Blueprint for the FuturePublished February 26, 2001 in The Post-Standard.
By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
In a society constantly searching for its core beliefs and a political system that forgives cheats and thieves - as long as they return the loot when they are caught - athletic competition remains an unfortunate reflection of society, susceptible to politics and corruption of the worst kind. In this column, I walk the minefield of political stagnation as I present my core beliefs for the sport of running.
I believe that running is not only an end in itself, but also the means to self-improvement. While ball games pit team against team, runners share a common opponent. We run against time, against gravity, against self. Our performance is measured in minutes and seconds, not by the failure of our opponents.
I believe in the local club as the center of competition at all levels. Club racing provides continuity across the artificial barriers of high school and college, and permits generations to race together. For there is evidence that families that race together stay together.
I believe that national collegiate and state high school athletic associations have outlived their usefulness. By promoting athletic socialism and protectionism through divisional and class systems, they have turned into a microcosm of our society and government - hindering excellence and promoting mediocrity.
I believe that the national governing body for our sport should govern competition at all levels, not just the selection of international teams. Thus every race should be sanctioned, every course certified, and every result ratified. I believe that every runner must belong to a club to compete, and every club must belong to the national body to organize races.
I believe that charity races have diluted our sport. By exploiting running for the sole purpose of money, they have promoted quantity over quality, broken the rules of fair competition and accurate reporting, endangered the lives of once-a-year racers, and in the process, corrupted the union of runners with nature and self.
I believe that television has failed in its duty to cover the news of running and to showcase the beauty of competition. Fortunately, the Internet has matured to the point of assuming its place as the medium of choice for participation sports, leaving television for couch potatoes who prefer to watch rather than participate.
I believe that children should run and play. I advocate cross-country programs in all elementary schools. These will develop mind and body, character and team spirit, pride and self-esteem. For many latchkey children, running with friends after school sure beats returning to an empty home.
I believe that running is not just gloom and doom. There are many silver linings in the clouds of pessimism. More people run and race than ever before. With a marathoner in the highest office in the land, I hope that a return to core values may propagate through society and into running.
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 TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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