Thursday, May 30, 2013

An Accidental Officer's Wife

Yes, folks....another non-running blog, but I hope you forgive that for this occasion's importance. 

For today, my husband retired after 31 years of service to the military. 

I remember when we first started dating.  

Ironically, we were trying to set up a lunch date and I remember him saying, "it had better be quick because I leave for a deployment to Germany in two weeks."

So, with unaccomodating schedules, we turned lunch into happy hour and the two weeks turned into four months. (That should have been my first clue about the military....)

The first time his military and civilian life with me collided was eating at Applebee's one night.  Another man approached him and called him, "Sir." (Multiple times.  In fact, I believe it was every third word. If you're associated with anyone in the military, you know what I mean....)  I giggled and said, "But, it's just you..." (I don't think he was particularly happy with me.)

By the time he left for Germany, we had built a pretty solid relationship, but I still didn't think much about being an officer's wife.  After all, I was pretty much a pacifist and his military career seemed more like play than anything else. 

Just prior to Germany deployment

In fact, he and his friends referred to the Germany deployment as being in Disneyland!  He lived above a German restaurant where they treated him quite well, that he came home 30 pounds heavier. 

His Germany deployment led to my first two trips to Europe so I could visit him.  And, I was actually more comfortable in Heidelberg than on post because all these uniformed people used American money in a foreign country and talked a language I didn't understand.  At least I had taken German in high school; there really isn't a military language education unless you're part of it.  

And, that was the second time I remember civilian and military life colliding when we were walking down the streets of Heidelberg, holding hands and he told me he was breaking the rules because he shouldn't be holding hands in uniform.  Really?
One thing led to another and we got married, but because I still didn't think there was anything special about his military service, there was no military ceremony. (Nor was there anyone pointing a sword at my butt and telling me to "be good.")
Actually, the military was pretty much a drag that meant he was gone one weekend a month and two weeks a year.   Well, that's what the advertisements would lead you to believe.  For me, it just seemed like every time there was an "occasion," Ed had drill.  

At a drill Christmas party
 Of course, I didn't mind the extra pay check, but we had many, many discussions about him leaving the military. 

Then, in Christmas of '02, he called and said, "Are you sitting down?"  (And, not in one of those--boy do I have some GREAT news for you--kind of way.)

He had just been told he'd be deployed to Kosovo in a few weeks.  

Now, this was beginning to seem real.  Talk about civilian and military life colliding.

I cried, I fought, I said lots of bad things about the Army, but sure enough--he left me and Alex (two years old) behind.  I swore up and down that I wanted nothing to do with the military and they could take their deployment resources and put them....well....I won't go there. 

At Ft. Stewart--Ed's trainup site for Kosovo.
 Ed did his train-up at Ft. Stewart, Georgia and I did overcome my anger at the military to visit him for a week there before he left for Kosovo.  And, that's where one of my most poignant memories of a collision comes from.  As Ed's parents, Alex and I got in the car, he had two officer friends literally holding him up as they all cried and waved. When I talked with him later and asked why they were crying too, he said, "Cause they had to go through that, too."

Another moment of intersection with military and civilian life came on our anniversary of 2003 when he told me during a phone call from Kosovo that all of their leave was going to be cancelled so we wouldn't get to see each other at all.  (See how much I'm liking this military stuff?)

Luckily, he managed to create a reason to have to travel to Heidelberg so Alex and I could fly to meet him for five days.  It was an awesome five days that we were blessed to have. 

And, then there was another one of those collisions.  Ed had to catch a plane back to Kosovo quite early in the morning.  So, he weepingly said goodbye to Alex the night before, but--at two years old--Alex didn't understand.  The next morning, Ed was gone, but every time we'd hear footsteps outside of our room, Alex would say, "Daddy?  Daddy's back."  Talk about breaking your heart.  (I love the Army....I love the Army....I love the Army.....)

At Ft. Stewart--Alex modeling Ed's helmet.
Saluting Daddy

After Ed returned, it took one full year for Alex to comprehend.  Every time Ed put on his uniform for the next year, Alex would ask, "Will you come home tonight?"

