So what, you may ask, is a penguin? and why do I call myself one?
Well...besides the fact that it's one of my favorite animals AND a symbol of one of my favorite bands, I consider myself a penguin because I have decided to become a runner.
No, wait....a marathoner.
Now those of you who know me can stop laughing or choking or checking to see whether or not this is the right Erin. You read that right. I want to be a marathoner. Preferably within five years.
What do running and penguins have in common? More than you think.
It all began this past weekend when I went with my husband Jim to Washington DC to watch him run in the Marine Corps Marathon. He had already run seven marathons before I knew him, but hadn't run one in over ten years. Well, in the summer of 2010, he and a friend made a commitment to run the MCM this year...and when Jim makes a commitment, he is a man of his word. Fast forward a year and a half where his friend flaked out but we pushed on. Jim and I flew to DC, walked all over as tourists, and then Jim completed the MCM in six hours. Granted that's not his best time but given that he had hardly trained, hadn't run a marathon in ten years, and cramped up REALLY bad around Haines Point, that was a momentous achievement for him. I enjoyed the race as a spectator cheering on total strangers who each had a personal motivation for running. I also saw a lot of people who hadn't started running until later in life or had decided to run a marathon to make a point. A lot of those people were no different than me. I started to realize that I didn't have to be the fastest or best runner out there...I just had to have the courage to decide to do it.
Which brings me to the penguins. I had heard people talking about them at the MCM but didn't know what the heck a penguin was outside of Antarctica. Well the idea was started by a guy named John Bingham who, like me, hadn't really excersized....EVER. One day in his mid-40s, he found himself overweight and wanted to make a change. So he found the courage to start working even a little bit and since then he has completed several races, including 40 marathons. Plus he has become a spokesperson for the everyday runner who has decided to start excersizing without a specific goal in mind. I have yet to figure out why he chose a penguin for his symbol (other than they look cool but can't run worth a crap...they sure know how to go sledding through). Anyhow, those who identify with Bingham call themselves penguins and are starting to run for the fun of it, without any preset notions or goals. The only victory was in finishing the race...even if the straggler bus is nipping at your heels.
The penguin has become a part of the MCM through Maj. Megan McClung who was a major admirer of Bingham. She was stationed in Afghanistan in 2006 when the annual MCM came around. She asked her parents to send her a stuffed penguin, which she received. Maj. McClung completed the MCM in Afghanistan and awarded her penguin to the last runner who crossed the finish line as the penguin award. Sadly, Maj. McClung was killed later that year and the awarding of the Penguin Award has become an annual tradition in her memory. For more info, see this blog.
OK enough background and onto the meaty part.
Tonight, I did my first Penguin Walk. It wasn't too much. Just a regular mile and a half walk with my hubby and dog around the neighborhood. We've done it countless times. Sometimes I am winded and tired and other times I felt like I could keep going.
Tonight...this penguin wanted to walk to the sea...