Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A tale of two tempos

As much as I hate facile puns based on literary works, I'm going with this one. Charles Dickens, who would have detested the publishers of the popular magazines of the 21st century along with their output, might have appreciated it anyway

I was looking for my own Running Times article on tempo runs from December 1999 (when, believe it or not, chatter about these in print and on the still-primitive Web was fairly scarce) and found it on the Runner's World site, as I expected. (Rodale, the publisher of Runner's World, bought Running Times, for which I was a senior writer for about a dozen years, in 2007. Rodale absorbed Running Times (rebranding it Runner's World Advanced), digested it with only minor bouts of dyspepsia, and finally shit out what was left of it in 2015.)

As I began reading, I became aware that something was different. Then I noticed the byline: "Kevin Beck and the Editors of Runner's World." It's dated August 22, 2018. Well, I wasn't consulted, in spite of still being a senior writer or at least the specter of same.

Before I cleared the third or fourth paragraph, I stopped and unearthed the original version, Dickens-era HTML and all, thanks to the Wayback Machine. I wanted to see exactly what had been changed, not because I was worried the edited version would scrap vital information (it didn't) but because I wanted to learn what does and doesn't pass for useful creative side trips in this venue. Even when writing "professionally," I've usually gotten away with ample slang and irreverence. But given that the combined print and Web reach of Runner's World dwarfs whatever level Running Times attained at its independent peak, the editors have to be cognizant of both keeping the attention of a less-attentive readership and not pissing anyone off. (I suspect it's more the former and that I'm overrating the capacity of my suitable-for-print jokes to leave much of a mark.)

A few victims of the editorial axe: the exasperated flinging of sweat into someone's face; a long-haired male runner with an exposed nipple ring; Studio 54 and '70s decadence; mention of ignorance, excuse-mongering, sandbagging, ramshackle justifications and psychological ploys; and a sarcastic jab at an unnamed friend who'd dropped out of a marathon at 21 miles. 

Here I was trying to be the nicest fucking guy to all concerned, as always, and they've gone and bleed all the uplifting fun out of my labors.

In truth, they kept everything they needed to, streamlined some of my overspeak, and added a few helpful bits of information. They did cut a few substantive parts too, but who cares? Most people are just going to go out and do these kinds of workouts wrong, and in response they'll double down on whatever mistakes they made and do and even worse job the next time.

This recycling of old articles for the Web is nothing new, and I've mentioned it here before. As far as I can tell, Competitor is an even more eager practitioner of this commercial art than Runner's World is, at least so far. And that leads to a discovery a made while writing this very post: Competitor has extracted some material from a six-part series on training volume I produced in 2013 and used it for a piece it published on Nov. 8. I don't think it's any different from the original, published on Aug. 6, 2013. 

I think it's funny that I have a piece credited to me on Competitor with a publication date two weeks later than that of this post, in which I humorlessly trashed the entire operation. Not because of the nominal conflict, but because it's more evidence that no one in the running world pulling any levers or pushing any buttons not attached to their crotches reads the shit I say or cares what I say when I say it. For this I blame not my own thoroughgoing lack of relevance, but the apocalyptic glut of nonstop nonsense on the Internet. to which these blogs post do not contribute in the least.

I've run every day since returning to Colorado from New Hampshire on Halloween. To put that more impressively, I've logged 57.5 miles in those 16 days. I am pretty sure that every one of those miles has been with Rosie. They all follow the same general formula: a mile in 7:30 or so and the remaining two or three miles at 6:30 to 7:00 pace, speeding up throughout. This is almost all the result Rosie's automatic pace-selection process. For what it's worth, the only times I find low-6:00 pace challenging at this level of volume is when we climb a hill, or run though mud or traverse patches of ice, because while these things prompt me to ease up on my own, Rosie doesn't respond to them as obstacles at all.

This is sort of fun for now, as I'm that rec-runner mode of being able to never treat any given day as a real rest day since I'm never resting up for anything and don't have many residual miles in my legs. But I'll probably add enough miles soon so that I can justify the amount of laundry daily running at this time of year compels me to do.

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