Should we boycott Nike products?

You should watch this and think about what Jim has to say
the next time you go out for a run:


Help! I Need an Oenologist!

Malbec vine; early June 2010

I am just over a month into an experiment to grow Vitis Vinifera, also known as “Wine Grapes”, and I’m sorry to report that it’s not going well. 

In June I planted two dormant grapevine root cuttings, one of Cabernet Franc and the other Malbec, in an attempt to see what they might do in my well tended garden.

I followed the instructions posted at mypersonalvineyard.com meticulously:

  1. I dug an 18 inch hole for each rooted cutting.
  2. I filled the hole (and buried all but 1 to 2 inches of the top of the cutting with herbicide free moist soil, and packed the soil to remove air pockets) and
  3. I used a planting sleeve, fashioned out of two translucent plastic carving sheets.

With all my precautions against desiccation, I fear that my vines may not have survived.

Here is what my Cab Franc planting looks like as of this morning:

Photo of Malbec vine on July 23rd

Pretty dismal, eh?  I suspect that my interpretation of the planting instructions and use of the planting sleeves was incorrect and that I probably killed my vines…but there’s still hope (though slim).

First off, it may be that the cuttings are still dormant, in which case they may “spring” to life with some kind of foliage growth in the next few weeks or months.

Secondly, it could be that I need to try to re-replant these, following the instructions more closely and taking the advice of the good folks at mypersonalvineyard.com.

Third (and lastly) this experiment is not a failure: even if I have killed the plants.  I’ll figure out what I did wrong and try again next year…learning from this possible failure.

I’m not a quitter, and I’m not going to let this set-back (if indeed it is a set-back) prevent me from trying again.

Because if I’ve learned anything from my attempts at breaking four hours in a marathon, after having run over twenty-one of them: If at first you don’t succeed…try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again!


- Steve


Please help me get published!

Fellow runners and friends:

I realize that my chances are slim, and that my essay is a poorly written rambling diatribe of sorts, but I’ve always wanted to be a writer: and THIS may be my ONLY chance to ever have something published in a main-stream media book.

If you have a chance, would you do me a HUGE favor and vote for my essay once a day during the contest?
You can vote between July 6th and September 30th.

I know this is just a publicity stunt for Anthony Bourdain’s book, but I am a HUGE fan of his and it would mean so much to me if I could actually get a little recognition from HarperCollins.

This isn’t about money. If I win, my essay will be printed in the paperback edition of his new book “Medium Raw”. The preliminary round is being judged on creativity, originality, and writing style. For me, this is just a “shot in the dark” chance.

Yes, you do have to register to vote (sorry about that); but this is kind of a big deal for me; and I’d be forever grateful if you could help me out.

Thank you so much.

- Steve


Five Years of Phedippidations

“Laboris gloria Ludi”
(Work hard, Play hard)
It was exactly five years ago today, that I published the very first episode of my podcast: Phedippidations.  

July 4th, 2005 was a Monday, and I had recorded the audio the day before, on a Sunday.  My original idea for a format was to record a show that featured one of the many essays that I had written over the previous five years. 

My wife had always encouraged me to take those essays and publish them in a book; but I had a few problems with that: first; no matter how creative or entertaining those essays might have been my name is Stephen Walker, NOT Stephen King, and no one was going to buy a book of my essays on the topic of running.  That would have been very silly (and presumptuous) of me.  I strive not to be so vain.  Besides, I felt that those essays were better suited for a blog.
In April of 2000, a little over ten years ago, I registered the domain STEVERUNNER.COM.  My friend Jim gave me the idea for the name: I was a runner after all.  I started posting weekly essays and articles on the site; and began writing a monthly article for a website that’s still out there titled “Run The Planet”. 

In early 2004 I came up with the bright idea of recording the audio of my reading some of the essays I was posting at Steverunner.com as well as some of the “Answers to Running Questions” letters that I had composed on RTP.  I got the idea originally because I had been helping a friend at a local radio station set up a sub carrier transmission of a radio reading service for the visually impaired, and I thought that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to provide an optional link on my website for blind runners to be able to hear what I had written.

Also, I was an on air Dee-Jay for four years at my college radio station; so I had a little talent for talking into a microphone…and I stress the word LITTLE.

So this fifth year anniversary of Phedippidations has it’s roots in the tenth year anniversary of SteveRunner.com.  I came up with the blog title of “Phedippidations” when I started receiving email responses from my essays…the word is kind of derived from the name Phedippidees and the word Conversations….since was having conversations about running with my readers.

