I started running regularly sometime within the past few years. I’ve always gotten some kind of regular exercise, which usually meant hitting the gym a few times every week. At some point I decided to go for the occasional short run as part of the mix. I don’t know when or how the internal switch got flipped, but somewhere along the way running became something I took seriously. As the Better Half can attest, I now get impossibly cranky if I don’t get to run a certain number of miles every week. I certainly understand how being a runner can weirdly infiltrate a person’s sense of identity.
I also understand how challenging it must be for publications to approach the coming 10-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks and to figure out what to say and how to say it. The event was so monumental and had such an impact on our country that I imagine editors from coast to coast feel like they have to say something. Ignoring the subject completely is probably not a real alternative.
All of this appeared on my mental radar when I started leafing through the September issue of Runner’s World. Its approach to the problem is to feature a series of short essays, each by someone whose running was somehow affected by the 9/11 attacks. Of these, only the essay by the widow of a man on Flight 93 escapes feeling forced. Her personal connection to the tragedy is undeniable, and the way she discusses why her loss spurned her to run feels sincere and understandable. I wish they’d simply featured her and left the remainder off, as many of them read to me as randomly-selected and with tenuous connections to the attacks.
As much as I love running and find it personally meaningful and enjoyable, I can’t help but acknowledge that it’s pretty damn picayune from an historical perspective. I wonder if trying to address something as epic in scope as 9/11 through the lens of something like running risks trivializing it. But then, what’s a publication like Runner’s World to do?
What do you think? If you had been in charge, is this the approach you would have taken? Would you have broached the subject at all? Is there a moral imperative to touch on the subject for any publication of sufficient readership, or would it be best if some magazines just skipped the topic entirely? I’m curious to know your thoughts.