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Title:What Ever Happened To [...] #1002
Date:Friday February 10th, 2012
[Default Article Image]The Reagan Administraction Presents...

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ["The Poor Man's Sport"] ?

So, what in the whirl of marketing wizardry has ever happened to "the Poor Man's Sport"? You know, the sport where all it ever took was (yes) gym shoes, white socks, sweats and sweat band, a dial wristwatch, and out the door you'd go! You could do this six-days-a-week if ya wanted, and on the seventh either rest like Cheeses or run your butt off in some equally no-frills footrace three counties from home?

What *ever* happened to THAT sport?

Back then you could show up the morning of, pay your five dollars (sometimes even get change back), fill out the form, sign the waiver, and they might or might not give you a cotton T-shirt, a one-size-fits-all ball cap, or a pair of knit factory surplus gloves. But they'd for sure give you a bib, you'd grab safety pins (if there were any) off the card table (or saved in your gym bag), pin it on, and stand near the start line. Then some studly with a starter's pistol would holler NOT to take the short-cut across Farmer Wenceslaus's cow pasture ('cuzza the bull), fire the gun, and you'd be off. Sometimes the stud would fall-in and run with you, sometimes even holding the gun the whole time. And once in awhile (to be "funny") he'd point it at your ass and shoot another blank.

(Or, the dogs.)

Not much different for a marathon or ultra either. I distinctly remember signing up for the Chicago Marathon during the Expo, which once was held in the basement of a small downtown hotel. In Las Vegas (ooh, road trip!) you'd be signing up outdoors in a parking lot of a casino a mile off The Strip that doesn't exist anymore. Oh, but it was fun watching all those people RUN that mile (maybe two!) to get to the start--because they all thought ALL casinos were ON The Strip within just a 15-minute walk of every other casino. Then, for your sign-up money of, say, 30 bucks, they'd give you a bus ride 26.2 miles out into the desert and drop you off. Saddest sight I ever saw was all those empty busses in single file over to our left somewhere--while we trudged--all driving back on the Interstate.

(What *ever* happened to thirty buck marathons? Or, for that matter, five dollar all-you-can-eat buffets in Las Vegas? And $1.99 for breakfast?)

Now-a-daze Vegas looks like Disney Whorreled, and your basic trimmed-down all-inclusive weekend stays (including marathon entry) START at nearly two thousand bucks. And the Chi-Town Marathud sells out in SIX DAYS! Forty-five-thousand runners!! (Except, of course, for the, what, 20,000 entry slots held aside for all the "charity runners"? You know, charity! It's where you either hassle every friend and relative you ever had by phone or email OR you whack up the three grand for charity all by yourself. THEN you can still get in--amazingly enough--to a sold-out event, sometimes even within a week of race day!)

In my next life, I want to be rich (never mind the authorship) so that I can afford to run again.

What *ever* happened to trimmed-down, essentials-only, running a RACE? You know, trying no matter how futile it is, to actually GET TO the finish line FIRST?

Today, apparently in order to run, you need to be all tricked-out with high-tech absorbean-junior tank and "skorts" from Nikita Athletikka, neon air-cushion color-coordinated motion-stabilizer shoes, cool wicky maximum mini sox, blue-tooth/headset, the latest-generation iPhone/iPad combo gizmo that tucks in your sleeve for totally hands-free running "comfort" into which you can now put two hand-helds for carrying your max-burst 8-hour energy chemistry drink with all the GU lashed to your waist (along with replacement energy drink) in order to safely get you from aid station to aid station which are now even less than two miles apart? And please don't forget the way-cool bib number you've snapped onto your GU belt with the automatic throw-away transponder inside that will instantly (in "real time") relay your progress electronically over tracking maps via live feed to a website accessible from the farthest known corners of the universe! Astronauts can tell how long you're taking!

You are two thousand dollars worth of fashion and functional design as you stand there...waiting for the 44,999 runners in front of you to start walking.

