Would You Watch This Show?

The running industry continues to boom with no signs of stopping.  According to Running USA’s yearly publications, 518,000 people finished a marathon and a staggering 1.6 million completed the half marathon distance in 2011, with that number growing to 1.85 million in 2012.  These numbers are record highs, continuing a pattern that has remained consistent for the past three decades.  Every day more and more people are lacing up their trainers, finding local races and dedicating themselves to improving their fitness and cardiovascular health.  Large, popular races like the Chicago Marathon and Big Sur sell out faster each year, new races are being created at exponential rates and a quick search will yield countless blogs documenting race reviews.

Flip Burger after the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, AL

Flip Burger after the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, AL

And that’s not even counting shorter distances.  Running USA’s yearly “State of the Sport” report shows that almost 14 million people ran a race of any distance in 2011, a record number that still does not count fun runs and organized training runs that don’t require registration.  With the half marathon growing fastest at 16%, it is clear that a huge swath of runners are challenging themselves beyond the typical neighborhood 10K.

Given the sport’s explosion in popularity over the last thirty years, we can safely say this is far from a fad.  Long-distance running is here to stay, a staple of our time.  But there are virtually no shows on mainstream television about endurance racing.  Either that, or I have all the wrong channels (and a Google search for “tv shows running” or “tv show marathon” will yield all the wrong results).  So isn’t it time that we have a show that treats our sport with as much love and care as we display our race medals?  There are popular shows out there about storage lockers, meter maids and bearded dudes who hunt ducks.  Surely there has to be an audience for a show about distance running.  I can’t be the only loser who DVRs big-city races.

But let’s assume that a show strictly about running might not reach enough people.  After all, despite the growing number of marathon finishers, we’re still very much a tiny percentage of the population.  So let’s add a little something extra to the premise.  Let’s include a unique component that any person who exercises holds in especially high regard: the post-exercise meal.  But not just any meal.  Let’s eat a thick, juicy burger.

0613_2_kumasThis is “The Great Burger Race.”

Each episode will have three components.  One will deal with the many different and unique long-distance races in the United States and how they contribute to the sport of endurance running.  The race itself will function as a filter and a frame for the city in which the event is held, its history, its landmarks of particular importance, the people, famous and otherwise, who live in it and the businesses it hosts.  The second component includes the physiology of long distance running, both from a physical and nutritional standpoint.  The host will talk about what it means to carbo-load, why fats are good to have in your arsenal, and how much protein to eat after hard efforts.  The third and last component will happen after the race, where the host visits a local restaurant and eats its signature burger, showing that in order to earn the calories you have to burn them first.

A typical episode may look like this:

Zombie Burger's "Planet Terror" after the IMT Des Moines Marathon

Zombie Burger’s “Planet Terror” after the IMT Des Moines Marathon

The host is in Des Moines, Iowa, sitting at Zombie Burger & Drink Lab with their signature sandwich front and center.  (S)he stares at the camera and describes its ingredients, what makes it stand out, and how badly (s)he wants to eat it.  But that can’t happen yet, because we have yet to run the IMT Des Moines Marathon; hasn’t yet burned to earn.

At this point, the host will talk briefly about the race, when it is usually held, and its history.  (S)he may interview the race director and get insight on what makes this race special or how it reflects the unique charm of the city, attempting to describe the je ne sais quoi that separates the race from others.  In order to profile the race course, the host will talk about the city – who lives there, what kinds of businesses thrive, how fast or slowly it has grown in recent decades.  Perhaps there’s a famous local who is vying for the top spot, or a charity runner with a touching story.  Locals – runners or otherwise – will chime in with their own takes on the city and why they have chosen to live there.

The Rising Sun at Holstein's Las Vegas after the Hoover Dam Marathon

The Rising Sun at Holstein’s Las Vegas after the Hoover Dam Marathon

The host can then transition into a relevant component of long-distance running and its effect on the body.  For example, if the race has a big hill in the middle, the show can talk about what an incline can do to the buildup of lactic acid in a runner’s legs and how it affects perceived effort.  There are no shortage of topics that can affect race performance, such as climate, surface type, elevation, altitude, apparel, nutrition and training strategies.  From there, he/she can give advice on how to best deal with hilly courses by talking to experts and demonstrating specific exercises.