Welcome Home, Daddy!

The media couldn't resist two handsome men in uniform!

Our Welcome Home Sign

Time went on and Ed had a number of jobs working for the National Guard and as a military contractor.  Then, in our never-ending discussion about whether or not he should retire, he came up for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. 

Dressed up for some formal occasion
And, it was ME who said, "Maybe you should stay in."  Ed didn't need a whole lot of coaxing beyond that "maybe," so he got promoted and then, of course, had to stay in for two years (or three...not the story is saying....I'm not the quintessential officer's wife!) until he could retire.  

Ed getting promoted with Alex right there!

All right. I was solid with that. 

He even switched into the U.S. Army Reserves to teach because he projected his chances of another deployment were pretty slim. 

But, what he didn't know was that---in the National Guard--an entire unit has to be deployed. In the Reserves, they can essentially pick an individual out and say, "Guess what?  You win the prize for the next trip to Iraq."  

And, about two weeks before he could retire, he got another call.  Yep, he had won the special ticket!  Turns out, he was on a list showing he had no previous deployments because the Guard and the Reserves don't always talk nicely to each other.  By the time he got it straightened out, they say, "Yep, you're right.  You shouldn't be on the list.  But, have a great time in Iraq."  

It was December.  Again.  Merry Christmas from the US Army. 

At church service before Ed deployed

At Baltimore Airport saying "final" goodbyes.
Full combat gear

This time, Alex was nine and he was angry.  (Wonder who he got that from?)  We allowed him to break Army pencils and defile Army stuff.  And he vowed he'd never join the Army.  (Yay, said mom and grandma!)  

So, once again, we said a tearful goodbye and off he went to live in a tent in the middle of the desert.  Sure, it was after the major combat was over, but he still had many close calls, including rocket fire on Thanksgiving day and dodging fire in a helicopter.  (I believe I did not know about either of these things until after he came home.)

Homecoming.  Very cool that they allow military families in the restricted area.

Ed and Ed

Alex, Daddy Doll and me
Alex and I survived the year with Daddy Doll (any friend remember Daddy Doll) and we had a blast having Daddy Doll's picture taken everywhere we went.  Interestingly, the technology had increased from...

In Germany, I got one email a day over a slow connection.  We had to send hard copies of photos to each other.  We were able to chat infrequently at a pretty high cost.

By Kosovo, we had digital photography and pretty decent internet.  Ed got to keep abreast of all the life events that happened while he was away. 

And, when Iraq came around, we could Skype on a daily basis.  In fact, it was so regular that sometimes Alex would say he was busy when Ed called and asked if he could just talk with him the next day. 

And, as the technology changed, another funny thing happened. 

I began to experience pride in my husband and his Army career.  I began to identify with being a military family.  I began to see myself as (gasp!) an officer's wife. 

And, so we reach today and I'm really very torn about Ed's retirement.  If it's one grudge I'm still holding against the Army because he reached his MRD (see? I can now speak the language....military speak for "mandatory retirement date") before getting a promotion to a full bird (more military speak for full colonel.)

Ed has taken it in stride and believes there were a few tickets he didn't get punched along the way that stood between him and the silver eagle.  (And, honestly, it's very likely because--in my non Army fan days--I was not in favor of him taking an extra weekend a month to do the program that may have been one of those tickets.)

I now see it differently.  

As a proud officer's wife, I look back on his outstanding reviews, his Bronze Star, his Army Commendation medal and all of his experiences and I think he was the best thing the Army had going.  

BG Gronski (Brigadier General...more military speak) said today that the one word he thinks about when he thinks of Ed is "impact."  Ed had an impact on every job that he's had along the way. 

I think about his Army buddies who would do anything for each other. 

I think about the kids in Kosovo that Ed distributed clothing to.

I think about his friends in the Iraqi Army. 

I think of his recent service as an active duty officer at the US Army War College and the great job he did there. 

And, I think of something else that BG Gronski said today and that is Ed fully exemplifies the Army values.  I wholeheartedly agree.  He has been a wonderful husband and an amazing father along with being an outstanding Army officer.  