THIRTY-TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS just to sign up for some kind of ultra stage-race American des Sables? Almost like Badwater? AND the rules say you not only *must* trick yourself out in the latest cosmic gizmology, but you *must* also have a crew and a van and back-up plans and vans and supplies and nobody but NOBODY connected with the race is going to give you a goddamn thing?

Not even a pair of knit factory surplus gloves, and (furshur furshur) no change back from your five dollars?

So, what DID ever happen to our beloved "Poor Man's Sport"?

Ah, methinks 'tis now in that same place with the five-and-a-quarter interest once paid on my passbook savings account, whereby just by depositing a fin a week from my paper route, I could buy my musical instrument that I played in the band with, my full set of Wilson Staff golf clubs that I still have, and my first motorcycle that I sold to help pay for college. All of which, taken and added together, cost less than it would take me today to even *try* and be worthy enough for deze Sables.

( O_O )

Yours troubly,

The Troubadour
"all's it took 800 years ago to run was being caught filching at Scarborough Faire"

Yankee Folly of The Day:
Oh yeah, and this "thing" today doesn't have much to do with Reagan either.


To Which Is Now Added...

Wednesday [was: Monday] Evening [was: Morning] Quarterbacking [Re: WEHT #1002]

Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 6:04 PM

We're sorry, but due to technical difficulties BEYOND THE CONTROL OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS, Positivity Wednesday is being postponed so that we can now bring you up to date with what was supposed to happen Monday morning. This computer that I'm writing on has been *INSIDE* the damn iApple (iSore) iStore ALL THIS TIME--due, of course, to *iPROBLEMS*. WHY ARE THERE ALWAYS PROBLEMS? I'll tell you why: It's because the iSalesmen always promise "i" more than the iTechy "genius" dweefuses in the back room can deliver. They could *NOT* in fact transmogrify, transubstantiate, trans-fricking-plant THIS data on THIS machine over to THAT machine of theirs which cost me a grand-and-a-half THAT I was willing to spend in the first place because the iSales division of the iApple jungle ("miTarzan, uJane") assured me THAT "hey, dude, once we transfer all your data, you can pitch your old Microsoft monstrosity into that dumpster out back."

Yeah, right.

And have some clue...about this coming Friday's WEHT topic.

Nevertheless, last Friday's topic was apparently received exceptionally well. Some folks, as they said, "loved it." Others "agreed 100%" or were benignly tolerant, and still others offered additional additions and/or commendable follows.

J.E.S. wrote: "When I was 30 ... one summer a group of my friends ran to the Dairy Queen in New Martinsville ... and back every Saturday as our long run. It took us all day but it was fun. Years later, I looked it up on a fancy GPS thingy and saw that the distance was 52 miles. We drank out of water hoses and laughed all the way. There was no such term as an Ultra. It was called running."

L.J.S. wrote: "Thanks for the flashback, Rich. Remember Adidas Gazelles for $19.95? And, much later, $8 with a shirt, $6 without? And pre-Moving Comfort shorts were Adidas men's shorts?"

Actually, even these may just possibly have been before my time. Truthfully, though, I know of several races here locally that do still offer a "shirt/no shirt" option, charging less money for declining the shirt.

D.B. wrote: "I still have some Sub 4 running shorts. My latest pair of running shoes cost me $20." D.B. also says he knows how to home-make his own energy foods and his own (although he doesn't call it this:) electrolyte-replacement drink as well. "I could do ATY for the rest of my running life for the cost of 1 American des Sables. Hell, I could do the Silverton 6-Day for the rest of my running life for that much money."

He and others commented on the Las Vegas Marathon, back when it was indeed run one-way from way out in the desert to back into (the outskirts of) town. Two runners ran it in 3:57. I personally clocked a finish time of about 5 minutes slower, and I remember being CRUSHED 'cuz I didn't break 4 hours.

J.C. observed: "Thus my interest in international marathons. Last time I looked, Seville (Espana) has a marathon mid-February (next year!) that costs about 40 euros. But the swag--omg--a wool sports jacket, a complete track suit--singlet, shorts, pants, medal, plus wine & cheese party after, etc. Gran Maraton in Mazatlan, MX, sponsored by Pacifico beer NOT CORONA ("swill" in Mexico) first weekend in Dec., is still less than $100 (that's 1000 at least pesos, or is it 10,000?). ... If you wish to travel, throw in a marathon--as long as they remain cheaper than American ones. CHICAGO--as Yogi Berra would say about his favorite restaurant: 'It's so crowded, nobody goes there anymore.'"

