Saturday, November 03, 2007

The mediocre elitist

New Rule (with apologies to Bill Maher): You can't be an elitist if you're not elite.

Edward McClelland doesn't think you should run a marathon unless you are really fast. He's pissed off because tomorrow's New York Marathon is going to have 37,000 runners, and because those runners will have energy gel and better shoes than runners did 30 years ago. McClelland blames Oprah Winfrey's running of the Marine Corps marathon ("a middle-aged woman hauling her flab around the District of Columbia") for opening up the sport to non-elite athletes. God forbid.

According to McClelland, Oprah's marathon time is 4:29. Evidently this is just way too disgustingly slow. McClelland's own time in the only marathon he ever ran was 4:16 -- but hey, at least he had the decency to be "embarrassed". He says he will try again next year and his goal will be "to do it in the spirit of the first running boom, in under three and a half hours".

3:30? Come on, that's pathetic. That's 63% slower than Ryan Hall's 2:09:02 winning time in today's highly anticipated US Olympic marathon trials in New York (which were unfortunately marred by tragedy when Ryan Shay, the 2003 US marathon champion, collapsed on the course and died). Oprah's 4:29 is only 28% slower than McClelland's 3:30, and keep in mind that he hasn't even run that time, he just intends to. So, as much scorn as he heaps on Oprah (which I can't help thinking has more to do with her "flab" than with her time), he deserves a double helping of it from the truly elite runners like Hall. There's nothing magical about 3:30 -- it's just McClelland's arbitrary cutoff for what constitutes a respectable marathon since that's the time he thinks he himself can do. What a fucking hypocritical asshole.

As for those real elite American runners, McClelland has plenty of criticism for them too. He says Hall has no chance of medaling in the Olympics because America's "marathoning spirit been trampled by hordes of joggers whose only goal is to stagger across the finish line", and he points out that the only American who has medaled in the Olympics lately was born in Eritrea (Meb Keflezighi), so apparently he doesn't really count as American.

Well, hey, news flash for Mr. McClelland (who, one might imagine, is of Irish descent -- i.e., not really American in comparison to someone like Brandon Leslie). The top three finishers in today's time trials were Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein, and Brian Sell, all born in the US (in California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania respectively). Keflezighi finished 8th. I blame Oprah.


yumke said...

Nice one! I wonder if Ted is surfing the response to his article online.. makes sense..

And I'm sure the results I found of him is, in fact, him. He has a web site and I quickly compared his author photo to the photo from the site

really not worth my time, but hey.

K said...

Yeah, I found that article infuriating. It's part of an on-going, disgusting assault on the amateur. It's not enough to just do something 'cause it might be fun or you might enjoy it -- you have to excel!

Why not just do something for the fun of it? The idea that it's not worth doing unless you do it professionally is pathetic. Look at home many wonderful things started out with, "I'm just messin' around!"

Mary said...

I think you're right, K, but it's even worse than a general assault on the amateur because this guy is basically saying it's OK to be an amateur as long as you live up to the arbitrary, unprincipled, and largely aesthetic standard that he came up with (and of course he worked it out so that he himself is the OK kind of amateur based on his own criteria).

BTW, thanks a lot for that article on fat and cancer. I would have blogged about it, but Kate Harding beat me to it.