I’ve mentioned before that I happen to live about 15 minutes from Rodale, which is home to our beloved magazine, Runner’s World. Bart Yasso is my neighbor and good friend, but I’ve still never had the chance to go to the offices for a visit. He’s really the only person I know there, and he is always on the road so he’s tough to catch in the office. When I found out I was actually going for a visit there, I texted him to see if he would be around and he informed me he was in NY. Shooting a video. WITH MEB. Like…as in Meb Keflezghi. I mean…come on. These people live the freaking dream every single day!
A few months ago, I participated as a buddy in the Girls on the Run 5K. When I was there, my friend Kathy and I met a few of the Runner’s World editors – Hannah and Allie. They mentioned that since they work at RW, they are encouraged to take lunchtime runs and do intervals on the track with renowned coach Budd Coates, who also works for RW. Kathy and I mentioned that we are teachers and off in the summers, and Hannah said, “You should come by for a tour and a run!” Kathy is also friendly with David Willey, the Editor in Chief at RW (you know, the letter from the editor in most issues? That guy!) and mentioned her offer. Kathy works with him with a running club she began with her elementary school kids. He enthusiastically agreed that we should come by, and that he would personally run with us.
You know how people say things and make plans that never actually happen? I was pretty sure this was one of those things. But right before I went on vacation, David threw a bunch of dates out to Kathy and we all agreed. Wednesday, August 13th would be the day of our visit…really? This was happening? Is this real life? I wasn’t trying to get my hopes up because he IS the guy IN CHARGE at Runner’s World and we are just some local runners! He also mentioned that the October issue was being shipped to the printer so it was a very busy time at his office. I thought for sure it would fall through. It didn’t, and we had a great afternoon!
We arrived around 11am. I knew where the office was since I ride my bike that way all the time – it’s like 7 miles away from my house. We signed in, and Hannah (in charge of their social media, so when you see tweets/Facebook posts/etc it’s her!) met us and gave us a tour. Oh my gosh. The offices are light and airy, and surprisingly quiet and calm. On the first floor, she showed us where they have a meditation room (yes, this is a real thing) and their cafe. A cafe full of healthy, delicious, organic foods. Also on the first floor was the “bike room” – since they also have a magazine about biking, they have a bunch of bikes for the staff to try out! David did the Steelman Tri (the one I did) on Sunday and just borrowed this sick ride and aero helmet for the race. How cool is that? The room had hooks lining the walls, and bikes everywhere. It was like…maybe my version of what heaven might look like.
She then took us to the second floor, where the RW magic happens! As you approached the wing of the offices that deal with the magazine, there’s a huge wall. The top portion has every single cover from what looked like the past…five? ten? years displayed, and the second half has every single page of the new issue hanging up. It looks like they finish a page, and hang it on the wall. They were getting ready to ship their October issue to the printer (like the next day) so we saw the entire issue! Later, David Willey informed us that we are the first two subscribers to lay eyes on it. If you get the magazine, it looks like a good issue – but we promised that our lips are sealed!
Hannah took us around the office and introduced us to the staff. One thing I noticed – all of the people working in cubicles were pretty young! I got to talk to a lot of the people who interview famous runners, and one girl (Megan) who hosted Shalane Flanagan when she was in town for the Runner’s World Festival. They are all told that they aren’t allowed to geek out around the famous runners, but they totally do behind closed doors. Megan told us how when she hosted Shalane, she would take her places and drop her off and after, she’d immediately call her dad and freak out. All of the people we met agreed that every single elite runner is kind, humble, and down to earth.
It was getting close to their lunch time, and since it was Wednesday so Hannah told us that she does intervals. Budd Coates (another local name for me) was an elite runner in the height of his career with a 2:13 marathon PR. He works at RW as their training guru and of course, he trains the staff. Emmaus High School’s track is walking distance from the office, so the staff goes there over lunch for track workouts. Hannah invited us to come with her if David was too busy for a run. She led us to his office and he informed us that he wasn’t doing intervals, but a nice easy run and we were free to join him or go with Hannah. Um, how do you decide? A track workout with an elite coach (nevermind I did my own track workout just a few hours ago, my legs were dead – I forgot about that fatigue as soon as the name Budd Coates was thrown around) or a run with the guy who is completely in charge of the publication I devour each month and read religiously?
We picked a run with David, and I’m so glad we did. Now that we had the chance to tour the offices and hang with Hannah, we became friends on social media and I feel like we would have the opportunity to come back and do a track workout with her some other time. But how often does the editor-in-chief carve out time in his schedule (a day before the new issue was released, no less) to run with you? As she showed us to his office, he was sitting there writing the letter from the editor that he often includes in each issue. It’s one of my favorite things to read in each magazine, and he told us that he only does it if the “book” (I learned lots of new terminology here) has room each month.
