Running has a metaphor for everything, amirite?
My post last Monday stirred up some activity. In a perfect world I would say, “The response was overwhelming!” I would be moved to breathe life back into the site, to have an open call for contributors and put it all back.
But it wasn’t. And I can’t, at least not the way it was. Although several people unexpectedly came to my aid with emotional support (thank you!) and lots more responded and told me they loved SR and missed it, the overall response wasn’t overwhelming. It was enlightening though, and moved me to give the decision to completely shut down a re-examination. Here’s what I learned:
There are People who did not write for SR who liked us a lot. These people agree that we had a role in expanding perceptions of women in our sport, which is nice.
Those people have been missing us, and want a space like SR for women who don’t fit into mainstream molds all the time.
Many of those who wrote for Salty Running have moved on from competitive running for a wide range of reasons, but even those who are still running appear to be more interested in seeking balance than seeking PRs.
As for me, I have come back around to seeking PRs again – it’s not as important as it once was, but it’s there.
I loved working on SR. Others did too. But nobody else is going to take the lead.
SR is not a sustainable model the way it was. You guys probably didn’t see it on the front end, but on the back end we always had a lead editor. For many years, that was Salty, who worked day and night at it.
She was constantly and tirelessly re-working, fact-checking and editing nine articles a week, reaching out to contributors about pending work and drafts, struggling to meet deadlines, producing photos, responding to readers on every social media platform, reading other media sites to ensure our relevancy, writing her own posts, reaching out to potential business mentors and partners, grappling with constantly-changing social media protocols, and handling photo/graphic/coding/server problems herself when I was unavailable. She ultimately asked for help and it came in the form of Pimento, who assisted with editing and managing content schedules, but it was too late. She had already worked herself so hard that she became very, very ill and had to stop completely. In fact, she was so sick she couldn’t do anything but be in bed, doctors’ orders. No kids. No SR. No responsibility other than getting better.
Pimento and I soldiered on and kept the site operating, and we all said it would be different when Salty came back. That she wouldn’t have to do it alone. We all said we would help, and many people stepped up. I will always be thankful for the work they did … but over and over someone would get called in on a work project or have a baby or get a new job or quit running … again and again this giant pile of responsibility fell back to Salty.
Then one day Salty got a new job, and just like that, she wasn’t there to deal with that giant pile anymore.
A few people tried to step in and take over, first one, then another, then another. Ultimately nobody else was able to maintain the level of commitment it took to run the site the way Salty did. I’m not sure anyone understood just how much she was doing until they started doing it all themselves.
I did. I knew the whole time. I was always quick to suggest that we cut back on the number of posts, to remind her that our deadlines were self-imposed. I mean…we aren’t running the New York Times here, and certainly nobody was paid. But every time I doubted we were doing the right thing something amazing would happen. We got an investment. We were invited to cover the Jacksonville Project. I got a press credential for the Olympic Trials in L.A. Amazing things were happening because my sister was working herself to the bone making them happen. I wanted that level of dedication, but living in New York isn’t cheap and the more I involved myself with SR the more my career was neglected. I started losing money. I moved to Cleveland, hoping easing my financial strain would be the jumpstart we needed to go from zero to income.
Maybe knowing how much it took out of her was why I never said I was willing to take the site over.
I have, though. Salty may have built the body, but I’m the one who built the house it lives in. I built the site and hold all its keys. Now that others have tried and failed, it’s been left to me to decide what to do with our creation.
And that brings us here. For now, Salty Running is no longer operational as a community blog. That doesn’t mean that everything Salty Running has to be over. It just means that what we were doing wasn’t working. Still, the quality of the work we did here was very good, and that’s mostly due to the amount of effort that was put into it, on the parts of the contributors who wrote each post, the helper-contributors who may have had a hand in editing or creating photos (oh the photo shoots we had!), and my sister.
To achieve that quality again is certainly something I would prefer, but we have all, I think, seen one of these:
I just made that. It took me five minutes. See? Fast and cheap. Not that good.
We were trying to do SR good and fast for FREE. Impossible!
So I present a few options:
Salty Running, Fast and Cheap: Allow contributors to post unedited, un-fact-checked articles that may or may not provide correct information and may or may not conform to our design, ethics and legal standards. Do not worry about things like social media presence, branding, social responsibility or copyright law.
Salty Running, Good and Fast: Pay a sh*tload of money that I don’t have for other people to edit, fact-check, do all the other stuff that I don’t have time to do.
Obviously, those options suck. That leaves me with this:
Salty Running, Good and Cheap: Write when you can. Edit when you can. Do not worry about timeliness, deadlines, quantity expectations. F*k social media unless you feel like doing it. Ensure all content conforms to design, ethics and legal standards and have fun doing it. Give only what you have and no more, even if that means taking off months at a time.
Sure, I could handle that. But why? Why keep going?
Our about page was cute. It was written by a branding firm called Indie Foundry. They gave me these flashy colors and the new shape of Sal the Snail, which you can see above in the header. It asked the right questions, I think, but it gave these ethereal, branding-firm sounding answers that just reads like sparkly wallpaper to me now.
