doc. No one living on a store clerk’s wages will be able to afford the health insurance necessary to keeping oneself safe as a serious athlete.

    Also, I can’t believe that this guy doesn’t see the hypocrisy in whining about “amateurs” “ruining” marathons when he himself was one of those amateurs. I wonder if he’s got a bit of Yogi Berra syndrome – if he can join a club, he figures it’s not worth joining?

  44. lou
    November 5, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    irks me to no end as a not-in-great-shape middle-aged lady who has done two marathons, both around the 5:30 mark. eat my shorts, McClelland. Back when I was in high school, the PE teachers put lots of emphasis on competiveness, which discouraged those of us inept at physical sports.

    It was only until I was in my 30s that I learned I could compete against myself instead of others and set goals I could attain.But the habits of a lifetime established by the McClellands of my high school world are hard to break.

  45. Olivia
    November 5, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Just gotta give a shout out for Deena Kastor. She trained early in her career in my home town of Alamosa, CO. It was a big freakin’ deal there, when she was in the Olympics with a banner of her name in the middle of town, etc. Her husband is a fellow alum.

  46. Amanda
    November 6, 2007 at 3:47 am

    I was in Chicago for the marathon. My friend was running for Team in Training, and when the race was cancelled, he was at the 18th mile.

    The problem in Chicago was not only the heat. They also ran out of water at the water stands. Runners who I met at the finish line were describing how they would reach water stands with no water left and the tables turned over. They thanked the Chicagoans along the race route who came out of their houses with hoses.

    So yeah, you can’t blame the runners. It was extremely hot and to run a marathon with no water is difficult for any runner, novice or not.

  47. November 8, 2007 at 8:58 am

    I found this post via Zoot (misszoot.com) and I have extremely enjoyed both the post and all the intelligent comments. I’m totally coming back to this site! You guys rock! :)

    I’m doing NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) because I want to write every day but I’m not ready to try a novel yet. I think ANYone who takes on a huge task- a marathon, a novel, knitting a blanket, whatever- deserves admiration. Who cares how many people are new/amateurs? The more the merrier- and while not everyone will succeed like they would want, so much good will still come out of it- learning by doing and making mistakes, getting into better shape, getting into a better writing rhythm.

    That NaNoWriMo rant was pathetic – and it was sad how many commenters seemed to agree with it. The sparkle of elitism wears off really fast for most of us, I think- if it was ever alluring in the first place.

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