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October 24, 2010

Amby and Me (and The Running Life!)

*Admin note: an important announcement about our upcoming Running Life book follows at the end of this post - but you know I won't let you get there without submitting you to a story.


“Writers like Donald and Mike work at the grassroots level to promote and support our sport. Their love of running shines through every page of what they write. They have a unique perspective on “The Running Life” and make us smile and gain insight at the same time. Whether you are an experienced runner, a novice, or even a non-runner, this compilation of articles will inspire.”
- Amby Burfoot, Editor at Large, Runner’s World Magazine and 1968 Boston Marathon winner

Like most other writers who ventured into the wild frontier of the Internet in the early part of the last decade (The Oughts? The Oh’s? Did we ever settle this?), I had fanciful dreams of what this newfangled blogging business might lead to.

I’ve previously described how I did a lot of writing even before I had a website, and how one of my longtime ambitions was to be published in Runner’s World magazine someday. So when I found a vehicle to have my writing viewed by a larger audience – at least, larger than the 20 or so people I used to pester via e-mail with attached word documents whenever I wrote something previously – and to have it potentially circulated to anyone in the world with the click of a mouse … well, that sounded pretty darn cool. I figured it was only a matter of time before somebody discovered my work and threw an obscene amount of money at me to quit my day job and become a full-time writer.

You can guess how that one turned out. It didn’t take very long at all before I realized that I was just another small fish in the overwhelmingly large ocean of amateur writers rushing to the blogosphere with similar ambitions. But since the process was something I truly enjoyed, I kept plugging away at the website more as a hobby than a pathway to success.

Then in the summer of 2006, something happened which quite simply blew me away. Glancing through my website’s inbox one day, I noticed an e-mail titled “A quick appreciation,” with a name in the sender column that literally made my heart skip a beat.

It was from Amby Burfoot.

Amby Burfoot, Boston, 1968; photo from AmbyBurfoot.com

Now, to a running geek like me, seeing this name in my inbox is like a Little Leaguer getting an e-mail from Derek Jeter, or a playground basketball player being contacted out of the blue by Michael Jordan. In my mind, Amby was an idol – not only because he won the Boston Marathon, but also because he is a fantastic writer who served for many years as the Editor in Chief of Runner’s World. Honestly, I’m not sure which of those accomplishments I admired more, but suffice it to say that the guy was living the dream, from what I could see.

And this was the e-mail he sent me:

Donald: I was just tipped off about your blog and web site. Terrific stuff. I'll probably become a regular visitor.

Amby Burfoot
Executive Editor, Runner’s World Magazine

There’s a classic Bill Cosby bit where he imagines how Noah probably reacted to hearing the voice of the Lord for the first time - just for fun, I embedded it below – and this is exactly how I felt when seeing Amby’s e-mail. But before I wrote back and said “Riiight. Who is this really??”, I forwarded the e-mail to my friend Mike, who is a casual acquaintance of Amby’s going back several years.

My question to him was simply, Does this look legit to you?, and Mike’s reply was equally simple: Yup, that’s the address I have for him. Somehow, someway, the Internet helped Amby Burfoot find me.

(By the way, if you’re wondering how I remember exactly when this all happened, and how I can recall his e-mail word for word, it’s because I’ve kept the e-mail in my inbox for more than four years. I’m telling you, I'm a complete fanboy.)


So, um … I didn’t exactly play it cool. Even worse, at the end I decided to throw this one out there:


His response was about as polite as I could have hoped for, considering that I came across as a complete lunatic: he told me that he basically held an emeritus designation now and didn’t really make day-to-day editorial decisions anymore, but he’d pass along my contact info to other editors on staff. And after a couple more exchanged replies where I tried to convince him that I wasn’t really a stalker despite my insistence that he fly to Monterey and train with me and run the Big Sur Marathon sometime, we gradually fell out of contact with each other.

As the years went by, my inner fire to write for RW gradually faded, and I never made another effort to contact Amby. I figured I was all but forgotten to him as well, until Mike and I were considering people to request endorsements of our book. One of the first things he said was, “Hey … why don’t we ask Amby Burfoot?”

So we did – and to our indescribable delight, Amby graciously agreed. His blurb that you see above now graces both the front and back covers of our book – just to make darn sure that you can see it, no matter what side is facing up. Because that’s how much his support means to us.


So this seems like an appropriate time to announce that advance orders of our Running Life book are now officially available online. We’ll have physical copies in our hands by mid-November, and between now and November 14th, we’re offering a special pre-publication price of $15.95, which is a 20% discount off the cover price. Check out our Running Life website, and use the PayPal link on that page to place your order.

I’ll post a general overview of the book and include a few more promotional reminders in the weeks to come, but in the meantime, have we mentioned that the book is recommended by Amby Burfoot? That should give you all the incentive you need.


Bill Cosby, "Noah" (click to play):

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shel 10/25/10, 6:49 AM  

heading over to pre-buy now. someday when my little book is published , i figured it would inspire you to respond in kind. so happy for you donald!

Alex 10/25/10, 9:28 AM  

Good Morning,
New to running, I have found your blog extremely helpful and motivational. will your book be available as an eBook?

Carrie 10/25/10, 10:32 AM  

I know you understand how glad I am that you started blogging. Your family is an important part of my day. I bet I'll get my copy autographed one day.

Gretchen 10/25/10, 7:28 PM  

You are totally a running geek. Which is exactly what I appreciate about you. Well, one of the things. Anyway, thank goodness you did not get an endorsement from Don Kardong, or I would have had to quit speaking to you our of sheer jealousy. Whew!

Also, regarding your previous post, I must beg to differ on the approriateness of the park name. The pictured creatures have no horns. Shouldn't there be horns for it to be called Toro Park??? Bring on the bulls!

Donald 10/27/10, 10:44 PM  

Alex: Yes, it's availabel as an e-book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and possibly other sites as well. Thanks for asking!

Ric Munoz 10/28/10, 9:25 AM  

Thanks for offering the chance to purchase the book at the discounted price -- that's great! I got to meet and spend time with Amby in '95 thanks to an article he assigned John Brant to write about me for RW. The guy could not have been nicer if he tried -- I'm so glad he agreed to write the endorsement for you! I'm really looking forward to reading the book - congratulations on its publication. I hope this means you'll write more books in the future, too.

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