I’d met David for the first time last Sunday at the triathlon. One thing I noticed then and can say for sure is that he is definitely nothing like I expected. I thought that a guy with his responsibility would be stuffy and hard to talk to. Honestly, I wish I could just sit in his office for a whole day and chat. He’s down to earth and really easy to talk to. I’d only spoken to him for about five minutes on Sunday and standing in his office, I felt like I was talking to an old friend that I knew for ages. We hung out for a few minutes in his office and chatted about anything and everything – races he’s done, the upcoming Runner’s World Festival (and if there will ever be a marathon included?!?!), their international market, living in the Lehigh Valley, shoes, etc. Speaking of shoes, he had a huge shoe rack full of different shoes to pick from sitting in his office, and that was only a fraction of his shoe collection. Of course, he gets them all to test for free. What a job!
We headed downstairs to get ready for our run. The office has locker rooms – so places to keep your stuff while running, and then showers for when you are done. But it’s not just like going to most gyms where you need to bring everything with you – all the comforts of home are there at your disposal. Everything from towels to toothbrushes and toothpaste. We tossed our stuff in a locker, and waited for David outside. While waiting, many of the editors came walking out in their running gear. Like they are not just told they are allowed to leave and workout over lunch – they are ENCOURAGED! They are given all of the tools necessary to do it and get back to work quickly and without being overly sweaty. Side note – ONCE in eight years as a teacher I went for a run over lunch (not including in service days, I run frequently then) and it was an ordeal. I could only run for 30 minutes, and I felt bad leaving.
David came out and he had his phone in hand. RW is developing an app right now where you can track your workout – kind of like a MapMyRun. It’s currently available in the app store but it’s not finished and VERY glitchy – so it’s a work in progress. He started the app, and we were off. He hadn’t run since the triathlon on Sunday, and said we were going to take it easy. He took us on what they all call the “town loop” with a little addition of a local trail. My friend, Emily, lives right a few blocks away and we’ve run many of those roads together before. Part of the run even went on the road that I live on – just several miles up.
We chatted for the whole run. I learned he was from Michigan originally, and I have a little crush on that state. It’s where I ran my marathon PR and we road tripped through there the past two summers – it’s such a gorgeous place, especially up north. He’s from Grand Rapids so we had lots to talk about. I learned about how he became a runner – he used to be a baseball player and his dad was a runner and would take him out on these intense runs that he was just not ready for, so he hated it. It wasn’t until he was studying abroad in London and felt like he was getting out of shape and wanted to do something that he found running to be enjoyable. Once he realized how wonderful running was, he never looked back.
He was sought out by RW while working for a publishing company in NY, and hadn’t been a reader of the magazine for a few years. He was a former subscriber, but life was busy and running took a backseat at one point so his subscription lapsed. He also said he’d lost interest in the publication since every issue was just regurgitating the same information. When RW interviewed him, he didn’t hold back – he told them everything he didn’t like about the magazine and what he thought it needed. I think he’s been there for 10 years now (he said his daughter was 2 when he got the job, now she’s in 8th grade so if my math is right it would be 10-11 years). I happened to say something like, “what a dream job” and he said, “yes – it really is. I am very lucky”. He definitely doesn’t take it for granted, which is incredible.
After our run, we were cooling down outside and another familiar face came walking up. It was Warren Greene, the shoe guy. If you go on the RW site and watch the shoe videos, Warren is the guy you watch/listen to. Upon being introduced to him, he looked at our feet and was asking us about our shoes and why we liked what we had on. I was wearing my Newtons, which seemed to be interesting to him – I’m not sure why. Personally, he is a Nike Pegasus guy.
When we were done running, David had to get back to work and we parted ways. We were free to clean up in the locker rooms, but since we live so close we just headed out. Hannah, Allie and a few others were in the locker room and were gushing about their track workout. I mean, these people get to do this for a living! As for our run, David could MOVE! It ended up being a total progression run and we did five miles – started at a 9 minute pace, ended at a 7:32. So we had a great visit, and a quality run! I honestly felt like I won the lottery.
On our way out, we stopped in the Rodale General Store. It’s open to the public, I ride by all the time and I’ve never stopped in. You could buy anything they produce and it’s CHEAP. They carry all of the books they publish. Hardcovers are all $10 and paperbacks $5. You can’t by these books that cheap on Amazon. I saw a ton of books I already own and paid full price for. Oh, and they were not only selling the books for that price – they were BUY ONE GET ONE FREE. I did buy two books while I was there and only spent $5. I am never ordering any of their stuff online ever again!
I have to go back to work in about a week, and I can’t think of a cooler way to wrap up the summer. It was an incredible opportunity. I was joking in the days leading up to our visit that I was going to bring my resume and give David on our run. I didn’t, and I love my job as a teacher…but to get to do that for a living just might trump summers off. I’m not sure. I’m not acting on anything, but it’s safe to say that I’m going to keep my eye on their job openings.