This open letter was written on April 25 by D. James Button and originally appeared on his blog , My Running Life at Speed.
Dear athletes, coaches and meet organizers,
Please encourage racing from the gun. Our sport has few enough fans as it is and these snooze-fest races are definitely not helping. I understand that championship races are going to be more tactical, but since when does that mean downright jogging at every meet? The Diamond League distance races have almost exclusively become fast final lap affairs, as have most of the early season US events… events used mostly to get standards out of the way; explain slow times as a benefit to me there? I seriously think we need some more Prefontaine characters around, as cliche as that may sound, we need some brave souls to start making it hard and honest from the get-go.
Ask even the most devout NBA fan what a regular season game is like, and they will tell you (if they’re honest) that you only need to see the last 2 minutes. In major track meets, we only need to tune in for the last minute these days. What a joke, to have anything in common with the mockery of sport that is the current NBA, but even they turn it up in the finals! See Spurs-Clippers 100-73 -Game 3 2015… so intense! Instead of getting more exciting in the big races with track, it’s even less exciting though. Just refer back to the Diamond League; here are some examples:
Emma Coburn winning a race where two of the best Ethiopians didn’t even bother to chase her down until it was too late. I don’t care if they did think she was a pacer, shame on them for not sticking with the fast pace if that was so.
Impressive long final kick from Mo here, but c’mon dude, we know you have speed. Running “pedestrian” for a mile and a half first does nothing to help the sport, except maybe in England where Mo winning is all they want.
This is just a typical DL event, so pathetic. Bunch of guys who can run much faster, just waiting around in a 5000.
And of course, the final straw in my case against this stupidity: Today’s weakest and most pathetic final mile in the Penn Relays 4xMile.
And just to prove the big races do the same thing; here is a prime example of a championship race, where everyone… Yep! You guessed it, they expect a sit and kick, yawn of a race where Mo Farah can put down a 52 second final lap to win it.
Now I’m not trying to say, Ches, Mo, or anything other athletes are to blame in particular for this kind of racing. On the contrary, those guys know they can close hard, so why not start easy and out-kick to win, winning is the goal after all. I do blame the other guys for not making it honest though, if they went hard from the gun more often it would create a ton more drama and excitement for the entire race. These pro runners need to simply start exercising more courage and less “supreme tactical planning.” This isn’t a game of chess, it’s a freaking foot race, the first one across the line wins, who cares if he can run the fastest 400 after running hard for nearly 3 miles or what have you. No one wants to watch that, it doesn’t engage the average person. It’s like watching a bunch of old folks going for a Sunday drive in the first 199 laps of a 200 lap stock car race (granted I think all 200 are boring, no matter the speed) As for college races, all it takes is for the coach to tell his/her athletes to go hard more often, rather then playing to the boring, fast kick mentality. Meet organizers should encourage fast paces too, with incentives and bonuses for good times. And try it without the use of pacers, or pacers for only the first 1/4 of the race at most.
Anyhow, those are just some thoughts I have and they also happen to be pure facts. Please comment with your thoughts, if you agree or disagree, or totally hate me now.
An annoyed and bored fan, who would gladly take it out hard in every major race if I could.
PS: After catching some flack from some milers, and distance guys about the difficulty in closing super hard and matching other competitors surges, I will clarify something. I do recognize that the sit-and-kick race is potentially even harder than running hard from the gun, and I understand that it might even be more fun to watch for the dedicated track fan. But my gripe is mostly fixed on my own perceptions and those of a general public who can pretty easily pick up that guys are not racing at their hardest until the very end and that they might also find this a cheap and boring tactic to watch.
To read more from D. James Button, click here.