The past few weeks have got me thinking about expectations. Not from the athlete's point of view, but the fans'. We've had so many great performances over the past couple years that truly amazing marks are looked at with little more than a shrug.
Case in point: Galen Rupp ran 13:10.05 for a new PR last Saturday. The time moves him up to 8th all-time in the US. It was his first race in Europe this summer. And how much attention does the performance get? Not much. As I write in my latest article at Runner's Tribe, we've become so used to seeing home runs we've lost our appreciation for the guy who keeps knocking out single after single. Perhaps Galen Rupp is the Tony Gwynn of the steroid era.
Here's a snippet:
When I grew up, the advice I got playing baseball was not to try to hit home runs, but to just hit the ball hard. Put the ball in play and good things happen. Great hitters get lots of hits, not necessarily home runs.You can read the full article, including a list of my most memorable expectation-defying performances of the past two years, here.
This isn't so different from my former coach Bob Larsen's advice for becoming a great runner: Put yourself in position to have a good race every race (just hit the ball). Great runners don't run great and then run terribly, they consistently run well (hit the ball hard every time). Once in a while they may really hit one and get a PR (home runs aren't the goal, they just happen).
Maybe today's runners didn't play baseball. Or maybe they did. I don't think many of them are swinging for the fences. I think they are simply trying to hit the ball hard, and for whatever reason that's led to a bunch of grand slams of late. So many that it's almost begun to seem normal.
But it's not normal. It's fantastic, it's awesome, and it's a bit mind-blowing but it's so not normal.
We've seen so many out-of-nowhere great performances that when Galen Rupp runs 13:10 in his European opener, it doesn't even get bold font on the LetsRun homepage. Two years ago it would have been a lead item and the forum might have gone down. But today it gets one of two responses: a shrug or a hyper-critical analysis of why it wasn't good enough! What a difference two years makes!