Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Wed, 17 May 2000 09:18:31 -0400

Seven-Year Switch

(from RC 304)

George Beinhorn and I were teammates in the early years of Runner's World. He was my first assistant editor there before he branched off to edit Bike World, finally leaving the company at the same time I did.

He escaped to the Sierra foothills, and that was the last I saw or heard from him in almost 20 years. We reunited at the Napa Valley Marathon in the late 1990s and have stayed in touch since then.

George is long out of magazine editing now but still much involved in running. In recent years he had a love affair with trail ultras and occasionally commented on them in my newsletter.

A recent e-mail from him told me, "I'm no longer running in or training for ultras. It simply takes too much time.

"Also the six- to seven-hour training runs were killing me. For four days afterward it took every ounce of effort to act like a barely civilized human being."

He added, "I can't even really say that my spiritual home is the trails anymore. I just go run where I feel like it on the day. Maybe it's mental -- this image that running trails means staying out for hours and hours."

The cooling of his love for the ultras didn't surprise me. I wrote back about a pet theory of mine -- that a runner's interest in a certain type of work "runs" in cycles of about seven years.

"How long were trail ultras your main attraction?" I asked George.

"Seven years, believe it or not," he said. "I ran my first one in 1992."

I told him the seven-year switch wasn't just a lucky guess. Those cycles have recurred several times for me:

Track work and short races from 1959 to '66... Racing everything from miles to ultras from 1966 to '73... Group running and racing mainly 10-K to marathon from 1973 to '80... Almost no racing and minimal training from 1981 to '88... Return to long distances from 1988 to '95... And now about halfway through a new cycle without yet naming its theme.

George Beinhorn didn't lose interest running. He just made his own seven-year switch's.

"I love to explore the many facets of running," he said, "so I'm doing some intensity work. I've been going to the track once a week.

"I can do repeats and actually enjoy them. It's quite a change, and I have no regrets."

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