THINK OF TRAINING up for competition but then having no place to race. Before long you’d wonder: Why train at all?
That’s how I now felt, except this was about writing rather than running. I did the “training” (the private writing) but had little chance to “race” (go public with the best of it).
This wasn’t happening at Running magazine, where my writing style and subject choices didn’t match the editorial philosophy. Running had positioned itself as the literary journal of the sport, and my plain-spoken words and phrases didn’t fit that image.
As 1982 dawned, I had nowhere else to place my writings while keeping my job as an editor at Running magazine. Running Times and The Runner were competitors, as was Runner’s World – where I’d broken diplomatic relations anyway, apparently permanently.
A writer wants to be read, even more than to be paid. No matter how humble the outlet or how small the readership, I needed someone to say, “I saw what you wrote.” The only way to do this was to build a writing home of my own.
This never would have happened without help. My first push came from Jon Anderson, a 1972 Olympian and 1973 Boston Marathon winner. He now published, with his father, a weekly lumber-industry newsletter and advised me on creating a similar publication on running.
Next came an essential assist from Tom Mills. He worked as an agent in the music business but was branching into sports when we met, during my lobbying efforts to win acceptance for a women’s marathon in the Los Angeles Olympics.
With that event now in place, Tom said, “I’d like to work with you on a writing project.” My reply: “Your timing is good. I’m thinking about starting a running newsletter.” Tom: “Let me see what I can do.”
He contacted Ed Fox, the Track & Field News publisher. Ed was willing to test-market what was now known as Running Commentary. Only 170 people liked it well enough to pay in advance for a publication that didn’t yet exist.
Ed said, “This isn’t enough to make it worth our while. But if you want to go ahead on your own, we’ll send you the checks to get you started.”
The newsletter started as a twice-monthly (and would later go monthly, then finally settle at weekly). It started at $24 a year (would peak at $30 and eventually become free). It started at eight printed pages (would drop to four, then a single web page, which I’d call a “column,” never a “blog”).
What started in January 1982 would become the outlet for my more of my writings than any other site.
Photo: The newsletter Running Commentary wasn’t much to look at but had a lot to say.
[Many books of mine, old and recent, are now available in two different formats: in print and as ebooks from Amazon.com. The titles: Going Far, Home Runs, Joe’s Team, Learning to Walk, Long Run Solution, Long Slow Distance, Miles to Go, Pacesetters, Run Right Now, Run Right Now Training Log, See How We Run, and Starting Lines, plus Rich Englehart’s book about me, Slow Joe.]