A change in direction
Following my own advice
It’s probably the understatement of the decade (!), but lately one of the things I hear most often from you — in emails, replies and comments to our posts — is how the past year has transformed you in some way.
For some of us, that’s meant experiencing the sorrow of the loss of someone close to us, or a vocation, or contact with friends and family members. For others, it’s an awareness that something needs to change, that something doesn’t fit right anymore, even if we’re not quite sure what it is.
The latter is something I’ve been experiencing too, so I wanted to take today’s issue as a chance to talk directly with you about where I am and the direction I’d like to take The Half Marathoner in, if you’d like to continue on this journey together (and I hope you do!).
Let me back up for just a second and give you a little history. I started this newsletter almost 6 1/2 years ago as a way to promote a website that I also own, called Half Marathon Guide. (If you haven’t visited in a while, you can see it here.)
Since January of 2015, when I sent out the first issue, I’ve focused primarily on sending you a themed list of races around the United States (and sometimes, around the world) each week, along with a selection of articles and podcasts on running and training that I found interesting that week.
Somewhere along the way, I started writing brief essays at the beginning of each issue. I started with just a couple or a few paragraphs at first, and then started writing longer and longer pieces. Sometimes shorter, sometimes longer, but over time those became the heart of the newsletter for me, and I believe for many of you too.
At first, I wrote about running and training. About how to approach a training cycle, how to handle it when a run goes badly, what to do when you’re ready to run longer distances. Later, I began writing more about what running does to us on the inside, between the ears, and how it changes us.
Since that first issue back at the start of 2015, more than six years of writing has meant somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 weekly issues (and that’s not counting the additional issues our paid subscribers receive).
The reason I share that with you isn’t to complain or sound negative, but to illustrate why I’ve begun to feel the way I’ve increasingly felt lately — namely, that I’ve begun to reach the limit of what I can meaningfully contribute on the topic of running.
That’s not to say that I don’t still love running — I do. It’s just as important to me now as it’s always been (maybe even more in some ways, to do with the stress we’ve all been feeling over the past year). But, the role running plays in my life has changed, for sure.
When I created the Half Marathon Guide website that would later lead to this newsletter, it was 2006. I was 35 years old and had no kids. I was still very much in the thick of training for races on a regular basis, and got together with a group of running friends each Saturday.
Today, things are a little different. I recently turned 50 and I’m married with two children, one of whom is still in first grade. We have a dog, a lizard and a pair of African dwarf frogs — whom I realized I’ve forgotten to feed as I write this! — living in our house with us. (And we may add more reptiles to that mix very soon.)
And, over the past year, so much has happened. Loved ones of mine have had a really difficult time dealing with the pandemic. Some have experienced some significant losses, while others have had a difficult time dealing with the changing reality we’ve all been living through.
On the other hand, there have been many joys too. From some amazing books I’ve read to the class I’ve been taking on the Old Testament to Ted Lasso to the stand-up comedy of John Mulaney to coaching my son’s soccer team to conversations my wife and I have about marriage, family and everything in between, there has been so much over the past year I’ve wanted to write to you and talk with you about. But I’ve felt I couldn’t, because the topic of the newsletter makes most of all that off-limits.
(I know I do touch on some of these things in an indirect way from time to time, but there’s so much I’d like to dig deeper on with you. I’ll often show newsletter issues to my wife before I send them out, and lately she’s been saying, “yeah, you’re just getting started on something interesting there, but then it ended. What’s next?”)
Many years ago, I saw an interview with the photographer Richard Avedon, who was probably best known for his work in fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. When the interviewer asked how he pursued his career, what he thought made him successful, Avedon answered: “all I do is follow my enthusiasms.”
Of the entire hour-long interview with him I watched back then, that one line has stuck with me. I was reminded of it as I’ve been looking back at some old issues over the past week, especially at some of the quotations I include at the end, as a way to get us inspired.
One from a few weeks ago really caught my eye this week, by the writer Anaïs Nin:
“It takes courage to push yourself to places you have never been before... to test your limits... to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to stay tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Reading it, I had to stop myself and think for a moment: I can write those words down, but do I have the courage to do that myself?
Changing the focus of the newsletter is scary, to be honest. There are some 50,000 of you who receive it every week, and more than 800 of you are subscribers to our paid edition and community — and I cannot express enough how grateful I am that you support this project! Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
(I’m also deeply indebted to Hollie Sick, Carissa Liebowitz and Amanda Loudin, all amazing writers who have contributed so much wonderful work over the past 2-3 years here.)
I am (more than a little) worried that I’ll scare quite a number of you off by writing what I’m writing today. Please know that I’ll completely understand if you no longer want to subscribe; no hard feelings at all.
But if you are up for a journey in a new direction, and you enjoy being a part of this truly amazing, insightful and supportive community we’ve built here, I hope you’ll continue to be part of it. Even though we’ve been at this for more than 6 years now, I’m excited about carving out space to strike out in a new direction.
So, your next question might be: where, exactly, are we going? The short answer is, I don’t know. I have stories I’ve wanted to tell, and ideas I’ve wanted to share, in my back pocket for a long time. But they’re a little like a muscle I haven’t worked out in a long time; I might be a little rusty at first.
What I’d like to do is continue what we’ve been doing — weekly and bi-weekly issues, but adding more of the community and discussion that I’ve personally loved (and I think you have too) over the past year. We’re doing this with our book club for paid subscribers and the Friday discussions we’ve been doing for a while — only now, we’ll dig into a wider range of ideas and stories.
Honestly, my favorite part of doing this newsletter is hearing from you — in the comments, in replies, and especially in our live discussion threads. So I see that being a big part of what the newsletter continues to be going forward.
Am I crazy? Is this a terrible idea? I don’t know for sure, but only time will tell. I’ve loved having you on this journey so far, and I hope you’ll stay on it with me. No matter how long you stay, it’ll be a chance for us to follow our enthusiams together.
Thanks for being here — your friend,