Roger Robinson's lifelong writings about running have made him one of the sport's admired authors internationally. His skills have earned three American awards for running journalism – the George Sheehan (2007), RRCA (2010), and Les Diven (2011) Awards - while in his other home, New Zealand, his work has been included in significant sports anthologies, most recently the Awa Book of New Zealand Sports Writing (2010). Most recently in USA, he was invited to contribute on "The Literature of Running" to the national literary magazine, World Literature in English (March 2012). His passion for running is matched by experience of the whole range of the sport and knowledge of its long history, all put across in his famously lively and informative prose. Roger describes his mission as "finding words to describe, analyze, and celebrate running, and identify how truly significant it is in the modern world." But he does more. One reader wrote, simply, "Your column on your return to running gave me the chills, and determined me to start running again after giving birth."
For his most recent running publications also appearing in Running Times Online.
"Running deserves the best possible writing. It can be as hard to write a good article as to run a good race, but there's the same joy in doing it well."
Reviewers have described his writing as eloquent, enjoyable, entrancing, vivid, original, poetic, crackling with wit and intelligence, and combining scholarship with creative writing.
Regular readers agree:
"Roger Robinson's research and well-written articles are at a much higher level of writing about distance running. It is easy to read, and his tone adds light humor. I will index those two articles as serious sources of historical correctness..." (Richard Westbrook, letter to Marathon & Beyond.)
"We are fortunate to have Roger Robinson writing for our sport, be it cross-country, track or road racing. Robinson writes from a position of depth and breadth. He possesses a unique style, which often forces the reader to sit up and take notice. His historical perspective is valuable, aiding but not overpowering the reader. Bravo, Roger!" (David Abusamra, letter to Running Times.)
"Your two 'Roger on Running' pieces were superb. I read the Christchurch one aloud to Lizzie, and it left us both choked up." (George Knowles, Toronto, personal email)
"I first wrote about running as a teenager, in school and club magazines, and quickly graduated to being a freelancer for area newspapers wherever I lived. By the early 1970s, while a faculty member at University of Canterbury, New Zealand, I was also moonlighting in the sports pages of the daily Christchurch Star, learning about word-length and deadlines and how to interest the ordinary reader.
"In 1980 (by now a full professor and Head of Department at Victoria University of Wellington) I joined an outstanding team of freelance writers assembled by editor/publisher Tim Chamberlain for New Zealand Runner magazine, writing features and a regular column. I covered many aspects of running, unpredictably and sometimes satirically. That work kept a big readership for 25 years. It was a good way of repaying New Zealand running for making me so welcome. After well over 200 contributions, my obituary assessment of Arthur Lydiard was in the magazine's final issue."
Many of Roger's New Zealand Runner pieces went into Heroes and Sparrows: a Celebration of Running (1986), but that did not prevent the book from finding an enthusiastic readership in America, as well as being nominated for New Zealand's annual book awards. It has often been selected as a classic of the sport. A 25th anniversary edition was published in 2011.
As soon as Roger (now a world-leading masters runner) began to race in America, in 1980, he also began to write about it, and before long his work was appearing frequently in Runner's World and Running Times, and occasionally in the New York Times and various race programs. In the 1990s, he became a regular contributor to Running Times, and was appointed senior writer in 2001. He now writes "Roger on Running" on www.runningtimes.com, and "Footsteps" in the monthly print Running Times, as well as frequent major features, on topics ranging from the true history of barefoot running to a (forthcoming) tribute to the pioneering marathoners Abebe Bikila and Buddy Edelen.
"It's a privilege and fun to be on the team at Running Times, because it is written by runners for runners, who all believe running is worth thinking about."
He has also contributed frequently to Marathon & Beyond, New York Runner, Canadian Running, and V02Max and On the Run in New Zealand.
Roger's second running book, Running and Literature (2003), brought together two of his passions, in a work of ground-breaking sports scholarship and vivid writing.
"A veritable encyclopedia for our enjoyment and instruction", wrote Boston legend and revered English teacher, the late John J. Kelley.
Running and Literature has become a favorite with runners who read, as well as an important source for people interested in sports literature and sports history.
Roger and his wife, women's running pioneer Kathrine Switzer (www.marathonwoman.com) were then commissioned to write the words for the lavishly illustrated 26.2 Marathon Stories (2006). It became one of the sport's most loved books. Roger's expert but concise historical material and notes on great runners provide the best short introduction to the marathon anywhere, and his five chapters that take the reader inside the mind of a runner at various stages of a marathon strike chords of recognition.
Roger's two decades of contributions to running journalism in America were recognized when he received the Sheehan Award in 2007. In the same year his book on Robert Louis Stevenson was a finalist in New Zealand's literary awards, an unusual double.
At the beginning of 2011, Roger received the best surprise gift possible. A group of his University colleagues conspired with many of his running and writing friends to produce the book Running Writing Robinson in his honor. With 52 contributions by some of the world's best runners, writers, sports journalists, and literary scholars, it is an extraordinary tribute and an important and original book.
Always interested in the history of running, in 2008 Roger began a monthly Running Times column, "Footsteps." (www.runningtimes.com) With such topics as the unknown beginnings of women's cross-country, the pre-history of running in Africa, the truth about the 1928 Olympic women's 800m, and forgotten American Olympic heroes, "Footsteps" contributes to areas of running history that no one else has even thought about.
In 2010 came another new outlet, when he asked to write a monthly on-line column, "Roger on Running," commenting on the contemporary sport. "Footsteps" and "Roger on Running" now have large followings. Samples can be read on this website under Running Articles.
Roger was the script-writer and on-camera expert for the TV documentary on the history of the marathon, A Hero's Journey. He also appears as expert historian in the documentary feature film Spirit of the Marathon (www.marathonmovie.com), and a BBC docu-drama on the 1908 Olympics.
He often contributes to other books about running. He provided introductions to the life of Derek Turnbull, The Fastest Old Man in the World , and to Running in the Zone: a Handbook for Seasoned Athletes. He researched and wrote essays in the Boston special issue of Marathon & Beyond. He helped to edit Kathrine Switzer's best-selling Marathon Woman (which is dedicated to him).
Roger also combines his academic and sporting skills by writing about running subjects in scholarly contexts. He researched and wrote entries on sport and sports writers in the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, and essays like "Literature, Journalism and Sport," in the book Sport, Society & Culture in New Zealand. He has published extensively on Jack Lovelock, notably in the British and New Zealand Dictionaries of National Biography, and the research essay "The Life and Opinions of Jack Lovelock." Many of his articles on running have a strong basis in original historical or literary research. One substantial recent publication is the entry on masters/seniors sport on the website Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, www.teara.govt.nz/en/veterans-and-masters-sport; another is a feature article about the two previous London Olympics, published in several editions of Running TImes and Runner's World (www.runningtimes.com).
Another key interest is the role of running in the environment. Roger has become a major advocate, arguing that the running industry should take "creative initiatives," in articles in Running Times, New York Runner, and in New Zealand.
Roger's writing on running has been frequently selected and anthologized, in for instance The Quotable Runner, Quotable Marathoner, Into the Field of Play, edited by Lloyd Jones, and the Awa Book of New Zealand Sports Writing, edited by Harry Ricketts (2010).