Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Birth of a Column

Some of you may have noticed that the "No Need for Speed" column was not in the February Runner's World. This is a funny time in the publishing industry, and I'm certainly no expert on magazine publishing, but it looks like there's some sorting out going on. I'll be in the magazine 10 times this year. Look for the column again in the March issue.

With the April column I will have completed 13 years as a columnist with Runner's World. That's 156 columns. Considering that I was worried that I wouldn't be able to come up with ideas for the original 8 columns for which I was contracted, that's not bad. The funny thing is that, rather than it being harder to find ideas, I now find that I don't have the time or space to write about everything I want to.

Thanks goodness for Blogs.

In May of 1996 the column was called "The Penguin Chronicles", a name taken from the reference in the first column to images of runners always being gazelles or eagles and I felt like a penguin. A legal challenge from Penguin-Putnam Books convinced the US editors to change the name of the column to simply "The Chronicles". As a side note, the column remained "The Penguin Chronicles" in all international editions of Runner's World.

With the new editorial and publishing staff the column got renamed "No Need for Speed", and Gil Eisner's wonderful penguin characters were removed. In some ways that shifted the focus of the column, or at least seemed to, from the original concept of sharing the "joy of movement" that I discovered as an adult-onset athlete to being an advocate for going slowly. The truth is, I've never advocated going slowly. I've only advocated finding your own pace - fast OR slow.

As I recently wrote, after running for 15 years running is like an old friend to me. I like running. I like being around running. Like a relationship that has matured over time my relationship with running has come to a place of comfort. I don't need to impress myself or anyone else any more.

But, even after 15 years I still have the same sense of wonder and mystery about running - and myself as a runner. Every day I learn something new. Every run reveals something that I hadn't seen. That's what makes running so wonderful.

What I'm discovering is that the Web 2.0 medium - this blogging, Facebook, Twitter, medium - is more like what it was in the beginning for me. And I've found I really like it. It's liberating to be back where I was before 17 people decided what words would be read.

Stick around, folks. I think this is going to be a fun ride.

Waddle on, friends.

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start"


Stefanie said...

I did indeed notice themissing column. Can't wait to see it again soon.

Valerie said...

I have not read the February issue yet, but I had noticed a different slant to your columns. The "no need for speed" is fine, and you've always been a source of inspiration, but it has been lacking...something. After reading today's blog, I can see the "old" John the penguin in this writing, the joy, the excitement. I hope you continue to blog un-edited!!!

Kelly's runner said...


Finding your own pace, whatever it is is what is important.

Moving forward. You gave people the freedom to feel it was okay to call yourself a runner.

Speed doesn't make you a runner. Running makes you a runner.

Waddle or sprint? The joy is in the journey.