Becoming Comrades: A Podcast Series in the Making
This year I’m traveling to South Africa for the first time, with my husband. The impetus for the trip is Comrades, the world’s oldest, longest-running footrace. It’s a point-to-point event that traverses the 89 kilometers, or roughly 55 miles, between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Each year the race switches direction, and this year it begins in Durban. That makes it an “up” year, as it’s a net elevation gain. This mean that next year Comrades will start in Pietermaritzburg and will be a “down” year.
I am not running Comrades—this year; my husband is. I have, however, become so taken with this race, I have my sights set on running it in 2020. This year, I’m channeling my newfound obsession for the event into my other newfound obsession, audio storytelling, aka podcasting. I’ll be making podcasts about the race, with a focus on women.
Though my interest in Comrades is new, telling stories about women in sports goes way back to the beginning of my writing career, some twenty-plus years ago. It feels good to get back to that purpose—for myself, and because there is such a ridiculous imbalance regarding media coverage of female athletes, as compared to the attention males get.
Thank you to Alison Wade and her excellent weekly Fast Women newsletter for reminding me of how truly lopsided the situation (still) is. In a recent newsletter, Wade quoted the KQED article “While Women’s Soccer Fights Inequality in Court, Sexism Remains Rampant in Sports Media”: “Forty percent of sports participants are women, but they received only three to four percent of media coverage, and only one to two percent of the airtime on networks such as ESPN and Fox Sports.” In whatever small way I can, I want to weigh in on equalizing this absurdity.
I got a jump start on this podcast series—I’m provisionally calling it Becoming Comrades—with a short piece I did for an fantastic workshop I took at the PRX Podcast Garage, taught by Karen Givens of NPR’s Only A Game (a great show and podcast, about sports, hosted by a woman—that’d be Karen, and she’s excellent).
When I was doing my research, trying to figure out the story I wanted to tell, by some miracle of the Universe and the internet, I found Anjali Saraogi. She graciously agreed to an interview with this unknown American woman and fledgling podcaster—that’s me. Anjali lives in India, in Kolkata, and ran Comrades in 2017.
To know about Anjali’s running pursuits, she didn’t start running in a competitive way until 2015, and she was in her 40s. Most recently, she ran the 2019 Boston Marathon. I was grateful to get to meet her and her daughter when they were in town (the synchronicity of all this still astonishes me); the feature image of this post is of me (the “blonde”) and Anjali waiting for the train in Boston.
Anjali and her daughter are wonderful, and Anjali is fast: she clocked a marathon PR in Boston of 3:14.
Here’s the piece about Anjali’s Comrades run. Please have a listen (it’s about 7 minutes).
I want to thank the creators whose music is featured in this audio. The tracks and creators are as follows: “What Was That Spectacular Sound Productions” by Spectacular Sound Productions, “Fae” by Meydän, and “On the Clock” by Pictures of the Floating World (I looped portions of each track).
Comrades takes place June 9, 2019. I will provide updates here as the project progresses, and eventually I’ll make the podcast episodes available via all the regular podcast channels. I welcome any thoughts and feedback.