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

Sun, 30 Dec 2001 10:39:27 -0500

So Long

RUNNING COMMENTARY 393

Where were you when 1981 melted into '82? To realize how long ago that was, think of it this way: Alan Webb was still a year away from being born back then.

My life course hasn't taken me nearly as far as his in the meantime. Twenty years ago I was about a 10-minute run (10 then, 15 now because it would be uphill) from where I sit down to write.

I've gone downhill from where Running Commentary began, moving "world headquarters" from one converted bedroom to another. But otherwise the work on this newsletter hasn't changed much.

Nor is it changing much now. RC isn't dying. It's just moving again -- from mainly a mailed (and then e-mailed) publication to primarily web (not Webb)-based.

I'm phasing out the mailings, and this is the next-to-last time I get to talk with all of you this way. So indulge me, please, while I take you on a tour of RC's 20-year history.


WHY a newsletter? It grew from a bad case of writing withdrawal.

Or maybe a better term would be "reader withdrawal." I was writing, but hardly anyone was reading those lines.

At the time, I worked for Running, a short-lived Nike magazine that came out only every other month. I had just a page or so to fill there, and no books in the works.

I needed someplace to put more of the writing that gushed forth every day. Running Commentary was born to soak up some of that flood of words.

A writer wants most of all to be read. The newsletter never reached more than a few hundred readers, but you were the right few hundred. You let me gush on.


HOW DID the newsletter pass through its life as a subscription publication? Here are glimpses by five-year "laps":

-- Twenty years ago (Issue 1, January 1982). An eight-page issue was reproduced directly from typewritten pages; remember those? Track & Field News had generated a subscriber list of 176 with a test mailing. When that wasn't enough for Ed Fox's company to take the publishing plunge, he asked, "Do you want to go ahead on your own?"

-- Fifteen years ago (Issue 119, January 1987). RC continued its original twice-a-month pace. Now farmed out to a typesetter -- thanks, John Fry -- it had shrunk to four pages per issue but packed in the same number of words as before.

-- Ten years ago (Issue 196, January 1992). Since the last Olympic year the newsletter had been a monthly. A typical month's menu was a half-dozen articles, plus a notes column, plus letters from readers. I'd now figured out desktop publishing well enough to set up the four pages myself.

-- Five years ago (Issue 256, January 1997). Race results no longer appeared in RC. This was being done better, and sooner, by publications such as Runner's World Online. I'd become a web-wanderer myself and now offered the option of subscribing by e-mail.

-- Next week (Issue 394, almost January 2002). The past two years, RC has been sent only by e-mail, and weekly instead of monthly. I'd also opened a website, which offered portions of each issue long after you'd read it all. Readership there grows while the e-mail list shrinks. This is why I'm moving all the material to the web as soon as it's written, starting with Issue 395.


HOW CAN I now give away what had been a subscription item? Several of you have asked me that.

Posting RC online isn't purely a charitable act. The newsletter never carried ads, but the website always has. The regular writing draws readers to that site, and enough of them buy books to pay for its upkeep.

The newsletter always has been subsidized, whether the financial angels knew it or not. RC never would have started without the promotional push from Ed Fox at Track & Field News.

Rob Strasser at Nike kept it going with a cash donation when RC might have expired in its second year. Bob Anderson and Amby Burfoot allowed me to use the newsletter as an "off-Broadway trial" for the magazine material they bought. Ted Miller and Martin Barnard at Human Kinetics paid me to recycle old RC pieces into books.

I thank them all, along with others whose contributions were non-monetary but invaluable: Tom Mills for helping plan the launch... Cristina Negron, Welles Lobb and Bob Wischnia for editing newsletter pieces into magazine columns... Barbara Shaw and Janet Heinonen for being my extra editorial eyes in Eugene... Sarah and Eric Henderson for mailing RC when we still stuffed it into envelopes.

Thanks as well to the subscribers who stayed with me from start to now: Bob Bartling, Kim Bellard, John Brennand, Bruce Brothers, Ted Corbitt, Gary Fanelli, Ed Fox, Jeff Galloway, John Geer and Steve Goldberg.

Matti Hannus, Jacqueline Hansen, Janet Heinonen, Anne Henderson, Mike Henderson, Virginia Henderson, Dan Hill, Scott Hubbard, Cedric Jaggers, Jeff Kroot and James Livermore.

Bill Meyers, Marvin Moar, Diane Palmason, Marty Post, Paul Reese, Mark Scheuer, Walt Schafer, George Sheehan III, Jerry Smith and Tom Sturak.


WILL I miss this weekly chat with all of you? I've been asked that more than once in recent weeks.

I won't miss keeping subscription records when they finally disappear. I won't miss having to find a topic worth 500-plus words in those (thankfully rare) weeks when the idea well runs dry.

But I will miss the instant feedback that comes from you newsletter readers each week. You sent me more letters than are stirred up by website, which reaches 50 times more readers, or by my column in Runner's World, which goes to 1000 times more.

We have had a more personal connection here. I've always thought of RC as a letter to my extended family in running. You responded in that same spirit.

I hope this doesn't stop with the move to a different address. (It's www.joehenderson.com/archive/; please bookmark it and check for additions each Monday.) My writing won't change, so why should your responses?

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