When reporter Merrell Noden arrived at SI in May 1986, his interest in running was immediately evident. The lanky build, the unmistakable fragrance of used running gear emanating from his office, the overheard telephone conversations peppered with references to overdistance work and intervals suggested that this guy was more than a fitness runner. When Craig Masback, one of the world's best milers a decade ago, began showing up to run with him, Noden's reputation as a runner of serious purpose was firmly established.
The anecdotal evidence was confirmed by hard data. As a senior at The Lawrenceville ( N.J.) School in 1973, Noden ran a 4:11.9 mile to help the Larries' distance medley relay team set a U.S. high school indoor record of 10:16.4, and he set an Eastern high school indoor 880 record of 1:54.0, still a Top 20 U.S. high school mark.
Noden was on the cross-country team for four years at Princeton, where he also was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English in 1978. His postcollege running times include a fourth-place 3:42:42 in the '81 Two Bridges Run (36 miles) in Washington, D.C., and a 4:11.2 outdoor mile in London.
Noden, 32, draws on all this experience in contributing to our track and field coverage. For the U.S. Olympic Invitational (page 64), he worked with senior writer Kenny Moore. Noden and Moore, 44, who was a world-class marathoner, run when they're on assignment together.
After Princeton, Noden taught English at the Princeton Day School for three years, then received a Masters of Philosophy at Oxford, where he specialized in English literature, 1789 to 1870, and wrote his thesis on Charles Dickens's interest in mental illness. Today Noden satisfies his literary bent as part of a group that meets to discuss contemporary novels. He also plays guitar in a band, the Tiny Studs, and last year fulfilled a dream by purchasing a Fender Stratocaster. "It's the same model Jimi Hendrix played," he says.
By now, the staff has happily adjusted to Noden's idiosyncrasies, which include eating at an alarming speed and always finding room for a piece of chocolate cake. With his 30-mile-per-week running regimen, Noden is one man who can truly have his cake and eat it too.