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December 21, 2007

A Runner's Letter to Santa

As a point of clarification for people who have recently found this blog – I write a twice-monthly column for my hometown newspaper, the Monterey County Herald, on the subject of running. Most of the articles are fairly generic advice geared toward novice runners, but occasionally they take a more creative turn, or have a wider application to other sports. In those cases, I republish the articles here on my blog.

The following article is becoming an annual tradition, as this is the third such letter I’ve written. I figure as long as there’s a Santa Claus, it never hurts to ask for some things I’d like. And who knows – one of these years, I just might get everything I ask for.

**

TO: Santa Claus
LOCATION: North Pole

Dear Santa,

I hope this letter finds you well, and that your final preparations for Christmas Eve are going smoothly.

I’m the running columnist from Monterey County who wrote you last year with a wish list of things that could make me a better runner. I’ve had a pretty good year, Santa – but I’ve also seen a lot of things that make me sad about the sport, and I’m hoping that you could somehow help me. Incidentally, many other sports face the same problems that running does, so if you can fix these things, you’d have the admiration of millions of sports fans around the world. (Not that you don’t have that already).

I believe in you, Santa, and I want to believe in my sports also. Unfortunately, this seems harder to do with each passing year. In light of this, would the following things be too much to ask?

The excitement of true fans: I used to love watching national collegiate or professional championship events, world championships and Olympics – but in recent years, I’ve grown pretty jaded. I’m at the point where I don’t know whether or not to appreciate the feats I witness on the TV screen anymore. I used to watch with a sense of awe and wonder – but now I just wonder. Maybe it’s because I’m lacking …

Faith in hard work: When I watched sports as a kid, there was an underlying premise that success was available to anyone with God-given talent and the willingness to work hard toward his or her goals. But lately, as top-level athletes in every sport get busted for various forms of cheating, it seems like skills and dedication are only part of the equation. It also makes me lose my …

Belief in records: Here’s how bad things have become: whenever I see a record get broken, or witness a performance for the ages, my first reaction isn’t to say, “Wow, I’m watching history!”, but to ask, “I wonder what he’s using?” This happens with alarming frequency in nearly every sport. Who was the last truly clean 100-meter dash world record holder, Tour de France champion, or baseball home run king? Nobody knows for certain – which makes every current and future record a cause for skepticism rather than celebration.

(Considering the previous three items, another request comes to mind … Santa, I know it sounds kind of Grinchy - but is there any way you could put Barry Bonds in jail for a while? The folks in charge of things down here don’t appear to be making much progress. I know this one’s a longshot, but figured I may as well ask.)

You know what might help, Santa? Maybe if we could get some …

Honesty from cheaters: Last week my newspaper printed a “naughty” list of 85 baseball players who are thought to have used drugs. Some players said they didn’t know what they were taking, and others said they were just trying to recover from injuries. Guess how many admitted intentional wrongdoing, Santa? Precisely zero.

Just once – just one time – this year, I’d like to hear someone who tests positive for performance enhancing drugs come out and say, “OK - you caught me. I was cheating, and I was wrong to do it. I’m just trying to compete against a lot of other guys I know who are also on the juice – and here are their names. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done it, and I’ll accept whatever punishment you decide is fair.” Could you imagine how refreshing that would be? What if we also had some …

Humility from professional athletes: Santa, don’t you think someone like Alex Rodriquez could just say, “You know what? I can live quite comfortably on $20 million per year instead of $27 million; why not use that leftover money to reduce admission prices by 10 bucks, or to give out free tickets to kids?”

Can you picture this? It could all be one small step towards restoring the notion of …

Athletes as role models: I’m thinking of runners in particular here. Remember a long time ago, when the most famous athletes in the world were Roger Bannister or Jim Ryun or Bill Rodgers? Nowadays, most people would have trouble naming an Olympic gold medalist in any distance event over the past 20 years. Running has completely fallen off the radar. But there are several young Americans today with world-class talent. Maybe if they become more popular, we might also see …

Respect for runners: It seems like there’s always been this notion that distance runners are the misfits of the athletic world, since they don’t often participate in more glamorous sports like football or basketball.

But take it from me, Santa: distance running is hard work. Cross-country is a brutal sport – and the runners are just as intense and competitive as any 220-pound linebacker. They push themselves beyond boundaries of pain that most other athletes dare not approach, and they do it almost anonymously. I’d just like more people to understand that.


Well, Santa, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Sorry to make this list so challenging, but I figured that I’d rather have some meaningful change than toys and gadgets that I don’t really need anyway. I know I can’t get everything I ask for, but anything you can do to make the world a better place for runners would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time, Santa. Have a safe flight on Christmas Eve!


Sincerely,

Donald B.
Carmel Valley, CA

7 comments:

Makita 12/21/07, 12:06 AM  

Love it! Love it! :D

Merry Christmas, Donald! May all your wishes come true.

Backofpack 12/21/07, 5:21 AM  

Dear Santa,
I want everything Donald wants. If I second his request, does that help?
Michelle

Wingman 12/21/07, 7:47 AM  

To regain some of that faith in hard work and love of the game check out some of the lower division college sports (division 2 or 3); sure the talent isn't as good and the kids aren't as fast but you'll see the passion and love you're seeking.

Addy 12/21/07, 1:56 PM  

Great letter :) I finally got all caught up on the blog! A belated congrats on the win :) Hope some of your christmas wishes come true!

David 12/21/07, 6:07 PM  

For as many runners as are out training every day you would think there would be a believably large enough audience of runner sports fans who would pay attention if editors gave running more love and inches .. on a regular basis.

Dying Water Buffalo 12/23/07, 7:31 PM  

bravo!

I like your touching on a bunch of relevant topics in the mainstream media. And I do think runners get respect, btw, although more of the "you're crazy" respect from afar... admiration tinged with fear :)

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) 12/24/07, 12:03 AM  

Great post, nice flow. I'm with you. But Don, didn't you ever wonder how Santa got so buff?

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