Musically mindless on the treadmill

Rock on, but watch your back

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.3 miles
Yesterday’s run (treadmill): 3.4 miles

Happy President’s Day. While my Runsketeer buddies were doing 8-12 mile runs out in the freezing cold this weekend, I took the path of least resistance. That would be the treadmill, and it’s probably more disinterest than resistance. I’ve bashed the treadmill enough this weekend, so no more complaining until next week.

I’ve determined that watching scripted TV shows doesn’t work for me when I run indoors. I have a lot of trouble concentrating on the dialog and plot. I do better with news but they run the same stories over and over. That repetition eventually becomes tedious and the commercial breaks are frequent and long. However, I think I’ve found my solution: music.

Instead of watching the news yesterday, I switched to one of the cable music channels. I listened to 70’s music which didn’t require any concentration. Perfect. I occasionally switched to a different station when a slow ballad came on, because faster tempo songs better matched my stride rate. I did the same this morning and had to admit that listening to music made the time go by much faster.

I used to listen to music when I ran outdoors, but I stopped due to safety concerns. I also used to listen to Pandora, but the Sole treadmill would pass along big shocks through my headphones. Our FreeMotion machine is far better behaved and I can probably go back to doing that without fear of electrocution. Plus the treadmill has big speakers that would negate the need for headphones.

In the case of my source of music I’ll probably end up following the path of least resistance once again and stick with the cable music station. It’s easy and there’s no commercials, unless you count the ads for geriatric home care and other products targeted to the 70’s channel demographic.

Forced ageism on the treadmill

Demographically insulted

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.6 miles

I knew it was going to rain this morning but I thought I might be able to fit in a run before the weather changed. As often happens on Saturday mornings, I got a little too comfortable settling in with a big cup of Green Mountain Double Black Diamond Extra Bold (thanks again Bill!) and watching the news. Time passed until I finally managed to tear myself from a hard hitting news story about dog racism and headed upstairs to change.

My wife is extremely disciplined about getting things done and that includes her daily workout. When I got upstairs, she was already halfway through her treadmill run. Knowing that I’d planned to run outside, she looked at me sympathetically and said, “You’re probably better off using the treadmill rather than running outside that this point.” A look outside supported that view. I got caught in the rain about halfway through yesterday’s run. Although it only lasted a couple of minutes, I found it extremely unpleasant.

My run went fine. No heroics on the treadmill. I set a moderate pace and stayed with it throughout my targeted time. I got tired of switching the channel between the local news station, MSNBC, CNN and HLN every time they went to a commercial. I changed over to the Music Channels and was amused to see how the display ads differed depending on the type of music selected. The Classic Rock and Soft Rock stations kept showing an ad with an older guy holding a cane, with the headline “Having Difficulty with your Knees?”

Each time they showed that, I felt like yelling, “How dare you infer that I need your services just because I choose to listen to the Steve Miller Band! I’m running!” (actually I may have yelled it once). In the end, today’s workout was exactly what I needed. I’d planned to throw in some fartleks, but SIOR made the point that I should not be focusing that much on speed at this point. Unlike some recent runs, today’s felt energizing and I had no breathing issues or fatigue. Perhaps the warmer weather is helping. And not a moment too soon.

NYC Half coverage: it’s time to give me the mic

image courtesy of abclocal.go.com

Today’s run (treadmill): 4.25 miles

Last year, NBC surprised me by actually covering the NYC Half Marathon. Running is so invisible on television that I’m thrilled whenever it is shown. Still, I was critical of the 2012 broadcast because the NBC folks failed to make the event interesting for viewers. It so happened that both the men and women’s races featured two runners fighting it out for the win, while the rest of the field followed far behind. NBC had a chance to cover the experience of fifteen thousand people, but it barely covered four.

This year, it was the local ABC affiliate that covered the race. I was hoping that, this time, the focus would be on the event, not just the lead runners. Unfortunately, channel 7’s execution was just as disappointing as last year’s. Races like the NYC Half are rare, because they are both a spectator event and a shared experience. If there were 15K people on the course, there were undoubtedly more than 100K friends and relatives looking for them during the race. Not only were 99.99% of participants ignored, the elite runners who finished second and third were barely acknowledged.

I thought about the race as I ran my distance on the treadmill this morning. With so many knowledgeable people writing for running magazines, websites and blogs, the opportunity to hire compelling broadcasters is there. Think about the level of detail and background that’s provided by qualified announcers for every MLB, NBA and NFL game. Today’s race announcers were so inept, they didn’t even know the names of the two elite women who were bearing down on eventual winner Caroline Rotich as they approached the finish line.  

Running will never gain traction on television unless the networks commit to treating the sport like an event, instead of a news story. People won’t tune in if the coverage is dull and the focus is so narrow that they’d be better off skipping the broadcast and waiting for the recap to be published. If channel 7 had given me the mic this morning, I would have done it a whole lot differently.

Ambivelent about today’s coverage of the NY Half

Today’s run (street): 4.5 miles

I was pleasantly surprised to when I turned on the news this morning to see that our local ABC channel  was actually covering today’s New York Road Runner’s Half Marathon. Running of this type is rarely televised (besides the ING NY Marathon), so it’s always exciting when these events are broadcast.

The good news is that ABC stepped up and featured the race. The bad news is the way they covered it. Besides some very short features and interviews with a few US runners who were competing, very little information was given about the other elites who were also competing. My biggest frustration came for the race broadcast itself, both the men’s and women’s races were early breakaways between two runners. ABC chose to stay with those four, virtually ignoring the other elites who were grouped 30 seconds behind.

ABC also put up very little information about paces and splits, and when they did, they confused the women’s numbers with the men’s. After an hour of watching Peter Kirui battle it out with Deriba Merga and Kim Smith run shoulder to shoulder with Firehiwot Dado, I learned virtually nothing about them as people. They failed to give viewers a reason to care about the competitors. That may be a reason why running is so invisible as a broadcast sport.

Inspired by the watching the NY Half, I got outside for four and a half easy miles. The temperature was a cool 40 degrees when I started, but the weather got warmer throughout my run. I regretted wearing pants instead of running shorts and I was sweating hard by the time I finished. The run itself was extremely easy, my pace was a full minute slower than yesterday’s run at Bethpage.

Tomorrow I’ll rest and then I’ll need to figure out my workweek running. I have a lot going on next week and I may need to skip one or two runs. No matter if I do, I plan to do some speed work next weekend and another long base run. Watching the half marathon this morning reminded me how long 13.1 miles will be.

Why is running so media invisible?

I watched some of the Brooks PR Invitational last night. The entire event, consisting of top high school age runners, was streamed live on FloTrack. It was a fairly low tech, low fidelity presentation, but I appreciated having an opportunity to see this competition. The two events that I watched were the women’s and men’s 2-mile races and both ended with exciting finishes.

Watching this coverage made me realize how rare it is to see live running competition either on television or on the web. Flipping through my cable stations on the weekend provides multiple opportunities to watch (depending on season) basketball, football, baseball and hockey. In addition there are many programs dedicated to fishing, hunting, extreme sports, surfing, tennis and even hiking. But the only running I ever see is the YES Network program (“Running”) that is updated monthly, at best.

With over 20 million people in the US who consider themselves runners, I’m surprised how hard it is to find coverage of the sport. Perhaps it’s because running is an activity where people prefer to participate rather than watch. More likely, it’s difficult to capture the feeling of a race on a TV screen. But I’d think that a sport that generates over $5 billion in industry revenue can probably support at least one cable channel.