What do you look for in a running blog?

A couple of weeks ago, I fell into the rabbit hole also known as Get Off My Internets (GOMI).  For those who aren’t familiar, it’s snark-central for the entire blogosphere.  I forgot why I went there in the first place, but I ended up perusing the running blog forums and finding this question posed: “What are you looking for in a running blog?” Most replies suggested that readers were looking for blogs that are:

  • inspirational — i.e., the blogger is fast and/or or hard-working and/or juggling a lot of responsibilities with running
  • funny
  • about running, training, race recaps (i.e., not too many posts about non-running topics)
  • honest

What they have little patience for:

  • paid product reviews; related: ambassadorships
  • multi-part race or relay recaps
  • too many posts per day/week
  • too many photos of: froyo, kids, dogs, selfies

This, of course, got me to thinking about my own yay/nay list.  What do I look for in a blog? Well, most blogs I read have these things in common:

  • well written
  • bloggers who are interested in creating discussion and forming relationships through his/her blog, usually through responding to comments, tweets, Facebook posts, etc.
  • informative
  • entertaining
  • inspirational
  • relatable
  • honest

What rubs me the wrong way?

  • endless drama.  I know we all go through rough patches, but some people just never seem to catch a break, EVER.  I don’t need to surround myself with negative people IRL or online.
  • grammar and spelling mistakes.  The Gypsy Runner doesn’t call me the Grammar Nazi for no reason!
  • too many stock photos.  Yes, they can work very well and I’ve seen a few GIF-filled posts that I’ve LOL’d at, but some people use photos as a crutch of lackluster content.
  • empty comments.  Sometimes I read through a blog post, get to the end, and wonder if the people commenting even read the post.  This is especially true on the popular blogs, where there’s a bunch of blogger worship along the lines of, “Oh, you’re so fast/pretty/funny/awesome!  I want to try that [insert product/race/recipe that was in the post]!”  On some of the blogs I follow, I occasionally learn just as much from the other commenters as I do from the blog post itself.
  • it’s all about the blogger.  Yes, blogging is a narcissistic hobby, but a little humility goes a long way.  Extreme vanity (e.g., too many selfies) or going on and on about boring topics without any consideration for your audience are all signs of narcissism that I have absolutely no interest in.

In writing this post, I realized that the question of “What do you look for in a running blog” ends up being a Rorschach test of sorts.  All of the things I listed in the pro side are things I strive for myself as a blogger.   I also really hope that I’ve steered clear of the pet peeves!   What about you — What do you look for in a running blog?  What are some blogging deal breakers?


Oakland Marathon – week 2 of 7 (with links to dailymile recaps):

Tues“Strength” workout – 3 x 2 mile @ 9:30/mile (19:00 per interval), with 800 m recovery.  Interval splits: 18:50, 18:50,18:55.
8.3 miles @ 9:45/mile.

WedEasy run + 7x Cleveland Cascade.  Also did planks, clamshells, bridges and a few sun salutes.
3.4 miles (no Garmin = no pace)

Thurs6 miles @ marathon pace/effort, with warm-up and cool-down.  My mile splits: 9:48, 10:03, 9:44, 9:44, 9:49, 9:48 (average 9:49).
7 miles @ 9:55/mile.

Fri: Long trail run at Redwood Regional.  I had planned to run 14 miles, but ended up cutting the run short due to foot pain.
9.6 miles @ 12:42/mile, 1150′ elevation gain

Ah, the serene Stream Trail at Redwood Regional Park.

Ah, the serene Stream Trail at Redwood Regional Park.

Total: 28.3 miles.  With plans to go away Friday to Sunday, I decided to cram all of my runs into 4 days.  Since I hardly ever run more than 2 days in a row, I knew I would be pushing the envelope with 4 straight days of running.  Indeed, it appears to have caught up to me Friday morning with a sudden onset of foot pain an hour into my run.  With next week’s Chabot 30K, I really wanted to log 3 hours on the trails, not to mention the fact that I was hoping to finally reach 30 miles per week… but common sense prevailed, reminding me that there would be no Chabot 30K or Oakland Marathon with a bum foot.  I took Saturday and Sunday completely off (well, I did a very easy 1.6 mile hike on Sunday).  The plan is to be extra cautious this week, whether that means cutting mileage, slowing down the pace, or downgrading from the 30K to the half marathon on Saturday.  The good news is that I went on a short run today and there wasn’t any foot pain.  Yay!

