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

Sun, 22 Jan 2006 08:27:47 -0500

Long-Winded

RUNNING COMMENTARY 607

(rerun from January 1998 RC)

A certain new reader of this page said of his first visit, "I found it a little long-winded. I likened it to watching you do long intervals by yourself."

He didn't mean this as a compliment, but I choose to take it as one. In writing, as well as running, I keep going and going like the Energizer Bunny on Red Bull.

Of all the traits that make up a runner, the most valued and honored is the ability to last. Longevity in the sport is the highest form of endurance.

Whenever two runners meet for the first time, one is likely to ask the other, "When did you start running?" This is a conversation opener, and much more than that. Asking your starting point is a way of testing your staying power.

There are several possible answers to the "start" question. Only one of them really counts.

You could say we began running when we first stood upright, since toddlers run before they walk to keep from falling. Or you ran in school, either as punishment meted out by a gym teacher. Or you trained hard and raced harder for your school's track or cross-country teams.

But the real question is, "When did you start doing what you do now?" When did you first become the runner you are?

I date my beginning from my first race, in 1958. The running hasn't really stopped since then, only paused more than a few times for injuries. I guess that shows some endurance.

Runners often phrase their conversation-opening question differently to me. They ask, "When did you start writing?"

Like the running question, this one has many answers. Only one counts.

I could tell about learning to string together letters, then words, then sentences together in grade school... or starting a running diary in high school... or first writing for publication in 1960... or going to work in journalism a few years later.

But that was all an apprenticeship for what I do now -- which is to write columns for Runner's World magazine. This began in 1967-- and 15 years later led to RC.

Now I'm sometimes asked, "Do you ever get tired of writing about running?" Or, "Don't you run out of topics to cover?"

No and no. I'll tire of the writing only when the running becomes wearisome, and I'll run out of topics only when I quit meeting new runners and having new experiences. None of this threatens to happen.

One reason that running stays fresh after all this time is that I never know what surprise might wait around the next corner. The only way to find it is to keep looking.

One reason the writing stays exciting is that I never know when another good idea will pop up. It could come in the next line, or on the next page, or in the next story.

The search can sometimes grow long -- and long-winded. But the seeking can be as satisfying as the finding.

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