I'm proud to be his officer's wife.  A good collision. 

Ed--I love you so very much and, although I was pretty much dragged into this kicking and screaming--I wouldn't have wanted to live my life without you and the Army.  It's obviously a huge part of who you are and the man you've become.  Thank you for all you have given to your country and your family. 

Here's to our next set of adventures as LTC(R) and Mrs. Beck.  

The fam after the retirement ceremony (Alex had to miss it because of a class outing which was much for fun for a 12 year old than a formal ceremony!)

And, they lived happily ever after....  :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Runner, a Jogger and a Penguin Walk into a Bar

Hopefully, you read my earlier blog about "Penguin Pride!" where I talked about identifying with John Bingham's depiction of a slow runner as a penguin who "waddles on." 

While I was writing that blog, I found a reference to a study that showed the "perfect pace" (using minimal oxygen intake to cover distance) was a 7:13 mile for men and a 9:08 pace for women.  ( I have even been known to crank it up to a 7:30 during speed work for very, very...did I say very? short periods of time...a consistent 9:08 pace is well beyond my reach. So, a penguin I am and a penguin I will stay.)

Now, the question becomes whether or not I'm a runner.  While I embraced the penguin label pretty quickly, it took me a while to take on the "runner" label.  After all, if you read my very first blog, I knew right away that I was a back of the packer.  

Debates rage over what makes a runner versus a jogger.  In fact, one of my favorite running companies, One More Mile (OMM) took on this question on their Facebook page on April 25.  (You can read more about OMM on other blog posts here and here.)
And, while I've read some scathing remarks on other sites from fast runners who disdain those of us who run at the back of the pack (keep reading for more on that), most runners recognize the importance of getting out there and doing it rather than just sitting around.

A fellow (very fast) River Runner said, "Without you, there wouldn't be a front of the pack."  

And, my very wise neighbor and friend, posted this in response to the OMM question: 

"Jog, Run - both three letter words... anyone looking to quibble over the term is probably doing so from their car, their couch, or their porch as I go by. At the end of the day, I was out in the fresh air, setting a good example for my kids, working through my frustrations, my anxiety or my fear. Enjoying the gift of the day, and the health with which have have to jog/run. With each footfall becoming a better wife, mom, friend, sister, aunt, neighbor and employee."

In the end, I don't think it matters if someone is a jogger, a runner or a penguin.  What matters is that we're out there placing one foot in front of the other, no matter how fast we go. 

But, as I said, not everyone agrees.

I first learned this when I thought about being a charity runner for the Boston Marathon.  This was way before the tragic bombing occurred; it was as I was trying to determine what to do to make myself feel better about turning 50.  (I've been dreading the big 5-0 ever since I turned the not as big 4-0.) 

Once, the Boston Athletic Association raised the qualifying standards in 2011 due to unprecedented interest in the race, I knew it was a pipe dream to actually qualify.  After all, only 10 percent of marathoners will "BQ" (Boston Qualify.)  But, I had been inspired by Team Hoyt--originally consisting of Dick Hoyt and his son, Rick, who gained notoriety from having Dick push Rick in a wheelchair. And, I found out they typically received Boston Marathon entry spots for runners who wouldn't otherwise qualify.  The selected runners have to go through an application process and then raise $5,000 or more.

So, I became very excited about qualifying to run for charity.  After all, interest in running marathons has increased dramatically because of a "second boom" of interest in running overall.  According to Running USA, the number of marathon finishers has increased from 25,000 in 1976 to more than 518,000 in 2011.  And much of that interest is due to charities.  

Home page of the London Marathon
The London Marathon in 1993 was the first one to give entry to those running for charity dollars.  Today, it bills itself as the "largest annual fundraising event on the planet" that raises the equivalent of almost $8 million dollars.  Each time it's held.  In a single day. Apparently, more people run this race for charity than not--so much so, that there is a prominent link for charity runners on the home page. 

