Track Radio

In a year without an Olympic Games or World Championships, one of the highlights of the summer for Track & Field fans is the IAAF Junior World Championships, taking place in Eugene this week. I admit, I’ve never paid much attention to the JWC’s, but the presence of well-known athletes who would likely be running in the Senior WC’s (I’m talking to you, Mary Cain) has piqued my interest.

It figures that live video coverage of the events is hard to come by. My cable company doesn’t offer Universal Sports and I’m unwilling to subscribe to the Dish Network or whatever it is that I would need, so I’m basically out of luck. Why this is so — why I’m able to watch fly fishing and moto-cross at any time day or night, or stream coverage of obscure college sports but can’t watch one of the biggest track meets of the year — well, that’s the subject for a different blog post.

Luckily, while I was busy pouting in front of my computer, staring at the meet schedule on the IAAF web site, I noticed a link to something called IAAF Radio. Sure enough, clicking on a link gave me a live stream, with commentary from a trio of well-informed and knowledgeable British announcers.

I quickly realized that Track Radio is way better than hitting refresh again and again and waiting for results.

For one thing, who doesn’t love listening to British announcers call a Track and Field race? It doesn’t matter if it’s a preliminary heat of the 400 hurdles or someone’s fifth attempt in the javelin; the announcers make it sound like it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in Athletics since Jesse Owens took on the Third Reich in Berlin.

And then there’s the language itself, similar to American English in many ways but with an idiom that I find adds immeasurably to my enjoyment of the events.

  • In a sprint race, the athletes aren’t “in the blocks,” they’re “under starter’s orders.”
  • In a distance race, the pace doesn’t merely “get faster,” it “hots up.”
  • 5000m runners biding their time are “untroubled.” Good jumps and throws are described as “massive.”
  • A good kick is “a brilliant turn of pace.”
    (In fact, everything good is described as “brilliant!”)

I could go on and on. Maybe I’m just another closet Anglophile, but I just think Track and Field sounds much better in British English.

Finally, there’s something charming about hearing American athletes described as if from a distance. NBC always thought that an American audience would want to get up close and personal with each and every American medal hope, as though we needed our athletes to be as familiar as our next door neighbors. I think this is wrong. I think it’s more fun — and definitely more inspiring — to hear Mary Cain described as “the American middle distance prodigy, already a force on the senior level.” Now that’s stature.

Of course, if they started televising the meet tomorrow, I’d probably switch to watching instead of listening. I’d gripe, but in the end subject myself to clueless NBC announcers mis-identifying runners in the final straight. Or maybe not. When I was a kid, I used to listen to Red Sox games on the radio and rarely watched them on television. I realized not long ago that I don’t really like watching baseball on TV.

Maybe I’ll try tuning in to IAAF radio late tonight, lying in bed with the volume low, listening to the play-by-play as I drift off to sleep.

It will be brilliant.

About Jon Waldron

Running and Racing have been important parts of my life for as long as I can remember. I ran Track and Cross Country at Amherst HS, back in the day, and am proud to have been training and competing with the Cambridge Sports Union (CSU) for more than thirty years. If my bones hold out, I hope to continue for another thirty. Sixteen years ago, I began coaching, first as an Asst. Coach at Newton North HS in Newton, MA, and for the past ten years, as Head Track and Cross Country Coach at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. I've been writing about running for almost as long as I've been running, dating back to high school, when I would write meet summaries for the Amherst Record for about $0.33 per column inch. I've been blogging about running since 2005, and began blogging at "the runner eclectic" in 2014. Until recently I also had a day job, working full-time as a Technical Product Manager for Nuance Communications, based in Burlington, MA. But I am now on what might turn out to be a permanent sabbatical. Thank you for reading my blog, and please consider leaving a comment.
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