To be honest, I’m just a tad worried about my long run fitness going into the Oakland Marathon.  I haven’t run more than 2.5 hours in one spurt in months, and if I downgrade to the half marathon on Saturday, that will remain true for another week.  I might be able to get one very long run (18-20 miles) in on the weekend of March 8th, but seeing as that’s only 2 weeks out from the race, and since I’ve only been averaging 25-28 mpw up to this point, it doesn’t really make sense for me to do such a long run just to do it.  I’ve been reading Hanson’s Marathon Method, which argues against specific long-run mileage (e.g., 20 miles) and instead encourages each runner to base their long run distance on pace and percentage of total weekly mileage.   Additionally, an article from Jeff Gaudette makes similar arguments.   Both focus on cumulative fatigue and spreading out weekly mileage instead of piling it on during the long run.  I’m liking the idea of this approach, not only because it makes me feel better about my lack of long runs, but also because it seems to make the most sense and will hopefully result in lower chance of injury.

In any case, there’s no use worrying about things I can’t control.  The next 5 weeks should be quite interesting!


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Training
32 comments on “What do you look for in a running blog?
  1. MILF Runner says:

    People who take shit too seriously…I can’t read them. I’m here for entertainment and engagement. I really enjoy when I comment on a blog and the writer visits back or at least replies.

    You know you’re just feeding the dragon by mentioning it, right?

  2. Mike says:

    Feel free to SOMI with blog posts like this. I found myself nodding along to both your “yes” and “no” lists. Honestly (as you already know) I’m turned off by 90% of the blogs I (try to) read… and I’m amazed at how often a writer starts a sentence without any obvious thought given as to how it’s going to end. So as far as blogging turn-ons go, well-written tops my list along with humorous (and self-deprecating), educational and honest – I’d love to learn something cool from every blog post I read, and to laugh while I’m doing it. Otherwise, there are plenty of other blogging fish in the sea.

    Your list of deal-breakers should be required reading for every blogger. Endless drama, for instance – if you’re injured every time you race, and constantly either DNFing or patting yourself on the back for making it to the finish line, then you’re a head case. Likewise, treating your audience like they’re lucky to have you, showcasing your narrow view of the world, and vapid content treated with lots of exclamation marks!!!!! in the hope of breathing life into it, are all immediate turn-offs. And my list goes on…

    Hopefully your foot pain was transient and won’t be returning… I certainly don’t need to tell you that no foot = no race. Or better yet… maybe you should push through the pain, excuse yourself from the Lake Chabot course after 20K while wincing and limping dramatically, then blog about how your freinds, fammily and docter couldn’t beleive how brave you were to ran on a badly injured foot, with stock photos of injured runners and trite running clichés to emphasize your courage.

    And if you do, I’ll be the first to comment on your incredible grace under pressure.

    • Jen says:

      Haha, there’s definitely a reason we’re friends, Mike. “Unfortunately”, the foot pain has disappeared, so your ingenious plan to run hurt and then blog about it won’t come to fruition (knock on wood!). And if I ever start making tons of spelling mistakes, please send me to get a CAT scan STAT!

  3. Kate says:

    I think bloggers need to be good writers, and blog posts need to be written with intention. Obviously I think you meet those criteria.

    I dont know that I agree with Hanson’s method. I think that the long run is pretty crucial to distance. Yes, the distance of that long run is proportional to the total number of miles run the rest of the week, but both numbers are increasing as you go through the program.

    That being said, you are an experienced enough runner that you could complete a full marathon with your longest run around 16 miles.

    • Jen says:

      I definitely don’t think Hansons is right for everyone, and I would’ve never used it for my first marathon – not because I think 20 miles is the magic number, but because it was so important for me to have confidence leading into the race. I mean, that’s why I did a 22 mile trail run around Lake Chabot before CIM, to really prove to myself that I could go the distance. Fortunately, my foot is feeling much better, so the Hanson Method may have to wait to get tested at another time. 🙂

  4. Dan says:

    This was a very insightful, meta-post. A running post about running posts — just the kind of mind-warping I appreciate. But though I don’t think anyone is completely off the hook, I think your list of Dos and Don’ts is spot on. The biggest issue is that there is a reader out there for almost every writer. Although I try to describe my race experiences in the best way I can, not everyone will enjoy it. Some readers simply want a frenetic, impassioned series of staccato emotional cues because it’s easier on the eyes. And I get that. But it’s not what I do.

    So really it comes down to the simple idea that one person’s insightful story is another person’s turgid indulgence of a thesaurus. This is further complicated by the fact that well-written blogs don’t always attract the most readers. It’s a sad reality that we now live in the world of listsicles (not sure if that’s spelled correctly) and ready-to-share memes, so a 4,000+ word meditation on glycogen depletion might not gather the most views.

    But ultimately it’s not about how many people read or enjoy your work, it’s making sure the right people do. There’s definitely a symbiosis between reader and writer and I’d rather get three thoughtful comments than forty single-word emotional cues in capital letters. But that’s just me.

