Chicago coverage forecasts bleak marathon outlook

“That performance put this event on the map,”

Carey Pinkowski of Steve Jones’s WR in the Marathon


Chicago Marathon Race Director Carey Pinkowski deserves great credit for bringing together one of the greatest fields ever assembled in this year’s edition. However, the map he refers to must be that of Atlantis, as this year’s elite race was as hard to find.

From regular weather updates, fan shots, interviews with back markers and shots of Steve Jones breaking the record, we were treated to a montage of everything the Marathon now represents to the average viewer.

I’ll call a spade a spade, I rarely watch the opening hour of a non championship Marathon. Pacemakers and time trials are not of huge interest to me, let alone the average viewer, but once the pacers drop the intrigue and tension increases with each passing moment.

For those of us interested in the Elite race at the weekend, there was no possibility of getting caught up in the drama of Bekele cracking, of Kipchoge’s wry smile or even the knowledge that Dickson Chumba was the fastest 3rd place in history.

We were instead treated to a block by block update on the temperatures, human interest stories and at one stage a view of the start line after all the runners had left. The coverage of Chicago gave us a quick snapshot of the problems in our sport.

In the movie Prefontaine, Steve slams the 3 mile, “Nobody cares about the three mile” while Bowerman retorts “Well why don’t you give them a reason to care.”

Nobody cares about the elite race, the lack of any depth to faceless Kenyans in our reporting of the sport leaves the Media outlets no choice but to ignore them in favour of human interest stories. The point of sport is to give people a chance to see humans become heroes by doing amazing and seemingly impossible things. Running 26.2 miles at a pace most humans cannot run at for half a mile is heroic.

The public have been denied the chance to see these heroes in action. We must give them a reason to care:

  1. Show us the human interest stories about Cat Fashion shows (as per Ron Burgundy and Anchorman) etc during the first hour of the race. All the big moves will more than likely happen after the first hour. Show us the actual race from then on – an hour in.
  2. In terms of graphics, these should be shown on screen and if we are going to see a graphic with the world record on screen, show us the world splits in comparison to the race rather than in isolation. Showing us Kimetto’s splits with no relevance to the current race is absurd.
  3. The main protagonists should be interviewed pre race and these interviews could be shown during the race in order to give the public an idea of who the athletes in front actually are.
  4. Have a camera on the home country athletes. The viewer wants to know where the best from their country are in the pecking order.
  5.   If Cyclists travelling at 50km/h can be recorded on motorcycles how are we getting fuzzy pictures of athletes travelling at less than half that?
Bernard Koech shows off his Chicago Marathon footwear
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Ronan Duggan

Ronan Duggan

Ronan Duggan is an athlete, coach, athletics fan and, most importantly, was once named Bandon AFC's under-12 Player of the Year. He was once a promising athlete but is now a promising coach, teacher and part-time athletics writer/broadcaster. While an 800m runner himself, Ronan has coached everything from pole vault to 10km with varying levels of bluffing. He has regularly been threatening to do something for years but is yet to deliver. He is regarded as our expert on the American running scene, though has yet, to prove his knowledge in this realm.

1 Comment

  1. PJ
    October 16, 2014 at 6:55 pm — Reply

    much as I agree with your comments, I don’t see TV coverage of the marathon in the States changing any time soon. it’s a a tired, lazy and cheap formula. That’s why I stopped watching those races 25 years ago.

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