A Runners Guide to Writing

Reading the newsletter is an integral part of what makes the Burlington Runners tick. Without the newsletter we would have to rely on email, telephone calls and announcements at the Saturday club run to find out what is going on. All the really juicy stuff has to wait until the actual run, then analyzed and discussed over the required coffee at William’s Coffee Pub after. And usually, it’s discussed very loudly.

On the Saturday’s that the newsletter is distributed, the usual routine changes. We still get the announcements and we still gossip during the run but at coffee, everyone lines up for their copy, and the usual roar of voices is replaced by the hushed atmosphere of a library as everyone checks out what this months edition contains. The silence is interspersed with guffaws and gibes as various members’ names are implicated or a story gets related in print. Eventually, after about 20 minutes, the volume returns to normal as newsletters are put away and discussion returns to an analysis of the newsletter, rather than gossip. Ok… Maybe a little gossip as well.

I’ve had the pleasure and duty of writing for the newsletter for the last 6 years. It started off as a one off article, but I found that after a while I had a lot that I wanted to say and share with club members and the newsletter was the perfect place to do it. I can hear your exclamations of disbelief, that being the shy and quiet type, that I would have opinions and stories to share. But it’s all true. The writing has allowed me time to work through deep thoughts and ideas, to stir the pot on an issue, to pontificate on an ideal, or rage on a favorite rant. I get to do all this in a safe, supportive environment.

However, one essay does not a newsletter make. We have made it a part of every edition to have the club president to write a column, to bring us all up to date on what’s going on. This helps the club members that can’t make the Saturday runs stay current on events in the past and the future and help them feel connected to the club. Joe Hewitt, Jackie Terry and Duncan Richie have all contributed to this page and I hope that future club executives continue participate in this fashion.

Various other club executives and designates have their areas as well. We all check out the social page to find out who is hosting the next “Beer Run” and of course there are the usual submissions from Ginny Megan and our own Roads Scholar, Eugene Combs. We expect that the race directors will be doing the “Rah-Rah” thing, drumming up interest for their up-coming race or summarizing yet another successful event.

However, for me the highlight of any edition is finding an article written by someone that I haven’t read before. Here is an opportunity to hear from a new voice that can tell me their unique story or point of view. We’ve had some great articles written by people that I wouldn’t have expected. In fact, quite a few of the “Editor’s Choice” award winners were club members that have only submitted one or two pieces for publication.

I’ve heard from many of you, that old familiar strain, that you couldn’t write an article for the newsletter. PAH and balderdash I say! Any one can write an article, if they have a story to tell and a way of telling it. The problem comes not in telling the story, but in how to write it. Not all of us have the gift of gab (or would that be gift of type?) and the problem of getting it down and submitted is two-fold. First, there’s the embarrassment factor and secondly, there’s the problem of how to start.

Everyone has an interesting story to tell, an anecdote, or a warning that is worth sharing. If you would tell it to someone face to face, then there’s no reason not to write it down and share it. You say you can’t write, well neither do I, but I just type stuff in, putting on the page what I’m thinking, the way I’d say things. That’s the reason I love Ginny’s articles, I can hear her voice in the words she writes, she writes the way she speaks and thinks. She’s not writing anything but who she is. Are you embarrassed being who you are? Of course not, so why be embarrassed about sharing your thoughts?

If you are worried about your grammar or sentence structure or the words you use, there are resources that can help you proof read and correct your article. There are club members that would be happy to help put a bit of polish on someone else’s words. I know mine need more than a bit of polish some days and my long suffering wife Rosie is my copy editor.

Probably for me the hardest part of writing is not the doing, but the starting. Without an idea to start with, how could I fill a page? Yes, even I have problems getting something to write about. However, I usually have three or four ideas bouncing around in my head waiting for the hook to pull them out. It could be an article title, a comment by a friend or and adventure that I keep telling to others. Whatever it is, I need a place to start, a nail to hang it off of. Start by using your own voice. Remember how you told that story last week and write it down that way. Initially, don’t worry about sentence structure or grammar, that comes later, I just get the ideas captured.

I have also found that for standard events such as a race report it often helps to have a template. This will give you a guide as to what information to add. Here’s my race report template:

Race Info: Name, date, distances, who won and their times.
Race Prep: Expo, bib pickup, registration, hotels, travel, etc.
Race Assembly Area: Washroom facilities, corrals, start time, transportation, parking, and organization.
Race Course: Weather conditions, course conditions, water stations, crowd support.
Post Race: Finish line, chip removal, water and refreshments, post race party
Personal Evaluation of Race: How does it stack up to other races?
Personal Race: How did you run the race and what was your time.

I guarantee that if you fill this in, you’ll have a great race report that is not only informative, but one that others will base their decision to run the race in future.

Writing Rules of Thumb

  • Be natural; tell the story in your own voice.
  • Write about what you know, write about personal experience.
  • Write down your ideas first, worry about organizing and making it pretty later
  • For race reports and similar events, use a template to get started and fill in the blanks
  • Keep it short and interesting.
  • Let someone else read it and help correct it before sending it in.

Lastly, for the rest of you club members, if you read something that you enjoyed or made you stop and think, please let the writer know. It’s lonely out there, and our writers need to know that they are being read and appreciated.


By Mark G. Collis
April 30, 2007