In the running
lexicon, the word "Penguin" has come to mean a person who runs more
for the joy of running than for recognition and public rewards. Some of us are
perpetual Penguins. We are consumed by the pleasure of movement.
Other Penguins find their joy in the challenge of reaching their own potential,
whatever that is. For some it has meant running the Boston Marathon, the only
U.S. marathon that has qualifying standards. For others, it has meant finding an
independence and freedom in their daily runs that expands their limits.
Can there be such a thing, then, as a Penguin athlete? Or an athletic Penguin?
Can people who are fighting to lose thirty or forty pounds be athletes? Of
course they can! Can people who have waited until their forties to become
physically active be athletes? You bet. Can people who finish last in a race be
athletes? Yes, they can. And yes, they are.
You might be a penguin if...
have to politely (for the third time) tell the men in the policecar moving
behind you that No you do not wish a ride.
wear your jog bra on top of your singlet. This is especially true if you are
a race, you keep turning around to see if there is still anybody behind you.
rest of the pack is out of sight before you've run 100 yards.
meet both the hare AND the tortoise running back towards you doing their
cool-down after a race.
only reason you don't drop out of a race is that you're embarrassed that the
police in the car behind you (closing the course) will see you.
you're rounding the corner onto Main Street and the finish line, you
overhear the announcer on a microphone to the crowd of 500 saying "we
are ASSURED the young lady IS coming in!" (Oh well, at least I was
recognize all the regular runners on your favorite route from behind.
get passed on the uphill by a runner pushing a double baby jog stroller.
shoot a 24-shot roll of film during a marathon.
make arrangements for a late checkout at the hotel.
are more worried about the porta-potty lines than the start line.
support crew talks about meeting you for supper, not lunch.
have to memorize the route because you know that you will lose the back of
truck picking up the cones is pressing on your behind. (Don't laugh-this
actually happened to me!)
you pass a course volunteer they ask you, "How many are behind you
yet?" and you say "Behind me? Behind? Gosh ... I think two ...
Unless they turned around!"
ceremony is over before you cross the finish line.
off on the right foot means understanding enough about yourself, your life, and
your willingness to commit to this new activity to begin to think about your
life as a runner. It's about giving yourself permission to find the time to be a
Time is often a big factor, particularly in the early days and weeks of our
running lives. Many of us are already so busy that it's hard to imagine adding
another time-consuming activity to our overstuffed schedules, although running
is one of the most time efficient exercises around. You need to find a strategy
that will allow you to make time for it.
If you are new to running or being active, one of the best ways to get started
is to take an entire week to think about running. Each day that week, think
about when and where you might have run that day. Think about how fast or how
far you would run. Remind yourself that NEXT week, you really are
going to run.
In the beginning, running doesn't need to take a lot of time. In the first few
months, try to establish a schedule. You are more likely to succeed if you find
just a few minutes several times a week that you can commit to running than if
you devise an elaborate and completely undoable schedule that will fall apart in
a matter of days.
Plan your runs on the basis of time rather than distance. Plan to get out of the
house for a certain amount of time. Forget how far you go. Forget how fast you
go. Just get out the door and stay out. For many people, twenty minutes of
activity is a good place to begin. That does not mean running for twenty
minutes. It means staying on your feet moving forward for twenty minutes. If you
can run, run. If you can walk, walk. Do whatever you can, but keep moving
forward. If it gets too hard, slow down.
A program of alternating running and walking is a good way to begin. The first
week that may mean running for thirty seconds and walking for five minutes to
recover. In time, it may mean running one minute and walking five, or running
one and walking one. The truth is, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you
are learning to use your body as a means of transportation.
Improvement is defined as being closer to where you want to be than you are
right now. Remember, I couldn't run for more than a few steps in the beginning.
Improvement for me was running farther than my driveway. You'll have to decide
what improvement means for you. Is it to walk around your block without
stopping? Then work toward that!
For better or worse, you are the only you that you will ever get. What you
decide to do with you is up to you. Tomorrow you will still be you. The question
is whether you will move closer today to who you want to be.
If you are patient, if you are persistent, if you are consistent, an amazing
transformation will begin to occur. Your wonderfully adaptive body will begin to
cooperate. It will happen in your own time and at your own pace, to be sure, but
the transformation will take place.
Movement, which may have seemed so foreign to you, will become more natural.
Being active every day will stop being something that you want to end and become
something that you can't wait to start. It isn't just a matter of going farther
or faster every day. It's knowing that you are in control of your body and, for
a few minutes every day, your life.
You are becoming a runner. You are becoming a person for whom the activity of
running is no longer completely foreign. Those brand-new running shoes will
begin to show signs of wear. Those once bright white running socks will become
dulled by the sweat of your transformation.
Not only are you becoming a runner, but you are becoming a runner in training.
You will have goals. You will have good days and bad days. You will have days
when you can't wait to run and days when you will have to force yourself out the
door. In other words, you will be just like all the other runners. Every day you
will be trying to do your best.
Why It's Worth The
MOST OF THE CHANGES that a more active lifestyle brings are invisible. Sure, in
time you may find that your clothes fit a little differently. If you are new to
running, you may find that a distance that once seemed impossible now seems
easy. If you are more experienced, you may find that your long runs and speed
work are yielding tangible results.
But these changes are not the ones that are the most important. The changes that
matter most are the ones going on inside, where you canít see them. I'm not
talking about the subtle increases in the strength of your heart or lungs or
legs. I'm talking about the very real changes in the strength of your resolve
and your spirit.
Each day that you invest in yourself, you are becoming more of what you want to
be. By giving yourself permission to dream of new PRs or completing a 5K, you
are making sure that there is hope in your life. Instead of looking backwards to
the good old days, you are assuring yourself that the best is yet to come.
At the heart of the matter, the real changes are in how you think about
yourself. By discovering your limitations and then overcoming them, you can
learn to be your own hero. And that, for most of us, is the biggest change of