Penguin Chronicles: Raindrops on Roses

John "The Penguin" Bingham has used several iterations of running watches over the years. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

John Bingham recalls some of the pieces of gear he has used during his 25 years as a runner.

With only two columns left, I suddenly realized that I had never done a “my favorite things” column. So this is part a description of what I’ve enjoyed using over the past 25 years and a salute to the people and manufacturers who’ve helped me be as good a runner as I could be.

When you make a lifestyle change at mid-life, you tend to be a little fanatical, whether it’s starting to run, learning to play guitar or quitting smoking. When I decided to become an athlete, I wanted everyone to know.

The first thing I did was buy an 8-lap Timex Ironman watch. And because at the time I was thinking of becoming a triathlete, I bought one with orange buttons for running, one with blue buttons for swimming, and one with red buttons for cycling. It didn’t matter if I was training or at a formal dinner, I wore my Ironman watch. I wanted everyone to know that I was an athlete.

I’ve owned one of every permutation of the Timex Ironman watch since then. I’ve bought every version of the 100-lap because it had multiple countdown timers. As a run/walker I could set it and forget it. There are at least 10 Ironman 100-lap watches in my office, including one of the ill-fated “upward facing on wrist” version. If they made it, I bought it.

The first pair of running shoes that I bought were Saucony Jazz’s because as a musician, I played a lot of jazz. I had no idea whether it was the right shoe for me or not. I didn’t even know there WAS a right shoe for me. I was a runner. I needed a running shoe. I wore my running shoes all the time.

Eventually I settled on Brooks shoes. The Adrenaline GTS in particular has been my shoe of choice since it was first released. I was there in Seattle when Brooks introduced the Adrenaline and I’ve never been truly tempted by any other shoe. I want to thank Dave Larson at Brooks for keeping me in shoes for many, many years.

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Like many adult-onset athletes, I did too much too soon. I tried to run too fast, too far, too often. The result for me was the same as for so many others: plantar fasciitis. I tried everything. I rolled my foot on a golf ball, a tennis ball and even a frozen can of V8 juice. Nothing helped.

Then I discovered Superfeet insoles and I haven’t had a problem since. You’ve seen them in your running specialty store. They are in every shoe—or boot—that I own. I’ve worn them in over 40 marathons, in my Muck Boots working the Antarctica Marathon and in motorcycle boots on 1,000-mile days. A big thanks to Thom Abrams, himself an adult-onset athlete poster child, for keeping my feet healthy.

When I ran for the very first time, a run-walk-stumble effort, I didn’t even get out of sight of my house before I had to quit. But on the first day I showed signs of having a runner’s mentality. When I got back to the house I got in my car and measured how far I had run.

All that changed when I discovered Garmin. There’s good news and bad news about wearing a GPS watch. The bad news is that nearly every course I’d been running was shorter than I thought it was, so I was even slower than I thought I was. The good news is that knowing the truth keeps me honest.

Maybe it’s just me, but I had to stop using the “training partner” feature on some of the Garmin models. I’m embarrassed to tell you that I’ve felt REALLY good about beating the little man on my wrist and have gotten REALLY angry when I couldn’t keep up. Crazy? Yeah. I know.

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Running with music has never interested me so I don’t have a favorite music device. Maybe because I’m afraid if I can’t hear my heart beating something could go horribly wrong, I’m not sure. At any rate, for me, the joy of the sound of my feet shuffling across the ground, the rhythm of my breathing and the sounds of the world around me are all I’ve ever needed.

The one macro lesson I’ve learned as a runner and a writer is that nothing is always the best for everyone. Fads come and go. What I’ve tried to do is find what works for me and stick with it. In the long run, pun intended, I think that’s the best way.

Waddle on, friends.

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