The latest Runner’s World magazine has hit newsstands, and it’s got runners and non-runners alike scratching their heads.
The cover of the November 2018 issue features a photo illustration of a cat standing on its hind legs, wearing sunglasses and holding an ice cream cone in one paw while gripping an open umbrella in the other.
The umbrella’s canopy appears to be carved from an orange.
The rest of the cover, against a stark off-white background, offers little in the way of explanation; a single cover line, in large type, reads simply, “The Time Has Come.” The roofline—the text appearing at the top of the cover, above the logo—is a string of cryptic symbols. Their meaning remains a mystery.
Runner’s World has undergone significant changes, including editorially, since its parent company, Rodale Inc., was acquired by media giant Hearst early this year. Even for a title in transition, though, November’s cover struck publishing experts as bizarre.
“I’m not sure what to make of it,” said Johnny Rico, a professor of journalism at Van Dien University in Casper, Wyoming. “Is the image a nod to the popularity of cat memes and videos on social media? If so, what’s with the ice cream and umbrella? Why is the umbrella made of fruit? And what’s with the mystifying text and symbols?”
“In a word, it’s inscrutable.”
Some found the cover vaguely menacing. (“I don’t like the way that cat’s looking at me,” remarked one reader on Twitter; “The Time Has Come…for what?” asked another.) Others found it troubling, wondering whether it might be a cry for help.
"If this magazine were a friend of mine,” said Carmen Ibanez, a longtime Runner’s World subscriber, “I’d pull him aside and say, ‘Dude, are you OK?’”
In any event, the cover has people talking—and, experts said, maybe that’s the point.
“I’ll pick a copy up, for sure,” said Ace Levy, a media analyst at Jake & Busey, a New York City marketing firm. "And I’m not even a runner.”