I opined in this space Friday that most running the NYC Marathon today had a story. Yeah, the elite runners do it as their living — and for the competition. Nothing wrong in that. But for the 40,000 or so others, it’s a story about accomplishing something, big or small. And in the 30 or so years I’ve been running and participating in road races, I find those human interest stories real — and compelling.
Not everyone agrees. In fact, Cameron Stracher, the publisher of the New York Law School Review who is writing a book about running, wrote an op-ed article printed in the NYT Saturday, “Running Without a Narrative.” The call-out blurb: “Is the marathon flagging because it has lost its sense of story.”
And this is a gross generalization of what is a thoughtful article — but Stracher, in effect, looks at the lack of world-class American marathoners in recent decades and points to a number of reasons, including making the argument that news and other reports about marathons (and Olympic events and so on) tend to focus on human-interest stories and not the race and what it takes to compete at the elite level.
Well, then we get to race day Sunday and the story of Meb Keflezighi. He won the marathon — the first from the USA to do so since 1982. Here’s from the NYT story by Lynn Zinser, “Keflezighi’s U.S.A. Breaks the Tape“:
Of all the American contenders to try and break the 27-year men’s drought in the New York City Marathon, Meb Keflezighi may have represented the American dream more than any of them. Born in war-torn Eritrea, one of 11 siblings in a village with no electricity, Keflezighi now wears his American citizenship on his chest. He was the one American contender who wore the letters U.S.A. on his running top Sunday.
Keflezighi pointed to those letters as the Central Park crowd roared as he crossed the finish line first, capturing the first American victory since Alberto Salazar last won it in 1982. When his victory was assured, Keflezighi dropped to the ground, tears streaming down his face. It was the first marathon victory of his career and washed away years of American futility here.
“U.S.A. gave me all the opportunity in the world, education, sports, lifestyle,” Keflezighi said. “This is so special to me.”
Hey. A pretty inspiring human-interest story.
But only one of about 40,000.