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Lance Armstrong Sucks

Posted by Filed Under: Elite Running

Have you ever been to the letsrun forum? It’s an amazing place for a few reasons:

  1. There are probably enough elite or semi-elite runners and coaches there to fill an Olympic sized stadium.
  2. Because of the presence of these people, you will have a hard time finding more information about running packed into one place. The best part about the information you’ll find there is that no detail is left un-analyzed. When a training subject is debated, it’s debated fully.
  3. The place is anonymous so people post whatever is on their mind with no fear of being identified. It’s the wild west of the running world. You get raw opinion that, although can sometimes be juvenile, is usually enticingly passionate.

If you visit letsrun and search for “Lance Armstrong,” you’ll likely be astounded at the enormous amount of animosity directed at the man. He is, by and large, loathed there.

Lance’s recent result at the New York Marathon resulted in thunderous applause (because he labored to finish in under three hours), as well as a chorus of boos and hisses (because he failed to DNF) at letsrun.

Why? What did Lance do to deserve all this contempt?

I have a theory. I have this theory because it was how I thought until about a week ago. Yes, I too once thought Lance Armstrong sucked.

I Think It Boils Down To This

A lot of runners think Lance is getting publicity he doesn’t deserve. By getting that publicity, Lance is somehow taking away something from deserving runners like Paul Tergat, Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor. I think a lot of runners think Lance Armstrong is a sideshow that is distracting the masses from the main event. In essence, they think he does a disservice to the sport of distance running.

This all comes out in anger with perturbed runners saying stuff like “I could kick Lance’s a$$” and, “He’s not even in the same league as an elite runner.”

And you know what? Those runners are right. They probably could kick Lance’s butt. And Lance doesn’t compare at all to a runner like Gomes dos Santos.

The Root of the Problem

What’s at the heart of these Lance haters is passion. These runners are passionate about their sport. They think distance running is the most amazing thing a person can participate in. They also think distance running is the most amazing sport one can watch and they’re crazy-mad at the idea that hardly anybody outside their world would think otherwise.

It drives them mad that people in North America hardly know the first thing about distance running. They can’t believe a guy like Haile Gebrselassie is a virtual unknown compared to other sports icons like Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice or Wayne Gretzky.

And I agree with them. Haile and so many other elite runners do deserve that kind of fame and admiration.

The Meaning of Bittersweet

I’m a typical Canadian. I love the sport of hockey so please bear with me while I change the subject for a moment. I’m from Edmonton, Alberta – home of the Edmonton Oilers. In August of 1988, my childhood hero Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angelas Kings. It was one of the worst days of my life. I’d also venture to say it was one of the worst days of many other Canadians lives.

Peter Pocklington had sold our hero—a Canadian institutution to America. He had sold hockey to a rich guy from L.A. who’d probably only seen snow in the movies. We were mortified.

A couple of years later, it happened again. We lost Mark Messier to the New York Rangers.

Trust me when I say that for a time—a long time—we Canadians had a bit of a hate-on for the good ‘ol U.S.A. We were bitter, bitter people.

But, over time, we (mostly!) got over it because we eventually realized the outcome was worth the sacrifice. And what was that outcome?

Hockey grew. It became more popular in the U.S. than it had ever been before.

Back to Lance

I’d like to appeal to all you runners out there with a hate-on for Lance. Lance is not the problem. The obscurity of the sport of running is the problem.

Just like what the Gretzky and Messier trades did for hockey, Lance’s moth-to-a-flame magnetism just got a whole lot of new people interested in our sport. I wonder if some of those people, after hearing Lance humbly say things like, “It’s the hardest physical thing I have ever done,” will learn about some of the true greats of running?

I say let’s get Lance training for Boston.

About Mark Iocchelli

Also known as the "Running Blogfather", I'm a 40-something marathoner who has beaten stress fractures and terrible shin splints. Now I'm running double the mileage with no pain - and I'm getting faster. I love to talk about running form and Arthur Lydiard. I also enjoy taking photographs, have a beautiful (and very patient!) wife, and am the proud father of two crazy kids. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about the site.



