It happens like clockwork, and it happened again yesterday.
No, I’m not talking about the need to change the clocks on our stove twice a year, though that’s annoying, too. I’m talking about when a World Marathon Major is on TV, runners everywhere get excited to watch…. and the race commentating is barely even phoned in.
The poor coverage is consistent across races, networks and years, though never quite in the same way. On Sunday, we got to hear all about how former “stars” of both The Bachelor AND The Bachelorette were doing in their races, but no cameras following top Americans or fan favorites. Look, I’m all about a good inspirational story, but I would rather hear more about Roberta Groner and her quick turnaround from the IAAF World Championship Marathon to NYC as opposed to the real-life inspiration of Brittany Runs A Marathon.
If the race seems to be decisive early on (like when Brigid Kosgei dominated at Chicago), that’s basically all you get – look-ins and lots of chatter about records and armchair diagnosing of if the leader knows what she’s doing and can sustain the pace.
The commentary itself is always… well… let’s be generous and call it fair to middling, shall we? It’s often two guys with lots of the kind of jokes you’d expect to hear during, say, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “I couldn’t drive 26 miles, hardy har har!” Or they get sidetracked on things that aren’t about the pro race, or even worse, plugging their networks other shows. There was also a weird, too long discussion on whether it’s proper to say “runner-up of The Bachelor” because aren’t they all runners-up? Y’all, this is not a podcast by two randos talking about their burning pop culture thoughts. These are actual people paid to discuss the New York City Marathon.
Plus there are TONS of commercials, which, I’m no TV programming expert, but it seems like if those can be cut out during the World Cup, the same could apply here, right?
The addition of former professional runners to race commentating teams is a step in the right direction (yay, Shalane!), but her fellow analysts kept trying to drag her down into inanity. Her husband was running – interesting fact. Then they droned on about how he is twice her size and did she have any other relatives running. Dear God, just show me a freaking graphic with the top 10 instead of the scroll! Flanagan and field reporter Olympian Carrie Tollefson were underused greatly.
How do you think race coverage could be improved?