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

Sun, 13 Aug 2006 05:08:53 -0400

As the World Runs

RUNNING COMMENTARY 636

In 1991, Runner's World marked its 25th anniversary. Now, as you surely know if you read the current issue, the magazine has turned 40. Here is a timeline column that appeared in the January 1991 RC, updated to reflect my ex-employer's current age.

1966-69. A high school senior from Overland Park, Kansas, identifying himself originally as John R. Anderson, starts a magazine called Distance Running News. A two-issue subscription for the first year costs $1. Hal Higdon is the earliest "name" writer to appear. My column debuts in 1967. DRN publishes its first shoe survey in '67, conducted by future Nike executive Jeff Johnson. A year later Anderson drops out of Kansas State University in Manhattan to work fulltime on his growing magazine, whose publication pace jumps to six times a year before the decade runs out.

1970-74. Bob Anderson relocates to Mountain View, California, changes his magazine's name to Runner's World and hires me as his editor. Dr. George Sheehan becomes the featured columnist. RW steps up into promotional efforts by co-sponsoring the Golden Gate Marathon, and launching national 24-hour relay and Fun-Run programs. Publishing expands to include the newsletter Racing Report and the Booklet of the Month series. In 1972, RW conducts its first Olympic tour. In '73, the magazine goes monthly, adds color photography and stops issuing Racing Report.

1975-79. Amby Burfoot and Don Kardong first write for RW. A Runner's Book Series, with Dr. Sheehan on Running as its first offering, replaces the monthly booklets. The magazine celebrates its 10th birthday with the first of several annual National Running Weeks. Bob Anderson leads a tour group of 300 to the Montreal Olympics. RW's circulation and book sales boom along with the sport. In 1977, Anderson announces a goal of "one million circulation" (the figure has just topped 100,000). He becomes the editor, with Rich Benyo as his chief assistant, after I "retire" to column and book writing. The company issues two short-lived spinoffs, On the Run and The Marathoner. Running Times and The runner arise as RW's first serious competitors. RW-promoted Corporate Cup competitions begin.

1980-84. Discontent with the shoe-ratings issue lead Nike to pull its ads and buy its own magazine called Running. Several writers join George Sheehan, Hal Higdon and me in defecting to Running or The Runner. RW sends reporters to the boycotted Moscow Olympics but must can cancel its tour. The magazine starts publishing regional editions. In 1981, Alberto Salazar, at the peak of his career, sets a long-standing national 8K record at an RW event. In '83, Running magazine dies, Nike resumes advertising in RW, and I come back as a columnist. RW's pre- and post-Olympic issues reach record size. Rich Benyo steps down as de facto editor in '84.

1985-89. A divorce settlement forces Bob Anderson to sell his magazine to Rodale Press, which moves the headquarters to Emmaus, Pennsylvania, under interim editors Chuck McCullagh and David Bumke. In 1986, Amby Burfoot assumes the editorship. A year later The Runner merges with RW and Runner founder George Hirsch becoming the publisher. The move brings Hal Higdon, George Sheehan, Joan Ullyot and Don Kardong back to RW, along with ex-Runner editor Marc Bloom. The combined magazine continues The Runner's promotional roles with the New York City Marathon and Cemtral Park Midnight Run. RW also co-sponsors the Big Sur Marathon.

1990-94. Bob Rodale, head of RW's parent company, dies in an auto accident. His survivors vow that the magazine will continue well past its 25th birthday. RW celebrates that anniversary with a lavish event in New York City. George Sheehan, RW's most distinctive voice, is stilled in 1993. George Hirsch heads efforts to expand the magazine into international editions that circle that globe. "Yasso 800s" -- a marathon training and predictive tool -- are first mentioned in print. Bart Yasso himself is one of the company's most influential figures as head of the Race Sponsorship Program, started in the mid-1980s and now assisting thousands of events.

1995-99. RW joins the burgeoning online world with RW Daily, under the guidance of Marty Post. New material appears five days a week, plus live coverage of major races. This reaches a more serious-competition-oriented audience than the print magazine. RW pace groups debut at the 1995 St. George Marathon in Utah. Jeff Galloway and John "Penguin" Bingham, the two most influential columnist of recent years, join the staff in '96. Galloway, with Olympian credentials, is a longtime trusted adviser of runners. Bingham, a recent convert to running, is a surprise hit with readers.

2000-04. George Hirsch retires as publisher. David Willey replaces Amby Burfoot as chief editor, and is charged with revamping the magazine. Its look, content and staffing go through the most dramatic changes since Distance Running News became RW in 1970. Marty Post and Bob Wischnia are let go after working in the office since the late 1970s. RW drops my column after 33 years.

AND RECENTLY. The popular "Bell Lap" column, edited by Janet Heinonen, drops from the RW website. Don Kardong's byline all but disappears as new writers, some previously little known to runners, move into the magazine. RW/Rodale releases two major books by authors who ARE well known, John Brant with Duel in the Sun, and Kenny Moore with Bowerman and the Men of Oregon.
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