If you do call yourself a runner, can you handle the truth?




From the Rage Archives

While on the path of truth,
choose the fork that will yield the most pain.

Penguin "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.

Fitness enthusiast: 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 "prophet" status.

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 right now."

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. - Rage

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   Date and time page last updated: 06/04/2004 8:02 PM