The Penguin Chronicles: Commitment Leads To Fulfillment

“I’ve always been filled with hope even when training doesn’t always go my way.”

Written by: John Bingham

Melissa Etheridge sings, “Just outside my window I hear the late September dogs. I understand their warning, I understand their song.” She’s probably talking about a lost love, or a good love gone badly, or a bad love gone worse.

I’ve run 45 marathons, many of them in October. So for me, the late September dogs signify the fears that arise every time I commit to run a marathon in October.

I have run the Chicago Marathon several times. I’ve run the Marine Corps Marathon more times than I can remember, (including in October 2001, when I experienced the raw emotions of running past the Pentagon just weeks after the 9/11 tragedy).

I’ve run the New York City marathon once—that’s in November, but the fear and the worries about that race started in September, too.

In spite of my fears, however, when I’ve begun a marathon training program, I’ve always been filled with hope even when training doesn’t always go my way. September was the month in which I would run my last long runs. Without exception, my longest training runs were my worst—my feet hurt because my shoes weren’t right, my body ached, I chafed in places I never had before, and I didn’t fuel well or hydrate correctly.

The late September dogs seemed to be warning me that I wasn’t ready, that what seemed like a good idea in May was, in fact, a huge mistake.

It would have been easy to give in to those fears. I could have come up with a credible sounding excuse for why I had changed my mind.

I never did that. Never once. Every marathon I committed to do, I did. I didn’t run them out of a sense of obligation to anyone else. I ran them because I told myself that I would.

Long distance training programs, half-marathon and full marathon, are every bit as much about getting your head and spirit ready as they are about getting your body ready. The truth is that nearly anyone, if they’re patient with themselves, can prepare their body to cover the distance of 13.1 or 26.2 miles.

What’s also true is that what interferes and undermines our training and race day performances are the voices in our heads and the insecurities in our spirits.

IN THAT SENSE, MAYBE WE AS RUNNERS ARE MORE LIKE MELISSA ETHERIDGE THAN WE THINK WE ARE. WHETHER IT’S OUR RUNNING, OR LOVES OR OUR LIVES, WE OFTEN HAVE TO IGNORE THE WARNINGS OUTSIDE OUR WINDOWS AND BELIEVE THAT NO MATTER WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN THE PAST, THE FUTURE IS FILLED WITH PROMISE.

*****

John Bingham, aka The Penguin, will share his running tales and experiences every month. Have a story of your own to share or a topic you’d like The Penguin to consider? E-mail him at thepenguin@johnbingham.com.

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