Marathoning for Mortals, John “The Penguin” Bingham and Jenny Hadfield

As I write this, I’m recovering from a workout that involved a 104 pound kettlebell. It looked so innocent before I started dead lifting it. Now I want to return to the gym for the sole purpose of destroying it. Unfortunately, I can’t move. Also, I think I would have to find a way to carry the damn thing to the fires of Mount Doom because it seemed otherwise indestructible. On the plus side, I did make my trainer laugh after I finished what he promised would be the last set (it wasn’t, although to be fair, he wasn’t intentionally lying to me – he’s just terrible at counting) and I told him that I had only barely restrained myself from spontaneously punching him in the chest when he told me I had ten more to go.

This is really just a roundabout way of saying that I’m not completely out of shape. I mean, sure, the shape is mostly round, but underneath it all, I’m pretty strong (like a sweaty, burly ox). When I quit my day job almost two years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would stop putting off taking care of my body, and by and large, that’s gone reasonably well. I can run a few miles at a time a (and do three times a week), I go to yoga (yes, it’s a class filled with women thirty years older than me, but whatever), and I work out with an enthusiastic puppy of a trainer (who good-naturedly puts me through hellish workouts once or twice a week). Of course, my favorite food is anything involving noodles or candy, so I clearly haven’t completely figured out this whole “my body is a temple” thing, but I’m working on it.

And one of my goals, since I was a kid watching the Boston Marathon with a racing heart, has been to run 26.2 miles. It’s one of those dreams that seems so far out of reach on a bad run that I just want to cry, and on a good day, when I imagine what it would feel like to go that last 500 feet…The problem is, I don’t know exactly know where to begin because A) I’m slow and B) the furthest I’ve ever managed to go is four miles. Enter The Penguin and Coach Jenny. I’ve already written about how much I love John Bingham’s approach to running here, so I figured that this summer, as I struggle with being bored with my old running routine, I would turn to some back of the packers I could trust.

I’d heard a lot of good things about this book, especially from commenters here, and I wanted to see if their plan would work for me. I’m not quite ready to tackle my marathon just yet, but I do want to run a half-marathon for charity in the next year, and although I have many friends who have run the distance before, I was feeling completely out of my league. How would I train? What was a realistic time to imagine finishing in? What if I have to go to the bathroom while on the course? For a newbie, these questions are just the tip of the daunting, long-distance iceberg. I needed advice and a solid plan of attack from people who understood that I just want to finish, preferably having run the whole way.

Last week, when I talked about writing a novel, I was just overflowing with ways to kickstart that creative endeavor. I was all “Climb every mountain! Ford every stream!” about it, and now I’m getting my comeuppance. Because, you see, I really believe writing a novel is a pretty simple endeavor when it’s stripped to the bare bones, and in my head, I know that running a half or a full marathon basically requires the same sort of approach, but I’ll be damned if I don’t feel like I’m standing at the edge of a cliff trying to convince myself to jump off. When I write, I feel like I’m coming home; it’s safe and comfortable and I can let it all hang out. When I’m running, it takes everything I have not to feel like I don’t belong on the same streets as someone better…and from where I stand, most everyone is better.

We all have this battle in our lives – on the one hand, we have those natural gifts that just need gentle pruning to be encouraged to flourish, while on the other, we fight to make the idea of who we want to be take root. I want to be a runner, but it’s a slippery hope. It takes painful concentration. It takes constant encouragement. It takes a book like this one, which carefully outlines the challenges of taking on this new distance without completely robbing me of my faith that it can be done.

What’s that? You want to run? Find out more about John and Jenny here, and I promise, you’ll want to get out there and do the impossible too.

6 thoughts on “Marathoning for Mortals, John “The Penguin” Bingham and Jenny Hadfield

  1. On a somewhat related note: I recently tripped over this great little fitness blog called Active Body Still Mind containing a ver compelling post concerning kettlebells; I’m seriously considering purchasing a few and doing battle with them at home… What does it say about me that I’m actually MORE enticed by hearing your tale of woe?! I love not being able to walk the next day (I actually, really, mean that)…Which brings us full circle to the topic at hand – RUNNING ;) You’re in for more than a few mornings of limping out of bed as you train for the 1/2 marathon, but that’s all “par for the course” and so very much worth it. You’re gonna kick that 1/2’s ASS, ‘Ria!!!

    1. I have to agree – there’s something amazing about being sore from a good workout vs being sore because the body is weak! I can only imagine what’s going to happen as I amp up my training over the next few months (whatever it is will involve a lot of yoga I suspect :) )

  2. I haven’t read John Bingham’s book yet, but I always liked his approach in Runner’s World. Sounds like a good resource.

    I think running a marathon and writing a novel are very similar. You enter the project (training, writing) with a “this is completely achievable” attitude… and it is. However, both are soooo much harder even than you give them credit for (if you do them right, instead of just “finishing”).

    That said, the reward at the end is so sweet. I’ve run one marathon, and it was the hardest thing I ever did. I was so proud of myself! I’m plodding through my second novel… and I know when I “finish” writing it, there will be so many revisions. It’s a long-term goal, but well worth the effort.

    Good luck!!!

    1. The good thing about training for a marathon is that it gives you lots of time to think. I have written many books in my mind while running, since there isn’t anything better to think about. On the topic of writing books, I was just thinking yesterday that there aren’t enough fantasy novels with female heroins (or would that be heroines?). It would be awesome to read a series where the gender roles are reversed, or at least equal. Just an idea, I have no idea what genre you are writing in.

      1. Yeah–who knows what genre I’ll be writing in next time around… but I’m doing women’s fiction right now. Learned the hard way the first time that agents want “really different,” “high concept” stuff…. we’ll see if this one will work. Good luck with yours!

    2. I’m holding out hope that I’ll be inspired with book ideas during my long runs now too! That certainly would be a great way to pass the time (although it might drive me crazy not to have any way to write down my ideas when I’m out and about) :)

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