Normally, strong sub 3 hour marathoners who finish 496th at the Boston Marathon command my awe and respect. There is no debate. I can be downright sycophantic (can I award +3 for this Razz?) in fact. If they had speed yielding teets, I’d consider suckling them to become faster. I don’t know them other than a number next to their name in the newspaper. However, I can’t run that fast. They can. Fawning praise (with hints of jealousy) thrown their way.
But what do we make of this Lance Armstrong phenomenon?
You may have heard of him. He had a bit part in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. And he was also a cyclist of some note.
There is much debate around the Nitmos house on this topic. I tend to appreciate the man’s amazing physical talent and dedication in the world of cycling and subsequent transformation into an upper echelon marathoner. Mrs. Nitmos tends to focus on his personal relationship issues and sees more of a spotlight stealing glory hound.*
Leaving the personal stuff aside, the Great Lance Debate usually breaks one of two ways:
(1) He’s bringing much needed attention and excitement to the sport.
(2) He’s stealing the spotlight from the elite runners.
Mrs. Nitmos, standing on the corner of Hereford and Boylston, wasn’t pleased to see a ring of security and a camera truck directly around Mr. Armstrong as he made his way to the finish of the Boston Marathon. After the race, she reminded me that the only other folks who had a personal camera truck were the male and female leaders of the race. The other 493 people ahead of Lance (and 21,000+ behind) had no camera to record their moment of glory. Or, presumably, a posse of undercover ninjas with collapsible Kerrigan knee whackers shadowing their footsteps prepared to swat away overzealous fans.
I get that. Who doesn’t recognize the public’s general fascination with celebrity? It goes overboard. While one side of our face reads celebrity tabloids and can recite the details of Kate Hudson’s recent shopping spree (I can’t believe she spent that much on a sweatsuit after all!!), the other side is busy condemning the media and celebrities with an emphatic WHO CARES!? The third side might be eating ice cream. I’m three dimensional. The analogy works.
Plus, I’m pretty sure I also deserve a camera truck. My mom has always told me I’m special. Mrs. Nitmos has always said I’m a certain kind of special as well. You don’t obtain this level of averageness and sustain it for this many continuous years without a fair amount of ability. You should know that when I get raises at work, they usually meet – or even slightly exceed – the average cost of living increase. Par is a positive score in golf, right?
I don’t believe we’ve reached hyper obsession over Lance running marathons though. It’s mentioned. It’s on TV…newspapers…Runner’s World. Race highlights typically show the winner followed quickly by any celebrities in attendance. I guess I’m alright with that. Like it or not, running – while a popular hobby for many – is not really an exciting sport for those who don’t directly participate. It’s okay to show Lance puffing on in to the finish several hundred people behind the winner. It brings interest and excitement to the sport.
More people know when marathons are being run now. They stop to watch Lance run and, just maybe, catch a glimpse of the real elite runners. Call it: Awareness through Adjacency. If the media wants to dry hump Lance’s leg and circle him with cameras while Robert Cheruiyot quietly slips out the back door, so be it. I still believe more people are being exposed to the sport. More people are becoming interested. And more people may be inspired to participate.
This may not be how we would prefer it. But it’s better than nothing.
If I could quibble though, I would have preferred that Lance did not run through and break the tape during his finish. I’m pretty sure the other 495 people in front of him might have already broken the tape. I doubt all of them did the limbo under it.
By the way, if anyone knows someone with speed yielding teets, it sure would save me a lot of work.
* Plus, I think Mrs. Nitmos is just angry that the photo supply of Lance running with a shirtless Matthew McConaughey has dried up.