Recommended Listen: On Point With Tom Ashbrook Takes A Look At The Challenges US Runners Face In The Marathon

Guests: Bill Rodgers Shines As Scott Douglas Dismisses Alberto Salazar's Obsession With Form

November 11, 2010

Looking for a podcast to listen to this weekend? Well, we highly recommend Tuesday's episode of NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook, which took a look at whether anything can be done to get Americans consistently in the winner's circle in major marathons.

The show focused heavily on Jennifer Khan's recent New Yorker piece, entitled The Perfect Stride, on Alberto Salazar's efforts to change Dathan Ritzenhein's stride leading up to the 2010 ING New York City Marathon.

As for the radio show, the guests on the show for the whole 45 minutes were Khan and Running Times editor Scott Douglas. It  was good that Douglas was on the show, as he consistently was dismissive of the idea that changing anyone's form was a good idea and thus he battled with Khan and the host throughout and this made things interesting.

One of the classic lines of the show came near the 37:20 mark of the show when Douglas responded to a caller who pointed out that form changes were credited for being a major reason as to why Lance Armstrong suddenly started winning the Tour de France.

Douglas wasn't fazed by the caller at all and didn't back down. He started his response by making a very well-disguised inference that perhaps drugs resulted in Lance Armstrong's Tour de France wins before unleashing this incredible zinger:

Running doesn't have the tweek-a-gadget type thing and that's sort of why people admire Salazar but sort of view him as the weird uncle - lovable but a little goofy. The factor determining whether Dathan Ritzenhein wins the New York City marathon isn't how he holds his thumbs or whether he has a cryosauna the day before.

Four time Boston and New York City marathon winner Bill Rodgers, who came onto the show about halfway through, was the star of the show, however, in our opinion. He, like Douglas, seemed largely dismissive of the idea that Salazar's obsession with form changes is going to result in big dividends. However, the enormous respect that Rodgers has for what Salazar is trying to do was apparent throughout the show. Rodgers shined in our minds because throughout he came across as incredibly knowledgeable and yet non-judgmental on whatever topic he was talking about, whether it be changing one's form, minimalist shoes or the success of the Africans. Moreover, Rodgers also was one of the few who had the attitude that it wasn't the end of the world if Americans don't win - it's simply noble to try our hardest to do it as it's an incredibly difficult task to accomplish.

Case in point was the way how Bill ended the show at the 44 minute mark:

"Tradition is a big thing and that's a challenge we have to overcome - the Ethiopian and Kenyan tradition (of success). Though I take my hat off to them - they are great champions.

Runners like Dathan - he's a great athlete, but I would say one thing about the marathon in particular, 'You have to expect to fail, too.' I dropped out of eight marathons in my quest to win.

I mean sometimes you get beat up. I think he (Dathan) ran a strong race but think he's going to run much better in the future.

So much knowledge in a few sentences. In a day and age when if your team doesn't win the Super Bowl, the whole season is viewed as a failure or if you get the silver medal, you are called the first loser, it was incredibly refreshing to hear someone embrace what one learns when they lose.

After the Rodgers line, the host, Tom Ashbrook, revealed why he is a professional radio host, as he came up with arguably the best description in history of Bill Rodgers - even better than "Boston Bill," as he called Rodgers: "The great Bill Rodgers - dropped out of 8 but won 22."

We highly recommend the show. It's definitely worth downloading to your itune.

If you want more info on the show, check out the following links:

1) Click here to find out more about the show, comment about it on the NPR website or to listen to it via your browser.
2) Click here to be taken to the podcast page or the MP3 file can be played/downloaded here.
3) LRC MBoard Talk: NPR's OnPoint has a show on U.S. Distance Running Today w/ Bill Rodgers

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