One of the best things about podcasting, in general, is that content creators like myself are not speaking into a vacuum.  I’ve done that as the morning guy on 91.5 FM WJUL: Real Underground Radio…speaking into a microphone with only the occasional listener feedback on the Inside Line.  Sitting at the light subdued lonely Wheatstone console of main studio A, it sometimes felt like my frequency modulated transmissions were going out into the vacuum of space, to be heard only hundreds of light years away from now when some alien intelligence might ponder over the musings of “Steve YEAH Walker”.  The arbitron ratings we received proved that people in the Greater Lowell and southern New Hampshire area were turning in to my rambling diatribes…but it wasn’t a lot of fun having a one way conversation on the radio.

Today, when I publish an episode of Phedippidations I get…well, let’s just say A LOT of emails (I’ll spare you the actual numbers)…and if what I say is considered even slightly controversial the number of emails reach a level that not possible for me to answer (as I hope you’ll understand) but my point is that there are at least ten of you out there; really listening to what I’m saying…and that’s much more meaningful than having a local audience of commuters tuning in to hear me drone on and on about the weather, traffic and spinning records.

Podcasting is a media so perfectly suited for the running lifestyle.  Just as we schedule our runs in advance, we can schedule what we listen to ON those runs, in advance. 

We can multi-task the time we spend out on the roads and by listening to a podcast, exercise our brains and feel a camaraderie with the podcast host or producer: especially hosts and producers who are fellow runners like the podcasters you just heard: real people with a shared passion for this sport we love so well.

When I first started producing this goofy little podcast about running, the idea of clipping on a microphone and apparently talking to yourself while out on a long run seemed like a ridiculous idea; but today there are over 70 running podcasts listed on the runningpodcasts.org directory!  This idea of recording a podcast and listening to other podcasters completes a mode of communication and conversation not possible with traditional old media; such as radio.

The other really cool thing about podcasting is that it allows for the artistic expression of thoughts, opinions, and observations of our lives.  You know me as a middle aged, middle of the pack, slightly asthmatic runner from New England who appreciates good wine, like Bordeaux, Malbec and Cab Franc, who enjoy’s a great baseball game with the Worcester Tornadoes or my beloved Boston Red Sox, and likes to rock out to amazing music, like that from Great Big Sea, Jim Fidler, Matthew Ebel or the amazing Paul Durham and Black Lab…these are all elements of my life that you’ve heard on this show: when I’m tasting or talking about wine and telling you about the grapes I’m trying to grow, when you hear me at the old ball park singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” or when I present for you some amazing creative commons pod-safe music on every episode of this show.

I think that’s one of the things I most appreciate about running podcasts; that they’re NOT always just about running: they’re about the lives each of the podcasters are living: it’s better than so called reality TV because there’s no pretense involved: we are who we are, for better or worse: but we have this one thing in common: a love for running and for living our lives to the top.

These podcasts we produce are a permanent record of these lives we are living; audio files that will be heard long after you and I have run our last road race, and shuffled off this mortal coil.  They are important because they document the way to live as the good animals we were meant to be; and it sets a good example to anyone who listens now, and in the far future: of how to live a life of meaningful joy.

That’s why we produce these shows…because I’m telling you this fellow runner: something you already know deep in your heart but something that we have somehow GOT to get across to others, be it through personal examples or  a moving pictures expert group dash 1 audio layer 3 standard digital encoding formatted file downloaded to your iPod:

Life is short, but it should be long enough and to take to the roads and become a runner is one certain way to live that life to the top: which is exactly what is expected of us all.

"Podcasting is the most personal and effective application of new media technologies. There's nothing more persuasive or personal than someone whispering in your ear."

- John Wall, co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee podcast and author of the RoninMarketeer.com blog.

John Wall is a fellow runner who I’ve had the honor of running with back in 2005, when this goofy little podcast first began.  His take on the media of PodCasting is the most accurate and truthful description of what we have here that I’ve ever had the chance to read.

But the question arises as to whether, after five years, podcasting can still be considered NEW media.  I mean, is it still new?  Really?

Here’s the thing: live in denial if you want; I’m kinda bummed out about it myself, but newspapers are dying…furthermore fewer people are listening to commercial radio, trust me…I have a lot of friends in the Boston Market, and if they’re all losing revenue (and believe me, they are…it’s crazy how much their audiences have dwindled) and if TV viewers are flocking to YouTube, Hulu, and iTunes for their content…then what is to become of the OLD media?

Well, that seems obvious: they’re going to flock to new media formats like podcasts.  We’re already seeing this, just check out the top ten podcasts on iTunes; they’re no longer the independent shows that used be to out there, these days it’s all commercial network productions like CNN, NBC, CBS and the others.

