The New Yorker: Running to Beijing

Running to Beijing
The making of a long-distance runner.

by Peter Hessler

All articles by Hessler is a must-read. This one is no exception. Ryan Hall is an All-American young man, who will compete in this year’s Olympic Marathon competition in Beijing. His coach, Mahon, says that “He looks like a white Kenyan.”

…the Flora London Marathon has been the most competitive race in the world, and spectators hve been shocked to see Ryan Hall with the lead pack of African runners.

Reason being, he has a lot in common with the top African marathoners: come from high-altitude parts of the continents, efficient runner, body-mass index, and leg shape.

It is also quite a humorous read, when it comes to the running scene in the States:

These days, recreational runners tend to be educated people with good jobs. The average participant in the ING New York City Marathon has an annual household income of a hundred and thirty thousand dollars. The people who read Runner’s World have a median income virtually the same as that of the readers of Forbes….”Running has demographics that are comparable to golf.”

Interesting, but so what? Turned out, these wealthy runners are the real backers of each marathon race now held in the US cities!

In the United States, track has never drawn significant income from television, and neither has the marathon –but American marathons don’t rely on TV money. Nor do they need to sell tickets to spectators. Instead the participants raise the case, because they can afford to pay high entry fees and their demographic appeals to advertisers. marathoning may be the only sport in which sponsors target the losers, and the losers pay for the winners. That’s how the running boom played out for the Kenyans and the Ethiopians: it created a lot of slow, rich American marathoners willing to pay big money to get beat.


As a result, money coming out of these races are now also helping sponsor elite running programs for real athletes. Plus, because of huge number of participants, sponsors is willing to give ludicrous contracts to athletes that is targeted for the “hordes of affluent recreational runners.”

The circle of “life” completes itself in the world of capitalism. Nice.

One thought on “The New Yorker: Running to Beijing

  1. Interesting. I always thought of running as the budget sport. You basically need a pair of shoes unless you’re a barefoot runner. The race fees are generally cheaper than other sports entry fees. Most other sports require more gear. One big expense which shouldn’t be underestimated is the medical cost of running related injuries.

Comments are closed.