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  RUNNING TIMES  
 

Circulation: 100,000
Date of Birth: 1977
Frequency: Ten times a year
Price: $4.99
Natural Habitat: On a runner’s kitchen island, between a Nalgene bottle and a box of CLIF energy bars

By John Mitchell

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Right about the time Atari was gluing Americans to their television screens, another national craze was turning us into health nuts. In the 1960s and 1970s, Americans started running like never before, and they haven’t looked back since.

Three of those runners—Ed Ayers, Rick Platt, and Phil Stewart—were thrilled with the recognition their long-unrecognized sport was finally getting, but disenchanted by what they saw as the disloyal commercialization of the only national running magazine at the time (Runner’s World), so they decided to found Running Times. “In 1976, the three of us decided to start our own magazine,” Ayers recalls in Running Times’s thirtieth-anniversary issue (January/February 2007), “one that would stay true to those for whom running was a serious, life-affirming endeavor and not just another commercial fad like Hula Hoops!”

Ironically, on February 26, 2007, Runner’s World publisher Rodale Inc. announced its acquisition of Running Times and its website from Fitness Publishing Inc. for an undisclosed sum. The two magazines will retain their individual brands, but combine their race databases to provide readers with a more comprehensive resource.

For now, the magazine has stayed largely true to its original mission of being a publication produced “by runners, for runners.” Each issue provides a mixture of training and nutritional advice, buyers’ guides, general interest stories, professional and amateur race info, and reader feedback and contributions.

But for a “by runners, for runners” magazine to be effective, a strong editorial hand is needed to put a professional polish on the rough work of inexperienced writers, and here the magazine often drops the baton. In the December 2006 issue, for instance, Jeff Gaudette laboriously recounts his experience of being the first Michigan finisher at a ten-miler in Flint, MI. His stream-of-consciousness account of each of the ten miles is tedious, and his advice is trite. A monthly “Should’ve Been There” section, which highlights local races and personal running experiences, might more accurately be named “Guess You Had to Be There,” since its stories have little appeal to anyone beyond the friends and family of the contributors.

Still, among the uninspiring contributions, there are always some engaging ones. The magazine’s greatest strength is its advice on everything from olive oil to the latest shoe technology.
What does olive oil have to do with running? Running Times explains that it is an excellent post-run refueler—it boosts the immune system and reduces post-run muscle inflammation. The magazine even goes an extra mile by explaining the different uses for virgin, extra virgin, pure, and light pure olive oil.

I recently put the yearly shoe guide to the test in my search for a new pair to begin training for a marathon. Written with the serious runner in mind, the review is up front about prices and informative about shoe structure and design. Systematized features made comparisons easy and the large, full-color pictures were helpful.

The magazine excels in its advice on training, nutrition, and health. Pete Pfitzinger, a two-time Olympian and now an exercise physiologist, regularly offers advice on how to train effectively and healthily. His recent article on how to break your training into four- to six-week blocks that focus on endurance, lactate threshold, VO2 max (maximum oxygen consumption), and speed is a good example of the magazine’s technical focus. Articles like these favor usability, sometimes at the expense of readability, but a useful reference article can be just as enjoyable for a runner as a good read.

In addition to advice, there is extensive coverage of the professional tour, with major race results, anecdotes, and world and national standings for men and women. Noteworthy amateur races like Philadelphia’s recently expanded marathon also receive attention, and almost every page bears an advertisement for a marathon. The December issue advertised thirty different marathons, from Fargo to Beijing.

Most important, Running Times makes you want to ditch the Xbox and get outside. Inspiring features with panoramic pictures, like the story of an eight-day trans-Alpine race from Germany to Italy, make you want to get some air in your lungs and some rocks under your feet. Not a bad reason to buy a magazine.

 
 
 

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