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

Thu, 28 Jun 2012 05:55:35 -0400

Home Work

RUNNING COMMENTARY 943

(I’m marking this newsletter’s 30th anniversary by revisiting one piece per year. This week’s, from January 2011, is the last in this series. It also appears on Facebook on the “Joe Henderson’s Writings” page.)

EUGENE, OREGON. These days I write as I’ve long written. The first stop for the words is a page in an ongoing journal, and more often than not they go no further. These writings almost always end at a single page. The frequency is daily, with no days off. The setting for this writing is an office at home that doubles as a bedroom for visitors.

Nothing here has changed much since I started writing these pages in 1959… No, that’s not quite right. I should say that this practice has circled back to how it began – before wordplay became a profession and an obsession, before the reporting took me far from home in search of stories, before I wrote in the offices of several different magazines.

The earliest writings were intended for my eyes only. Each day’s report occupied its own page (which held more white space than pen scratches and carried more numbers than words as I detailed the miles and minutes of that day’s run). I started writing in support of my running hobby, and soon these were twin hobbies of equal standing. I wrote at a desk in a bedroom (where I also slept then).

The habits aren’t much different today, only the setting. Then, as a 16-year-old, it was a small town in Iowa. Now, in my Medicare years, it’s a mid-sized city in Oregon. The office in Eugene looks out toward the north and east, and if not for the trees and hills I could see Hayward Field and Pre’s Trail beyond.

Immediately outside the window is a space where a retired travel trailer used to rest and where I once wrote. My wife jokingly called it “the world headquarters for Running Commentary” (the one-man show of a newsletter that I still published on paper at the time). When our son Eric moved away, my office took over his bedroom. Then during a home remodel we added the office-slash-bedroom where I now write.

I made just one request during the planning of this room: built-in bookshelves. The books I’ve published now fill a cubicle two feet long, and the books I’ve edited occupy another space of similar size. By far the most prominent feature of this wall of shelves, though, is the yearly journals. Their binders number more than 50 and spread across seven of the bookshelf slots.

I’ve long said that if a fire were to break out here, and I had just a few minutes to save invaluables and irreplaceables, I’d head straight for the journals. They tell the real and full story of my life… the one that keeps growing every day I sit down to write again.

This is pure writing. I don’t write it on orders from an editor or publisher. I use no notes. I feel the eyes of no reader peering over my shoulder. All of this might come later, or once did but seldom does anymore. The vast majority of current writing is unpaid and unseen again. It’s back to being mostly a hobby, as rewarding now as it was in the beginning.

The writing has truly come home again, to a house where I finally feel very much at home. I’ve been here since 1992, but took a long time and a long and winding road to find this home. I’d looked for one again ever since leaving my early hometown of Coin, Iowa. Over the next three decades I’d lived in four states, eight cities and towns, and 20 different houses (none longer than three years) before settling at the current address.

I’m not a hermit here that I once was. Even this house used to be a place to hide out and hunker down to write between trips. I flew out of Eugene 20 to 25 times a year, to take the stage before running audiences and pretend to be famous. So much was I away, and so busy at home, that I played no role in Eugene’s large and lively running community.

Now I’m all but retired from the road. My travels have shrunk to three or four a year, nearly all of those for family reunions – with my real family and with running friends who feel like family. Meanwhile I get out of my writing cave a lot more often – to teach running classes at the local university, coach marathoners through a local running store, help at several local races, and stand and cheer at many more.

I’m home at last and loving it. In this home-office I’ve written a book about how I got here.


UPDATE: This piece introduces the final book in my three-part memoir series, titled Home Runs. It covers my Oregon years, a time as the subtitle says for “moving on and settling down in the post-peak years.”


[Home Runs and many other books of mine, old and recent, are now available in three different formats: (1) in print from Amazon.com; (2) as e-books from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com; (3) as printable and shareable PDFs from Lulu.com. The other titles: Joe’s Journal, Long Run Solution, Long Slow Distance, Marathon Training, Run Right Now, Run Right Now Training Log (not an e-book), and Starting Lines, plus Rich Englehart’s book about me, Slow Joe (e-book only). The middle book of the memoir series, Going Far, will be serialized in Marathon & Beyond magazine, starting this September.]

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