17 Comments
  1. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on November 16th at 4:27 am

    I respect Lance as an athlete, and I agree, he is great for the sport. I don’t think that he took much attention away from Tergat or the other elites except for those of us that are passionate and wanted more. For the majority of the people watching news about the race, they would not have been there to watch it without Lance.

    That being said, I was one of the people assuming that I would “kick Lance’s a$$.” It impressed me that I only beat him by 8 minutes or so rather than the 15 or 20 that I was expecting to beat him by. I have a lot of respect for the guy, but I really didn’t think that he’d have it in him to run under 3:15 for his first go, especially on what he was supposed to have run leading up to the race. The thing that bothered me was that my running friends could not talk about anything else, especially when I mentioned that I would be running in New York this year.

    Oh well, it was great to pass Lance at around mile 6 and see how much he was already hurting.

  2. IHateToast on November 16th at 5:53 am

    unless it’s kickboxing, no one can lay claim to being able to kick anyone’s ass. especially not elite runners. beat me at a race? sure, but kick my ass? with their spindly legs? i titter in amusement. no, i run a silly 4:16 hour marathon, but i have no doubt very few elite runners could do damage to me in a dark alley. really… tee and hee.

    what aggression. and… jealousy?
    so he’s not an elite runner. he won a few little road races in some francophone country. cycling is his sport and he’s retired. he never came off as saying he wanted to race for anything other than the challenge. wish some yappy coolrunners/letsrunners would get off their keyboard and try to do the tour.

    yeesh. the anger. it’s not just letsrun. coolrunning dot com dot au was also full of whiners.

    i ask them… what bothers you more? lance taking the thunder away from runners most people wouldn’t recognize anyway or the obesity problem world wide? what if… what if a few people look at him, see his humility and get off the couch and run? wouldn’t it be worth it? no current elite runner is having that effect on couch potato kids.

  3. Adeel on November 16th at 9:14 am

    lance taking the thunder away from runners most people wouldn’t recognize anyway or the obesity problem world wide? what if… what if a few people look at him, see his humility and get off the couch and run? wouldn’t it be worth it? no current elite runner is having that effect on couch potato kids.

    That’s all great, but I don’t think you can do anything you want in the name of a charity. I doubt that a lot of people realized on November 6 that, “oh my God, Lance Armstrong is right, there’s been a cancer epidemic for twenty years!”

    The reason I hate Lance Armstrong is because, yes, he obscures the real race that happened. It’s like being treated to shots of celebrities in the stands at the Super Bowl.

    Mark, unfortunately no one really goes out and “learns” about the sport after hearing about Lance Armstrong or Dean Karnazes. You can poll your readership here or try Cool Running or some other board. Most people just don’t care.

  4. Mark Iocchelli on November 16th at 9:25 am

    Adeel, I think we have a fundamental difference of opinion here. While I would agree that probably a majority of people come just to see Lance and then move on, I am also hopeful that some people *do* learn about or even take up the sport.

    Even if it’s a just few people who cares? The more people who know about running and runners the better in my opinion.

  5. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on November 16th at 9:31 am

    So your difference of opinion isn’t so much about hating on Lance, it’s more about which is more of a priority:

    Some unknown number (but any positive number being worthwhile) of new converts to the sport on one hand…

    The people that actually care about the race being annoyed by not being able to see the coverage that they want on the other hand…

  6. Jeanne on November 16th at 11:23 am

    why hate lance? why not hate the media who deflect attention to him and away from the race? or hate the masses who watched the NYC marathon just bcs of lance?

    less hate, more love, people!

  7. Adeel on November 16th at 7:45 pm

    why hate lance?

    It’s not like he exactly fought off the news cameras.

  8. Jessica on November 16th at 7:58 pm

    Very well said. This comment “A lot of runners think Lance is getting publicity he doesn’t deserve. By getting that publicity, Lance is somehow taking away something from deserving runners like Paul Tergat, Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor.” I think is also one of the main reasons there are so many “Dean-haters” as well.

  9. Mike on November 17th at 3:47 pm

    Wow. Take it easy. Such anger and negetive energy. Just shut up and run already. The guy just ran NYC, I think it was fun to see. I’m not going to rag on him because he crossed over and tried his hand at running an event. Get over it already…

  10. runr53 on November 17th at 7:34 pm

    I stop by once in a while and seems to be a lot of bad karma going on here every time. If you concentrate on the good things you won’t have time for the bad. Or you could just be petty little people who… you choose! I like to try and take the first choice. Run Good!

