Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 04:54:21 -0400
BeyondRUNNING COMMENTARY 1000
(The latest, and probably last, home for my magazine column was Marathon & Beyond. That seven-year stay ended with this piece from the November 2011 issue.)
What will you do as a runner after youíve run almost everything? Thatís a question I hope you donít need to answer right now and wonít for quite awhile.
Thereís much to do in running and a long time to do it. Whether you start at 15 or 50, youíre given a good 10 years to improve your PRs. You can increase your distances almost infinitely. You can race from sprints to ultrasÖ on roads flat to mountainousÖ on trails and cross-country coursesÖ on tracks outdoors and in. You can run alone, with partners, in crowds small to large and on relay teams. You can travel as far and as often to events as your budget allows.
Iíve done most of that. I raced distances as short as 100 yards and dabbled in ultras as long as 70 miles. Ran midpack at national cross-country and road championships. Won races, finished last and didnít finish at all. Traveled to marathons coast to coast, and races in most states and outside U.S. borders. Set PRs that now are all older than my eldest child, whoís closing in on 40.
So what am I doing now that Iíve run nearly everything? Still running, of course, but not as training for anything except life. The miles are fewer and easier. Only recently have I asked myself the ďwhat next?Ē question, but I began answering it unconsciously more than a decade ago.
In 2001, I came to a fork in lifeís path. Running had long since settled into its senior-adult role (which is to say short, slow and solo). I thought Iíd retired from marathons (though they would resurface occasionally in later years). I hadnít truly RACED a race (as opposed to running IN one) in 20 years, and hadnít tried an ultra in 30.
What next? Before I could ask that of myself, a new opportunity arose unsought. The University of Oregon needed a teacher for its running classes in the P.E. department, and my name came up as a prospect. I debated accepting the position, wondering how it would affect my writing about running and speaking at races.
As I wavered, my wife Barbara said, ďTake it. Youíll love it.Ē And she was right. The one-term assignment grew to year-round teaching, every year, and later spawned coaching a training for marathons and halves. If forced to choose just one of my many running-related jobs to continue, it would be the teaching/coaching.
This is pretty much how it has gone without being asked to choose. Itís no coincidence that my writing tailed off, and my travels to speak at races all but ended, as the face-to-face instructing of runners picked up.
Which again raises this columnís opening question: What will you do after youíve done almost everything as a runner? You couldnít do much better than passing on what you know and love about this sport. This might become the most rewarding phase of your running life, as it has been mine.
Thereís much you can do this way, short of the teaching and coaching Iíve lucked into. You can advise, assist, praise, pace, cajole, console in less formal ways.
Your own running is necessarily self-centered. You must focus on your own health and fitness, your distances and times. A support role canít be all, or even much, about you.
These days with these runners Iím not someone who used to race fairly fast or a name from the bylines. They donít know that or need to know more than who they see: a grizzled guy with a clipboard, a stopwatch and a proud smile. The time we spend together is about their running, not mine.
I donít coach online but only in person. I limit the group in size (though never by ability) so I can get know every runnerís backstory and can call each one by name at least once each day.
We first come together as strangers, then become teammates, friends and finally a family of sorts. I gain more from these runners this way than I give to them in training and racing tips.
Substitute the word ďwriteĒ for ďrunĒ in this columnís opening question and you see what Iím answering in this piece: What will I do as a writer after Iíve written almost everything?
Iíve written for a small hometown newspaper, a college paper and a statewide daily... about news, all sports, my favorite sport and the distance-running branch of this sport... for the three other magazines before settling in at Marathon & Beyond... in booklets and books, of my own and in concert with other authors.
Other writers know their special area of running expertise better than I. But few, if any, have covered the sport in as many ways for as long. Iíve written personal, practical, technical, historical, statistical, biographical, physiological, psychological and philosophical reports. Iíve said about all I have to say, to the point of repeating myself.
So after a seven-year run with M&B, this is my farewell column here. I yield this space to someone with a greater need to fill it, while I go further in the direction I already was headed: teaching and coaching runners whoíve havenít read much, and still have their best running experiences ahead of them.
This doesnít end my writing, of course. The daily habit of recording facts and thoughts that began in the 1950s, almost in lockstep with my running, wonít suddenly end in the 2010s.
But like my post-competitive running, todayís words on pages are fewer, easier and more private than my published work. Iíve circled back to where the writing started, as diary entries not intended for print and rarely reaching there.
I keep writing for the same reasons that we keep running after the last PR is set: because we can and we must. After taking care of our own biggest business, we can help others work on theirs.
UPDATE: This concludes serialization of the book Joe's Journal. Next I'll begin posting chapters from a book-in-progress titled See How We Run.
[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 PDFs, readable on Kindle devices and apps, from Lulu.com. Just released was Joeís Team. Other titles: Home Runs, Joeís Journal, Learning to Walk (not an e-book), 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.]