Olympics, etc.

Dear Everyone,


First, I’d like to draw your attention to a recent New Yorker article by Peter Hessler about distance runner Ryan Hall titled Running to Beijing: The making of a long-distance runner from the August 11, 2008 issue.  You should be able to read it here:




Peter and his family are from Columbia, MO, where I grew up, and his father, Dick (also known as Coach Hessler), was and is the face of distance running in mid-Missouri—I am only one of many, many generations of youngsters who have benefited from his countless hours of volunteer coaching, optimism, and dedication.  The brief depiction of him by his son Peter in this article, in which Coach Hessler is described submitting himself to countless hazards in the name of running, should elicit a smile and a nod of recognition from all of us crazies who insist upon running whatever the conditions (or the doctor’s orders).   And the description of Coach Hessler holding a thermometer in his bottom while running on a treadmill—all in the name of science, of course—is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.


Oh–and the bit about Ryan Hall is pretty good, too.  🙂


Hall’s story is certainly captivating—as are the stories of all Olympic athletes—but I have to admit that upon my return from England (just yesterday) I have found coverage of the Olympics in this country severely wanting in comparison.  The BBC coverage of the games is simply astounding, particularly to someone used to—and often frustrated by—NBC’s edited, beach-volleyball-heavy listings.  The games are shown live, uninterrupted, with intelligent (mostly) commentary, and they are broadcast simultaneously—one can choose between live badminton, live track and field, live swimming, live horse racing, live whatever—all by pressing a button.  Furthermore, each contender is given his or her due.  At the start of a race, for instance, each runner is recognized in turn—in sharp opposition to NBC’s habit of pointing out the American in the race and someone who might have a chance against them and then dismissing the rest.  The games are also live on the radio, mind you.  And, perhaps most notably, the same extensive amount of coverage accorded to the Olympic games is accorded to the Paralympic games as well.  It is an embarrassment of Olympic riches.  It’s incredible.  But it is not, alas, the American Way.


So I’ve attempted to adjust to the relative poverty of NBC’s Olympic “coverage” by muting the commercials and/or Bob Costas and retreating into the memory of a few lovely, calming English runs that I managed to squeeze in while away—most notably, across the meadow from Cambridge to Grantchester, along the very path that Virginia Woolf and Rupert Brooke and friends used to walk on their way to tea at The Orchard.  It’s an absolutely gorgeous run—golden wheat fields, the river Cam and its banks, lines of trees and hedges under the blue (if you’re lucky) sky.  One can almost imagine oneself a Jane Austen heroine, swishing her way through the tall grasses. . .though Jane  Austen, Virginia Woolf and Rupert Brooke combined probably never sweat as much as yours truly.


It’s back to reality on Thursday, when I plan to rejoin the PGRC group at the UMD track—hooray!  I’ll be looking for advice on how to train (starting now) for the Boston Half Marathon on October 12th, so if anyone has any advice on how to prepare for a half marathon in a few short weeks, I would be immensely grateful.  (One of the very first steps, of course, will be to participate in the WDF on Saturday!)  Hope you’re having happy runs!  Stay cool!





One Response

  1. I agree with you about the Olympic coverage. I stopped watching years ago because frankly “The Dream Team” constantly being the center of attention produced an overwhelming yawn factor for me. The Olympics is about a variety of sports, and I like being able to watch the sports that are not regularly shown on American television. And yes, the commentators are usually awful. It’s as though they laugh at anything that’s outside their immediate experience.

    I’m glad you enjoyed England. I am *trying* to get back on the running bandwagon after taking most of the year off for various, er, excuses. See you at the track!

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