On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Time for my monthly Running Times love-fest

September, 2010 issue has arrived. Yay yay yay yay!

Man, do I love this magazine.

I'm not sold on the coloring of the cover art, but that's Shalane Flanagan preparing for NYCM, so I'll take it.  Did she tell them that she's not actually Irish-born, despite her name?  (I couldn't find a photo online, so I took one myself - sorry for the quality.)

Anyway, let's cut to the chase.  What of the contents tickled my fancy this month?

Oddly, the parts that resonated the most with me were not even true magazine content.  Instead, a letter to the editor (p. 8) and the editor's note (p. 6) hit home.

First, the editor's note.  I won't give too much commentary, but he summarized some of what I was grappling with a few days ago (in a more concise and eloquent matter):
"I discovered that my running of late had fallen into a common trap: It had all become a means to an end. Many people run to accomplish other purposes: to lose weight, live longer, get ripped abs, find a girlfriend/boyfriend, raise money for a cause.  I've always felt that, while these are nice side effects, runners run because the activity is worthwhile and enjoyable in itself.  Running "for" something else seems analogous to having sex just to get pregnant: It works, but you're kind of missing the point."
-Jonathan Beverly
I don't have kids so I can't verify the last line, but I like what he's saying.  A lot.

Then, a letter to the editor:
"When a friend mentioned possibly backing out of the Nashville Country Music Half Marathon last month, I pointed out that her $110 entry fee was nonrefundable.  'That's okay,' she responded, 'it will be my donation to the city of Nashville.'  I then explained to her that the event was owned and run by a privately held company called Competitor Group, Inc., ... and that much of her entry fee would likely be going to enrich Falconhead Capital, a private equity firm situated about a mile from where she works in midtown Manhattan.
"When someone who regularly runs one of their races - sorry, "participatory event assets" - has never heard or seen their name, it isn't hard to see the genius in Competitor's business model.  Road racing has been an overwhelmingly nonprofit endeavor for so long that most runners are willing to assume that an absurdly high entry fee means that more of their money will be funneled toward some good cause or another.  Meanwhile, the thousands of volunteers who make each of Competitor's events possible are almost certainly unaware that they are providing free labor for a for-profit company; the online volunteer solicitation for the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon even begins with the words 'Help support your community and 30,000 runners and walkers...'
"I'm all for free enterprise and private profit, but can you imagine Walmart trying to find staff with language like, 'Help support your community and thousands of shoppers by volunteering'?"
-Rob Leder/Stamford, CT
In reproducing this letter here, I am NOT suggesting that volunteering at a race is not noble.  Hell, if nothing else it's fun.  But, know where your money is going.  Race entry fees are creeping up and up and up.  Most of us are not getting significantly more return on our entry fees than we were a few years ago.  And yet, it's supply and demand: as long as Rock 'n' Roll can fill a half marathon with $100+ entry fees, they will continue to charge that much, or more.

The Philly Distance Run was always one of the highlights of my fall when I lived in Philadelphia.  I only ran it once, but I went to the expo as often as I could, and I loved knowing that the elites were in town, using it as a marathon tune-up.  Khalid Khannouchi, Catherine Ndereba, and Deena Kastor all set course records at the race - Deena's was a smoking 1:07:53, also an American half-marathon record.  Now, the race is owned by Competitor, and the FAQ on the website includes, "Can I train for a half marathon in five weeks?"  (Okay, fine, Ryan Hall is running it.)

To conclude my paean to Running Times?  Not one but two full articles on female runners (Shalane Flanagan and Elana Meyer - and Shalane is even wearing the same shoes as me in one of the photos. It's LIKE WE'RE THE SAME PERSON).  Love it.


  1. I always wondered about this magazine - what's the difference with Runner's World?

  2. OH, Mike, I'll give you my most recent back issue and you'll see. It's got none of the beginner stuff and very little of the human interest stuff. It treats running a lot more like a sport and less like a recreational pursuit - so a lot about professional athletes and competitive runners at all levels. Training advice that assumes you're a serious runner. Race discussions that aren't about swag. The first issue or two I felt like, "Eh, where's the relevance to ME, a slowpoke?" But then I really got into it, and it's hard to go back to reading about people juggling or knitting their way through races in RW. I do still read/enjoy RW, though - I find the two together are perfectly at my level.

  3. interesting. i need to subscribe!! i never read it!

    i didnt realize most races are a business. while i agree everyone should have to volunteer in order to participate in the sport (i believe this to be true of life participation too but thats a different story) i didnt realize i was helping some PE fund make the big bucks! who knew!

  4. Thanks Tracy! I'd love to check it out!

  5. I've never run a Rock n Roll Race before, but they seem to be taking over all across the country, huh? Not sure how I feel about them. I run races for the experience, and *try* not to think about entry fees of who gets the $$.

    I loved this issue too, and have to say, I was a fan of the green cover :)

  6. Kelly, I'm glad to hear you liked the green cover! I seriously was like, "What?? It's so ugly!" So evidently I'm the crazy one :)

    I agree that the race itself is the most important, and I don't expect that my money necessarily goes to charity. I'm just against the price creep - especially with Rock n Roll, where it seems to be less of a creep and more of a leap.

  7. Dammit. I just had to tell you that ever since your format changed, my work firewall has started blocking your site half the time I try to go to a page. And i thought you would get a kick out of what the angry message says, "DansGuardian Blocked: Norwegian Pornography"

    I had no idea. I never read that between the lines here!

  8. Norwegian pornography - that is perhaps the best compliment my blog could have received!!

    But that's too weird. One of my friends uses IE from work and can only see the bottom half of the blog. I wonder if it's worth going back to the old format - you had no trouble with it before?

  9. Interesting you mentioned Philly. I ran this race back in 2004 when it was not owned by the Elite group. It was $35 to register and a well run race.

    Now? I think with the 'discount' it was $85 this year! Ridiculous. Kudos to the letter to the editor:)

  10. Yes, exactly!!! I haven't verified this, but I heard from a friend that the Chicago RnR half was $135 - that's $10 a mile. Wow.

    Granted that the Philly course could probably benefit from some bands/entertainment on the long loop down Kelly Drive/West River Drive, but it just seems insane how expensive it's gotten!