NeologisticsRunning → Ballast

Penguins As Ballast

A few minutes ago I posted my race report on the ARR Desert Classic, in which I made a PR by a significant margin. The event led me to some personal introspection.

I first took up light jogging back in 1977, when the running boom was hot, but never considered myself a runner. My best effort ever was a one-time run of about 4-5 miles. Eventually I jogged only sporadically to not at all.

A little over two years ago, when I was 51, I started exercising seriously, and in the process became a runner, specifically a penguin runner.

I no longer think of myself as a beginning runner. For over two years I have:

all with complete consistency, and entirely without any lapses, regressions, or noteworthy discouragement.

For all that effort, giving it my best shot on Sunday morning resulted in a run time of 2:14:56 (by my watch), which resulted in my placing 222nd overall in a field of 297 registered competitors, i.e., in the 75th percentile.

The very act of recognizing this as an accomplishment, enough that I even want to tell others about it, strikes me as being at the core of understanding what it means to be a penguin style runner. I'm sure that Dr. John and others who have forged the way before me will agree.

Here is one way to look at it:

Runners like us are the foundation of any big race. We provide ballast for the faster guys, to hold them up and make them look even better than we readily acknowledge that they are.

It's struck me as being similar to the reason our Creator put all the real penguins at the south pole. Obviously the extra weight at the bottom helps to keep the earth spinning upright. If they were to start wandering too far from their predestined home base, things would go out of kilter and the earth might fly off into space.

Somehow I doubt that there is a scientific explanation for this. But think about it: How many runners would rather tell their friends that they were 200th in a field of 205 as opposed to 200th in a field of 800? Without us they couldn't say that.

So if any of them seem to feel superior in comparing themselves to us, then so be it. That's why we exist, and in providing them the opportunity for comparison we are merely fulfilling our destiny.

But I'll bet not a one of those fast guys has more fun being there than I do. And that's the truth.