Agreed that running is an occupation for professional runners.
Somewhere in a different context, I heard the term “sports slaves”, and thought there was some validity to that idea. They run, so we can watch. It’s fun for slow white people to watch fast Kenyans run. Kinda like being on safari, right?
And if one top kenyan dies or gets injured, someone else is right there to take their place. I mean, it’s not as though we really even keep track of them, with their interchangeable names. Like, I kinda forget how the succession of female Kiplagats went, historically. Was it Edna Kiplagat, who was at the top of the sport when I was in college? Or . . . Lorna? Or . . . Wasn’t there a Florence Kiplagat?
Furthermore, i DO suspect that doping is part of the performance. Watching someone drag their heavy legs to the finish in the last few miles, is vicariously painful to watch. But watching people cruise like a gazelle is superfun. It makes running look fun. When they are living in liver failure, they won’t be on the international stage anymore anyways, right?
I was watching one of the German road races a few years ago — I think it was the frankfurt marathon —where the “top german” was an Ethiopian-born woman with german citizenship, name Fata Tola. And she was sick with a cold or something, but lined up at the starting line all the same, presumably to try to collect the appearance fee, and/or whatever lesser prize money is available to top german finisher. And she couldn’t do it; she was sick. She dropped out after running several miles of the race.
But she was making every effort, to support herself and/or her family, as a sub-elite with a poorly timed cold. I don’t know why that race stands out for me, but it does.