Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.
Thu, 09 May 2013 04:55:21 -0400
Fast WriterRUNNING COMMENTARY 988
(The latest, and probably last, home for my magazine column was Marathon & Beyond. That seven-year stay ended in 2011. Now I have permission to republish those pieces. This one comes from the November 2004 issue.)
U.S. menís Olympic marathoning peaked in the 1970s. We could say the same for U.S. running writing. Look at all that decade yielded, and none has since: in Olympic running, Frank Shorterís gold and silver medals at Munich and Montreal, plus the fourth places of Kenny Moore and Don Kardong. In best-selling writing (for all topics), the running books of Jim Fixx, George Sheehan and the Bob Glover-Jack Shepherd collaboration.
These authors earned their success, just as the marathoners did. They wrote well and delivered the right messages at the right time, as running and running bookselling boomed together. But Iíd argue that Fixx, Sheehan and Glover-Shepherd werenít the best writers the 1970s spawned. For quality and durability of their work, Iíd go to writers who also figured in the peak marathon years: Moore and Kardong.
Those two have more in common than their near-misses at the Olympics. Moore and then Kardong were Pacific Northwest-born, both ran for Pac-8 (now Pac-12) colleges and were world class in track before turning to the marathon, and both peaked in the 2:11s.
And both broke into running writing in a magazine that I edited at the time, Runnerís World. Moore first appeared there in 1970, and Kardong five years later. Kenny would say now that he didnít ďwriteĒ for RW then. The magazine reprinted a piece of his from the University of Oregon alumni publication.
Don wrote an original article for RW. His style distinguished him from his fellow fourth-placer. One wasnít better than the other; they were just different.
When I first talked to Kenny Moore about rerunning his article, he was studying for a graduate degree in creative writing. He was in training for the career to come.
When I asked Don Kardong to write his first article, about his 1975 trip across the newly opened borders of China, he was working as an elementary school teacher. A career as a writer? You canít be serious.
His apparent lack of seriousness, or at least his inability to take himself and the sport too seriously, would distinguish his writing and endear him to readers. With Moore you expected to be impressed by his thoughts and observations. With Kardong you expected to be amused by his experiences and misadventures.
This isnít to say that Don writes the way a slapstick comic performs. Heís no buffoon. His relaxed style features a gentle jibe here (often aimed at himself) and a clever turn of phrase there.
The writing appears to entertain Don as much as it does his readers. It seems to be his break from the serious contributions he makes to the sport and to his community.
He helped professionalize running as a co-founder of the Association of Road Racing Athletes (now called PRRO). He served as long-distance chairman of USA Track & Field and as president of the Road Runners Club of America. At home in Spokane, Washington, he launched and now works as fulltime director of the Bloomsday 12K race.
His writing pace slowed in recent years when, curiously, Runnerís World stopped carrying articles by this longtime favorite of its readers. Now heís back as a columnist in Marathon & Beyond. Readers can again smile and laugh along with the author, who peaked as a runner in the 1970s and who hasnít lost a step as a writer a generation later.
UPDATE: Alas, after his stint at M&B ended, Don stopped writing regularly so he could devote himself fully to directing Bloomsday.
[Many 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. Just released was Learning to Walk. Other titles: Home Runs, Joeís 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 Englehartís book about me, Slow Joe (e-book only). The middle book of the memoir series, Going Far, is being serialized in Marathon & Beyond magazine.]