2023 in review, 2024 in preview
Running Sucks hasn't even been in the world for a year, but 'tis the season to do a recap.
Welcome to Running Sucks, a newsletter where I speak to interesting people in the running world to find out how they are adding to our culture. Subscribe for a new edition in your inbox every week.
A warm welcome to the Running Sucks 2023 recap. Allow me to explain what I’ve been doing and what I’ve learned along the way.
I began in March, primarily to keep my journalistic muscles in practice. Having left two decades of talking to rock bands behind, I missed speaking to interesting people. This was to scratch that itch, but with luminaries of the running world.
Always one to gamify my life, I aimed to achieve 500 subscribers by the end of 2023 (now). It turns out that 1,000 people in 65 countries signed up to read my work by October 12th. A nice milestone but that’s all - I write for one person the same way as for 1,000.
This is a nice moment to consider what I was really trying to do by writing about these people? I had an initial idea, but really figured it out as I went along.
My big goal?
I wanted to make running more accessible a sport. All runners agree that there is at least one moment where running is difficult. A moment where… running sucks!
My goal was to write about solutions to that difficult moment. If I could explain how to make running suck less for people, they’d be more likely to make running a regular activity.
I profile one (interesting) person from the world of running each week to find out how that person is expanding running culture.
There’s that scratch itched, but I also get to fulfill my ulterior motive of helping more runners enjoy running.
What did I write about?
I had no set agenda but to write profiles and stories that interested me and reflected my worldview. Now, after 9 months of doing that, I can see that I was drawn to very specific topics. Here they are, with some context of personal highlights and difficulties.
Community, specifically running clubs
I replaced running races with running with my local clubs about 6 years ago when I ran a half-marathon and found very little pleasure in either running it or training for it. Give me 3 miles in the neighborhood with my friends any day.
This piece on the global network of beer runners was one of my favorites to write. It took a long time to get Mikkel to agree to speak with me!
I wrote a five-article series on “slow running” and this inspiring story about Celina building a troupe of slow running women in London was a delight to learn about and write.
Los Angeles - my home
Running races, however, was how I got to know L.A. when I moved here from London in 2014. I ran as many of them as possible (apart from the L.A. Marathon, of course). I love this city and all it has to offer, and I love sharing that with you.
There are incredibly tough-to-stomach parts of the city, and I discovered that many people would rather not even hear about the homelessness in L.A. - I lost 5% of my subscribers when I posted this!
Creators - books, films, and music
I love to see people create. Discovering their perspectives and highlighting how they are engaging with running culture is a real joy of mine.
This conversation about creativity with Brendan Leonard was so enlightening for me. Running can provide a virtual cabin in the woods? It’s a perfect, perfect way to think about it.
One of my early profiles was of Jimmy Watkins - the Running Punk. It was a great conversation and probably the first piece I was really happy with.
A huge personal highlight was hosting Lindsey Freeman in a real-life book event in Los Angeles. Maybe I’ll do more of that.
I started out 2023 writing about a couple of prominent exporters of Bangladeshi culture - a big art exhibit in California curated by a part-time resident of the 8th most populous country in the world, and an MLS soccer player proud of his freedom fighter grandmother’s heritage.
South Asia has little representation in world athletics, and I’ll do what I can to redress that balance.
As this publication is such a personal exercise in curiosity, writing about miscarriage and breast cancer were two topics that I found interesting but also incredibly difficult to write. Those topics were also too difficult for some ex-subscribers! Maybe they’ll be back one day.
The perspectives of other running coaches
I took my USATF running coaching certification a few years ago mainly as an exercise to understand running better. I like to overthink things. My further reading, then, is talking to and getting the perspectives of other, more notable running coaches.
For instance, Joel Pearson is one of the main USA Track & Field coaches and his near-30-year run streak is a fascinating story. I find his take on it highly amusing as well.
Getting to chat to Matt Fitzgerald, one of the major proponents of 80/20 running was also a personal highlight. It feels like breathing rarefied air speaking to these people.
Those are the five main topics I write about. Expect a greater focus on them in 2024. I’ve got the first 10 interviews done already, and I am excited about them all. I hope you are as well!
Whether you’ve been reading my work for one edition or all 33, I salute you. You’ve seen me hone this idea in real time, and it’s been very fun figuring it out.
Thanks for indulging me and please let me know your thoughts below.
2024 will see a more streamlined (and maybe expanded) version of Running Sucks. You can have your say on what you would like to see more of.
New weekly giveaway for 2024
Running Sucks has partnered with Janji to give away a $50 gift card every single week of 2024. Their running apparel is well-made, looks good, and it’s ethical. That’s what we want, isn’t it?
To be in with a chance of winning and to read the rules, go to the brand new Competition page of the site and enter there.
The first winner will be drawn at 12pm January 1st. It’ll be a happy new year for someone. Good luck!