While I couldn't find aggregate numbers, I did find information about how much money has been raised for some of the larger charity running organizations.
  • Team in Training (TNT) which raises funds for leukemia and lymphoma research has celebrated 25 years of fundraising resulting in raising more than $1.3 billion. That's billion with a B.  It began in 1988 when a dad organized a group of 38 runners to raise $322,000 in honor of his daughter who survived leukemia.
  • Susan G. Komen has raised more than $120 million over the past 19 years for breast cancer research. 
  • Wounded Warrior Program offers many ways to support the organization, including running in 8K and Tough Mudder runs (in which Tough Mudder runners have raised $5 million for the Wounded Warriors in the past several years alone.)
Most races--from 5K's to marathons--seem to support some local charity in addition to the national ones.  And, then, there are those who run to create awareness of their cause or charity.
Like the man who ran blindfolded to raise money for the National Braille Press. 

Or the "jogglers" who run and juggle at the same time, often earning money for their preferred charity. 

Recently, at the Pittsburgh marathon, one of the vendors had a sign that said he planned to start last and would donate $1 to Boston One Fund for each runner he passed.  (Unfortunately, I didn't note the vendor or find out the results.)

Even North Korea has gotten into the act and recently held its first ever charity run.  (Yes, really.)  

All this sounds great, right?

Not so fast (pun intended), some faster runners said. 

As John Bingham who raises funds for TNT, said in a Runner's World article:

"...I've heard some people speak negatively about so-called charity runners. I've heard people say that they aren't really runners, they're dumbing down the sport, and they're taking spots that should go to 'legitimate' competitors. But I've never heard those complaints from the parent of a child who is alive today because of a new treatment paid for with funds raised by a charity."

Wow, here I was thinking I was doing something good--moving my body AND raising funds for a good cause and there are people who would mock me for that. 

In fact, a NY TIMES article entitled, "Plodders Have a Place, But is it a Marathon?" shared this point of view:

“It’s a joke to run a marathon by walking every other mile or by finishing in six, seven, eight hours,” said Adrienne Wald, 54, the women’s cross-country coach at the College of New Rochelle, who ran her first marathon in 1984. “It used to be that running a marathon was worth something — there used to be a pride saying that you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’ ”

No kick in the pants there, right?

Apparently, while back of the packers celebrate that they get the same medal as those who finish much faster, other runners have disdain for that as well as the slowing of the overall marathon finish time.  USA Running reports the average finish time for men in 1980 was 3:32 compared to 4:16 in 2011; for women, the time dropped from 4:03 in 1980 to 4:42 in 2011.

As reported in the NY Times, "Plodder" article, “If you’re wearing a marathon T-shirt, that doesn’t mean much anymore,” Given [a PR exec and marathon runner] said on the eve of this month’s Baltimore Marathon, where vendors were selling products that celebrate slower runners. One sticker said: “I’m slow. I know. Get over it.”   (Hmmmm....I think I know where that person got the sticker....One More Mile!")

But, I have to ask....Why not celebrate the slower runner?  The jogger?  The penguin?

As you could expect, John Bingham agrees. From the same NY Times article:

"John Bingham, a runner who is known as the Penguin, is often credited with starting the slow-running movement, in the 1990s. 'I have had people say that I’ve ruined the sport of running, but what I’ve been trying to do is promote the activity of running to an entire generation of people,' he said. 'What’s wrong with that?'

Bingham added: 'The complainers are just a bunch of ornery, grumpy people who want the marathon all to themselves and don’t want the slower runners. But too bad. The sport is fueled and funded by people like me.' "

I totally agree.  I will continue to run, jog, walk and waddle my way through these races--regardless of what anyone else might think.  I'd also like to think--as the title of this post suggests--that if a runner, a jogger and a penguin walk into a bar, they could all have a beer and celebrate their mutual accomplishments.

Let me know what you think, especially if you agree with me! (LOL!)

Catch you again at the back of the pack!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A boy, two parents and a dog. NOT a story about running...

This post has nothing to do with running.  At all.  But, I deal with most things through research and writing so I have decided to write this.  

I promise there won't be many of these non-running posts and at the same time hope that many of you will "get" why I am writing this. 

It's a story about a boy, two parents and a dog. 