    • Dan says:

      And a quick follow-up, I’m in a similar boat as you. I’m focusing on a big race coming up, but it means I have to run 20 miles in two weeks … and I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet, also because of a foot thing. These trials never end!

      • Jen says:

        Dan, I completely agree with you about there being a reader for every blogger, and especially about the quality comments. I don’t blog just to listen to (or rather, read) my own words — I’d like feedback, discussion, and even the occasional debate.

        ARGH about the foot thing! My foot thing seems to have passed (knock on wood) so I’m sending good foot ju-ju your way. Heal quickly!

  5. outside time says:

    Oh, great post!

    I completely agree about grammar/spelling mistakes! We all make them, but proofreading goes a long way.

    The main thing I look for in a running blog is relatability — I love reading blogs by women with similar goals to mine. But I also just like to read blogs by people I think I’d like in real life, regardless of goals/location/age/interests. Those are always the ones I read first.

    I agree with GOMI about ambassadorships (for brands — race ambassadorships don’t bother me at all.) How many more bloggers can tell me about Nuun or Picky Bars? These companies must have specific posting requirements, all their bloggers eventually start sounding the same.

    • Jen says:

      Yes, I definitely agree about relatability. I guess that’s why I also like it when bloggers respond, because it reinforces the idea that we *could* be friends, even though technically we’re just strangers over the internet. It’s amazing to me that I’ve been able to make IRL running friends through this blog, and share other interests like books or cooking with running bloggers. Who would’ve thought? 😉

      I think the ambassador thing is going to get played out eventually. It was a good idea at first, but I feel like most readers have caught on to the marketing and are sick of it.

  6. Cathryn says:

    I am ashamed to admit that I lurk on GOMI sometimes. I hate the nastiness but as you said, it can also prove really insightful about blogging. It’s definitely made me think more carefully about what I say, how I say it etc. and that’s a good thing. The b*tchiness does really bring me down though.

    I’d agree wholeheartedly with your list. I also think that simply liking the (online persona of) the blogger makes a difference. Is this person the kind of person I’d hang out with in real life? I read one blog where I’m NOT sure id like the person in real life (not you x) but she’s such an amazing runner I find her inspirational and love her blog anyway, but she is the exception.

    I have no wisdom ref the 20 milers. I would personally always aim to get one or two in before a marathon, but I’ve only ever done one so I’m clearly not an expert. I think if you’re willing to suffer a little, you can probably get away with it. 🙂

    • Jen says:

      GOMI makes me feel icky, but it’s like a car accident — once it’s in front of me, I can’t help but look. I’m really curious about this mysterious blogger whose blog you love, but you’re not sure you like her… And YES re: feeling like you could be friends with a blogger; see my response above to outside time.

      As long as my foot holds up, I’m going to try my best to get a 20-miler in. Also, the 30K at Lake Chabot on Saturday will be tougher than a road 20-miler, so it’ll be a good confidence boost to get that under my belt.

  7. Lily says:

    Great post. I recently discovered GOMI and after my first time exploring the forums I felt sickened. All the negative comments and personal attacks on bloggers was so crazy to me, and people talking about bloggers’ lives like they are reality show stars really surprised me. But after a few more times getting sucked into reading the forums, I actually appreciated how much information and constructive blog feedback there was. I just recently started my blog, and it’s really good to know what people tend to be drawn to. I don’t mind when blog posts are somewhat random and not about an issue in particular (although I do appreciate those as well), but I roll my eyes and click away from blogs that tend to be more “I’m so funny/cute/weird/nerdy/exclamation points!!!!!!” I also really appreciate good spelling/grammar.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Lily. I was also surprised about the personal attacks on GOMI — I almost feel like saying, “If you don’t like this blog or blogger, no one is forcing you to read it! Why are you spending more time and energy leaving snarky comments on this forum?” But then again, *I’m* also the one who’s lurking about and not commenting at all, so what does that make me? Anyway, looking forward to checking out your blog. Happy running! 🙂

  8. Kim says:

    Even though I follow a lot of running bloggers, I like when they talk about a variety of topics and not just all run all the time. I like to feel like I can really get to know them as a person by reading their blogs and comment responses.

    • Jen says:

      Yeah, no one likes a running robot. Even though I love running, I also want to see a glimmer of personality and/or hint of non-running hobbies/interests.

  9. I have read GOMI before. I will hide and say once every few weeks I peruse there, just because…I don’t know!?

    Anyhow, I totally agree w/ you on the blog thing. Anything is okay in moderation (selfies, food photos, gifs, race recaps, giveaways, reviews, etc.) but I don’t want to see the same thing day after day.

