Things Coach MK Can't Say In a Newsletter, 10/6/19: Do Better, Running and Rugby.
Updated: Oct 5, 2019
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I remember watching this live....almost twenty years ago: "do you want your kid to be a footballer like your Dad, or a singer like Mariah Carey?"
It's a question I get frequently as a parent: do I want my kids to play rugby like dad, or run like mom?
On one hand, we are proud of our hobbies. Ten years after graduate school my husband still has an athletic outlet, a space waiting for him whenever he wants to claim it. Even if the place wasn't designed with him in mind. I've been running for 35 years and am still going despite some obstacles. Neither of us have achieved peak anything in our sports, on good days we were mediocre, but we definitely find satisfaction in the fact that somehow, of all the athletes we know, WE are still here, still showing up, still playing.
At the same time we recognize that our sports have big issues: I spent this week talking about the issues rugby is facing, but I've been saving my deeper thoughts about running. I have a lot to say and nothing to say all at once.
TLDR; I run because I am a loser. I lost before I started.
When I was growing up, if you didn't make the high school basketball team (and to be absolutely clear, I did not) your career as an athlete was over. This is why I still stumble a bit when I'm referred to as 'athletic'. It feels like a compliment, but it's once I cannot accept gracefully. I was not chosen for the team, or any team for that matter. That's proof positive of my lack of athletic ability. I don't run because I am good at it, I run because I lost the genetic lottery at birth; my dad's heart attack at 33 meant every year I was alive I was one year closer to (possible) death. It was a miracle he survived, and i needed to make, and keep, my heart stronger than the heart attack that WOULD, eventually come because genetics. No one WANTS to be selected for this team.
Through therapy and decades of hard ugly work, I've found ways to embrace what my body can do, ways that don't feel like consolation prizes. When you put the finish times aside and look at all the work I put into staying alive, into loving and caring for my body, the badass shit I do jumps out at me. What gets me most though are those little moments when I'm introduced to someone new.
"Meet MK, she's an entrepreneur and mom of 4 with a husband who travels for work AND SHE STILL RUNS MARATHONS."
That's all true. It just doesn't sound like me. That description sounds like an overachiever; I'm woefully aware of all the things I've reached for and missed. I don't always feel like what I do counts as 'sports'. Fitness, sure but not sports...and I'm okay with that. Sports have limitations. The best team doesn't always win, pros will go their whole careers and never get a breakthrough day much less a finish time worthy of their capabilities much less their efforts, corruption happens. Sports are heartbreaking most of the time, human drama unfolding with hope unyielding, the possibility of triumph, of seeing the human spirit at its best brings so many of us back week after week.
That's what it's like for the pros and the fans. What about everyone else though?
Race participation is down across the boards. That's a fact. What's less clear is why. The market for athletic gear is expanding, sales are up (even if revenues are down), Boston is only getting more competitive, new races are popping up every day, yet growth has slowed overall...and I can't help but wonder if this has something to do with it. These people are influencers, doing the hard, unpaid work of expanding our sport by showing people they, too can be a runner...and showing us the ugly experiences they have at races.
This is well worth a listen. Martinus and Latoya express their anger and frustration, perfectly.
The running industry needs to do better. If a runner is a runner no matter how fast or how far, then we need to treat everyone equally or we need to stop saying it. NYC does it. I am told Chicago does, too. Maybe if we focused on maximum inclusivity over maximum capacity, we could use the growth of the racing industry as a KPI to track rather than a warning sign. If the broader athletic market is growing due to changes that remove barriers to entry but races are shrinking, maybe it's too simplistic to say that 'races are dead/past their prime/people2busy/people2lazy.' (by the way, a 12% CAGR is YUUUGE)
And by 'simplistic' I mean "judgy AF and DEAD WRONG" just in case I was being subtle.
If I, MK Fleming, runner of 35 years, who has never had to question whether the race shirt would fit, who has never truly worried about how I will feel if I watch the sag wagon pull away from me, STILL has imposter syndrome around these parts, the problem may be bigger than me. My responses may be reflections of what the industry is messaging in ways both overt and subtle.
Maybe we should consider the experience of the 30,000 runners behind me if we want to understand what the industry is getting wrong. Their money is green, too. Maybe we should see contraction as 'failure to convert' and start estimating the number of folks who identify with the woman in the photograph who see experiences like this in Berlin and say, "THIS is why I don't race. They didn't get shirts OR medals!" Maybe instead of shaming the folks 'at the back' we should put their experiences front and center if we want to grow.
When I decided to launch my own business I did a lot of math. I took a lot of time carefully drawing on my whiteboard, asking myself what was missing, identifying gaps, and saying, "there HAS to be a better way". It wasn't hard to find. The more math I do, the more indignant I become. This market is gigantic. It is underserved. They do not get the respect they deserve for being Tenacious AF. There is no good reason to overlook anyone who wants to be here. You cannot look at a person and assume they are NOT doing the work.
