ESPN debuted “The Running Man,” the latest series in its storytelling feed, “ESPN Investigates,” today. The four-part series tells the story of an obscure former Olympian and alleged serial sexual predator, Conrad Avondale Mainwaring – and the 13-month ESPN investigation by the “Outside the Lines” team that brought him out of the shadows. It’s the tale of more than 50 men who say that, over the course of the past 40-plus years, they were physically abused and mentally manipulated by their “coach” and how they banded together, decades later, to find justice. A video documentary based on this investigation for “E:60” won a 2020 Sports Emmy Award, while a written version garnered multiple national awards and is included in the 2020 volume of The Best American Sports Writing. All four episodes of the podcast are available now on the ESPN App, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and wherever podcasts are available.
“’The Running Man’ podcast is as much a tale of the remarkable courage of dozens of men as it is an investigation into a terrifyingly adept con artist. We’d never worked on a story quite like it, and we’re hoping you’ll be as consumed as we were by the crazy confluence of events that led to the unmasking of a serial sexual predator,” said ESPN investigative reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada. “This kind of storytelling gives us the chance to take you inside our investigation, through a true-crime narrative that covers four decades, travels across two continents and reveals a man who we finally dragged out of the shadows.
“ESPN Investigates” is home to fascinating deep dives across the world of sports and features investigative reporting that uncovers hidden truths and introduces unforgettable characters. The first series in the feed, “Bloodlines,” hosted by Wright Thompson, about the mysterious recent deaths of thoroughbred horses in Santa Anita, California, is currently available now wherever podcasts are available. Additional podcasts to be announced.
Episodes of “The Running Man” are available now for fans to binge-listen. The episode lineup includes:
EPISODE 1: MEETING CONRAD
Our search for Conrad Mainwaring began with a single tip, from a California man named Andrew Zenoff. Andrew reached out to reporter Mike Kessler and told the story of his older brother, Victor. The siblings had attended a summer camp in the late ’70s, where Victor was allegedly molested by Mainwaring. By 1980, just short of his 18th birthday, Victor would die unexpectedly – just days after telling his mother what Conrad did to him. For years, the Zenoffs grappled not only with the loss, but with so many unanswered questions. Beginning in 2017, after Andrew called Kessler, we began to look for answers. And we started with a question that seemed simple enough, but proved quite elusive: Who was Conrad Mainwaring?
EPISODE 2: MIND GAMES
In the fall of 1980, Robert Bender was an incoming freshman at Syracuse University, hoping to make the gymnastics team as a walk-on. Within minutes of arriving on campus, Bender was greeted by an athletic man with a charming British accent. Soon, Bender – and so many other young men – would become members of Conrad Mainwaring’s elite “Squad.” Mainwaring’s recruits had to follow important rules to stay on his team: There could be no drinking or drugs, and certainly no carousing with girls; but, above all else, there could be no talking about the Squad to outsiders. Mainwaring had a secret, and he wanted it kept.
EPISODE 3: THE BLOG
Tym De Santo says he was 17 when Conrad Mainwaring sexually abused him in the mid-’70s. But even 35 years later, he hadn’t processed it as abuse. Like so many others who had trained under Mainwaring, he still saw the coach as a positive force in his development, as someone who taught him how to be mentally strong, how to bring out the best in himself as an athlete and as a man. So, Mainwaring was far from De Santo’s mind when he took a trip to England with his mom and wrote about the journey on his personal blog. And yet, unbelievably, that innocuous post would begin the unraveling of the secret world of Conrad Mainwaring.
EPISODE 4: CONFRONTING CONRAD
When David O’Boyle decided to head to the UCLA track on the morning of June 28, 2016, he didn’t really have a grand plan; he just knew he had to confront Conrad Mainwaring. He wanted to stop him, but he wasn’t really sure how. So, when O’Boyle showed up, he started recording on his phone, and for 12 uncomfortable minutes, he called out Mainwaring as a child abuser. Then he left, unsure what exactly he had accomplished. What he didn’t know – what he couldn’t have known – was that his confrontation was one in a series of unlikely events that ultimately would bring Mainwaring to justice.
ESPN Audio launched its first podcast in 2005 and is a leader in the sports genre – in 2019 ESPN Podcasts were downloaded in total a record 425 million times, by on average six million listeners a month – with more than 35 original offerings, plus shows from ESPN Radio and television. Offerings focus on “sports passions” (NFL, NBA, MLB, etc.), storytelling (30 for 30 and ESPN Daily) and compelling personalities. The most popular titles include 30 for 30, Fantasy Focus Football, The Lowe Post, and podcasts of ESPN Radio’s The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, and TV’s First Take.