"The New Prophet of Running?" Oh Please...
The May, 2002 issue
of Runner's World has now anointed John "The Penguin" Bingham
"The New Prophet of Running." Give me a break.
Yes. Running prophet: No.
Now, before you label
me a Penguin hater, please...let's put this guy into perspective.
He has earned everyone's respect, including mine...not by his
running, but by the way he has turned his life around.
But please, let's not
overdo it here...especially not at the risk of disrespecting those
runners who have come before him. These men and women established
the appropriate high standards for this incredibly difficult human
endeavor that give pause to anyone who has ever tried it to wonder
how the heck they do it.
Does this mean that
Bingham should be excommunicated from RW? No. Just put what he
does into it's own perspective, which is the pursuit of healthy,
active living. The choice of "running" as the medium for his message
is where I have the problem, especially when elevating him to
What Bingham does is
not run. At best, he jogs, and I would correctly argue that a
45 minute 5k is not even jogging. He has not achieved running
status yet. Jeff Galloway's "Book On Running" describes the evolution
of a runner. By my own estimation, Bingham has not yet completed
the jogging stage described in Galloway's book. I admire him for
continuing to try...like I admire his many followers who had "the
courage to start."
To illustrate my point:
I golf, but I can't call myself a golfer. I am one who plays golf.
One look at my swing and you would agree. I hope to one day be
called a golfer, but not until I break 80 on a regular basis.
Until then, I am one who plays golf. But I still enjoy the game.
Ever since I was 13 years old. I am 45 now, and still not a golfer.
I will continue to try to become one.
The key problem I have
with Bingham in the context of running is that I don't see him
interested in testing the limits of what he as an individual can
really physically do…what it's like for Joe Average to really
explore the boundaries of his comfort zone once he has committed
to put down the channel changer, the pack of smokes and strayed
more than 20 feet from the fridge. He overdoes "the courage to
start" thing to an extreme, almost as if a little anaerobic breathing
might scare someone right back onto the couch again. I wish he
would do more to encourage people to push themselves to another
level. I believe this is what the human spirit is all about...not
about making excuses like "...it was not comfortable, so I quit…"
That was me, by the way. I started running when I was 37. Yeah,
me. The skinny, weak-looking bald dude, who quit drinking and
smoking at 35, didn't believe in himself and didn't want his kids
to see him that way (still working on the skinny, weak-looking
thing...transplants starting to take...). And I didn't hug people
I didn't know, tell them my life story or start bawling after
a 5k, either. It was good enough just to hear my kids say "go
dad" or Bruce say "get back in the van. I can't even look at you
I believe Bingham has
an opportunity with the following he has attracted to make some
real change in our whiny, self-focused society with way too many
"excus-a-holics" looking for an easy way to avoid some good old
fashioned hard work to find out who they really are…or might be
if they really tried. And just might believe they too are afflicted
with the latest, newly discovered "anaerobic-phobic syndrome,"
or APS, which symptoms include heavy breathing, sweating and (gasp)
DISCOMFORT during exercise.
If mediocrity is his
thing, fine. He can still encourage his followers to finish a
marathon. Just leave out the "run" part and I'm o.k. Just to set
the record straight, I didn't run my last marathon, either. I
walked part of it. Of the six I have completed, I have run four…but
I am still proud of all six. And I also admired every one of the
people in the race, too. Runners, walkers...and joggers.
And that's The Truth.