Editor’s View: Toronto radio host’s ‘jihad’ on marathons off course

If you believe shock jock Andrew Krystal, people in big cities shouldn't run or ride their bikes. Roads and downtown areas are for cars and condos.

If you believe shock jock Andrew Krystal, people in big cities shouldn’t run or ride their bikes. Roads and downtown areas are for cars and condos. So don’t even think about holding a marathon or any other type of road race in Canada’s largest city.

Call it the Leafs’ effect. Toronto’s beloved hockey team isn’t in the playoffs and, perhaps, in an effort to to fill the air time, Krystal, a sports radio host at the Fan 590, took aim at the city’s runners on Monday.

A day after the GoodLife Toronto Marathon, Krystal had marathoners squarely in his crosshairs, taking repeated shots during his afternoon call-in show. He ranted about how the marathon had snarled traffic for hours on Sunday, paralyzing the downtown core, bringing commerce to a halt (even the Toronto Stock Exchange was empty). Millions were either late for work or unable to visit sick family members because streams of sweaty runners took over the roads, he complained.

By the same logic, you might assume that Krystal also opposes the Santa Claus parade, Pride Parade and Caribana — events with significant economic and cultural spinoffs. What about the World Cup? Toronto didn’t even host a single match, yet there were traffic tie-ups in certain neighbourhoods at various times of the day. Many of which were completely unpredictable, unlike the road closures for a marathon, which were highly publicized weeks in advance. And, what if — wait for it — the Leafs actually won the Stanley Cup. You can forget the ticker tape parade since it would make it impossible to drive across Yonge St.

What about Toronto’s professional sports teams? Does Krystal hate them too? They cause regular traffic jams on the Gardiner and downtown streets each time there’s a game.

Krystal made it clear that he doesn’t oppose parades (World Cup celebrations might be a different story since it involves waving a flag that isn’t Canadian). He does, however, hate runners (almost as much as he hates cyclists).

“Why can’t you run somewhere else?” Krystal asked. While a series of yes men called Krystal’s show in solidarity, the few who disagreed were labelled as “morons” or “dopes.” If Krystal and the Fan 590 believed that the topic was worthy of a legitimate discussion, the host’s dismissive and arrogant tone didn’t foster an objective debate.

At one point, a caller suggested that runners prevented him from visiting his dying mother. Krystal agreed and, in a strange accusation, shouted at the audience, “you get a runner’s high from shutting down city streets and grandstanding. [Runners] are like little kids who want attention.”

“[Runners] want to be like Moses, and like parting the Red Sea,” Krystal added.

I’m not sure where Krystal gets his information, but I’ve been a runner for 16 years, and not once have I ever experienced a rush of endorphins from running on major roads just because they were blocking traffic. “Gee Mom, the feeling of competing in a race is great, but it’s nothing compared to the high I get when put on my Moses robe and turn cars away at Yonge St.”

Marathons must be held in the city’s core to showcase the attractions and allow access to public transit. Look at Berlin, Chicago, New York, London — their marathons are signature events for their cities and they don’t run the races in rural farmland. It’s meant to be a road race, which means it must be run entirely on pavement. Not on grass. Not on dirt. Not on trails. What about running 20 laps of a road loop in Bolton? Or 10 laps around High Park? Few runners — especially tourists — would ever want to do that.

While Krystal is a prominent host on one of Canada’s top sports radio stations, his lack of knowledge about distance running is palpable.

The economic impact of Toronto’s two marathons is pegged at between $15-25 million each. If you want to move the marathons elsewhere, those profits will leave the city too.

I suppose if fewer people did the marathons, there might be fewer headaches for drivers, and Krystal would be happy. But would we be a healthier society? The thousands of people running down city streets creates a major event, giving people a goal to train towards. If we didn’t have such an event, many people would never put on their running shoes to begin with. That’s an even larger problem than the shin splints and back problems that Krystal suggested come from these kinds of races.

Krystal complained that marathons are happening too frequently in Toronto, “all the time,” he said. That’s just plain wrong. There are only two marathons in Toronto — Goodlife in the spring, and Scotiabank in the fall. (Until this year, both used to be in the fall.) It’s likely that Krystal was referring to the Sporting Life 10K, which blocked off Yonge St. for a few hours on May 1. But a 10K is not a marathon. Once again, that speaks to his ignorance about the sport. Frankly, a sports-radio personality should know better.

Krystal might also be interested in knowing that one of his favourite guests, Fan 590 basketball commentator Jack Armstrong, was recently featured in Canadian Running as a celebrity runner. Armstrong has run seven marathons. I wonder if Krystal now hates him too.