Running Times – Gone!

Running Times started in 1977, the year I took up distance running. There really weren’t good running books back then so the magazine became my go-to source. I devoured every issue, usually reading it cover to cover the day received. Without fail, there was something, usually many somethings that could be incorporated immediately into one’s training and racing. I kept piles of RT around, only discarding them when making long distance moves.

There were regular features. I loved the Shoe Guy, J.D. Denton, who owed a Fleet Feet store in Davis CA. His offbeat articles on life in a running store were funny, refreshing, and educational. The Owner’s Manual, written by various authors but often Pete Pfitzinger and Owen Anderson, provided a plethora of training advice. I lost count the number of times I had developed an injury or training impasse that the current issue addressed, as if the writers had been talking to my training partners! Nutrition, coaching, shoe reviews, performance tips, race results, and the latest discoveries in sports medicine and psychology were regular topics. Generally an accomplished masters runner was profiled along with their training regimen, providing many good ideas to try. Every year they ranked the top masters (about 10 deep) by age group. Alternately, it showcased high school and collegiate runners. Without Running Times, I probably would not have been aware of others in my cohort around the country or the juggernaut college programs.

What made Running Times unique was both the quality and depth of its articles. RT was not glossy, like Runner’s World, but was full of substance. Many articles were four to six pages long, with illustrations to break up text. Every issue had a nice balance. Even the ads were good – I bought a number of books and gear from the Marketplace section. For many years the last page was reserved for “By The Numbers”, a list of obscure running factoids.

About 15 years ago I stopped discarding. The pile grew. There was no way to mine the gold in those pages. So last year I started going through the pile, from oldest forward, cut out articles and pasted them in notebooks by topic. Typically about half of each issue was worth saving. This process took several months, because I invariably read the articles while cataloging. Gems galore! I left room in the binders for many more years of Running Times.

Then in the December 2015 issue, a bombshell. Rodale Press, the publisher of Runner’s World, who had acquired Running Times in 2007, would discontinue it in January. I had passively wondered if/when the ax would fall when the magazine was sold. Rodale said they would maintain the tradition and focus on more serious running. And for many years they did. Maybe the 115,000 circulation, compared to Runner’s World 800,000, wasn’t enough to justify RT. The public statement was that Rodale wanted to stay “focused and aligned for continued growth as a company.” Another way of saying Running Times wasn’t paying off. They said they would incorporate aspects of RT into Runner’s World. But after four issues, it’s clear Running Times is gone, solid gone. Remnants of RT in Runner’s World are hard to find.

We live in a world of change. And in business consolidation rules. The small guy gets squeezed out. Maybe it’s a faint hope that some enterprising, idealistic folks will buy the rights to Running Times and recreate the magic that leapt off the pages for 38 years. Meanwhile, I have three filled notebooks to leaf through. Not all is lost!

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