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The Marathon Race

Baker Lee • FOH at LargeMay 2021 • May 7, 2021

Illustration by John Sauer –

When running any marathon race, it’s important to pace oneself so that there is something left at the end to carry the runner across the finish line. The winners always make it in record time with all others finishing the race in varying times. As it turns out, fewer than 25 percent of runners have run marathons in less than four hours. The fastest times for the 26-mile endurance test is 2:01:39 set in Berlin in 2018 by Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. The record for the slowest time is held by Shizo Kanakuri, a Japanese athlete who started out at the Stockholm Olympic games in 1912 and finished the race 54 years, eight months, six days, five hours and 32 minutes later at the age of 75. It’s an interesting story, as Shizo was not a slow runner and was the favorite to win at the time. When asked about the experience he said, “It was a long trip. Along the way, I got married, had six children and ten grandchildren.”

Of course, the two mentioned runners are the extremes of the 26-mile endurance test and, for the most part, the average time for an experienced runner to finish the race is between four and five hours. The length of time for a marathon race is usually around six hours although the New York City Marathon can extend to eight hours depending upon one’s start time. The marathon is a grueling test of one’s fortitude and stamina and not everyone finishes, even if given an eight-hour window. Some determined runners stagger in hours after the official closing time, while other’s fail to finish due to injuries or exhaustion. Friends of mine who have run marathon races have told me that the hardest part of the race is between the 18- and 23-mile mark. When the body starts to break down, negativity starts creeping into one’s thoughts: “So close, yet so far away;” “I can’t do this;” “My time is off, I need to pick it up, but I’m so tired;” or “I’ve made it farther than I expected. I can stop now and consider it a success.” In the words of the late, great Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

‡‡         The Great Marathon of 2020/2021

Greatness is an outcome of diligence and belief and most great accomplishments stem from overcoming adversity and having the resilience and discipline to see something through to the end, whether it’s a marathon race or a pandemic quarantine. Spring and good weather is upon us, the vaccine is available and venues are reopening. It feels as though we may be able to complete this marathon that we’ve been running for over a year. Even though we’re all exhausted, it’s amazing that we’ve come so far. Doubt and negativity may start to overcome the feeling of success in some, while others will revel at their triumph — but let’s not be fooled. Now is not the time to stop running, now is not the time to give up or give in to negative thought. Now is not the time to throw one’s hands up in a victory wave. Although the finish line appears to be close, it may be farther than it seems. Now is the time to persevere and pace ourselves so we can successfully conclude the race.

Not making sudden moves or rash decisions may be sage advice, but even after we cross the supposed finish line there will be residual effects that may take a while to overcome. For many audio companies, this marathon of inactivity has taken its toll, thereby creating a lack of funds for purchasing new technology or, for that matter, even maintaining existing gear in inventory. Unfortunately, this does not mean that new technology has ground to a halt: When bands start to tour and perform again, the sound crews will, of course, be requesting the latest and greatest pieces of new equipment. The problem for audio providers has been compounded by not being able to sell off old gear to help defray the cost of the new. This then sets them back even more since they will be saddled with the outdated equipment as they try to update and upgrade their inventories.

Many of the companies to whom I have spoken are, not unexpectedly, tight with money even though they are beginning to work again. As expected, cash flow for these companies has been cut to a trickle and they are still working with their pre-lockdown inventory. Not that pre-lockdown inventory is a bad thing, but there are pieces that have reached the end of their digital life and there are other pieces that require updates. Fortunately, many of the manufacturers have maintained and have progressed with new or newly updated technology.

‡‡         Paradoxically Speaking

Unfortunately, for many rental houses, a year of inactivity means that they have fallen behind in regard to purchasing new gear and updating the old. One year is a long stretch in digital time and the console one might own that was just beginning to fade into obscurity a year ago has now completely fallen off most riders. The wireless units that were reaching the end of their frequency range last March are now in desperate need of replacement. Companies that require new gear just to stay ahead of the curve and compete for the next few years will have to put those purchases on hold until a new revenue stream has been established.

It’s a Catch-22 of sorts, as the new revenue stream cannot be established until the new gear has been purchased. So, while the springtime, good weather, vaccines and re-opening of venues has brought most of the live audio world within two miles of this marathon’s finish line, those in the rental side of the business may just be hitting the 18-to-23 mile mark. It’s been a long race, and exhaustion has set in. If we can just hold out, push through and not succumb to the negativity or the urge to sprint too early, we might just be able to cross the finish line. We may not make it in record time and might even come in after everyone else has crossed the finish line, but I believe that we can call it a success if we can just finish the race.

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