I haven’t been writing much lately. The few projects I have on my list of things to do are gathering dust, though I occasionally give one or two of them a glance and consider moving forward. The most promising of the stalled self-assigned assignments is a book of short horror stories, likely to be aimed at young adults, but the overall idea isn’t solidified yet. I’m mostly in the thinking stage while I procrastinate on diving back into the novel I had been plugging away at not that long ago. I’m also somewhat stalled on my running despite getting out and moving most days. The 23-minute 5K time-trial I did a few weeks back showed me how out of kilter my body is at the moment, despite an injection of Botox for the nerve pain, which seems to be gradually coming back as I was told it would.
My own bellyaching aside, I’m about to ease into some outright bitching. The thing is, I’ve been sitting back and watching a lot of weirdness in the running world for a while now. Everything is different these days, very different from way back when I was racing. I can’t think of a single competitor who would have ever considered cheating in any way. It just wasn’t something anyone in my circle talked about. Maybe I was naive back then, but rules were very clear and weren’t meant to be broken.
One of those rules was that no pacers were allowed in road or trail races, ever, not even for a little bit. Doping wasn’t a consideration, and the running shoes weren’t all that fancy either. Most of us would have never thought of it as a win if we had been paced through every mile of a race. Part of racing was knowing how to pace yourself. Having a pacer through the entire race was seen as cheating then, and I can’t look at it in any other way now, even if knowing that Cathy O’brien’s 36-year-old record fell in the American teen marathon division and is kind of exciting. An accomplishment like that by someone so young is …interesting. I’ll keep my mouth mostly shut about anything else related to that whole story and wish that the very young lady who managed the incredible feat stays healthy and strong. She definitely has the potential to have a stellar career, and I hope more than anything that she has fun along the way. However, it’s concerning that, as Mario Fraioli pointed out in his The Morning Shakeout newsletter, Wolfgram has already sustained multiple stress fractures.
On a different note, years ago, I heard a rumor about a guy who started a publication related to health, wellness, and Buddhism. What he created was something beneficial and special. It probably helped a lot of people. Keep that in mind.
I had two encounters with him that made me uneasy, and a friend of mine witnessed some questionable behavior by him as well. One incident I saw shook me. He was walking with his older dog in front of me in the downtown area. Based on his actions, I’m sure he didn’t realize anyone was behind him. When his dog wandered slightly into the street, which wasn’t its fault since it wasn’t on a leash and should have been, the guy violently grabbed the poor animal by the scruff of the neck, and said, “Get back here.” The dog cowered and pulled away slightly. I think I gasped because the owner looked back and suddenly loosened his grip on the dog. I’m glad I was there, but if someone acts like that in public, you have to wonder what he’s like in private. The rumors I heard had to do with his ex and his employees, but the former girlfriend didn’t want to say anything publicly because of this publication he founded, which was a good thing — the publication, not his alleged behavior or the ex feeling like she was afraid to go public. But how contradictory that a guy who’s supposed to be promoting a “kind and compassionate attitude toward every living being” displayed anything but in his personal and work life. Since I found out about his less than stellar behavior, I haven’t looked at the publication and probably never will.
It’s not unlike how Runner’s World and other companies, especially running companies, pick representatives or ambassadors, whatever they’re called, who maybe aren’t the best people for the position but who have a lot of followers. For example, it’s kind of weird that someone who would threaten a guy with “walking his dentures” from him would also be in a position to be an anti-bullying or any kind of advocate. This person may have some great qualities, but how does something like that get overlooked? Or how does a mid- or back-of-the-packer who’s clearly struggling with eating and health issues get sponsorship by various companies? Is that the image these companies really want to project? It’s all very strange.
Not that long ago, I submitted an article to several magazine publications, a few running, women’s running, and women’s magazines mostly, and never got an acknowledgment, not one. The only outlet that responded at all was a local newspaper. The gentleman was very nice in saying he was interested but probably couldn’t publish the piece since I’m not a hired writer for them. I appreciate that he got back to me at all and took the time to read my submission. In the end, I posted the content on my blog. I assume many people who can’t get a foot in the door anywhere do the same. The good thing about anyone being able to blog is that you can find some good free content. The bad thing about anyone being able to call himself a writer is that everyone stumbles upon some really bad content as well.
