We all remember Edison Peña. He was one of 33 miners who survived for 69 days in a Chilean mine before being rescued. He said that he ran while he was trapped, and NYRR invited him to run the 2010 Marathon. Brought him up, treated him like a king, had him meet Geb, was escorted throughout the race. Guest shot on Letterman.

I objected on the ground that it was turning the Marathon into a circus and that it was not a good idea to have someone whose longest run was like 7 miles suddenly run a marathon. NYRR’s PR-machine was in full-flight on this one, and it was not to be denied so we had the numerous shots from the course, etc. There was also the uncomfortable white-man’s-condescension too.

Sadly, my objection was misplaced. A more serious one should have been made. On the front page of today’s Times was an article about how things have not gone well for most of the 33 Chileans who survived the 69-day ordeal. Among those having a very hard time is Peña. According to Alexei Barrionuevo in the Times:

    “We feel a little abandoned here,” said Pena, 35.

    Pena became an instant celebrity upon exiting the mine. Soon he was invited to visit the grave of Presley at Graceland. He appeared on “Late Show With David Letterman” while on a free trip to run the New York City marathon.

    But the spotlight proved disorienting. The normally shy Pena turned to drinking and drugs. Last month, he walked into a private clinic that had offered him free care out of sympathy. These days, he spends his days painting and in numerous therapy sessions, he said.

I only know what I read in the papers. Did NYRR’s bringing him to New York and its displaying him make a difference to this guy? Other miners who were not as “lucky” as was Peña also suffered. But NYRR should look at itself a bit more critically than it seems to, decide whether the moment’s publicity is worth it to person involved. Decide whether it’s consistent with the organization’s non-profit mandate. Decide whether it’s appropriate to bring a 13 year old (and presumably her family) from North Carolina and feed her into the NYRR publicity machine.

Speaking of consequences, I said in my last post that I hoped to have a discussion about the IAAF’s new rule on women’s records. All new records for women must be run in all-woman races. All old records for women must have been run in all-woman races. The latter means that Joanie’s time at the 1984 Olympics is now the American record for the marathon. Paula Radcliffe still has the world record, but it’s not the 2:15 she ran (and be clear that that’s what she ran) in 2003 London.

It strikes me that there may be women who object to the following slogan (one could imagine the Sterling Cooper agency coming up with this): “A Woman Can Be Good. She Needs A Man To Make Her Great.” Did Paula Radcliffe need male pacers to get to 2:15:25? I don’t know. Mary Wittenberg seems to think so, saying the pacers were worth 2 minutes (although in the same article she also said the apparently more correct “Paula ran that race on her own legs and probably would have run pretty darn close” to that time anyway). And someone suggested that Radcliffe had paced the men until it turned out that it was an all-women’s race, except for the Kenyan men who were brought in to pace the women, with two wearing “2:16” on their backs with Radcliffe amid them (and in fairness in the photos that I’ve seen she was not tucked in behind them as, for example, Patrick Macau is seen of photos of his setting his world record in Berlin). And the fact that London RD Dave Bedford thought that male pacers would increases the chances of a record as presumably did those elite women who agreed to the scheme suggests, but does not prove, that there was the perception of a benefit. As, indeed, does the fact that marathon world-record attempts seem to be made with pacers (Boston 2011 proving a curiosity in this regard).

Alas, it appears that simply asking women whether it’s demeaning to be seen as dependent on men for excellence is beyond the pale. So there won’t be that discussion on the show.

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