B.H. wrote: "Absolutely. The 'profit' motive--money ... spoils everything in the long run."

M.S-P. wrote [about Chicago]: "I am absolutely certain that at the time the Marathon Fathers never envisioned the silly race ever costing the average runner $150 for the privilege of a few hours of hell. ... How the hell does it sell out in 6 days at 150 bucks a pop????? I still don't understand."

According to E.F., "You have a good point about our sport moving in the direction of big and expensive. However, the Poor Man's aspect of ultrarunning is still alive in the El Paso, Texas/Las Cruces, New Mexico area, courtesy of long-time ultrarunning stalwart Mark Dorion. Mark organizes several free events each year, mostly in the winter because of the heat in that area for most of the year. The next such event is the Elk Ridge 11-hour and 50-kilometer run on Saturday, Feb. 25. You can go there and run for free and even have a chance of winning, because there are usually only about a dozen runners. For some reason, the vast majority of runners are somewhere else running in a big, expensive race."

And there's your sweet "free plug" for Dr. Dorion's events, which, yes, he himself has written to me personally over the years to invite me to attend. Ah, but sadly the travel costs are what usually do me in--or deal me out.

T.M.S. observed: "I get a kick out of these people running in charity events...seeking donors.... And after the new bike, rubbery swimsuit, travel, meals and hotels...everything goes to the charity. Who says our utes [youths] aren't generous?"

And C.T. [who I happen to know personally to be an excellent singer] chimed in with: "Amen, Brother. I remember those days... I'm still in them. I do not go to any of these mega events. ... Want a joke--try self sufficiency--huh???"

And he sings: "I'm Joe in 'Old Man River'--

"Old man C.T.
he keeps on runnin',.
he jus' keeps runnin' alone.

"he don' get faster,.
he jus' gets slower'.
he keeps on runnin'.
he jus' keeps runnin' alone.

"I'm past the cutoff,.
an' I don't care,.
the race director,.
just stands and stares.

"Old man C.T.
he keeps on runnin',.
he jus' keeps runnin' alone.

"' I likes it that way!!"

A.C. [whom I happen to know to be quite young] wrote: "People always ask why I don't run more races and the answer is always that it's too expensive. I've run expensive with frills and inexpensive no frills. Much rather pay less. I don't need to be shown on a big screen crossing the finish line."

F.M. recalled: "My first race was a 20k on labor day 1978 in New Haven. Bill Rodgers won. It cost about $5. I ran a race in Mystic in 1979 with Amby Burfoot that was free. Also the New London 11.5 mile race was free. And they served beer at the end. In 1982, while a poor grad student at Penn State living on the $110 a week (the university paid me to teach English to freshman), I ran 20 races 5-miles to marathon. Total cost about $150. All in cotton. With a pair of Tiger Montreals. Good times and I ran a lot faster. That same $150 would get me about one fancy marathon now."

Others noted a few current exceptions to the "high priced spread":

J.B. said, "Thought about your comments while running down the highway yesterday. Pretty much the same route for the past third of a century but it's the no-cost option. I ran into town, well, it used to be the edge of town when I was a kid. My turnaround point was across the street from the park. There was a 5 or 10K going on. People looked at me like I was off course or just some homeless guy.

"Cheap races: ran a 50K last June for $9. Got a fancy ball point pen worth more than $9. They had gallon jugs of big dill pickles packed in ice at the finish line.

"Whatever happened to simple? On the Superior 100 app at the top it read: 'No wimps. No whiners!' I thought that applied to all ultras. I remember a VT100 aid station that was some jugs of water with a cardboard box with some cookies, fig newtons, Coke and a jar of Vaseline. No table or people in the middle of the night.

