Saturday, December 10, 2011
I was recently checking out race results from "The Turkey Trot" held on Thanksgiving day in my former hometown of Buffalo,N.Y. This race,which is believed by many to be the longest continuously held footrace in the U.S., has grown in entrants over the last several years and now has a limit of 11,000 runners.The race was always a real community affair. People coming back to Buffalo for the holiday as well as all the area runners made it a point to run this 8k race that went straight down Delaware Avenue. Serious runners made sure they were ready to race on this day. College runners coming home for Thanksgiving also helped to make it a very competitive run. Another nice thing about the Turkey Trot, people who never ran a road race all year would train and do this one. Ah,the good old days,but I digress. When going over the results for this year I immediately noticed that the overall winning time and number of fast performances were noticeably slower then I recalled. A quick check into the record archives confirmed this. In 1981 a total of 137 runners finished under 30 minutes, in 2011, 76 runners. Keep in mind that there were several thousand more runners racing this year as compared to 1981. I was frankly stunned by the drop-off,I figured there would be fewer fast times,but not as few as there were. I then looked at some of the other races that have been held for 25+ years and saw that times had gotten slower in them too. I mentioned this to a couple of friends who live in other states and they said that the same situation existed there also. Naturally,I was curious as to the reason for this drop-off. Could the reason for it be,as a friend said,that Americans live a more sedentary life now then they did back then? I didn't give this subject much more thought until I recently looked through a copy of Runner's World from 1979.I should say here that Runner's World was,and still is,the biggest selling mag of it's kind out there.It was at one time the go to source for all running info and news,remember,there was no internet back then.Getting back to the old issue of RW, I was immediately struck by the underlying theme that ran throughout the whole magazine,it all centered around optimal performance. Whether it was in profiling various top American runners, or info and results about races, or advice from coaches,doctors and experts, you were provided with the best advice on how to run more and faster. Some of the monthly contributers back then were, Derek Clayton,Richard Benyo,Bob Wischnia,Amby Burfoot,Joe Henderson,Cliff Temple,Brooks Johnson,Arthur Lydiard and Dr.George Sheehan. Some of you readers may be a little young to recall all these guys but it was an incredible group of people who knew what was needed to run better. Oh yeah,another thing,they all ran. It only takes a casual glance through the latest RW today to see how much things have changed with that magazine. The slant is now towards running as a healthy lifestyle as opposed to racing better and faster.It's heavy on articles pertaining to food and diet,feel-good stories on runners who have overcome various obstacles,exotic locales you might choose for your next marathon and features on running gear. As I have written in the past, it is extremely difficult for a magazine to stay viable in this day and age,so to survive you have to have as many subscribers as possible.Who can fault Runner's World for trying to reach the biggest market possible? The truth is,is that they encourage and provide a needed source of information for those who run and want to be healthier because of it. Unfortunately though, there no longer exists a running magazine out there that will provide the articles and encouragement to help not only the serious runners,but also the newbies,to become as good as they can be in this,the purest of all sports,distance running. And that folks, is a real shame.