    • Jen says:

      I’ve only been to GOMI 3 times. Once, it was because RoseRunner wrote about it. The second time was a couple of weeks ago when I was looking for something to send to a friend. The 3rd time was when I was writing this post and needed the links. I already spend so much time reading blogs, I don’t really want to spend more time reading a forum about reading blogs. But like I said above, it’s like a car accident – you almost can’t help but stare! And then I feel icky afterwards.

  10. Angela says:

    This was so funny to read right after I’d started a post soliciting blog suggestions & listed out a bunch of pros / cons in terms of what I like to read. I’m not likely to keep up with someone who only posts once every couple of months because by then I don’t remember what I read about them last time. I don’t mind people who post a lot; I just probably won’t read everything. Attention to grammar & good writing a huge plus; giveaways & sponsored posts a minus (though I don’t mind a few if they’re actually relevant).

    • Jen says:

      I saw your request for new blogs and thought it was a funny coincidence as well! I agree about the infrequent posts — with the exception where the blog is dedicated to one topic — e.g., only race recaps or in-depth discussions about general running topics.

  11. Dominick S. says:

    Oh, you’re so fast and pretty and funny and awesome! I want to try that Oakland 30k!

  12. Amy says:

    I NEED to find a new reader because I keep missing posts from people!

    I completely agree with Dan about there being an audience for everyone.

    For me personally, the drama (usually with other people as opposed to injury drama) is the only major deal-breaker. Places like GOMI exist so that bloggers don’t have to take up their own space to be critical. I’m turned off both by people who stir the pot and people who are constantly on the defensive. I’m not a grammar-ista by any means (so sorry for all of my sentences that end with propositions!), but I HATE when people use “internet” language when they write (LOL, UR, etc). I also hate daily gym selfies with a passion, mostly because it is against the rules in most locker rooms to take photos.

    I truthfully don’t mind giveaways (obviously), sponsored posts as long as they aren’t for ridiculous products (like KY lube…not even kidding), or ambassadorships as long as product shilling doesn’t feel forced (the Oiselle bloggers fail at this big time, but I like a lot of them anyway, so I just ignore the fact that they included which sweat pants they were wearing while watching the Olympics).

    I love, love, love detailed and race recaps because I rely on them for my race choices, and I enjoy blogs that follow the blogger on their personal journey as opposed to offering up information (I’d rather read about YOUR workout than learn about the nutritional value of kale). But at the same time I usually skim over posts that detail a person’s day unless that day is unusually exciting. I do spend more time paying attention to bloggers that I think I would be friends with in real life.

    I really don’t know how my blog fares as far as likability, but I do try and be useful through my own experiences, and I hope that people don’t mind the fact that I always appear to be on the verge of a panic attack 🙂

    Great post! It generated a lot of great discussion!

    • Amy says:

      Oh my goodness….LONGEST COMMENT EVER. So sorry.

      • Jen says:

        No need to apologize for the long comment – I appreciated everything you had to say! I should clarify re: injury drama. I don’t get annoyed when people get injured and complain about it, because I totally understand how frustrating that is. What I’m referring to is people not taking responsibility and proactive steps to getting better, but instead keep pushing their bodies to train or race despite the injury. And then when they don’t get better, they wallow in it more, like “woe is me!” Another example is when someone never seems to have a good race, and it’s completely obvious (to me anyway) that s/he is not learning from his/her mistakes, and is refusing to listen to the well-intentioned and often wise advice from readers/friends. It annoys me because then the blog isn’t really a sounding board but a one-way soapbox… which is each blogger’s right, but it doesn’t mean that I have to subject myself to reading it!

        You come across as likeable and relatable on your blog, which is how I feel about everyone on my blogroll. And I’m not just saying that to be nice. I have very high standards! 😉

        As for blog giveaways… KY jelly?!?! I would’ve like to see the rationale for that on a running blog!

      • Dan says:

        You end all of your sentences with propositions?! You’re so NEEDY! 🙂

  13. vttrailgirl says:

    Your’re so fast!!
    While I’m doing more trawling, as of late, I’ll have to check out GOMI. Thanks for the brain food.

  14. […] reason, and it never improved, so today’s run was pretty awful.  To follow-up on the previous discussion regarding whether 20-milers are necessary during marathon training, I realized today that […]

  15. […] other day I was reading one of Jenn’s posts, in which she discovered a forum that discussed running blogs and what turn readers away.  More to […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Howdy! Welcome to my blog!

follow us in feedly
Follow on Bloglovin

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 347 other subscribers
On the docket…

4/28/19: London Marathon

%d bloggers like this: