Below is a repost about a Village Voice piece that examined the influx of African runners into our local running scene. While it contrasted the Africans with local "fitness runners", the real resentment seems to come not from the fitness runners, who would never make it to a podium anyway (and from whom I've never heard any complaints), but from some local elite runners who feel that the immigrants are unfairly displacing them from their rightful place on the podium, taking their glory and prize money. Some of these local elites voice the complaint that the Africans have an advantage because they don't work full time jobs and have nothing to do but train. Just as in my original post, I challenge any of those local runners who envy the Africans' ability to do multiple workouts every day to trade places with them for a year. Quit your troublesome full-time job and trade it for a part time one driving a cab, packing groceries, cleaning houses, or – if you're really lucky – pacing groups of 10-11 min/mile runners. Move into a modest apartment in the Bronx with 3-4 others. Remember, you'll also have to give up your health insurance, so don't plan on getting injured or sick. Fill up that Metro Card, because you won't be taking any more cabs for a while. And it'll be Metro North up to Rockefeller State Park (for all that fun training that you're so lucky to do) next time instead of driving. You can throw out those takeout menus, because you'll be fixing your own food at home. Don't worry though – you don't have to send all of your prize money back to your family (whom you haven't seen in years). Just some of it. Start packing. Check in with me next year and let me know how all those cushy advantages are working out for you.
Two other postscripts from the original blog entry. First, it turns out that the cover photo of Abiyot Andale used by the Village Voice for their cover was doctored without his knowledge or permission. Also, while I'm not suggesting that the article or the resentment is overtly racist, I wonder why there was no similar fuss when Toby Tanser (a European immigrant) was absolutely dominating the local scene and winning all the money races a few years back, or when New Zealand's Olympian John Henwood came over and plucked all the prize money at local events.
I know that I'm normally pretty mild-mannered and don't like to share my opinions with others, but having just read what is possibly the most offensive article of the year in this week's Village Voice, I feel like it's time to speak up. The article – "Will Run for Food", is subtitled "Based in the Bronx, some of the most successful athletes you've never heard of live to run away with your club money". In it, the author, Graham Wayman, writes about how the poor, opressed "garden variety Manhattan health nut" can't get anywhere near the prizes at NYRR and other races. Those damn immigrants from third world countries, who drive taxis or clean apartments or bag groceries to supplement their income from races sure have it easy.
The notion that the Africans – with their limited resources and sparse living conditions – are picking on the poor Starbucks-sipping New Yorkers who take cabs to races is beyond offensive. What's to whine about? Guess what – they train harder. How many American-born NY runners are putting in the kind of training volume that these guys are? If anyone who's complaining wants to share a 1BR apartment in the Bronx with four other people, or can match the work ethic that so many of these runners display, then we can talk. Until then, those who bemoan their fate in the middle of the pack should take comfort in the knowledge that dinner will be waiting for them at Whole Foods when they finish their 45 minute workouts on the treadmill at Equinox while listening to their Ipod.
Guess what – maybe the immigrant kid who aced the exam studied harder than you did. Maybe his parents were reading to him while your folks left you in the living room to play with your video games. And maybe the big, bad African who steals your prize money has been running since he was a child, and continues to run more miles each week than you do in a month regardless of the weather, injuries or other deterrents. And maybe he does this despite having to travel to races under lousy conditions, and sharing a cramped apartment with a bunch of teammates.
Everyone wants to blame someone else for their own shortcomings. The author, and those he quotes in the article would do well to lose the sense of entitlement, stop blaming others for excelling, and try working harder next time.