You see, the boy grew up loving animals. 

He first asked for a cat.

But, the dad's allergies made that an impossibility.  (The dad almost gave in on this because the boy wanted it so badly....but the dad's allergies were practically life-threatening, so common sense eventually won out.)

So, the boy asked for a dog. 

And, the mom--in her infinite wisdom--bought the son two guinea pigs.  (I never said it was "wise" wisdom.)

Fast forward several years and the time was finally right for a dog. 

So, the boy and the mom told the boy's music therapist (also part of a Boston Terrier rescue group) who said, "If you ever want a Boston, let me know."

Later that night, the mom did a little research on Boston Terriers.  And, her first thought was, "Oh, my.  Not very cute little things are they?"  

But, she read and she read and she liked what she saw about their temperament and personality. 

So, the mom gave the music therapist a very detailed list of what she wanted in a dog and said she was willing to wait for the right one.

A few weeks later, the music therapist called.  "I have prayed about this and I want you to know that I think the dog we are currently fostering would be a good fit.  The only thing is that he's a little older than you wanted.  If you're interested, we can start going through the adoption process.  If not, that's OK, too.  There are plenty of pups out there who need forever homes."

The mom didn't know the dog, but she trusted the music therapist and gave the go ahead.  After a phone interview and a home visit, the family was approved for the dog. 

He was nine years old, named Iggy and came with a near-perfect background.  The dog had been originally purchased by a family who lived next door to a dog trainer so he was well mannered.  He was housebroken with no behavioral issues and just needed someone to provide him with a forever home.  

He came from a known background--two sisters--one who originally purchased him and gave him to the second sister after having a second child.  The second sister apparently did the same thing and wanted to give him back after her second child, but first sister said, "No give backs."  To their credit, they gave him to a rescue so he could go to a good home and not be euthanized.

So, the dog showed up at the boy's house with a crate, two blankets, a bowl, a leash, a collar and a loving heart.  

His first night at his new home was a little dicey since he didn't care for the guinea pigs that much.  And, he worried his new family with all of his strange sounds (that they later found out from the music therapist was something called "reverse sneezing.")

But, soon, he had captivated the entire family.  Each one of them fell in love with the dog who had so much love and spunk.  

He could jump almost three or four times his height when the doorbell rang.

He could also jump on all the furniture and made himself at home wherever he landed. He could even jump on the parent's bed--one that had a high mattress--even though he still slept most nights in his crate.  

He loved food.  LOVED food.  Would do just about anything for food.  In fact, the only toys he ever liked were food-oriented ones.  Of course, with the food came the infamous Boston Terrier gas....yes, often if you couldn't see him, you could still smell him.

He enjoyed company and gave kisses to all who allowed them.  

He was fiercely protective of his house and wanted to show who was boss.  Because, after he became used to those darned guinea pigs, he would growl at them--but only when company was there. 

He loved to have his butt scratched and to go for walks.  The family had to use code words for that "w" word because he was so smart he eventually learned what "going for a w" meant.

He loved his blankets and had the most amazing way of wrapping himself up in them--sometimes poking his head out and other times, just enjoying the solitude of being under the blanket. 

And, the dog who was supposed to be for the boy became the mom's shadow.  Everywhere she went, the dog went with her.  The bathroom door even got nose prints on it from where he would nudge his way in when she was getting a shower. 
The dog had his issues and would sometimes get in trouble for peeing on the floor.  And, he could be a grumpy old dude--making it very clear that things had to go his way.

But, the family became Boston Terrier fanatics.  The mom even put an "I love my Boston Terrier" sticker on the back of her car.  When on vacation, the entire family would ambush anyone with another Boston and talk about their love of the breed.  Every time, the Boston love was returned--it seemed anyone who ever had a Boston waxed poetically about their love for these little dogs. 

And, when he started to have a little bit of arthritis, the family closed up the crate and allowed him to sleep wherever he wanted.  The mom also purchased two additional beds, including one with special properties to help with canine arthritis.

They also got steps for him so he could get up and down from the bed at will.  

And, then, things started changing a little more.  It was obvious he was getting older and even less able.

