Does anyone really care what you think?
Running is such an intimate act that I'm surprised we haven't seen Hollywood find a way to wrap an awful C-list celebrity reality show around it. Maybe they have and I just don't watch enough TV to know.
The logistical problem for the aspiring Spielberg's is that all you would see from the outside is some sweaty old guy plodding down the road for hours on end with a spacey look in his eyes.
Where's the turmoil? The angst? Where's all this striving and falling short of the man in the arena that you runners are always on about? Apart from the occasional collapse, regurgitation or ungainly dash behind a bush it's all going on inside the head (and bodies) of us - the participants.
That's what makes it so hard to capture visually. That's why the raw emotive power of a run lends itself much better to the written form. It's an inner world with its own funky architecture of towering spires and murky bogs. It's a fantastical Suessical of our own making. It's that undiscovered country beyond the doors of perception that we get to glimpse into every time those happy running chemicals start to seep into our meninges. Think Naked Lunch or Don Juan.
We used to write books and articles, but now we blog. That is the bite sized chunk of hyperlinked text that more and more runners are using to adequately describe the emotional journey of "my first marathon" etc. I think that's great - it makes the sport even more inclusive.
Getting under the covers; letting the participants use the paint brush of a wordscape to share the powerful emotional impact of that "first marathon" is a further democratization of our sport. Of course it creates a chaos of mediocrity tempered by the glow of authenticity. Out of this chaos, perchance a sparkling gem of a thought or phrase or story will arise through the genetic selection that is the internet.
We get to ride along and tap that unfiltered emotion of a hard run in the pouring rain with Joe Runner.
It's hard to make a movie about such things imagined or real as played across the inner screens of our minds, but how about an audio recording? I've been sampling the running podcasts recently and some of this ‘raw feed' of running is out there to be listened to on your commute to work.
Like any new medium it's got good and bad. Let me start with the top 5 reasons running podcasts are good.
1. Entertainment. Podcasts can be entertaining as well as informative (think Car Talk).
2. Multi-task. You can dual task and listen while you're working out or driving.
3. Direct and immediate. They allow us to tap directly into the emotions of that runner at the point of the activity - no waiting - no filter.
4. Communication of mode specific info. There are certain things that are just easier to describe by speaking, like trying to describe what a tempo pace should feel like to a new runner.
5. Intimacy. It feels many degrees more intimate and emotional content is easier to convey.
Now for the bad news. Here are some bits that didn't work for me from some of the Podcasts.
1. Listening to you run is a bit creepy. One of the most common things was that the podcasters would just carry a recorder with them when they went out for a run. It sounds good in theory but I found all that heavy breathing and rhythmic footfall a bit *****-soundtrack weird.
2. Stop being preachy. Hand people a microphone and all of a sudden they step into the pulpit. This is one area where the written word works much better. I know it's harder but find a way to tell me how good it is without telling me how good it is.
3. It's not about you. You know, at the end of the day, we really only care about you in the context of what it means to us. I only care about your race or training run if you can build a bridge to me. Try to answer the question, "Why do I care?"
4. I don't have all day. Maybe I'm just lucky but I only have a 40 minute commute to work. Who can listen to a Podcast that is 1:20 long? Come on folks! That means I'm going to more than likely only listen to 40 minutes of it and then just worry that I missed something good.
5. Infomercials. This is a problem with podcasts in general that at some point they turn into an infomercial. Refreshingly enough none of the running podcasts I've sampled so far have this problem.
6. Give me content! That's what I want! Valuable advice, entertaining stories, interesting people wonderful ideas - give me content!
Look what you've made me do! I'm 300 words over my self-imposed blog limit and still going. Go on out and sample the available sound imbroglio at iTunes or RunningPodcasts.org. Tell me what you think.
See you out there,
Chris Russell lives and trains in suburban Massachusetts with his family and Border collie Buddy. Chris is the author of , short stories on running, racing, and the human comedy of the mid-pack. Chris writes the Runnerati Blog at http://www.runnerati.com/. Chris' Podcast, RunRunLive is available on iTunes and at http://www.runrunlive.com/. Chris also writes for CoolRunning.com (Active.com) and is a member of the Squannacook River Runners.