Rio 2016: Make Televised Running Great Again

The 2016 Summer Games are upon us! This means America’s daily dosage of Bob Costas is about to increase 10,000%. It also means athletes from around the world will spend the next few weeks in Brazil trying to reach the goals and dreams they’ve be chasing for years while also trying to avoid contaminated water, muggers, and the Zika Virus.

And while there may be millions of people who actively love the Olympic Games, I must confess that I am not one of them. They’re fine, I suppose. But their appeal seems to have more to do with schmaltzy profiles than actual excitement. I guess it’s kind of remarkable that a poor, orphaned Bulgarian woman with a learning disability can grow up to become the favorite to win the gold medal in badminton, I just don’t have any interest in watching her actually play badminton.

Other sports I have little interest in watching include, but are not limited to, table tennis, rhythmic gymnastics, canoe slalom (whatever the hell that is), archery, and… track and field.

That’s right. I’m a runner who doesn’t like to watch running.

Admittedly, some of the shorter distances can be mildly entertaining, but once you get to races higher than the 800m, I’m out. I mean, it’s incredible what these athletes are able to do I’m just not going to sit there and watch them do it. I can barely keep myself from falling asleep while I’m actually on a long run, watching skinny strangers tackle these distances is like watching paint dry.

Brazil Rio 2016 Mascots Named
Another Olympics means another round of disturbingly weird mascots.

That being said, there is one thing they could do to make long distance running more entertaining for people like me…

A little over a decade ago, poker became a phenomenon. Part of this trend was the televised coverage of tournaments like the World Series of Poker on networks like ESPN. What revolutionized the poker-on-TV craze was the introduction of tiny cameras that enabled the audience to see players’ hands. This allowed people at home to get into the head of the poker player. Having the same information as the participants allowed viewers to understand their decision making and wagering, which maximized the drama of each hand.

Perhaps in the near future a radical technological leap will open similar doors and make distance running more entertaining to consume. Specifically, I’d like the audience at home to have the ability to hear the thoughts of the runners.

Hearing the thoughts of runners as they compete could be endlessly entertaining. For one, we’d be able to know how they were approaching the course and what their game plan is. We could better understand their pacing strategies and how well they were succeeding mile by mile.

However, having a window into the world class marathon runner’s psyche is where the real drama would come from. After all, as the miles pile up and fatigue sets in, runners tend to ruminate on any number of things, mostly in the hope of tricking ourselves into forgetting how much our bodies hurt.

Fans could follow their favorite runner as his or her thoughts journey from the adrenaline rush of the race’s start to the thoughtful self-encouragement during the heart of the race to the clusterf@*k of rambling internal dialog that occurs when an exhausted athlete struggles to maintain both their physical and mental well-being.

Watching Stephen Kiprotich win gold was fun. But it’d be more fun if we could read his mind as he crossed the finish line.

I know what you’re thinking: Wouldn’t that be a massive invasion of privacy?

Yes. But what does privacy even mean these days? Between social networks, Russian hackers and Wikileaks, is any of life’s most valuable information really private anymore? Besides, this new wrinkle would just become part of the competition. Runners would have to train their bodies to endure long distances at great speeds, while also training their minds to not think about how their parents’ divorce drove them to run and ruined any chance of them having a healthy relationship.

The good news for you privacy enthusiasts is that we don’t currently have any high-tech way to read peoples’ thoughts. The bad news is I’m pretty sure there are at least a dozen Silicon Valley startups currently trying to develop apps that could make my dream a reality.

Does suggesting such invasive changes to an Olympic event make me a bad person? Perhaps. I’m just looking for a way to get myself more invested in big time distance running and I’m pretty sure brain broadcasting would get me there.

But admit it… there’s a part of you that would really like to know what goes through the minds of elite runners as they compete. It would comfort all of us runners a great deal to know that during a long, grueling race, the best in the world are just as crazed and exhausted as we are.

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