From daily marathons to the University of Oxford: as E&M reaches its 30th edition, former editor Marta Martinez picks her highlights from the last eight years.

Oxford
Behind the walls took us to some of Europe’s most prestigious universities. Here: Jesus College Oxford | Photo: Oxfordshire Churches (Flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0

Let’s be frank: Legs has always been E&M’s most misunderstood section. For starters, it’s the last section on the body list.  I guess not much could be done about it, unless we turned our human figures on the sidebar into some kind of Frankenstein. When we interviewed potential editors and asked them what section they would like to be in, I don’t remember a single one who mentioned Legs among his or her preferences. Probably not even I did when I joined. What a mistake.

Legs has always been hard to figure out. Beloved Brain took all those serious articles about politics, economics, and anything else that you felt you would need a monocle and a pair of white gloves to read. Heart was always so charming, with its cultural looks at the past, its poems and word games, its love stories with happy endings. There isn’t much room for doubt about what would go into Diaphragm and what would go into Baby. And then there’s poor Legs. What is it really about? Career? Travel? Sports? Science? Education? Well, that’s exactly the magic of Legs –they can take you anywhere!

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Ryan on his way from Amsterdam to Athens | Photo: Ryan Johns

Instead of making its variety a virtue, in the beginning Legs was pretty much limited to career and education. There were lots of career tips – how to forget  the lessons of our coach Jan Onno Reiners and his couch! – discussions about higher education, behind-the-door looks at the most famous universities – Oxford, Bologna, the College of Europe –, and so many inspiring stories of brave Europeans who left their own country to pursue their career dreams.

It is exactly those inspiring stories that have become Leg’s femur and made it a constant source of optimism and motivation, even when Europe hasn’t been going through its best years lately. It all started with students doing Erasmus, acquiring professional experience through internships and training, but with time Legs began listening to the stories of entrepreneurs, social activists, and all kinds of young Europeans who, yes, they were trying to find a job and make a living, but above all, they were trying to change the continent with their own work.

Like Markus Petz, who, instead of sitting in an office from 9 to 5, moved from the UK to Finland to promote alternative ways of living more aware of the environment and communal solidarity. Or Greg and Jonas, who crowd funded their trip across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia to learn and teach about sustainability and environmental protection with their project “green2bee.”

One of the stories that really stood with me was Ryan’s – and not only because I met him and felt the need to write about him. This American architecture student ran the 3,700 km between Amsterdam and Athens in 132 days – that is, an avarage of one marathon per day. His capacity to overcome exhaustion, fear, and the limitations of the body always comes back to me when I feel overwhelmed by something that looks just ridiculous and tiny compared to his great feat.

One of the stories that really stood out for me was Ryan’s – and not only because I met him and felt the need to write about him.

Legs also dared to step into unexplored territories, and E&M editor Laura Knierim had a lot to do with it. We began publishing more stories on travel, sports, and science. I’m still fascinated by the “Green Gems” series by Erik Gerritsen and his capacity to explain such exciting stories about the most overlooked – and a little bit disgusting – creatures, like pigeons or mussels. It was a real pleasure to edit those articles – not so much to look for the pictures.

And there has been also room for fun and outdoors, like when we looked at the most unknown sports that didn’t make it into the official Olympics list, or the European Street Football Festival, which promotes integration and reconciliation among youth.

But don’t be confused by so many topics living under the Legs roof. It’s not – or should not be – a hodgepodge of articles that were dumped to the bottom of the body list because they didn’t fit anywhere else. Legs is about some of the best things in life – education, career, travel, sports – Legs is about the future ahead of us. What can be more exciting than that?

Teaser photo: Justin Hession

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    Marta Martinez is a journalist and freelance writer currently living in New York, but originally from Barcelona and still with half of her heart in Berlin. She has worked for media such as El País, ARA, The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal. She currently works as a communications associate for the non-profit organization International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). Social justice and culture are the main topics of her writing, but she's attracted to any kind of human story. She's a great partisan of long-form, whatever the format is – writing, video, interactive. These are tough times for journalism, but she's optimistic. Who doesn’t want to listen to a good story?

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