Last Writes. A brief phone call from a new editor ended my long stay at Runner’s World. He called during Christmas week 2003 to say that my column in the magazine had “run its course.”
Fine. It had been a good run that had to end sometime.
Then he landed an unnecessary blow, saying that I’d been “scraping the bottom of the barrel” for topics the past few years. And Merry Christmas to you too, Mr. Editor.
After 33 years and hundreds of published pieces in Runner’s World, I’d written my last one, to appear in the March 2004 issue. What hurt more than leaving RW was the editor not even allowing a proper good-bye.
No farewell note from me appeared at the end of that final column. No thank-you came from him for helping put the magazine on its feet in its early years. My page was just there one issue and gone the next, forever.
I still carry bruised feelings about how my tenure at Runner’s World ended. But this in no way cancels the gratitude I feel toward earlier editors and publishers at that magazine.
They saved my career as a running writer in the 1980s, twice. As that decade began, I’d left RW for another magazine. When Nike-funded Running folded in 1983, Bob Anderson forgave my disloyalty and took me back as a columnist.
Runner’s World saved me a second time when Bob sold his magazine to Rodale Press in 1985. Most of the in-office staff and contracted writers lost their jobs.
I didn’t. Robert Rodale and Chuck McCullagh kept me on as a columnist, even after I’d rejected their offer of the editorship.
I stayed on contract with RW for another 19 years, through several management changes at the magazine. My column passed through changes of its own – in name, length and content – while running for more than 250 monthly issues without a miss.
The column settled into its final form and title, “Joe Henderson’s Journal,” around 1990. My best years at the Rodale-owned magazine came when George Hirsch was the publisher, Amby Burfoot served as overall editor and Cristina Negron edited my column.
In a book titled This Runner’s World, I reran the final 100 columns, 1995 to 2004. This year, to mark the 50th anniversary of my first appearance in that magazine, I post an excerpt from that book each week – from the month of its original publication. I leave it to you to judge whether or not the subject matter and its treatment were “scraping bottom.”
Update: The editor who let me go 14 years ago is gone himself from Runner’s World. A new parent company, Hearst, will soon take possession. With Amby Burfoot and Bart Yasso now retired, I know no one working in that magazine’s offices. To the current staff, I’m probably “Joe who?”
(Photo: Printed copies of all these RW columns.)
[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, Starting Lines, and This Runner’s World, plus Rich Englehart’s book about me, Slow Joe.]