I’m guessing that when it comes to writing, I fall in the middle of the pack of mostly competent writers while striving to inch my way into the bottom of the good writer category. When I see really great writing, it sometimes discourages me. What’s the point if I can never manipulate words on a page like that? But sometimes I have ideas, and telling a story can be just as important as successfully playing around with words to form brilliant sentences. So, with the encouragement of some words on a page from “On Writing” by Stephen King, I stumble on.
When it comes to paid writers, I often wonder how some of them stepped into their positions. It’s obvious when it comes to the likes of Stephen King, of course. I’m just curious how the articles of someone who writes a “Ten Things” list that never actually addresses ten of anything can sit in the same cyberspace as those by Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd. A mismatched title with content probably isn’t as bad as the writer who kept repeating himself, all while using bad spelling and a hailstorm of misplaced commas. It fascinates me how people end up in the places they do. I suppose it’s a similar situation with models. I was told that anyone can model but not everyone can sell themselves, and modeling takes selling yourself, really pushing to be seen.
In contrast to the cringe-worthy authors, there are the talented writers who can still make mistakes but at least write with finesse. The main issue I have lately with many professional writers in the athletic community is that they don’t aim to reach a broad audience. They write to each other and for each other, and write what they must assume others in their circle want to hear. At least that’s how it appears. The writer presents a piece, and everyone cheers. Those who criticize the piece or point out faults are criticized and ostracized, and round and round it goes.
This blog post addresses more than I would have when it comes to a recent article for Women’s Running. Though I can see where the author of the article was trying to go and like some of the sentiments of inclusivity, I can’t say I agree with the general dissing of male coaches. It’s a slap in the face of some of the most outstanding in the field: Llyard, Bowerman, Daniels, Vigil, and McGee to name just a few, and that’s not including the college scene, which is a mix of good and bad, male and female head and assistant coaches. Just because harmful male coaches stood out recently, it doesn’t mean that there’s a complete lack of female coaches. Recently, someone created a “big bad list” of some of the best female running coaches available, but many great runners of the 80s also coached: Lorraine Moller, Ann Trason, Joan Benoit, to name a few. There’s also the issue that female coaches can do as much damage as their male counterparts. Just look at what’s going on in gymnastics with the outing of both male and female abusive coaches. It probably would be better to level the playing field and encourage more women to become coaches, but that’s not necessarily going to solve the issues that plagued people like Mary Cain and myself and some male runners I know. Guess what? Males can be abused by coaches, too. Ultimately, I think Mary has the right idea that it’s more about educating coaches than hiring females.
Diving deeper into the topic of coaching, there are plenty of sensible training options, and advice doesn’t have to be doled out by a woman or labeled as feminist to be prudent, not that Erin did this but someone has. I’m not sure what “outdated science” Erin refers to or what “antiquated training philosophies” supposedly perpetrated by many men she means. I would need specifics to address this further, so I’ll leave that alone. In my opinion? Politics or people’s beliefs don’t have to be at the forefront of every running scene, and I’m guessing most people, when they claim they want it to be, only mean their brand of politics, not politics in general because that could get messy. I’ve run races that explicitly request that politics aren’t brought up, and it’s not my place to force the issue in someone else’s race when there are countless other races I can choose that have a different opinion on the matter. I’ve also run races where issues are front and center, and that’s fine, too. BTW, I fully support BLM, the LGBTQ community, and am thrilled Harris is the new VP.
The part of the article that addresses Mary Cain is a topic others have noted before. The issue I have with the idea that “Cain’s story unleashed a conversation about the destructive culture underlying sports at all levels;” is that the conversation started a long time ago, and, not unlike those struggling to be heard in the #MeToo movement, those who go unnoticed in the running community feel slighted when the general public only looks at a particular issue if someone of note reiterates what has been said before. This is not to discount Mary and what she went through or what she has accomplished in the past or since (I’m a big fan); it’s to remind people that there are countless young girls and women who have faced abuse at the hands of male and female coaches, mentors, or even parents. But internal pressure and eating disorders are incredibly complex issues, and it’s not solely a coach who causes an athlete to develop an unhealthy relationship with food and/or body. There are always many contributing factors. Despite the conversation being started, whether it was recently or years ago, there are still people feeding the public misinformation about a potentially deadly illness, and that’s mostly because people who are not qualified insist on stepping into the role of therapist.
