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Out There: Stories About Running

Columnist Susan Lacke celebrates 5 years of “Out There.”

This month marks my 5-year anniversary as a columnist for Competitor magazine. I’m not sure how I got this job in the first place, much less managed to keep it for so long. But here I am, and here I will remain (Endurance Gods willing).

When I was invited to be a columnist for this fine publication, I asked my editor just what it was that he wanted me to write about. He looked at me like I was an idiot (a look that would become his default setting over the years) and answered simply:

“We’re a running magazine, so…I’d suggest you tell stories about running.”

To be honest, the work intimidated me. How the hell was I supposed to come up with something new every week? My life simply isn’t that interesting—after all, I’m not a professional runner or even a good runner. I was just a new runner at that point, and convinced I would run out of things to write about fairly quickly. There’s only so many ways one can reconfigure the story of “I went outside. I ran. It was good.”

With my deadline for my first column looming, I sat at my computer and tried to think of a good story about running. It didn’t happen. I typed words, then deleted them. I cursed a lot. But mostly, I just stared at the blinking cursor. I obviously wasn’t getting anywhere. I had to do something.

So I went outside. I ran. It was good.

This is the part of my tale where I should say I had some grand epiphany during this run. If I were to follow every single clichéd storyline ever scripted, this is where I would write about the heavens opening up, the light shining down, and a perfect, fully-formed column appearing in my head. That didn’t happen.

But my running buddy, Justin, did talk about his “junk” during that run (Justin talks about his junk often and creatively, which makes him a very entertaining training partner). And that, my friends, is how my first column – “The Bounce Test” – came to be. Thanks, Justin’s junk!

When I submitted “The Bounce Test” to my editor, I got the idiot look again. Did I really submit 500 words about boobs for my debut column? Yes. Yes, I did.

Since then, I’ve written about runger, beer, and breast milk. I’ve traveled the world. I penned a manifesto for training buddies and implored others to not act like jerkfaces.

I’ve met runners of every shape, size, and style. I’ve written about growing up, my disability, and the disappearance of inseams in my shorts. I’ve been hit by a car. I got a lot of hell yeahs and eff offs for writing about an experience with street harassment.

I’ve done a lot of dumb things and watched other people do dumb things. I discovered that I have seven chins that only appear during race photos. I’ve experienced illness, injury and loss. I’ve fallen in love. I’ve had my heart broken. I had the worst race ever.

Like I said, I’m not really sure how I’ve managed to stay employed at a running magazine when I don’t tell stories about running. I tell stories about life – your life, my life, the life of my editor (who is probably making the idiot face as he reads these words). It just so happens the most interesting stories take place in a pair of running shoes.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last five years, it’s that running puts us in the path of remarkable people, places, and situations. And sometimes it puts us in the path of Justin’s junk.

Either way, it all makes for a good story.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.