Monthly Archives: September 2012

Profiting off the Olympics

Today’s blog feature a video of a news report found on YouTube.
Title: Who Profits from the Olympics

As you view this video, consider this. Many of the rules upheld by track & field governing bodies promote amateurism and discourage the exploitation of the athlete by private enterprise. Yet, major events like the Olympic Games have proven to be BIG business for the governing bodies, corporate sponsors, and local businesses and NOT the AP runner due to their amateur status. Question: Are the athletes still being exploited? Write your comments below.

AP Class of Runners

Written By:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  September 22, 2012

The Amateur Professional – In athletics, APs are individuals who are just one cent a way from being recognized as a professional.  These athletes train with great intensity much like a professional athlete and pursue similar goals, championships.  They’ll run ladders, quarter-mile pace-work, 20x200m, cross country, hill repeats, and weight train to build their bodies to compete amongst the best.  Many APs train with the prospect of upgrading their careers to professional status and compete to gain visibility in the sight of sponsors or college scouts.  Meanwhile, others train simply for the gold and what it represents.  Those who run under the philosophy of amateurism obviously have no intent to become professional athletes.  Yet, like their other half, they treat athletics like a career.

Here’s where things get interesting.  In track & field, amateurism is actually praised over professionalism.

Some of you reading may object and I would absolutely love to read your comments.  However, if you look at the history of the sport and the rules enforced by USATF, IAAF, CIF, NCAA, AAU, IOC, NAIA, NFHS, and other abbreviated governing bodies controlling the sport, it’s easy to understand why amateurism overshadows professionalism.  These rules favor amateurism and were mainly written by pro-amateurists like Avery Brundage back in the BCE of modern sports (that’s before the common era).  See link to view Brundage areas of influence.  These author’s personal biases and ideals are preserved by these rules.  The impact: 1) limitations on the AP’s ability to gain entry into the professional world and advance their economic status even after entry.  2) companies are limited in their ability to use runners for marketing purposes.

Why did the authors support amateurism over professionalism?  There are a number of theories we can examine including race, but for now we will stick to our subjects:   early elitist attitudes towards  sports as an activity of leisure rather than a career path resulting in economic gain.  These attitudes have survived the test of time and are now influencing the creation of new rules like Rule 40 of the USOC.  If you haven’t heard, Rule 40 is currently being contested by athletes for its impact on the athletes ability to be marketed before, during, and after the Olympic Games.  See website.

Below is a video discussing the Amateur Professional.   The principles explored in the video will be examined and applied to the AP runner in our upcoming blogs.  Take a look.  Fascinating information.

A Funny Thing Happened at the Track

Written by: Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date: September 12, 2012

In case you missed it, for the past few blogs, we have been talking about how everyday people perceive runners.  Backtrack if you get a chance and catch up on the conversation.

Yesterday, I went to Rancho Cienega (Jackie Robinson Stadium) to assist my teammate at her practice.  Her strength coach was unable to attend and asked me to time her.  In between her warmups, drills, and recovery periods, I took the opportunity to complete my physical therapy workouts.  I hadn’t mentioned this before, but I am nursing a knee sprang.  I’m okay and will resume my regularly scheduled practice next Monday.  My teammate has an insane workout involving a 2 mile warmup, 10×110 windsprints, 12 drills, 6x500m, and so much more.  By the time she was finished, she could barely stand.  My workout was not as extensive of course thanks to my knee.  For 2 miles I would run 100m, jog 50m, and walk 50m.  Once completed, I joined my teammate in 1 lap of 2x150m.  This was enough to get my knee back in action (and a tad worn).

This story however is not about our workouts, but about a bystanders observations and attitude towards our workouts.  A guy (we’ll call him RJ) walked up to me in between my runs and asked me the most peculiar question.  After first asking, “Are you working with a coach? he asked, “can I run with you guys?”  RJ was not athletic by any means.  He even said so as he explained why he wanted to run with me and my teammate.  “I see you guys out here all the time and was just wondering if I can run with you.  I’ve never run track before and I have been slacking on my gym workouts for two weeks.  I figure since you come out here regularly,  I could run with you guys.  That’ll help me stay on course with my exercises.”

Run with me?  I thought to myself.  As he spoke, I could feel my ego rising.  I’m a sprinter by birth.  Quarter-miler/half-miler by specialty (don’t ask).  I could feel my eyebrows lifting and my face scrunch up to express confusion.

  1. If this guy watches us run, does he not know how much we run?
  2. Does he not see what we do as work?
  3. Does he not see us fall out after every practice in pain?
  4. Does he not see our coach yelling at us and getting on our cases about every little movement?
  5. Does he actually think that what we do is doable?

My first instinct was to become defensive but I digressed.  I remembered my research for these blogs I’m writing and realized this is the type of person I have been writing about for the past few weeks.  Instead of agreeing to his request, I gave him two alternatives.  “RJ, you know there are running groups forming all over the city.  They are really good and meet often.  You may want to consider running with them.”

He replied, “no that’s too difficult.”

My head was racing.  Too difficult?  What do you mean it’s too difficult?  Is he saying that these running groups workouts are MORE difficult than our track workouts??????  I smiled, nodded, and pointed towards a personal trainer working out in the stands with his weight loss group.  “What about working out with Coach Kenny over there?  He does an excellent job at…”  RJ cut me off.  “No no, that’s difficult too.”

I was thoroughly confused by this point.  So I just flat out asked him, “so you think what we do is doable then?”  He replied with confidence, “Yes.  I could just run along side you.  I’m sure I’ll keep up.  Just don’t try to run off and leave me.”

