October 16, 2006

Interesting states of being.

First, I am grossed out.

This actually happened yesterday right after the half-marathon was over. After I'd changed and cheered for half an hour for the last runners to come in, I wandered over to the porta-potties to do my business before setting out for home. The one I chose seemed fairly clean and not over-used, but I couldn't help but notice a large amount of blood in the toilet. I mean, you know how stuff builds up inside those things so that as you approach the throne and do your visual inspection for anything too unsettling to sit upon, you rather take in everything all at once. This was, I tell you, an unusual, unsettling, and I suspect unhealthy amount of blood on the top of the pile. And it was kinda thick. Some poor runner was either crapping blood, throwing up blood, or coughing up blood - none of which are good under even the best of circumstances. And let me reiterate: it was a LOT of blood - far more than a bloody nose could possibly produce, far thicker than a bloody nose makes, too. It was horror-house style disturbing. I sure as hell hope that runner sought medical help, though I was not witness to any ambulances leaving in an emergency yesterday. Talk about an image that stays with ya...

Second, I am a philosophizer.

During physical therapy today, one of the other runners and I got to chatting. She'd done her 20-miler this weekend and is now tapering for the marathon. This will be her first and she's curious about the route. I told her that while I haven't run it, I have several friends who have and I've run many parts of the route myself. She had some trepidations about the 59th street bridge. I said that it seems like the 59th Street Bridge - for this marathon - stands as a symbol of the wall. It is, to borrow from an old joke, the Crowbar. The Crowbar? she asked. Yes, for it separates the men from the boys. She looked puzzled and I think she's never heard the old joke. It's the part of the run, I said, that (in my friend Christa's own words) separates the real athletes from the recreational runners, for the recreational ones will most often walk that bridge. She looked a little worried. But, I said, it's also well-known that a huge amount of the NY Marathon runners are first-timers and undertrained. They aren't prepared for that bridge because a) they're hitting it at the point that matches their longest training run and b) they've never gone over it before. I encourage her to find some time and go out and run over it a couple of times. It isn't a pleasant pedestrian walkway, but it gives you respect for the length and slope of the thing. It is not, however, the longest or steepest hill in the world, or even of all the local races. Get familiar with it, I suggested, then when you hit the bridge, put your eyes to the horizon, put yourself into first gear and chug up it. Then it's over and you're running down into a wall of sound so immense it's like nothing you've experienced before.

Yes, I said all this and I haven't yet run it myself. I was parroting back all I've heard about that portion of the run from other people and believe I gave her a realistic view of the bridge and some good advice. She is one of the smart runners: her training has been good and she is very ready for this race. I think she'll do fine. At least, I hope so: she's really cute. :)

Third, I am intrusive.

Steve Walker, the New England podcaster who produces Phedippidations under the pen-name (pod-name?) Steve Runner, has interjected a couple of odd diatribes into his podcasts recently. His podcast is ABOUT "rambling diatribes" as he says, but this one was different. While I am used to hearing long one-sided discussions one the various facets of running and on the nature of independent v. mainstream media (Steve was once a radio DJ), he has recently gone off on a tangent to his core subject matter and begun belittling Tom Cruise. I grant that there are few worthier targets for belittlement and ridicule than Mr. Cruise lately. But what bothered me was not the target or the content, but the circumstances under which Steve heaped abuse on the actor. It kind of comes in out of left field and contributes nothing to the topic at hand. These diversions yanked me completely out of the headspace of the podcast itself and were, I felt, a less than worthy contribution to the canon of focused, quality work Steve has recorded and offered to his listeners.

So I wrote to him:

"Steve, I warmed up for today's half-marathon (Staten Island Half/NYRR) and cooled down after by listening to episode 66. I noticed something that bothered me: your pounding of Tom Cruise. And this wasn't the first time, either.

Now, I grant that Tom Cruise isn't the favorite son of the public right now, nor do I think he's fully 'all there,' but whether deserving of your enmity or not, you should not give it. There are two solid reasons that I can see that you should perhaps leave the subject for good: first, regardless of his standing as a fantastic example of what not to do, Mr. Cruise has nothing to do with running. Your commenting on him is far more Opie & Anthony than Phedippidations, more Howard Stern than Steve Runner. It is a favorite whipping boy of commercial punditry, and therefore should be above the more refined attentions of the independent media. Second, I personally expect more from you, from Steve Walker. Slamming Tom Cruise doesn't so much belittle him as it demeans yourself. I have come to respect your wit, intelligence, and charisma, Steve, and it grieves me that you would bend to this level even to such a minute degree.