“Salt is elemental as the air we breathe, as sparkling as stars in the universe, as strong as rock. It moves our heart and other muscles and carries life through our veins. It’s a visible reminder of our essential elemental makeup. Running reveals this. And it deepens our connection with ourselves.”
…blahblahblah. Salty came from my sister’s blogging alias, originally chosen because our skin gets salty when we run. We chose to keep it and apply it to Salty Running because of that at first. But later it became apparent that Salty was the perfect word. I wasn’t sure there was room for me in my sister’s little blog since I was new to clocking 9 minute miles, but when I realized that Salty Running wasn’t about having fast feet nearly as much as it was about having bigger balls that the men who told us not to talk about our periods, well I fit right in.
We were Salty, all right. But it wasn’t just literal salt. We were not angry so much as deeply annoyed at the way people treated us like being competitive was wrong, like putting in the time to strengthen our bodies was wrong, I mean, come on…how could running not be ladylike?
Is that a battle we still need to fight?
What can we say about running that hasn’t already been said?
Is it even about running?
Running is our muse. It has the ability to excite our creative passion and call forth our creative spirit. Running connects us to the earth and to ourselves in a transformative way we only experience through the process of one foot in front of the other. When we run we know ourselves more. We become the best versions of ourselves. We connect to our spirits and our greatest desires. But let’s be real; what we learn on the roads or trails serves us in life. Running teaches us perseverance, patience, commitment. It makes us powerful.
Well… it was. It did. It used to.
In the process of creating Salty Running we saw that running can be so so so good. It can teach you about yourself, can give you a metaphor for literally anything in life, and can provide a refuge for you when the rest of your life is out of your control. But there are two sides to every coin. That control stuff… it’s real. A lot of people use running to control their bodies. That can be healthy or unhealthy. Some people use it to control their lives. Again, healthy or unhealthy.
One of the people who came out of the woodwork when I posted last week was Pumpkin. She mentioned that she hasn’t been running so much, that balance was the way more important thing. Salty has had that going on too. I took a year-long break from racing when I woke up one day after my fourth marathon in 18 months and realized the idea of “having to” run made me want to cry. I’ve run three races in the 18 months since then, a 1 mile, a half, and the NYC Marathon. At the latter I did not meet my time goal; I came in one minute behind. I’m very happy with that though, because I met a lot of other goals in the process! Balance.
Ginger has been more about balance too – she’s been doing standup. So has Bergamot, who’s kicking ass and taking names in law school. Barberry and Mango both have new babies, so they have no choice but to back off from running in favor of balance.
I’m not on social media, so I’m not sure what the rest of our past contributors are doing, but Caraway and Angelica are still just as into it as ever. I think Dill and Catnip are too. Last I checked, most of the rest of the crew are still doing their thing, racing away, running just as much as they ever did. I’m not racing as much, but I’m currently back up to running 35-40mpw without a goal race. That’s a lot! I’m not sure what makes us differ from those who stepped away.
Sometimes I think I didn’t burn out because I never let the candle burn too hot, so to speak. Training was important, but never as important as my job, never even as important as Salty Running was to me. It’s always been as much a safe place as it was a place to push the limits of my capability. Balance.
It seems to me like balance is the theme. Running is awesome, when it makes sense for you. And your approach to running should be dictated by how it works best in your life. And sometimes running is even bad for some people. Not just because of body dysmorphia or exercise addiction, but for lots and lots of different reasons. Sometimes it’s the best thing for you, not necessarily because you want a bikini body by spring, not necessarily because you’re working on an Olympic Trials qualifier, but for lots and lots of different reasons.
I’ll spare you the snowflake metaphor. We are all different. Running fits into each of our lives differently, and in many cases not at all.
Which leaves me believing running isn’t the thing we were writing about, it’s just one thing we were writing about. And if you look at the work we were putting out in 2016-2017, you can see that. We were writing about how running doesn’t fit in with who we are sometimes, how we were struggling with overtraining syndrome or tired of grinding out big paces day after day. We were writing stuff about finishing our worst marathons ever, re-evaluating our goals, and a LOT of mindfulness. I was writing about running, but I remember having to rework everything I wrote to be about running, because I was really just writing about life and running was just a convenient metaphor for the difficulty I was having trying to do it right.
At its core, Salty Running hasn’t been about running for a long time. It’s been about doing the work to be the best person you could be. And running.
So why write about running if it’s not the thing?
Why not expand into other topics? Salty Women, not just Salty Runners. Salty Housekeeping, Salty Freelancing, Salty Cat-Herding, Salty Hiking. Salty all the time everywhere. Women with balls who get sh*t done…
…she said, waffling.
Salty Running was always really good at that, at motivating me, a waffler, to get sh*t done that seems insurmountable. If you want to run any race I can tell you how, and you better believe I learned it here from the 76 other women who have written for this site over the last 7 years, from beginner to elite and every possible step between. The first step is to decide which one you want to run.
Like I said, running has a metaphor for everything. Here I am, still sweating in the chute and already staring at the race calendar of Salty Running’s future. All I have to do is choose what comes next, and the rest will fall into place.
Like we always say, the first step is always the hardest.