I’m…sure….I’ll….keep…up?  I’m sure I’ll keep up?  What we do is easy?  I could not believe my ears.  What we do is not work?  Right before my eyes my theories about the leisure runner were being confirmed by this random stranger.  He acknowledged he knew nothing about track, admitted to not having an ounce of speed AND a inconsistent at working out, and had been jogging in spikes all morning…not sprinting…jogging!  As a leisure runner he expressed his attitude and sentiments about track while categorizing our workout as leisure, not work.  That his workout similar to our workout.  That he could do what we do with ease.  What I also found interesting in his statement was that he felt what the running groups and personal trainers do is MORE challenging than any workout us track athletes do.

Perhaps the clash in lane 1 is much more severe than we thought.

More on this tomorrow post…we’ll be talking about the amateur professional next.

Track Rant: When Ideas Clash in Lane 1

Written By:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  September 8, 2012

Tracks everywhere are used daily by both competitive athletes and recreational runners & walkers.  This blend works well when both parties respect each others purpose and space using track etiquette and common courtesy.  Customarily, competitive athletes use the inside lanes and recreational R&Ws use the outside lanes.  However, the moment a member of either party steps out of their boundaries and disregards the others presence by stepping out of their lane, tragedy occurs.

Today, I had the opportunity to visit my teammate at Rancho Cienega aka Jackie Robinson Stadium.  She was practicing with her strength coach on the field.  On the track was a another team made up of half-milers.  These runners seemed to run non-stop.  They would run a lap or more for time, then jog a lap around the perimeter of the field.  They repeated this action for 30 to 45 minutes.  Each lap for time was run in Lane 1.  Their presence on the track was noticeable.  They looked athletic.  They dressed athletically.  Their speeds far surpassed anyone else on the track at that moment.  And yet, their presence was ignored by 6 individuals who casually strolled down the lane.

I watched this scene carefully.   As I watched,  I heard the voice of a coach yelling across the track to his runners blazing through Lane 1.  “Go! Go! Go!  Keep it up!”  As they came out of the first turn, 20m ahead of them were four joggers jogging the slowest of speeds while talking and giggling amongst themselves in, guess what lane?  Lane 1.  The runners were forced to either run off the track or veer off into other lanes to get around them…all the while maintaining their speeds to make their time at the finish line.  This is no easy task.  Skillfully, the athletes swung around them to continue their run.   Once they passed this group, a second obstacle crossed their path- a woman in lane 1 walking.  This obstacle is more dangerous than the first.  If the R&W is made aware you are approaching but reacts too late, that individual can move into the path you have chosen to use to dodge them.  The result:  A catastrophic crash impairing the athlete and the R&W.  Luckily, the woman did not move and the runners were able to pass her.  Further ahead was a jogger.  The athletes were able to pass him safely as well.

This movement would go on for at least 10 timed-laps.  The entire time the athletes ran, these 6 individuals remained in the lane as if to say:

  1. I have every right to be in this lane
  2. What you [athlete] are doing is no different than what I am doing
  3. You [athlete] are no different than me.  You are an R&W and so am I.  We have the same goals and same purpose for R&W.
  4. I am here for leisure and so are you [athlete]
  5. You [athlete] are here for exercise and so am I

They couldn’t be more wrong.  I cannot tell you how many times I have seen and experienced running into or barely dodging that clueless R&W chillin’ in Lane 1, listening to their ipods and tuning the world out…including the runner behind him sucking air and yelling, “Track! Track! TRACK!!!!!!! Move!!!!!” with every available breath…then crashing into the R&W knocking them flat on the ground.  Painful!

Why R&W?  Why do you R&W in Lane 1 while teams are practicing?  Aside from your premise of cheating your workout by following the misconception that Lane 1 is shorter than the other lanes, why do you ignore the rules of the track?   Where is your etiquette?

The Leisurely Run

Written By:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  September 7, 2012

Running for leisure is a great way to past the time.  Aside from swimming, running is the most valued low cost activity that gives you a total body workout and keeps your body fit and healthy while helping others.  At least that’s the perception anyway.  We’ll explore this thought process later.  For now, let’s examine this question:

Do all people who run, run for leisure/recreation?

Most, if not all of you reading, would more than likely reply, “no!”

However, if we were to ask, “do you regard all people who run as people that run for leisure/recreation?” a great percentage of you would find yourself conflicted.

The truth is we have more examples of running as leisure than we do of running as work or pure competition like the K-Trax Super XC *ahem.*  As we discovered last week, this ideology, “running is leisure.” or, “sports is leisure,” fits in line with the historic concept of conspicuous leisure- a concept that has framed contemporary attitudes towards running and runners of all types.

I’ve talked with quite a few people about this topic.  Family, friends, other athletes.  Finally, one among them summarized our conversation and presented the following breakdown of these attitudes.  Here’s a summary:

Contemporary Attitudes

  • Running is easy.  Anybody can be a runner.
  • Running is accessible to all.
  • Running is recreational.
  • Because running is easy and accessible, people create groups to socialize and share this recreational activity with others.
  • Aside from professionalism, running has no rules.
  • Running is boundless and can be conducted anywhere- on sidewalks, in the street, in neighborhoods, busy intersections, the strand, wherever.  Safety and containment are not strong factors.
  • When running in groups, it’s best to run free and out in the open rather than a contained environment like a park.  Freedom is the essence of leisure!
  • People who have time to run, have lots of free time on their hands.
  • Leisure time should be spent doing something for someone else.  Running should therefore be done for others, not for yourself.  Running for competitive purposes is selfish and conflicts with its true purpose- leisure!

These attitudes impact the development and growth of track & field on every level.  It affects how track & field athletes and other competitive runners are regarded at and between competitions.  It affects participation and spectatorship at competitive events.  It even affects the disproportionate number of competitive events to non-competitive events.  In the next blog we’ll see just how these attitudes play out on a track mixed with competitive and non-competitive runners.  Stay tuned!