He stopped being able to jump as high.  And, then, later--he even stopped barking at the doorbell. 

He had more difficulty walking and took about twice as long to go on his regular walk. 

He began to ignore the guinea pigs; the mom could even leave the crate door open as she fed them and he didn't make a move. 

And, he began to get confused.  He'd still follow the mom around, but he couldn't always place where she was.   He sometimes growled out of confusion if he was woken too abruptly. 

Then, he grew a weird spot on the top of his head.  At first, the mom and the dad thought it was a tick, but it grew too large.  Eventually, it was discovered to be a tumor and removed.  

But, it grew back and seemed to grow even faster than it had originally. So, the vet came to take another look, but instead of concerning herself with the bump on the head, the vet seemed to be interested in some belly tenderness. 

She recommended an ultrasound to see what was going on.  The mom and the dad dragged their feet a little--mostly because they wanted to believe the dog was suffering from dementia and nothing more.

One night, the dog became obviously distressed and couldn't even lie down without immediately getting back up.  So, the mom, the dad and the boy took him to an emergency vet who took X-rays and discovered two massive tumors--one in his chest and one in his abdomen.  

They put the dog on prednisone and pain meds--playing around with doses for several weeks.  And, the dog rebounded for the most part.  While it was obvious that he was older and slower, he still loved his food, loved to snuggle and wanted to be everywhere the mom was. 

The tumor on his head grew even larger and began to ooze blood.  In fact, the mom joked that it sometimes looked like a crime scene in the house because he'd shake his head and blood would spatter. Or, he'd rub his head against something and the blood stains would stay behind.

But, within a fairly brief 24 hour period, he started to go downhill.  He needed to be carried up and down the stairs.  He shook and panted hard most of the day. 

And, the mom called the dad and said, "I think it's time."  

As they waited to keep their evening appointment, they shared as much time as they could with the dog.  And, he kept them amused in his typical fashion.  He refused most food, but ate turkey lunchmeat with a good deal of enjoyment.  

When the mom and the dad carried him outside to go to the bathroom one last time, he refused to be carried up the stairs--something he had allowed for the previous 24 hours. It was almost as if he was stubbornly saying, "I'll do this my way." 

The boy couldn't go along and the parents honored his wish to stay at home.  Emotionally, it was too hard for him to say goodbye. 

The mom and the dad took the dog for one last ride and the dog was too weak to sniff out the window, but he leaned in against the mom, closed his eyes and enjoyed what he could of the ride.  

Shortly, after getting to the vet's, it was all over in a humane and peaceful way. Finally, the dog was at rest after a strong battle. 

But, the dog has left a huge hole in the family.  And, even though the mom knows there are much worse things in life, it's hard for her to be at home. She listens for his toenails tapping on their wooden floors.  She looks for him when she's in the bathroom.  She sees things lying on the floor and thinks it's him.  And, as she types this, she looks longingly at his bed that she had recently placed near her work table so she could watch him as he rested.  

She also feels guilty that she should have taken him on more walks, more trips to the dog park and fed him more treats along the way.  And, she regrets the fact they they only had him in their lives for four short years. 

She knows, this too will pass and that one day there will be another Boston in the family.  But, for right now, she hurts and she misses the stubborn, grumpy old guy who gave nothing but love and more love. 

Rest in peace, Iggy.  Know that we loved you and were so proud to be your forever home.  

Iggy in his bed as he slept while I worked.

An earlier photo of him enjoying a peanut butter-filled Kong. 

A tribute created by the boy. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Penguin Pride! Like and Share to win a Shirt!!

Athletics, sweat and working out were foreign concepts to me until Jane Fonda swung onto the scene in the 80's with her workout videos and accompanying matchy-matchy type aerobic wear.  

Throughout my 20's and 30's, I dabbled in various gym activities--starting with aerobics and then working my way up to boot camps and boxing classes.  (And, yes, some friends reading this will remember the times I got so into those classes, I literally drooled! Not the prettiest sight.) 

