I Can Forgive…Forgetting Is Harder

I am sad. I’ve been in suspense since I heard that RW was printing some of the letters about the travesty of an article written about one of my role models, Coach Bob Timmons. How would they handle it? Which would be published? A friend gave me a link to the RW site that would supposedly contain ALL of the letters submitted about the story, which I checked periodically to see if they would be true to their word.

A couple of weeks ago, the letters appeared. A dozen or so, all sharing my reaction to the unfair, untrue, and pointless article and written by those who know or know of Coach Timmons. At the top of the page, RW had written only:  “Reader commentary on ‘Forgive and Forget,’ a story on coach Bob Timmons by Ben Paynter which ran in the April 2009 issue of Runner’s World.” That’s all? This upset me a bit. While I’m a teensy bit glad to see that the letters weren’t simply tossed,  I was idealistically hoping for more responsibility and apology for the article from RW. (Sidenote: I would also have been happier if they had preserved my paragraph breaks, but that’s just the technical writer coming through.)

Well, I thought, I’ll just have to wait and see what comes out in the printed version.  So I waited, periodically visiting the library after work to see if the June edition had come out.

It was there yesterday, and now I’m sad. They printed Jim Ryun’s letter, true, but the text preceding it merely said, “many athletes think that Coach Timmons is inspiring as well as demanding.” After Jim’s letter, they provided the link to view the remaining letters. Again, I’m grateful that they published anything at all. But again, they’ve completely avoided responsibility. They (of course there’s a “they”) can publish an 8-page article filled with bitterness and half-truths, and we (the good guys, obviously!) get a puny, half-hearted sentence two months later conceding only that there are different views. If nothing else, the existence of different views proves the article was lacking and requires the apology I was wanting and waiting to hear.

So sad. I didn’t really expect to accomplish anything, but boy was I hoping to. It’s discouraging to know that they really don’t care. Actually, there’s probably at least one someone over in RW corporate who’s delighted to see controversy. Get people talking! There’s the ticket! Free publicity! What’s especially sad is that, with all its articles about “running your first 5k” and “top 10 running foods,” RW is targeting novice runners.  That article was likely their first introduction to Coach Timmons, and with little experience of the history of running or college training, they may take the distorted story as fact. That a publication with so little respect for running as to avoid responsibility for a poorly-written article is the vehicle for introducing the sport to so many is highly depressing.

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