|Justin Lagat, Percy and Erin McDougall training at Proctor Park, photo by Brighton Events|
I am both a journalist and a runner and my experience, over time, in the two fields has thought me a lot. Before 2010, for example, before social media became more aggressive it was so frustrating to try and learn about and get some information on runners, especially the East African runners often referred to only as “a pack of Kenyans and Ethiopians at the front” even after winning major marathons out there. You would search about the results of the major race and find a lot written about a runner who finished 5th, 7th, 15th, 19th, etc, and nothing about the podium winners.
I did saw the need and an opportunity at that time and became a freelance journalist. Soon after, some big international magazines like the Competitor.com, the Thrive Sports, among others, were interested in my insight stories on the Kenyan athletes. I may have been a pioneer in letting the world know that there was a lot to write and learn about the Kenyan runners and soon more freelance journalists started traveling to Kenya to do Kenyan running experience journals, do interviews with the Kenyan runners and write about the training culture and places here.
This has resulted in the personification of many Kenyan runners and now the world can relate with them more as they learn about their daily lives, that they are fathers, mothers, students, police officers, among other things that anyone else can be in a society.
Well, it has also offered some job opportunities to some freelance journalists who can be asked to follow up on a particular athlete and do a story on them.
But, the question is: Who benefits more from the other?
There is no way the world will get a positive image of an athlete, what they do in the community, their projects and causes, how they relate with others in their day to day living unless a journalist does a story on that. This in turn will encourage more sponsors to support athletics and more fans to follow the sport. This will enhance the athlete’s position in the society and even their financial stability as this will open up many more ways for them to earn more.
It is only a journalist who will break down to a common person what the magnitude of what the athlete just achieved by winning a marathon by carrying them through their preparation and the … When people understand this, they respect the athletes more.
On the other hand, a journalist will not get paid for a story they would have done on the athlete. But, they may request to interview another individual instead, or even do the story on the athlete anyway without having to meet the athlete.
My final verdict is; whoever doesn’t see the benefit of the other may be like a cow running away from a farmer trying to rescue her from swallowing a plastic bag.