Have you ever been to the letsrun forum? It’s an amazing place for a few reasons:
- There are probably enough elite or semi-elite runners and coaches there to fill an Olympic sized stadium.
- 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.
- 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.
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.