As I sat down to write the intro to this week's newsletter I received the press release from the Akron Marathon announcing that this fall's race has been changed to an all-virtual race. It was expected and I know that the Columbus Marathon, which I had signed up for before COVID-19 descended upon us, will surely be following suit, yet it is one of those creeping reminders that the pandemic is very much with us and full normalcy is nowhere near resuming.
There are bigger issues at hand than not being able to race and this week's newsletter continues to look at the intersection of running, athletics, racial inequality, and being open to experiences different from our own. First, though, we take a brief detour to look at reactions to the cancelled Boston Marathon. Let's dig in.
It is strange to say this but the cancellation of the Boston Marathon seems like an afterthought in the wake of the anti-racism movement sweeping throughout the world. Despite that decision being overshadowed it remains a monumental choice and one that affects its would-be participants in different ways, as this article shows. This is a story that resonates personally. I have earned two Boston qualifying times, though on both occasions I have missed the cutoff due to the stiffness of the competition to make the race. Running Boston has been the goal that has motivated me over ten years, and so I cannot imagine the disappointment I would be experiencing if I were one of the runners that had made the field only to have the race taken from me. The runners in this article run the gamut of reactions; some have handled the decision with equanimity while others are understandably devastated. Their stories of why they were planning to run Boston and how they had gotten there are varied, illuminating, and worth the read.
Most of these athletes in this article are past US Olympians or were hopefuls in their events for this year's postponed Tokyo games, including Marielle Hall, whose piece in Runner's World I featured in last week's newsletter. Chris Chavez asks a panel of 14 black track and field athletes three questions: What was your first experience with racism? What does it mean to be black in America? What are you doing and what do you hope other people can do to enact change? The responses are illuminating, heartbreaking, and necessary to hear.
I have coached my entire adult life and having done so find teams fascinating. Disparate collections of individuals are brought together and asked to subvert ego to work toward achieving a greater goal. Steve Magness illustrates that point in this article, noting how track and field teams consist of members from various backgrounds specializing in specific disciplines who nevertheless break from their bubbles to form bonds and work toward creating success together.
Speaking of teams three of the best coaches in professional sports, Pete Carroll, Steve Kerr, and Gregg Popovich, sat down to record this podcast episode on the anti-racism movement. All three are tremendous culture builders and in the conversation they describe how they actively engage with players from different backgrounds and explain how their willingness to learn about experiences and upbringings different from their own have been so critical to creating the sort of open team cultures that have propelled all three to championships in their respective leagues. Notable from all three is an eagerness to grow beyond what they do not know and to view their players, not as subordinates who they must bend toward their will, but as partners who they must work with. It is why they feel curiosity and openness are critical components of building shared success.
Though this article has nothing to do with running, Anthony Bourdain brought an openness and curiosity that I try to bring to my running and the interactions I have with others around running. Last week was the anniversary of his death and I thought it worth a few minutes to find some writing about him and to reflect on what his travels, always centered in curiosity and empathy for his hosts, can still teach us. Bourdain was not perfect. His messages did not always hit the right notes. He owned these moments, always trying to do better, always trying to better understand what he missed. He was not interested in the Instagrammable snapshot of wherever he was but instead looking to get to the heart of the place and people. He wanted to better know them. It is the definition of authenticity.
My last link for the week. Again, it has nothing to do with running and yet it deals with the heart of what the country is experiencing right now. Though it is Chappelle, and there are scattered laughs, the piece is far more poignant and gritty than it is funny. I had not seen the act yet when a friend sent it to me and said, "It does a good job cutting through the bullshit to get to the heart of why there is so much anger."
To read more of Adam's writing on his running and on performance, you can visit his site at impactrunning.wordpress.com