But, it wasn't until a friend asked me to join her in a Couch to 5K program that I decided to start running. I think it was because she had been so amused at my drool, she wanted to see how funny I could look when I ran. 

I don't think I took the idea very seriously.  I'm pretty sure that I thought I'd just add running here and there to my regular repertoire of exercising.  Although I don't remember this, my husband tells me that he had asked me to run with him multiple times over the years, but it wasn't until my gym friends asked that I went for it. 

And, for a non-runner, the Couch to 5K program is hard.  Sure, you go along for a while and it seems easy.  Then they step it up and you think you're not going to make it to see the next week.  (If I remember correctly, week 4 is evil!)

Then, something weird happened.  I remember the moment distinctly.  My family and I were on vacation and I was scheduled to run for 15 minutes straight.  It was a picture perfect day and I didn't feel like stopping.  What?  I wanted to continue running. So, I ran for 20 minutes straight.  And, I felt like I'd never felt before. 

Now, I didn't have a Garmin (top of the line GPS watch) at that point, nor did I use Run Keeper, Map My Run or--what later became one of my favorite  So, I have no idea how fast (or, really, in my case--how slow) I was running.  I just knew I felt awesome after I finished.

As I continued to run, I also reverted to my research geek self and started looking up running techniques, etc.  And, it was through this that I got my first running identity--that of a penguin. 

A penguin?

Yes, a penguin.

And, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, it comes from John Bingham, who chronicled his slow running adventures in his book, "The Courage to Start" He coined the term "penguin runner" due to his waddling running style.  In fact, he signs off on his blog with "Waddle on, friends!"

About a year or so after I became familiar with Bingham, my friend Eileen gave me one of the best running presents I've ever gotten--a signed copy of a subsequent Bingham book, "The Accidental Athlete," she purchased from Bingham at a a running expo.  

Here was an athlete I could identify with.  Although I was probably in a little bit better shape than Bingham was when he started (according to his blog "an overweight couch potato with a glut of bad habits, including smoking and drinking"), I could identify with this man who didn't start running until he was in his 40's and had the ability to not take his athletic forays too seriously. 

I was so excited to have a group to identify with.  I was a penguin!  

While writing this blog, I wanted to find out whether penguin runners had anything in common with their arctic animal friends.  Believe it or not, the first article I found indicated that the term penguin is thought to come from "the Latin term pinguis, which means fat."  
So, maybe researching these questions that come to mind isn't my best bet. Truly--don't get me started on the whole Athena thing again.  I still consider myself a penguin and I still maintain that we back of the packers are having a lot more fun than the gazelles and cheetahs at the front of the pack! 

And, I proudly wear my penguin gear that is offered by what has become my favorite running wear company, One More Mile.  My first running purchase (probably even before a decent pair of running shoes) was a "penguin" tank top from OMM that said, "No need for speed," the title of another Bingham book.   I have since supplemented this with an OMM penguin sticker for the back of my car and a penguin baseball cap. 

OMM embodies Bingham's tongue in cheek style (although they have things for all runner types.) 

I also have their "This Seemed Like A Good Idea Three Months Ago" and "In My Dreams I am a Kenyan" headbands and shirts with the slogans, "Finishing = Winning" and "You Can Thank Me Now For Making You Look Faster" tshirts.  (In fact, the latter slogan was one I created and won an OMM slogan contest with.) My latest purchase is a tech shirt that says, "Race day strategy:  Start off slow then back off."

They even have products that focus on the slogan Bingham is probably the most famous for:  "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."

Yes, I have found kindred spirits in the running world. And, I will continue to "Waddle on!" with the other back of the packers. 

However, not everyone celebrates those of us who run slowly, like Bingham and OMM.  Stay tuned for Part II of "Penguin Pride" in which I engage in the debate over whether or not slower runners should be allowed to "race" at all. 

In the meantime, One More Mile has graciously agreed to a giveaway contest for anyone who likes my "View from the Back of the Pack" Facebook page.  Click here and then "like" the page.   A winner--randomly chosen from all who like the Facebook page--will win one penguin-inspired product of their choice.  That includes anything on this link!
Catch you again at the back of the pack!