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  12. IHateToast on November 18th at 6:13 pm

    hate…

    i would hate a dictator, people in charge of torturing, child molesters/killers, rapists, etc.

    anyone else is just annoying and vexing. if i really don’t like someone, i’m not going to talk and obsess about them.

    if one uses the term “hate” for lance, what word to they use for the truly horrid?

    all that running on the pavement has pounded the brain cells in the area dedicated to language usage.

  13. 21stCenturyMom on November 19th at 3:43 pm

    I find it truly remarkable that the word ‘cancer’ has not entered into this discussion although the word ‘publicity’ is first and foremost. Lance isn’t getting publicity for himself – he has plenty of that. He is running for cause – specifically to raise awareness of cancer and funding for cancer research.

    The backlash against Lance isn’t about passion for running – it is about misplaced ego.

    Dear fast runners everywhere – get over yourselves. Running as a sport will never get anywhere near the publicity of team sports. Neither will swimming. The Tour de France has a lot of publicity because it is a one of a kind event and because it takes place in beautiful mountains and because someone manage to promote it sufficiently to get it all that publicity and because an American (Lance Armsrtong) won it 7 times in a row.

    None of that makes Lance a bad person who is stealing publicity from more deserving runners. I am a runner but I know nothing about any of those elite runners because I don’t care. I can’t relate (I am slow and do this for personal, physical fitness, not to win) and I really don’t care. I don’t much care about Lance Armstrong, either other than to see him do some good by raising money for cancer research. I suspect that’s the way it is for most people who like Lance. The people who hate him are just being petty.

  14. Adeel on November 19th at 4:26 pm

    He is running for cause – specifically to raise awareness of cancer and funding for cancer research.

    Again, how far can you go to do something in the name of some cause? Is there someone out there who, after hearing about this, realized that people get cancer? Can’t he raise money for cancer without it being shoved in the face of those interested in the real race?

    If you are not interested in the race, that is fine, but that does not mean that the New York Marathon has to be necessarily subordinated to publicity of Lance Armstrong. Nor does it mean that a 3-hour marathon is impressive. Insofar as he ran the race, Armstrong deserves less publicity than Blaine.

  15. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on November 19th at 5:13 pm

    I think that this is starting to border on the silly.

    As for myself deserving of more publicity, I disagree. Let’s pretend for a moment that both Lance and I were nobodies (I know, I know, but we’ll just pretend that I am a nobody…heheh). What’s makes for a better story?

    From the perspective of race performance, we were both unremarkable in terms of our overall place. From the perspective of percentages, we were both in the top 1.5-2% of finishers or so; when you are dealing with 38,000 finishers, there isn’t a big difference between being 400th or being 800th or whatever places we were.

    From the perspective of race execution, I finished my 8th marathon and was barely out of breath. I paced a friend of mine through his first marathon, and didn’t leave him until mile 24. Lance was running his first marathon, and was clearly working a lot harder than me, and had a much more tangible goal to reach and was a lot more likely to miss out on his goal. From a story perspective, his race was much more interesting. People love watching marathoners suffer; otherwise, there’d be more people watching the start than the finish.

    Third, from a story perspective, my contribution to humanity was a sub 3 hour first race introduction for a friend of mine from college. Lance raised some undoubtably large amount of money for cancer research. What makes the better story?

    Now remember that neither Lance or I are nobodies. He does have a lot more celebrity than me.

    Do you want to know the real reason that Lance gets so much press? Because more people care more about what he is doing because (a) he’s famous (b) he’s got a good story and (c) he’s raising a ton of money. Why should the networks who control the news care about who is the better story? Because more people will tune in and pay attention. That means that advertisers will pay more money during those time slots. More money = more coverage.

    Anything liket his is going to boil down eventually to what will make the network more money. Some elite athletes running really fast for 2 hours and a few minutes, or somebody that people actually care about that is raising money for a good cause and who is going to be very obviously suffering the whole time?

    Besides, for the last 16 miles Lance had Joannie running with him. How can you keep the camera away then? Everybody loves Joan.

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