You certainly have the right to your opinion and to air it on your podcast; I'd never dream of anything like asking you to censor yourself. I only ask that you consider what image your adoring listeners have of you and the cognitive dissonance your harping on an actor sets up in us.

Looking forward to ep 67,
Cris Dopher, WWHM runner 440"

I was surprised to find that Steve responded fairly soon:


You're absolutely right. I can't disagree with any of your points (except
for the "adoring" part...me? adored? Nahhh...not possible!).

I have no good excuse for the comment about Tom Cruise, in fact I remember
the first time I mentioned his name; and I regretted it as I do now.

Personally, I do not like Tom Cruise for many reasons; but you're absolutely
right: my dislike for him has nothing to do with running, and it's not fair
of me to put him "down" without any chance for him to defend himself.

Bottom line is: you're right, my mentioning his name only further supports
his cause (not that I believe that there are all that many listeners out
there downloading my goofy show...but a wise man once said that even "bad"
publicity is a good thing). I agree with you, by mentioning his name (or
any others that I have a disdain for) I only give them credit at my expense.

I apologize Cris, you're right and I'll try not to do it again.

It's funny, but a few weeks ago I was having a beer with a friend of mine
who is a well known talk show host on the radio in the Boston market, and he
surprised me when he told me that he had downloaded a few of my PodCasts and
liked them a lot. "Be careful what you say" he told me "it's too easy to
offend someone if you're not careful".

I was surprised that he gave me that advice, and I told him that I didn't
think he understood the whole "podcasting" thing...but he got more specific
with me. He basically said that he was lucky enough to have a general
manager, a program director, and two producers of his show (one to answer
the phones and the other to "run the board" in the studio), they "watch out
of him" during every show...but his point was that I was doing it all by
myself, and he thought that was an easy way to "blow it" with my audience.

Cris, I guess I just don't think of myself as having an "audience", it's
really hard for me to accept that idea: I know fellow runners are listening,
but I think of it as having group of peers downloading my "audio blog" and
listening when they have time.

You raise some excellent points that I need to keep reminding myself of. I
ran into the same problem when I offended some runners by quoting from the
bible (in a purely secular way, in my opinion...but some took it as an
expression of my religious background).

Sorry for the rambling diatribe, but I wanted you to know that I appreciated
your email and "heads up". I was way out of line, and I feel bad about it.

Thanks Cris.
- Steve"

I hadn't expected such an apologetic response. If anything, something along the lines of "huh, you might have a point there, thanks" would have been acknowledgement enough. I wrote again, summarizing with:

"Well... it points up one thing about your podcast that AIN'T what radio IS: sanitized. I'd rather oddities like this came through than to be fed the same drivel I can get on drive-time morning radio, you know? Heck, if I didn't want the variety and rough edges podcasters offer, I woudn't also be listending to Dawn & Drew and to Coverville. Forget it, move forward. You have a marathon in DC to concentrate on. Just keep feeding us addicted listeners the good stuff."

And once again Steve wrote back, and by this time our conversation has been veering off into other related subjects. Steve shared a first draft of the outro for his next episode where he takes note of the misstep and then he encouraged me to go ahead and break ground on my own podcast, which I've been considering doing (concerning CAD software - nothing to do with running, sorry guys.) He pointed out WHY he keeps saying he believes he's got "only 10 listeners." It isn't that he actually believes that, but that he believes that's the core value of a podcast. If you reach just 10 people who gain something from your podcast, then you've truly managed a feat and done your job. Even at that level, advertisers start to take interest, and word of mouth starts to spread. It's interesting that Steve is so focused on the 10 person level when he has several thousand regular listeners.

Anyway, if you haven't had a chance to catch Steve's podcast yet, I highly recommend it. You can download it or sign up for the RSS feed at steverunner.com

Last note: residual soreness in left knee and left ankle today, particularly after the physical therapy. In this, I feel strength as well as weakness. Sore, maybe injured, today; stronger tomorrow. My body is beginning to feel the promise of an ability to run through 26.2 miles. Had I felt this way four weeks ago, I'd be 100% in the NYM. But I'm glad it's happening now, because at least it's happening. I am going to truly be trained up and rarin' to go come the end of January.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

interesting post! i corresponded with steve last year and he was also quick to respond and surprisingly humble about his show then, so i'm surprised to hear he's still that way considering his increased listener base surely he has some idea...

thanks for sharing!