This week, staff writer Graham Rayman wrote a poignant cover story
about a group of African long-distance runners living in the Bronx who
travel around the country, chasing the modest prize money of marathons,
half-marathons, and running club championships.
To illustrate the piece, we asked Ethiopian runner Abiyot Endale to pose for the cover. Our art department explained to Endale’s coach what we planned to do: pose him in his racing kit, put a race number on him, and then use the race number as a backdrop to digitally place our headline.
For that headline, we ended up going with “Will Run For Food,” which was an apt way to refer to a story that contains lines like this: “While they could apply for work permits, few do because they are concerned it would damage their race fitness. And so they run and eat and run and sleep – and that is their life.”
Endale, however, let us know that he didn’t appreciate the headline, saying that he was unaware that the words would be put on his race number. He said he was “shocked, upset and insulted” by how it made him look. “I am so sorry to have so many people see this and not see me as a respected athlete,” he wrote. “I don’t know where the other words came from. I am so embarrassed and upset to see these words on my shirt and picture. I never saw this before. Is it a trick?”
No, Mr. Endale, there was no trick. Just our cheeky way of illustrating the fact that these talented athletes dedicate their lives to running long distances for small prizes, something we actually admire.