I think this is a good thing for independent produces like myself and the really great podcasters you heard from today.  See, the corporate network kids are stamping their little feet in frustration with the knowledge that podcasts like Phedippidations has been out here many years longer than they have, and that as a podcast with a very niche audience; my show is competing quite well against their podcast.

While they have to sink thousands of dollars in promotional material and advertisements, just to get listeners and viewers to subscribe: a show like Phedippidations only has to use word of mouth: and, probably even more importantly: persistence and longevity to compete against the big boys.

Somewhere right now, in some New York City office building, a network program director is throwing donuts at his computer right now as he listens to me say that and he’s screaming “THIS GUY IS KILLING US”, and he’s stamping his size 6 and a half feet; they’re little…that’s my point, see, he’s frustrated, and while he won’t admit this to you in person, the fact is just now; as he heard me mention the size of his teenie tiny little feet…he peed his pants a little, yeah, I know…freaky huh?  Makes you feel kinda bad for the guy. I feel bad, I really do…and that has to drive him CRAZY.

Because for all their money and talent and giant studios with world famous peronalities: I’m the guy who is whispering in your ear…and you have chosen to listen to me, not them…and that means you’ve made a choice.

You might never listen to another episode of Phedippidations again, or maybe if you’re new to the show you’ll go and listen to the back catalog of shows: over 238 of them for you to listen to as a record of the last five years of my life.  It’s fascinating to consider that so much of me is out there in MP3 format, audio that I myself have not listened to in years…but the shows are all out there, for free…and you can chose to do with them what you’d like, they’re all covered under a creative commons license: I made these for you…here…TAKE THEM, burn them to a CD and give them away to friends…it’s your choice.

Because podcasting is all about the freedom of choice.  For five years I’d dedicated over 3,500 hours 1,807 runs and races and 8,072 miles of my life to my running and this show.  Maybe it wasn’t the best produced podcast in the podosphere, maybe it lacked the commercial production quality of MSNBC, FOX, NPR, CBC and BBC…but here’s the thing that I understand and THEY lament: we compete in an  open playing field, and while they are looking for the largest general audience they can attract and spoil; I’m just looking to make a few friends; and as someone with deep ties into the commercial broadcasting industry I can tell you quite sincerely that this fact DRIVES THEM CRAZY!!

So my final message today is not to the ten of you who have expressed such kindness to me over the past 5 years of podcasting; for which I am eternally grateful, but instead I want to send a message to the old media major networks out there, like ESPN and Runners World, and any other newspaper, magazine, radio, television or cable broadcast or publishing organization who are stamping their tiny little feet in anger and frustration about the success of Phedippidations.

And that message is this:


It’s a brave new media world; and we’re more than happy to have you onboard the pod-o-sphere; we knew you’d get here eventually once you overcame your ridiculous stance that podcasting is just for nerds…with all due apologies to my son John who is still on the fence about that.

I see great things for podcasting, and am most excited about the increased ease to entry into this medium, and the possibilities which will open as more and more voices enter the fray.

If you’ve ever thought about starting your own podcast; now it a really good time to do so.  Come on in…the tide is high, the sun is shining and the water is warm. 

Thank you for all of your kind words and support over the past five years.  I think you know how much that means to me.

Steve “Runner” Walker
Son of Glenn


Thoughts on my Podcasting Quinquennial

On the next episode of Phedippidations (which will be available at midnight, tomorrow: July 4th), I’m going to be celebrating the 5th anniversary of my podcast.  Before that day arrives, I’d like to take this moment to give you a little of my perspective on how this new media has developed over the past five solar orbits.

In the beginning Adam Curry came up with the idea to automate, deliver and synchronize online textual and audio content with portable audio players and computers.

And the podosphere was without form, and void, and silence was upon the face of the podosphere and the spirit of early adopters moved upon the face of the podosphere.

And Adam Curry said “Let there be podcasts”; and there were podcasts. And it was good.

Back in July of 2005, when I threw together the first episode of Phedippidations, there was a palatable buzz going around with regards to new media.  According to Apple and other sources, there were only about 8,000 podcasts being produced back then, but as this was user created content: that number grew to over ten times that amount in 2006 to about 83,000 and in 2007 there were around 125,000 podcasts being produced.  The numbers only increase after that, although it should be noted that many shows have since podfaded; ending production after only a short run.

A company named eMarketer published a report back in February of 2008 regarding the number of podcast listeners in the world; and estimated that back then there were 18.5 million podcast listeners, and that 65 million would be listening to podcasts by the year 2012.  25 million of those 65 will be active listeners, downloading and listening to at least one podcast per week.

