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

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Pulling the plug, part 1

This morning, I somewhat mysteriously lost a draft of a "potpourri"-style post that would have detailed a range of uninteresting topics. There was a section describing how painful it is to watch track announcers try to give splits and projected times in a mile or two-mile race held on an indoor metric track, because almost no one gets this right. There was a passage about how funny it is that Ohio and Colorado are in the same Foot Locker Cross Country region, and how two kids who live in cities connected by I-80 over 1,600 miles apart, Grand Junction and Youngstown, could meet at the Midwest Regional Championship held every November in Wisconsin. There was a brief and pointless analysis of some heartfelt garbage assembled by a religiously ailing cretin who recently found this place and, after dribbling a bit of his opinion-spooge into a comment, decided to have a full-on blog-wank to his own various misapprehensions; talking to or even about people that brain-dead is generally a bad idea anyway, because a lot of them are charged with that special-needs brand of persistence that keeps people arguing well past the point where they should have pounded about a gallon of Drano and put themselves out of the Internet's misery.

It's just as well I lost all of that shit, because it was just more noise. Harmless, but as superfluous in the grand scheme as the rest of the jibber-jabber my feeble hate-scape of a mind has concocted and my fumbling fingers have then converted to a form most of you can cognitively process, albeit to a shockingly limited extent in some cases, and in a way that leads some of you to respond in ways that make me wonder if, and how, you manage to feed yourself unassisted, and what sort of grim detritus would be found caking your unkempt anus if someone were ambitious enough to investigate.

I have long assumed that as long as my relationships with my friends and family members were up to snuff, I wouldn't agonize about how painfully incompetent, dishonest, or malicious Earthlings as a rule are. You don't even have to be capable, wise, or decent yourself to grasp how feckless this species is, and to appreciate what a dangerously rotted branch it represents on the evolutionary tree. Sadly, by the time we manage to do something righteous for once and wipe ourselves out, instead of just sawing that one deadweight branch off, we'll take out the whole goddamn forest and leave our morbid ass-prints behind for the next round of creatures to ponder, should they ever emerge from the smoldering 60-million-square-mile landfill we bequeath

Obviously, this is not the case, and probably wouldn't be even if I were a zillionaire with no need to interact at all with anyone else on a "professional" level (and I'm using quotation marks to emphasize the fact that money changing hands alone doesn't make a transaction "professional"). I would still hate society even if I could become as detached from it as possible without actually being institutionalized or killing myself, and I'm counting on escaping this shitshow via the latter route, though not imminently. And you can all relax, because as much as you probably deserve to be culled from the mammalian herd, I am not the sort of dickwad who dreams of taking others out out of spite. This is not because I am a humanist; it's because life is a prison and I find more pleasure in the idea of shit

All of which is a preamble to describing a situation that began as annoying and has since progressed to being dully infuriating and a howl by turns.

Over nine months ago, I successfully pitched a story to an editor at Outside Magazine. I never, ever should have done this. My pitch was accepted, and I was told I would be paid $600 for this work, but for the first time in years, I was actually far more concerned with the quality of the output than with the paycheck, because I thought it was a really interesting piece. I understood a while ago that even if I didn't generally hate writing about running these days because of my sketchy relationship to the activity and the fact that it's boring as hell, I have come to despise dealing with the kind of lazy, unimaginative shitpokes who have found their way into editorial jobs the nation over.

This 700-word story required me to speak with about a half-dozen people, all of whom were thrilled to learn that their humble efforts would be detailed in a widely read Web publication. I submitted my initial draft to the Outside editor in mid-June of last year. I have faithfully pestered the assignment editor, who is apparently a higher-up of some sort despite consistently displaying the motivation of a bored, hung-over intern, to get updates. This has gone increasingly poorly, with the lies and bullshit from the other party becoming more blatant and insulting, and I have given up. I have also given up on being at all polite toward the people involved, none of whom have looked at the article since December 8.

If I may get up on my middle-aged soapbox, there was a time when such magazines and their websites were staffed by lively, wise and engaging people, a few of whom remain in the general milieu; now, as someone else who's been in the game for a while recently remarked, the environment is overrun with "lazy millennials." I usually balk at tarring an entire generation with the same brush, as this is about as helpful as a horoscope. But I think this characterization is often accurate when aimed at the right sectors. It certainly describes some of the twits I've dealt with in recent years.

Like most outlets dedicated to or strongly emphasizing distance running, Outside Online is for the most part a joke. It certainly carries no traces of the Jon Krakauer era. A high fraction of the pieces are ostensibly about women's running, but most of these contain little more than blind, stupid whining (and not just by women). They have managed to bring one true gem, the indefatigably brilliant Alex Hutchinson, on board in the past year, but even his eclat can't rescue a raft of dingbats from themselves.

I am going to publish my piece in a separate post here (edit: done), not so much because it will be widely read but to put an end to my own agonizing over the situation. Before this weekend, I was resigned to shutting up and pretending I'd never even written the fucking thing; that way, the promised $600 would come as a de facto surprise if and when it arrived at all, and just as importantly, the various conversations I've with the various principals wouldn't be wasted. Thankfully, though, I don't need the crumbs available in this horrible industry to survive, and besides, I don't want my name associated with any publications it hasn't already stained. 20 years from now, I plan to deny ever having written for any running publications, and I will claim that any race results attributed to me represent the labors of some other fuckface. So on balance, I expect to derive more utility by simply venting.

Keep shit like this in mind when you read the complete e-mail exchange between myself and the editors that I am also going to publish soon, one in which the editor assured me various times that she had way too many crucial stories to work on before she could complete her dubious work on mine. Or this, in which Outside apparently signals its intention to move into the dating-advice world. I'm not saying these stories are bad per se, but if these are the topics being given priority, then I'm out, and the shit-eaters can go on munching and generating material for their enterprises accordingly.


  1. This was a veritable feast for my ever-growing appetite for misanthropy.

    "lazy millennials"

    I think it fair enough. While the generalised characterisation of an entire generation may seem unjust, it almost invariably holds true. Discrepancies exist, but are merely outliers. None of which, is to assign blame to millenials themselves. They are the product, not the cause, of society in which they live.

    1. Yeah, I think it's typical for people who were still youngish adults at the time smartphones and social media transformed life into a digital freakshow to feel this way.

      Life with "just the Internet" (say, 1995-2007 or so) was actually far more like the pre-Internet world than it is like today's. It's hard to personally fault people who were teenagers when Twitter, Facebook and iPhones descended on civilization simultaneously for prioritizing how they look and where they stand over what they actually do.

      I would have to think back on this one, but I could as a "Gen X" type and I sort of remember magazines and people my parents' age regarding most of us as slackers. But mostly they emphasized that we didn't care to dress up, which is fair. The point being that if we'd had the ability at age 15 to do what people can do today at that age, we'd have been no different. And hell, I'm no better (he said, gesturing morosely at his own blog). I just choose to rant uncontrollably rather than assess how I might rise to the top of the online herd.

    2. Agree, without caveat.

      "I just choose to rant uncontrollably"

      Me too. I don't pretend that it achieves anything, but it is often cathartic.