The article also conveniently bypasses some of the hypocrisy of some in the running community. In other words, it’s fine to shit on white men, even when they haven’t done anything to deserve it — like the announcer I mentioned recently or a race director who doesn’t want political content on his Facebook page for his virtual race or a blogger who expresses his opinions in a creative way — as long as enough people claim those bad seeds need to be canceled. But oh how the woke crowd is silent when it comes to outing and condemning their own when there’s some kind of wrongdoing.
I still haven’t seen an update regarding the Oiselle/Fear Her Fight controversy. Yes, there was an apology of sorts, but, as far as I know, there has been no mention of payment or any kind of fair compensation for alleged intellectual property infringement, at least according to FHF. Then again, who knows for sure when the founder of one of the companies involved has gone dark, and nobody else who knows about it has said boo. It’s all a little confusing, and, looking back, I wonder, when the CEO of a clothing company asks for people to list their favorite brands and styles of specific items of clothing instead of listing what people like in say, a bike short, how long this kind of thing has been going on. Maybe this is all normal, and I’m thinking too much about nothing. But in many areas in life, copying isn’t actually a form of flattery if you plan to profit from it.
Whereas I believe people like Erin mean well and put out some good and helpful content, that’s not the case with people who bully others online. My real beef with the popular girls running club and their friends has more to do with the way certain topics, including eating disorders, are addressed and also how some groups exclude others, even those whose voice might be important. People who claim to be aware of the problem of eating disorders in athletes, unfortunately, still joke about eating too many carbs or too much cheese and think that’s just fine to do so publicly. Those kinds of jokes might not be harmful to some, but if you’re going to place yourself in the position of a recovery advocate, you might want to recognize that, to many people, little remarks like that can be damaging. That’s minor compared to other incidents, though.
I already addressed how Oiselle acted a few years back after an athlete of theirs posted content that upset some individuals. Again, if you feel compelled to put yourself in the position of being an advocate, why take such an argumentative stance toward those who point out the potential for a wrong message to be sent? Why is it so hard for people to say, “I hear you,” or “I understand,” or “I’m sorry if I upset you.”? It’s too easy for people to react in a condescending way and bully those who have an opposing opinion. The pile on and the way Oiselle and their fans criticized anyone who expressed concern about the message being sent by their athlete was excessive and unnecessary, and attempting to turn the tables in an effort to try to make it seem like those who expressed concern were the ones with the problem was pretty low. It’s the reason why I didn’t address it directly on Twitter where this all unfolded. I’ve had enough bullying in my life and, if I can help it, avoid stepping into a heated situation where it might happen again.
But, apparently, that wasn’t the only time the company got itself into hot water for questionable behavior. Oiselle put itself in the spotlight after defending a cheater and maybe not handling the situation with Tori in a better way. I know I just linked to Let’s Run, but you can read both sides and a whole lot more that way. As Derek of Marathon Investigation points out, “Being held accountable for your actions and being asked to explain your actions does not necessarily equate to shaming.” I’ll add that it’s not bullying, either. It always floors me when someone does something unacceptable, another person calls him out on it, and the one who is at fault cries victim.
You might wonder, “Why bring up news like this, some of it so old?” Because life can seem really unfair when people who don’t always do the right thing are looked up to as heroes over those who constantly self-reflect and work hard to spread the right kinds of messages. Everyone makes mistakes, of course, and it’s fine to acknowledge them and move on. What’s not acceptable is sweeping big lies under the carpet and bullying others. That doesn’t mean I would ever call for a pile-on or for anyone to be canceled, not that I have that kind of power anyway. I can recognize the good in people despite some occasional slips in judgment or a glitch in someone’s moral compass here and there. The hypocrisy bothers me, though. I really want to root for women in general, female CEOs, coaches, and writers, but I’m happiest supporting those who aim to do the right thing no matter what their gender.