A Runner's Letter to Santa

To: Santa Claus
Location: North Pole

Dear Santa,

We hope this letter finds you well, and that your final preparations for Christmas Eve are going smoothly.

Hopefully you remember us as the running columnists from Monterey County who wrote you last year with a wish list of things that could make us better runners. We’ve had a pretty good year, Santa – but we’ve also seen a lot of things that make us sad about our favorite sport, and we’re hoping that you could help us somehow this year. Incidentally, many other sports face the same problems that running does, so if you can fix these things, you’d have the admiration of millions of sports fans around the world. (Not that you don’t have that already).

We believe in you, Santa, and we want to believe in our sport also. Unfortunately, this seems harder to do with each passing year. In light of this, would the following things be too much to ask?

The excitement of true fans: We used to love watching national collegiate or professional championship events, world championships and Olympics – but in recent years, we’ve grown pretty jaded. We’re at the point where we don’t know whether or not to appreciate the feats we witness on the TV screen anymore. We used to watch with a sense of awe and wonder – but now we just wonder. Maybe it’s because we’re lacking …

Faith in hard work: When we watched sports as kids, there was an underlying premise that success was available to anyone with God-given talent and the willingness to work hard toward his or her goals. But lately, as top-level athletes in every sport get busted for various forms of cheating, it seems like skills and dedication are only part of the equation. It also makes us lose our …

Belief in records: Here’s how bad things have become: whenever we see a record get broken, or witness a performance for the ages by a star athlete, our first reaction isn’t to say, “Wow, I’m watching history!”, but to ask, “I wonder what he’s using to perform so well.” This happens with alarming frequency in nearly every sport. Who was the last truly clean 100-meter dash world record holder, Tour de France champion, or baseball home run king? Nobody knows for certain – which makes every current and future record a cause for skepticism rather than celebration.

(Considering the previous three items, another request comes to mind … Santa, we know it sounds kind of Grinchy - but is there any way you could put Barry Bonds in jail for a while? The folks in charge of things down here don’t appear to be making much progress. We know this one’s a longshot, but figured we may as well ask.)

You know what might help, Santa? Maybe if we could get some …

Honesty from cheaters: Last week our newspaper printed a “naughty” list of 85 baseball players who are thought to have used drugs. Guess how many admitted intentional wrongdoing, Santa? Precisely zero.

Just once – just one time – this year, we’d like to hear someone who tests positive for performance enhancing drugs come out and say, “You know what? You caught me. I was cheating, and I was wrong to do it. I did it because I’m trying to compete against a lot of other guys I know who are also cheating – and here are their names. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done it, and I’ll accept whatever punishment you decide is fair.” Could you imagine how refreshing that would be? What if we also had some …

Humility from professional athletes: Santa, don’t you think someone like Alex Rodriquez could just say, “Honestly, I can live quite comfortably on 20 million per year instead of 27 million; why not use the leftover money to reduce admission prices by 10 bucks, or to give free tickets out to kids?

Can you imagine this? It could all be one small step towards restoring the notion of …

Athletes as role models: We’re thinking of runners in particular here. Remember a long time ago, when the most famous athletes in the world were Roger Bannister or Jim Ryun or Bill Rodgers? Nowadays, most people would have trouble naming an Olympic gold medalist in any distance event over the past 20 years. Running has completely fallen off the radar. But there are several young Americans today with world-class talent. Maybe if they become more popular, we might also see …

Respect for runners: It seems like there’s always been this notion that distance runners are the misfits of the athletic world, since they don’t often participate in more glamorous sports like football or basketball.

But take it from us, Santa: distance running is hard work. Cross-country is a brutal sport – and the runners are just as intense and competitive as any 220-pound linebacker. They push themselves beyond boundaries of pain that most other athletes dare not approach, and they do it almost anonymously. We’d just like more people to understand that.

Well, Santa, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Sorry to make this list so challenging, but we figured that we’d rather have meaningful change rather than toys and gadgets that we don’t really need anyway. We know we won’t get everything we ask for, but anything you can do to make the world a better place for runners would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time, Santa. Have a safe flight on Christmas Eve!

Sincerely,

Mike and Donald
Monterey County, CA

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