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Simon Freeman, Like the Wind
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Simon Freeman, Like the Wind

London-based running magazine Like the Wind has just celebrated its fifth anniversary. We caught up with co-founder Simon Freeman, who combines his role as CEO of sports brand influencer agency Freestak with editing the magazine, to hear about the success of the mag, the interview with Lance Armstrong in the latest issue, and his week ahead.

Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
I am very fortunate that my wife Julie and I (Like the Wind co-founder) opened an office around the corner from our home. So I often go for a run before work and then walk 100m to the office. Usually via our local coffee shop. Opening up the office in the morning is a great feeling – it is our space and that allows us to make it feel very much like home.

Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
Our office is a shop, on a little high street in north London. So the view isn’t great but there is always something going on in the street which adds interest to the day. We have one wall of framed prints from the magazine and elsewhere. Another wall is papered with printed sections from the magazine.

At Like the Wind’s fifth birthday party last week one of our illustrators did a huge piece of live art and we now have that at the office to add more visual stimulation. As for my desk, I have to admit that I am a bit messy. I hacked a standing desk from some IKEA furniture (it cost less than £30 and if anyone wants the plan for that, let me know). But usually my desk is covered in notes I have taken, magazines and a few nicknacks – currently a fossil my wife brought back for me from a trip to India and a finger-skateboard.

Which magazine do you first remember?
The first magazines (if you can call them that) I remember were little adventure comics that my grandmother bought for me when I went to visit her on the south coast of England. They were A5 and really cheaply printed. But I loved imagining I was in the adventures myself. In the ’80s and ’90s I was very into skate and BMX magazines – I was a much better consumer of those magazines than I was a rider of either skateboards or bikes. But I was definitely enthusiastic.

Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
There are so many magazines that I really love now. I’m a fan of Rouleur – it is a wonderful deep-dive into road cycling and I’d love Like the Wind to emulate some of that in running. I love Victory Journal and also really admire Huck, especially the way the team there tackle challenging subjects. I’ve recently discovered Racquet. Plus having launched two businesses now, I really enjoy every edition of Courier.

Can you describe your magazine in three words?
Running culture journal

Congrats on your fifth anniversary! You’ve managed to put out 19 issues in that time, which is quite impressive for a small teamworking around full time jobs. What have you learnt about magazine making in that time?
I am rather amazed that we have made it to five years. Julie and I launched the magazine out of curiosity about whether there were other runners who wanted the sort of magazine we did. We were open to the idea that we might be wrong and there would never be an issue two. Thankfully there is demand so the magazine has continued. But when we started we had zero magazine production experience.

So we learned by doing. Julie laid out the first edition of the magazine using the 30-day free trial of InDesign while I emailed people I knew to ask for running stories. Since then, we have had some great advice from experienced publishers (we’ve also had some really bad advice that we have completely ignored). We have made innumerable mistakes and tried to learn from them. The magazine has developed slowly, but that is fine. The passion for the subject and the chance to create something is what keeps us going.

Is it hard to keep coming up with new angles on the subject of running?
So many people run for so many reasons: we have written about how running has supported people coping with severe mental illness, helped asylum seekers deal with the trauma they have been through, provided a safe space for non-binary people to express themselves and allowed thousands (maybe millions) of people achieve more than they ever thought possible. The reality is that how to run is quite simple.

When I was running more seriously my coach used to say that everything a runner needed to know could be written on one side of A4 paper. What we tap into, conversely, is people’s experiences – and they are all different. We do have to be mindful that there are a lot of similar situations that we can’t repeat over and over. But probably the biggest frustration is the list of subjects we would love to cover and have not got round to yet.

The new issue features an interview with the polarising figure of Lance Armstrong. Were you worried about peoples’ reactions to giving him more exposure?
This is a question that I have been thinking about since the opportunity to talk to Armstrong came up. It is undoubtedly the case that Armstrong divides opinions. And that is part of the reason that his running story is so interesting. He’s a competitor who found himself banned from racing in any sport sanctioned by the IAAF. Trail running does not fall into that category, so Armstrong was able to toe the start line at trail races.

I wanted to explore Armstrong’s ‘why’ for running – after all that is what Like the Wind was created to do; our tagline is ‘it’s why we run’ (not how to run). I felt that the interview fitted into the purpose of Like the Wind and that is the most important thing. The response has been really interesting. Some readers are really critical of the decision to publish the interview. Others are really supportive. Mainly I think people are curious about Lance the runner.

Anything special planned for the 20th issue?
We actually celebrated our fifth birthday with the release of issue 19 at a party in central London last week. We aim to produce four editions per year. But a couple of years ago life and work conspired to force us to just produce three editions. I’m a little bit frustrated that we don’t have the symmetry of 20 editions in five years. But that is the nature of indie publishing – sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan.

And I’m glad that we maintained the quality of the issues that we did produce, rather than squeezing out another edition for the sake of hitting a number and risking producing something that we weren’t really proud of. So actually issue 20 won’t be as big a celebration for us as 19 has been, but we have some exciting features planned that will represent our desire to publish more challenging and engaging journalism around running.

What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
We are taking the Like the Wind fifth Birthday Celebration on the road. After a great celebration in London last week, we are going to host another party in Boston in the US to coincide with the marathon there. This week we will be working on the activities for the party and getting the invitation out to runners who will be in town for the marathon. So that will definitely be the highlight.

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