Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

I Wish

Ode to A Genie in a Bottle

Published September 4, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

My early morning run took me towards the sandy beach, as the August sun burned through the thin fog. Indifferent to the danger of running barefoot, I tossed away my running shoes and enjoyed the soothing sensation of sand between my toes. My heels sank in sand and stretched my sore Achilles tendons.

My delinquency punished me swiftly. Hidden under the sands of a full moon tide, a discarded bottle lurked like a landmine. I stepped on it and twisted my ankle, and promptly went crashing onto the beach.

As I grabbed my ankle with one hand and the bottle with the other, I prepared to toss it far into the ocean. Just like a dream, a beautiful runner in bun-huggers evaporated out of the bottle, and offered to grant me four wishes to improve the lot of our sport. "Why only four?" I protested. "It will take a lot more than four wishes to bring back the glory of the golden years of running".

I am not one to think clearly when I am in pain, let alone in the presence of a ghost before my first cup of coffee. However, with nowhere to go, I seized the opportunity to formulate my most fervent wishes to my smoky companion.

First, I wish to strengthen local clubs, and make them the only legitimate forum for athletic competition. Only runners enrolled in a club will be allowed to enter races and compete for national titles. Only club athletes will represent the US in international competition.

Unlike cycling, swimming and chess, to name three, where membership in the national federation is a prerequisite to all competition, track and field has surrendered that power to charities, shoe makers and corporations. Let us take back our sport.

Second, I wish to institute cross-country running programs in all elementary schools. Compared to their sedentary friends, running kids watch less television, enjoy better overall health, and develop a positive attitude and self-confidence. As a result, runners perform better in school, and become more productive citizens.

Beyond Pop Warner and minor league sports that permit parents to live their unfulfilled ambitions through their children, running teaches our youth personal responsibility and discipline. Running also teaches them to recognize the consequences of their actions by relating in a causal manner their performance to their training.

Third, I wish to take away our sport's subsidy for charity races. In addition to diluting the oldest sport into an annual ego trip for the overweight masses, charity races draw on our financial and human assets.

Just like all competitors should be club runners, so should running clubs remain the only authorities to host sanctioned races. By sanctioning charity races and affording them inexpensive liability insurance, we introduce a fake form of competition that drains our limited resources that are better spent on running.

Fourth, I wish to abolish the NCAA. What started as a flawed experiment to regulate amateur athletics has only deteriorated with time. The corruptive power of the money generated by collision sports has all but contaminated the loneliness of the long distance runner.

NCAA's obsession with a false definition of amateurism has all but destroyed the primary educational mission of colleges and universities. In the name of athletic competition, we have admitted into colleges and generously funded many species that belong anywhere except the wards of higher learning. Thus, by deregulating corporate money from athletic scholarships, we might restore education as the primary role of colleges.

While we are at it, let us also abolish Title IX as well This final faux pas upset my companion, and precipitated her sublimation into ether. Her sudden departure opened my eyes to the true disease devastating our youth and our sport, television. So I yelled to her to forgo my previous wishes and just dissolve NBC.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at

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