The Penguin Chronicles: Back In The Saddle Again

Being out on the course and seeing the crowds and the cops and the bands was like being reborn. I was back, baby! Illustration: Neil Numberman

What mattered most wasn’t how I was doing the training it was that I was doing the training.

I ran at least one marathon every year between 1993 and 2007 for a grand total of 45 marathons. Some years I ran as many as six full marathons, but in 2007 I hit a lull. The last half and full marathon I ran was the 2007 Walt Disney World Goofy “Race and a Half” Challenge, which is a half on Saturday and a full on Sunday.

As 2008 rolled around I began thinking about my marathon-a-year streak and made silent plans to find a fall marathon that would fit into my schedule. But I was running a race management company, we were building a house, my grandkids were getting older and a lot more fun, and life just seemed to be more interesting than planning for my long runs.

I considered walking the 2008 Honolulu Marathon since it has no effective cut-off time, but that seemed like cheating. I hadn’t trained. I hadn’t respected the distance, which is at the core of the Penguin philosophy, and, to be honest, I just didn’t want to.

Most of 2009 is a blur. I was announcing at more and more Rock ’n’ Roll events, I was getting a chance to interview some of the sport’s biggest names and the idea of training for a marathon slipped further and further from my mind. The streak, now over, was no longer an issue.

In January of 2010 I dislocated my sacroiliac joint and spent six months getting injected and adjusted. In May of that year, about the time the sacroiliac joint was better, I dislocated the cuboid joint on my foot while riding my motorcycle. After spending four months convinced that I had plantar faciitis I finally saw a doctor and got a real diagnoses and a plan for recovery.

After spending nearly a year injured, I committed publicly in January 2011 that I was going to move, intentionally, for at least 30 minutes a day for 100 days. And I did. And then I kept going for the next 265 days and completed an entire year of daily activity.

But something was missing. As much as I was enjoying the daily movement, mostly walking and hiking, it wasn’t as satisfying as I needed it to be. I was pleased at my own discipline but wanted something more.

This past January I registered for the Penguin in the Park 5K in Decatur, Ill. The race was the last weekend of March, which gave me plenty of time to train. Suddenly my activity not only had intention, it had meaning. My workouts had names. I was doing tempo runs and fartlek and plenty of LSD—that’s long, slow, distance for the holdover hippies from the 1960s.

The magic came back immediately. I was excited to be running again. To be fair, it was still mostly walking but I found that a program of extended walking intervals mixed with abbreviated running intervals gave me the same satisfaction as continuous running. What mattered most wasn’t how I was doing the training it was that I was doing the training.

The 5K went great. I had a ball and I agreed to run the Mini Marathon [three miles] as a part of the Country Music Marathon weekend. It was fantastic. Being out on the course again and seeing the crowds and the cops and the bands was like being reborn. I was back, baby!

Since June 1, I’ve been training for the Rock ’n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half-Marathon on Labor Day weekend. As the mileage has increased, as I’ve started the delicate dance of training and resting and stressing and recovering I feel renewed. It is all that I remember it being.

By the time many of your read this, I will have run the race. In the November issue I’ll write a complete report. In the meantime, I’ll be strapping on my Garmin and heading back to where I started. I can’t wait to get there.

This column first appeared in the September 2012 issue of Competitor magazine. 

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About The Author:

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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