When I think about my kids and whether I want them to be a runner like Mommy or a rugger like Daddy, I pause. My kids will be fine, It's the industries that need to mature. I know what I want both sports to become in order to be worthy of my children, and I'm going to do my best to make both a safe space for my kids, genetics be damned. I hope both sports can become spaces that celebrate badassery, longevity and WORK, and I hope they grow into spaces my kids will love...spaces that will love them BACK.
From here to there, you have a coach who sees you, who sees the forces acting on you, who wants to center the conversation around your experience...who wants that experience to be positive, who wants to make the industry worthy of your incredible efforts.
At the very least, imma give you a damn shirt that fits. Gimme a little more time, I'm coming. Paying out my own pocket for it, but COMING.
You are coached. You ARE loved, and you are soooo winning at life.
You know what's better than PDFS? CHRISTMAS CARDS! YOU GUYS- GET ON COACH MK'S CHRISTMAS CARD LIST BY CLICKING HERE!
Who is our runner of the week? CHECK COACH SARAH'S NEWSLETTER TO FIND OUT!
New Nuzzel HERE
New CL Newsletter HERE
New FPP Newsletter HERE
NOW for your Nuzzel News Outtakes!
I wish this week had been about Lyndsay Tessier, but we can't have nice things:
Here is a short recap of things falling apart. It starts with a leak in 2014, flagging Paula Radcliffe's records as 'suspicious'.
In 2015, Steve Magness, wunderkid supercoach hand-picked to work alongside Salazar in what was the most coveted distance running coaching job in North America (because it's funded by Nike and pays, there's not as much institutional support, code for $$$, in this sport as you would think), left and told us they were doping.
Kara Goucher spoke up, too. Both she and Steve Magness paid for their 'indiscretion'. As much as we hate liars in the US, we sure do hate tattletales more:
Nike had known for YEARS that NOP was 'pushing boundaries"
And came AFTER anyone who called them out:
And my heart kinda breaks for these guys. Truly. We don't know for certain that all doped, but all will, and should be, investigated.
What's most interesting to Coach MK is the UK coverage. Paula Radcliffe and Sir Mo Farah are linked to NOP and their accomplishments have always been reported with subtleties pointing to the NOP's increasingly questionable reputation.
I always wanted to believe the chatter about Paula was misogyny. This week....she has not done herself favors as the press narrative around her turns:
One thing the UK is getting absolutely right, something the US press isn't saying enough: the Worlds being held in Doha in October was downright irresponsible.
Oh and Berlin had a little marathon. It was nice weather and seemed to go well?
BEST OF THE WEEK
DumbRunner this week LOLOL
OH GOD THIS STORY: https://evoke.ie/2019/10/03/health/the-rotunda-tonight-mary-cullen
Body Image and Fatphobia
Accountability. Willpower. "Health." BULLSHIT.
Ignoring plus-sized runners is shitty AND shortsighted? ORLY??????
As Seen On Our FB Pages
Did we REALLY need to commission a study on this??????? https://theithacan.org/sports/healing-mind-and-body-injured-athletes-struggle-with-mental-health/
Legends, AND MOMS.... https://www.dyestat.com/gprofile.php?mgroup_id=44531&do=news&news_id=586234-Legends-And-New-Moms-Fraser-Pryce-And-Felix-Enjoy-More-Golden-Moments-IAAF-World-Outdoor-Championships-2019-Day-Three-Recap
LET'S HEAR IT FOR MOTHERHOOD!
They may be getting their deserved medals, finally, but they’ll never get those years of their career back. 😞
Chanté Lowe was ready to compete at USAs but had to go have cancer surgery instead - and so she lives to fight another day.
Bawling as I read this. Roberta Groner is just incredible.
For every injured runner: https://www.oiselle.com/blog/marathon-world-championships
Getting what you want can be heartbreaking: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/01/sports/Dalilah-Muhammad-track.html
*tears* this is beautiful.
Coach Sarah Runs A Marathon! (note: this story does not involve weight loss OR becoming a better person)
"So, what if you're far better at the thing you want to be better at than you let yourself remember? What if the real thing in the way is your idea of how that thing's supposed to go?"
You are already enough - now go enjoy that race!
She is fast but still has a day job: https://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a29321068/bridget-belyeu-olympic-marathon-trials-qualifier/
She does, too: https://www.runwashington.com/2019/04/30/tf-keira/
My running shoes say....what? https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/gear/shoes/a29222500/tread-running-shoes-injury/
DUDE. Prayers for his family.: https://www.fourstateshomepage.com/news/runner-struck-and-killed-by-lightning-in-southeast-kansas-50k-race/
Nothing To Do With Running
Joints MATTER you guys: physixgear.com/blogs/sport-and-wellness/keep-moving-recovering-from-joint-surgery
Ryan Holiday - ego is STILL THE ENEMY!
Women and heart attacks: https://www.self.com/story/heart-attacks-in-women-under-54
Who wants to live? DO PUSHUPS THEN! https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/the-longevity-files-a-strong-grip-pushups-what-actually-can-help-you-live-to-a-ripe-old-age/2019/09/27/e2cffb5c-da34-11e9-ac63-3016711543fe_story.html
This is just gorgeous.