In 2005 and 2006, the podcasting vibe felt very different.  There was this understanding that we podcasters were going to become famous, and a feeling that we might even be able to quit our day jobs to produce our shows full time; becoming rich and famous in the process.

The success of podcast media companies such as PodShow made us feel that anything was possible.  At it’s incorporation, PodShow hired a select group of podcast producers; such as Dawn and Drew…enabling these hosts to actually quit their day jobs and travel the country to meet their fans and build their audiences. 

Here in New England, an organization called the New England Podcasting Group formed, meeting every few weeks or so at several pubs and local eateries to discuss all things podcast related.  It was the golden age of podcasting, with a creative explosion of talented hosts all presenting content born of their passions and expertise.

That is my impression of the early days of podcasting; but while many of the original podcasters are no longer creating their shows, I firmly believe that the BEST is yet to come.

I look at old media as the model for that, when the novelty of radio and television wore off, only those who were passionate about creating content survived…many of them moving into commercial ventures. 

WEEI Radio 590 AM in Boston, a commercial radio station where I worked for about five years, started broadcasting in 1926 born out of a desire by the Edison Electric Illuminating company to build publicity for it’s power generation business. 

Two years before that, in 1924 WBZ radio, another station in the Boston market that I worked at for several years as a contract engineer, went live on the air.  These were the golden days of broadcasting.

I honestly believe that podcasting is reaching a maturity that ensures it’s permanent place in our society.  This is media on demand: a subscription based variety of programs on subjects ranging from politics, music, religion, and running.  This is the peoples medium, where anyone can take to the microphone and speak their mind, share their passion and inspire a community of like minded friends.

Podcasting has developed from this clicky-geeky-poor audio quality programs of rich content into something that anyone with a creative spirit and desire to speak can create in order to reach others.

Five years is not a long time; a mere 5.56 percent of a 90 year human lifespan and when my wife pointed out to me that the anniversary of this show was nearing, I originally intended to make a brief note of it and move on.

But we have to make the time to celebrate our life accomplishments, like birthdays, wedding anniversaries and the various annual holidays that will come up from time to time…because every day is a cause for celebration, every day we have reasons to open up the window and shout out to the universe I AM SO HAPPY TO BE ALIVE!  Even if you don’t subscribe to the idea, as I do, that our existence in this universe is flavored with purpose…you must still celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small or goofy you think them to be.

In the past five years podcasting has seen many changes.  Probably the most significant change is that old media corporate professional broadcasting networks have begun producing podcasts; As I record this the top ten podcasts on iTunes includes programming from Chicago Public Radio, National Public Radio, the New York Times and Apple. While some might lament the overwhelming influx of professional podcasts flooding the podosphere, I welcome this change: because it means that a goofy little podcast like Phedippidations has the same technical likelihood of being heard by listeners of an ESPN produced podcast.  They may have the money and marketing dollars to promote their show: but in the end, they are just another podcast out there…to be heard by anyone interested in their content.

I see great things for podcasting; and I’m honored that I was there near the beginning.  I’ve learned a lot in the past few years; and probably the most important thing I’ve learned is: humility.  Like many, I had dreams of fame and fortune, but now that reality has set in I’ve come to realize that podcast was never about being famous and having your name printed on national magazines or NPR and the BBC…I’ve done that, and while it was cool to be recognized, it wasn’t as important as the connections and friendships I’ve made over the past five years.

Going forward, this podcasting stuff can only get better…because now we know that it’s not about being a radio star: it’s about friendships.  I know how that sounds, belive me…I’m not a deep thinker or philosophical wonder by any measure.  What I am is a fellow runner; blessed to live this life in a time where through this goofy little podcast I can reach like minded people all over the world who are, like me, living their lives to the top.

We don’t have much time.  Our lives in this reality will end one day soon, and the memory of what we’ve done here will fade to oblivion…but that doesn’t mean we should not live this life to it’s top, and to do so with all the power and love and sweat and passion that we have within us.  Open up the windows today and shout out to the universe I AM HERE, AND I AM SO HAPPY TO BE ALIVE! 

That’s what podcasting can do for you.  It’s not important how many will listen to you, it’s only important that you express yourself for the permanent record.  I know I have at least 10 of you out there that are hearing my voice, and that you understand my passion…and in a universe that’s 156 billion light years wide to reach those ten people is a magnificent thing.

See, the scientists of SETI and the philosophers of old have asked the questions that already have an answer.  We are not alone in the Universe so long as we have each other.

Over the past five years, I’ve had the privilage of sharing the passion of life with you, and I am both appreciative and humbled that you would lend me your ear.

But most of all, I’m honored to run with you, and be your fellow runner and friend.

I’m Steve Runner, reminding you to run long and taper.