And in a second email later, J.B. added: "Early bird price: Med City Marathon $25, Memorial weekend. Last year included a performance T and a good hat. The RD gave me a hat a week after the race. Rich, you just need to hang out with cheaper folks. :-)"

J.D. wrote: "But they [cheap races] do still exist. One of my most favourite races (albeit in the UK)-- 12 pounds and a home cooked meal afterwards--you can't beat it :)."

P.L. remembered: "Well, last year I showed up at the Presque Isle Endurance Classic 15 minutes (or less) before the start, filled out an entry form, gave them $ (15, I think) and paid a few extra dollars for a shirt (another 15, I think). Put on the number, lined up and ran 53 miles. They even had an aid table set up with lots of food and a high-tech timing system to count the laps."

T.H. said, "Good Thread; Terri Hayes puts on a series of 5 or 6 annual ultras in South Carolina: All decent races, no entry fee, donations accepted. I ran her Enoree 40 in 2010 and it did have aid stations. Good solid event. I think it is going to take a conscious effort to keep ultras and pockets of ultras 'inexpensive.' The sport is growing very fast and when companies see an opportunity like this $3200 desert stage race to make such a profit, they are coming along. I don't believe Triathlons started out on the high end of the expense scale, and big marathon fees have tripled since 2004 or so.

"All that said, my non-racing ambition is to put together a 1-time ultra, race direct it becoming inordinately wealthy, and fund the rest of my running adventures from it."

( O_O )

T.MG. wrote: "Terri Hayes?!?!? Wowwwwww. I almost talked her into coming out for the ($20?) Knobstone Trail weekend in mid-April, but she was tied up/busy, as I recall it. This was after I'd paced her for a bit in her attempt to set a Mohican 100 record for 60-y/o females. She had to quit the attempt, as I recall it, because her legs were a bit played from her RACE the week before--some upty-downdy thing in South Dakota? Badlands 50M maybe? Dunno. But she gave Mohican a game try--I'll attest to that. I said, 'Terri! A fifty MILE??? Before trying to set a RECORD??' She was all casual with, 'Hey, you know, I've just been busy, and there was a lot of driving the week before...' (She had come from Hawaii, picked up a camper-top pick-up, and was ultrarunning her way back across the country. Livin' cheap, running long. Frickin' huge.)

"My new bumper sticker:
Live Cheap, Run Long.

"Barkley's new bumper sticker:
Live Cheap, Run Long.
Won't Do You Any Good."

Finally, R.M. wrote: "I remember the days of $5.00 races, the days of numbered tongue depressors to take to the volunteers at the finisher tables; and for your $5.00, they had much the same fare as they do nowadays following the finish, and also for your $5.00, as you well note, you received a shirt (almost every time) or other handout.

"I have in my possession a cancelled check for $10.00 payable to Americas Marathon for my entry fee which provided me with shirt and 'goodie bag' and post race munchies, and a certified, supervised 26.2 miles of rambling the streets of Chicago. I have in my possession a cancelled check for $20.00 payable to the Boston Marathon for my first running thereof, which included shirt and assorted amenities to run from Hopkinton to downtown Boston. Nowadays it costs $150.00 to run Chicago's marathon, and within a few days, they've filled their field capacity. Boston costs even more (but it includes bus fare) and fills up within mere hours. Add in travel expenses, lodging, meals, the per mile cost for that same 26.2 excursion is way in excess of what I had previously spent for the entire event. Certainly your couple-of-grand estimate is not an overstatement.

"As an old person on a fixed income, I've been priced out of the market, even for a local 5 mile race; but I can still put on shirt, shorts & shoes & run around the block a few times for no extra charge."

And R.M.'s most brilliantly insightful comment: "Maybe we need Congress to set up a marathon or other race to fund the national debt."

Bingo! I couldn't've bespoke this bespeaking any better myself. ;-)

Yours troubly,

The Troubadour
"800 years of oftentimes honest reporting; but before the Gutenberg Bible got printed, I was sometimes kidding"
Posted:February 17th, 2012 11:58 am
Last Update:February 17th, 2012 12:15 pm
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