On race day, the host will introduce the race to the viewers, showing them a glimpse of the course map and what they can expect for the next 13.1 or 26.2 miles.  Cameras will follow the host as (s)he attempts to finish the race, giving insight at key points that deserve them.  The show can also splice in the lessons learned in the previous segment as they are tackled on race day.  In the current example, as the host reaches the hill, we can recapitulate the lessons learned about hill training and how they would contribute to successfully climbing and descending rolling terrain.

Central BBQ's Burger in Memphis after the Tupelo Marathon

Central BBQ’s Burger in Memphis after the Tupelo Marathon

As the host finishes the race, we get brief, spontaneous insights on what it felt like to run this race versus others.  It is the segment of the show where the race director’s statements from the previous day are evaluated.  But there is little time to devote to this, because any long-distance runner becomes ravenous very quickly after such a hard effort.  At this point, it’s time to eat.

We return to Zombie Burger, where it’s time to consume a hearty sandwich as a much-deserved prize.  At this point, we can discuss the value proposition of this particular restaurant.  What makes this establishment stand out?  Is it their interior design, designed by a horror enthusiast?  Is it their menu, which draws on classic horror movies for its burger names?  Maybe it’s the eponymous “zombie sauce.”  All of these are potential subjects to discuss as the host wolfs down the meal.

Shrimp Po' Boy (doesn't have to always be a beef burger) at New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood after the RNR NOLA Marathon

Shrimp Po’ Boy (doesn’t have to always be a beef burger) at New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood after the RNR NOLA Marathon

“The Great Burger Race” ends with a brief summary.  We came to Des Moines, ran a hilly marathon and ate a horrifically good burger.  We learned about what hills do to perceived effort, learned how to deal with it, and conquered the challenges.  Finally, we treated ourselves to a delicious burger because we just burned upwards of 1,500 calories for a half marathon or 3,000 for the full distance.  The host thanks everyone for watching “The Great Burger Race,” the race director for a job well done, the restaurant owner for a worthy meal and the citizens of Des Moines for welcoming us to their city.

The overall point of the concept is to showcase unique races throughout the United States and show that earning the meal can be just as fun as eating it.  After all, despite the increase in participants at these events, obesity indices in the United States, despite leveling off for the first time in decades, are still deleteriously high.  This allows for the possibility to teach viewers that you can have a healthy relationship with otherwise fatty and heavy indulgences as long as you are willing to put the time and training necessary to counterbalance them.

Bluegrass Brewing's Kentucky Bison Smokehouse Burger after the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon

Bluegrass Brewing’s Kentucky Bison Smokehouse Burger after the Kentucky Derby miniMarathon

Suggestions for themes may include the following: sustainability and green initiatives (Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Austin Marathon in Austin, Texas); picturesque scenery (Madison Montana Marathon in the Gravelly Mountains of Montana, Big Sur International Marathon in California); technical difficulty (XTERRA Trail Races nationwide, the Leadville Heavy Half Marathon in Leadville, Colorado, the all-downhill Tucson Marathon in Arizona), etc.  As there is no shortage of races, the show would have great flexibility in its scheduling and content.

For future seasons, viewers can vote online for which burger they deem the best in their own cities, in addition to voicing their opinions on which races should be covered in future installments.

Philly Cheesesteak from Steve's Prince of Steaks after the Philadelphia Marathon

Philly Cheesesteak from Steve’s Prince of Steaks after the Philadelphia Marathon

But no show would happen unless there are people watching it.  So the titular question remains: would you watch this show?  This idea is basically a pipedream that I decided to carefully flesh out but I want to know what you think.  Even though the majority of my regular readers are diehard runners and I want to assume they would, it’s possible that I’m wrong.  Is this concept is too scatterbrained?  Do you think the logistical handlings of each episode would be too expensive for a show that ultimately caters to a niche crowd?  Are you angry that this isn’t already on TV?

Could I be onto something here?