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Dr. J. on Running

Track on TV

Race Coverage Lacking

Published Aug 30, 1999, in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

I had waited for this meet all year. I warmed up with 5 miles in the morning. I kept proper electrolyte balance by sipping a sport drink. I relaxed with a soak in the whirlpool. I ate plenty of carbohydrates, and washed everything down with water. I was almost ready.

As the time neared, I donned a threadbare T-shirt from my favorite race, high-cut running shorts, dark dress socks and old running shoes. My family was there to cheer me. I knew I was ready.

The meet had been advertised for weeks and my favorite competitors were expected to compete. A well-known runner was injured, but that was OK. We would meet again on the track.

I descended the stairs and my family joined me. My partner came of necessity. Someone had to be there at the finish, to bring me out of my mental state. It was time for the final preparation.

Remote control in hand and stopwatch on my wrist, I claimed my seat in front of the glass screen. The clock chimed three times, I pressed the button and waited for the announcers to appear.

"Hello and welcome to the US Track Championship, coming to you live from the Mecca of running. I'm Doug Rock, here today with Carol Clark. Our feature event is the women's 1,500-meter race, but first, let's visit with Gina, who is not running today."

I watched in horror as the life story of the would-be-favorite-but-she-is-injured played out on the screen. I did not want to know how many cats she had, or how much fabric went into her outfit. I wanted to see some running!

Five minutes and ten commercials later: "And we're back! Carol, you talked with some of the women earlier today. Did you get the impression that they were disappointed that Gina is not here today?"

"Yes, I did speak with the women and I was impressed with their composure! Remember, these women spent much of last night watching the new Pre movie, so they must be feeling a bit tired. But also remember, each of them wants to win."

"Thanks, Carol. It looks like the officials are ready to begin. Let's hear the lane assignments." Another five minutes on lane assignments, then the gun went off. I felt every muscle contract as the runners rounded the first curve. Then disaster struck!

"We'll be back with more of the US Track Championship," Doug smiled, obviously exhausted. My hopes were dashed.

Five commercials later, Doug and Carol were back, rested and fresh. I could almost make out the shapes of the runners in the background. Perhaps, in a fit of good will, they might show us some of the race?

"Welcome back to the US Track Championship. Carol, what can you tell me about the favorite in this race? How do you think her training will affect her performance today?"

"Well, I talked with Missie before the race and she sounded confident. She feels that her new hair-do reduces wind drag and improves her efficiency. I see that the race is about to finish, so let's get back to the track."

The camera finally shifted to the women. I could barely contain my joy! It looked like a real competition between Jennie, my favorite, and Missie. I called my family to celebrate. We cheered and glowed as Jennie caught Missie and nipped her at the finish line. We watched in stunned silence as the announcers admitted that they had no idea who the winner was, but rushed a microphone to Missie, who had collapsed at the finish.

It was too late for resuscitation. Fed by the excitement of the event and the strain of preparation - I passed out. So went another track meet televised by a major network. When all was said and done, my stopwatch confirmed the worst: the entire coverage of the National Championship contained four minutes of running action.

Oh well, maybe next time I will watch it on TrackMeets.com.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains TrackMeets.com, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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