A few of you out there are familiar with my previous secret identity, Running Pol. Prior to the challenge to attempt a triathlon, Running Pol lived a double life engaging both marathon training and political issues. I had readers from both walks of life, and a few who share my passion for both. As triathlons entered the mix, I decided to leave politics and debate out of the picture. Well, mostly.
Sometimes, however, a situation requires attention. Nancy Toby posted an entry that has generated quite a bit of feedback. Oddly enough, it also generated some publicity. The author of the article to which she refers, Michael Boyle, caught wind of her post and a public relations campaign ensued. I'm unsure if everyone who posted a comment received e-mails, but the support team at Boyles' forum has sent me a couple, primarily aimed at defending the lack of communications channels with Mr. Boyle.
Mr. Boyle, showing great respect for Nancy's arguments, felt justified in posting a response on his column. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough respect to provide a link to Nancy's site. He then proceeds to throw logic flaw after logic flaw out in an attempt to defend his rather tenuous position.
Mr. Boyle provides this explanation for why Nancy responded negatively to his original post, "Oftentimes people read what they want to read. They interpret it through a personal lens. Nancy took my article as an attack on her and those like her." He assumes that a great deal of interpretation was done while reading his column. If there is, he must also note that every comment I've seen came to the same conclusion. Either we are all poor at understanding what we read, or his column conveyed the wrong message. The message I received, though take with a grain of salt, is that he feels women are constructed poorly for participation in running events. While I will agree that men and women are constructed differently, I've had my butt kicked in marathons by too many women, many of whom he would encourage to not even run.
Want a nice red-herring argument? Here's one from Mr. Boyle. "The reality is that whether you are male or female, endurance-athlete training can lead to overuse injury. My point is that the female body type puts them at greater risk. Was my article intended to be a chauvinist rant aimed at demeaning women? No, exactly the opposite. It was meant as a word to the wise."
Okay, first, anyone who approaches endurance training without a healthy respect for the risks inherent with any exercise may be putting themselves in jeopardy. His "word to the wise," however, isn't that women (and men) should exercise caution in training. He states that most women shouldn't run. His comment, not mine.
Did you like that logic flaw? Why not go for two. Another quote from Mr. Boyle. "Here is another interesting thought for which I have only anecdotal support. The running and aerobics boom of the late seventies corresponded directly with a huge boom in the practice of physical therapy. More exercise led to more injuries in our more-is-better world. People weren't happy with a run. It had to be a Marathon."
This doesn't even qualify as anecdotal. Without statistical analysis, we can't even be sure that his comments are correlated. He wants to claim that the physical therapy boom of the 70s is a result of the running and aerobics boom. While that might have a causal relation to poor mechanics, I would contend a significant amount of research would be needed to prove that. First, it is likely that both men and women were seeking therapy, pulling support from his "women shouldn't run" theory. Second, there are a great many other variables that might be the cause of the physical therapy boom. Factors such as marketing and new diagnostic techniques likely helped fuel the surge.
What is most interesting to me is that Mr. Boyle continues to hide behind his support crew. The e-mail responses I received from my comment indicated he is too busy to personally handle all direct e-mail. With all the red herring floating around his column, I shouldn't be surprised to see them in e-mails. First, you can still have an assistant sort through personal mail. Second, he is authoring in a public forum. If he is unable or unwilling to deal with feedback, both positive and negative, perhaps he should stick to coaching those who find his arguments valid. He's welcome to his opinion. He just shouldn't expect others to suppress their's.