Gatekeeping and Bike Locking

Gatekeeping and Bike Locking
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Happy Friday! What's good?

I'll have a longer essay on Monday about my half marathon – about the race and the (mostly) technology-free training block. But I did want to make one related observation: Sunday's race had over 8200 finishers, up from 5900 the year before. That's huge! And that's amazing! And that increase is indicative of the trend I've noted here several times: the growing popularity of running, particularly endurance running.

Indeed, this week the London Marathon received a record number of applications for its 2025 race: 840,000 – up from 578,000 for this year's event. While the Women's Half Marathon that I ran was able to handle an almost 40% increase in participants – and I'll have more to say about how well this actually worked in Monday's essay – many events like the London Marathon are already at capacity. (Over 53,000 runners finished the race last weekend – a record number for the event, surpassing NYC as the largest marathon in the world.)

It's already very difficult to get into some of these marquee events – "the world majors" in particular – which do offer a variety of entryways, including time qualifying, raising money via a charity, and entering a lottery. But this growing interest in marathoning, particularly among people who are new to the sport, seems to have many runners frustrated about their own chances at getting to participate in these big events.

The average time to complete a marathon has increased as endurance running has become more popular. (Meanwhile, the times of the winners of these races has fallen.) Even just a decade ago, those who laced up their shoes for 26.2 miles were more likely to be young (that is, under 40) and male and many had long careers in running – in high school or in college. But that is changing – according to RunRepeat, almost 30% of current runners started running during the pandemic.

For all the talk that "anyone can be a runner" and "everyone is welcome, at any pace," this increased demand for spots in races seems to have exacerbated the gatekeeping tendencies already so strong in the sport. I've heard all sorts of grumbling this week – all sorts of proposals that would make it harder for older people, slower people, newer runners, mothers to race. And if nothing else, it's a reminder that despite all the lip service paid to "community," that for many people, exercise is really just about their body, their needs alone. (Of course, I can't help but wonder how much all of the health technology and fitness gadgetry reinforces this.)

Elsewhere in running (and running-related technology): you can now run (part of) the NYC Marathon course on your Peloton. I mean, 26.2 miles on the treadmill would be tough, so thankfully this is broken up into five 30-minute sections that apparently includes the inclines for the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge at the start and those rolling hills in Central Park at the end. On the other coast, Kate Landau (age 47) won the Eugene Marathon in 2:40:52. And as we gear up for the Summer Olympics in Paris, Kenya has announced its marathon team. Unlike, say, the US which holds trials where athletes compete for spots on the team, those representing Kenya are selected by a committee. As such, there was a lot of speculation about who'd be chosen, not just because of the tragic death of world record holder Kelvin Kiptum but because the defending gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge (age 39) hasn't raced well lately. Peres Jipchirchir, who just set the women's only world record in London, and Helen Obiri, who just won the Boston Marathon, are also on the team. And as we gear up for summer in general, let The Verge sing the praises of the "tragically misunderstood" drinking fountain button.

What's new at the gym: The New York Times asks "Is Hyrox the new CrossFit?" (Hyrax is a race + functional fitness challenge that started in Germany in 2017 but has spread worldwide. And like the events above, tickets to these are selling out very fast.) The Washington Post looks at the 50+ bomb threats to Planet Fitness: "How an inclusive gym brand became a battlefield over LGBTQ+ rights."

Via Self: "We Asked a Psychologist Why So Many Average Men Think They Can Beat a Top Female Athlete in Her Sport."

Elsewhere in average men: Virginia Sole-Smith writes about "Huberman Husbands." On the heels of a Style profile in The New York Times, The Guardian too has things to say about what's changed with Mark Zuckerberg's "look." (I'm just recalling all the profiles before the 2016 elections that tried to showcase how dapper members of the Alt-Right supposedly were and wondering why the hell some in the media never learn.)

Speaking of propaganda, the NYPD tried to argue that their violent crackdown on students at Columbia was necessitated by the heavy duty chains used to barricade the doors. "This is not what students bring to school," the deputy commissioner told the press. Actually, it turns out these chains were, in fact, the very mechanism that the university had suggested that students useeven sold to students – to protect their bicycles in a city renowned for bike theft.

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In other health technology news: Health journalist Rina Raphael has said to watch the beverage industry embrace "wellness," and I think we're certainly seeing that – not just in the whole "hydration" hype, but in what Outside Magazine calls "functional soda alternatives." Curbed profiles "the $10,000 a month 'Wellness Social Club'" here in NYC that seems to feature all the gadgets and gizmos and snake-oil treatments: AI, IV, cryotherapy, scan, bloodwork, grow lights. Meditation app Headspace has launched text-based "mental health coaching," which it positions as an alternative to therapy. Unionized nurses in San Francisco have been protesting the "deeply troubling" use of AI in hospitals.

So, more demand for races. More interest in sports – watching and doing. More high-tech gadgets and fitness-centered snacks. Meanwhile this week, layoffs at Peloton (following similar news in recent weeks from Lululemon and Nike).

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