Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Boringness of the Long Distance Runner

I've never understood why people watch long distance running events. It's not like tennis — I don't like watching tennis myself, but I understand why other people might. With long distance running, I just don't see how a spectator can remain attentive. 

First of all, there's nothing inherently interesting about the act of running — it's a basic, simple, human act. This isn't ballet or gymnastics, you just put one foot in front of the other and repeat. 

Second, the strategic element is completely impenetrable to spectators. With tennis, for example, you can tell when Federer has decided he's going to aggressively rush the net, because he'll keep aggressively rushing the net. With football, you can see right away when the defense is playing bump and run, or blitzing. But with running, how do you know if the guy who's hanging back is conserving energy, or if he's merely slow? How do you know if the guy at the front is pushing the pace, or just feeling frisky today? You have no idea. Absent any strategic element, all there is to focus on is the physical element, and that doesn't hold my attention. Heck, I myself run five miles a couple of times a week — if you don't find that fascinating, I think you get my point.

I'm not trying to put down runners, I'm always impressed with people with talent who dedicate themselves to being the best they can be. And (as I noted) I run a modest amount myself. Nor am I trying to put down people who enjoy watching running — if that's your thing, that's great. I'm just trying to say that I don't understand it. 

I've focused this post on long distance running, because the events like the 100m are all over so quickly that it's hard to be bored. But who can actually watch the New York Marathon, or the Olympic 10,000 meters? If you can, I'd love to hear what I'm missing.


Mithridates said...

The Boringness of this Post

Personally, I don't understand why anyone would want to write about how boring running is. It's boring.

What's next, a treatise on why the dictionary makes for dull reading? Or an expose on the drudgery of people-watching at a suburban mall at 2am on a Tuesday?

Come on, man, where's the whole, raw, plucked chicken I've come to expect?

Mithridates said...

And yes, I really like writing "whole, raw, plucked chicken".

Phutatorius said...

Andy: I refer you to my post on the Twitterization of Everything.

Has the world media's assault on your senses so damaged you that you cannot be stirred by video footage of a man, a woman, exerting him/herself slowly to death? Do you lack the attention and perspicacity to mark that slight tweak of musculature that precedes the career-ending snap of a knee ligament? What, are your heartstrings so rigid that the Soaring Human Spirit, made manifest in the Spectator's Extended Dixie Cup, cannot play sweet music on them? Must it always be death and destruction and Grand Theft Auto with you?

Clearly you've never felt the searing pain of finish-line tape snapping across your raw-to-bleeding nipples. You've never fallen to the ground, victorious, as your calf muscles announce that they've seceded from your body, and said to them in reply, Go, then, knaves and cowards. I have no further need of you, as I have TRIUMPHED in this life. This is about the benign tyranny of will — it's about glory obtained through brutal repetition. It's about writing an essay on your business school application about how it was the hardest thing you've ever done, but you did it, because you're goal-oriented and you persevere.

You have no soul.

Mithridates said...

Ha! And everyone wrote about their marathon triumph in their business school essay.

We've got to take this guy! His willingness to train for the marathon shows he's got the dedication to stick to a mind-numbing task for hours every day; and the fact that he wrote the same damn essay as everyone else shows he lacks the creativity that might make a normal person go insane after a few weeks on the job. Perfect I-banker material! Send out the acceptance letter!

WhiteCollar Redneck said...

"Clearly you've never felt the searing pain of finish-line tape snapping across your raw-to-bleeding nipples"

Well, not specifically finish-line tape, no.

Anonymous said...

To each his own, I suppose. I find the strategy in distance running to be fascinating. An entire marathon without interruption might be a bit much, but a top-level 5000m or 10,000m is one of the most interesting sporting events in the world as far as I am concerned. I'd certainly take it over a baseball game any day.

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