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

Sat, 22 May 2004 22:33:38 -0400

Why Stop Now?

RUNNING COMMENTARY 520

(The Road Runners Club of America honored me in May with its Journalistic Excellence Award. Here's what I said while accepting it -- or would like to have said, given a chance to edit. I print it here without the pauses needed to compose myself.)

This is going to get too personal and emotional. But that's how my writing has always been, so why stop now?

I can only begin in these few minutes to tell you how much the RRCA and this award mean to me. The reasons are ancient and recent.

Your group and my running were born the same year, 1958. An RRCA founder, Browning Ross, taught me how to read about running through his Long Distance Log magazine. Another founder, Hal Higdon, taught me how to write about running.

Twice before, in two different decades, I've stood up here to accept this award. Never has it meant more than this time.

Life itself has been an endurance test recently. We all face these trials, just not usually all at once.

Mine began with a certain magazine retiring my column after 33 years there. Later events shrunk that loss to insignificance.

Early this year my wife Barbara was diagnosed with breast cancer. She will get through this. But she has months of treatment to endure and is doing it like a good distance runner, crossing the "workouts" off her calendar one by one.

Barb insisted that I be here tonight. She came with me, even though her doctors warned against taking long trips or mixing with big crowds.

In the last few weeks I've endured the last days of my mother's life and the first days without her. Her funeral was two weeks ago today, back in Iowa.

Mom was a self-taught journalist. She wrote for local newspapers and found me my first job at one when I was 17 and had no visible talent.

For the last 30 years of her life she wrote a weekly newsletter for family and friends. Her mother, my Grandma King, had done the same for 30 years before that. The columns I've written for more than 30 years, and that now pop up each week on my website, reflect this enduring family tradition.

Receiving the award feels tonight feels like getting a going-away present because of my leaving that certain magazine. But I'm not dropping out of this type of writing. I've already moved the magazine column to a new address, Marathon & Beyond.

This winter, right before the series of life's endurance tests began, I visited the John Steinbeck museum in Salinas, California. He was my first writing hero and remains my biggest one. Seeing his words as he'd written them on the original pages moved me deeply.

At the museum's exit appeared this line from Steinbeck: "I nearly always write, just as I nearly always breathe."

I keep writing for the same reason we keep running. Because it's as normal and necessary to us as breathing, and because we can and we must.

Why stop now, just because the road has turned bumpy lately?



Receiving the award from outgoing president
Freddi Carlip at the RRCA's Lake Tahoe
convention. Photo by Michael Selman

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