Penguins: “Adult-Onset Athletes” Who Run Slowly

By PAM GARDINER, Wellbuddies Coaching

I am a Penguin.  I learned the term from John Bingham, who for many years wrote The Penguin Chronicles for Runner’s World magazine.  Penguins are “adult-onset athletes” who run slowly.  We waddle.  We are, nevertheless, passionate about our sport— at whatever pace.

I became addicted to running, as a Penguin, in midlife—first training to run 13.1 miles a decade ago.  Since then, I have run at least one half marathon per year, sometimes two or three.   Training begins in late winter, as I build from 60-minute runs to 90, 120, 150, 180.  When I reach three hours, I am ready.

Why has this strange practice become a midlife rite of spring for me?  I love having a goal.  I love the sense of being alive.  I love moving smoothly and quietly through the morning, seeing and feeling the seasons change.  Snow melts and puddles form, leaves turn green, and a sequence of flowers bloom along the trail.  I love comparing victories and injuries, sharing support and advice with running buddies.  Most of all, I love the fact that, in my 60’s, both body and spirit are willing to go the distance.

The Missoula Half Marathon is coming again soon.  I will volunteer to help at the finish line.  I look forward to greeting my buddies: we have trained together since January.  I want to share their victories and celebrate the obstacles they have overcome.

As for me, I enjoy running a different race every time.  Last year I registered for the Grizzly Half, held in Choteau at the end of July.  It was my 12th event at that distance in a journey that had included Moab, Provo, Williamsburg, Leesburg, Anchorage, Deadwood, Helena, Lolo Pass, Seeley Lake (and yes, the inaugural Missoula half).  Each event has its own character.  I was drawn into the Choteau run by its website, which invited us to “Run wit da Griz:”

Choteau’s Grizzly Marathon is pure old-fashioned marathon.  No hoopla – no bands, no crowds, no fuss.  It is your chance to test your mettle in a beautiful setting.  Sure there might be gravel and hills but you have trained hard, you’re tough!\

The Griz sounded like a good place for a Penguin, running her own race, dwarfed by the Big Sky.  My dear, supportive husband Lyle took these photos.  The first one, at the start, shows that Penguins get extra security backup in “grizzly country.”  The second shows that I finished strong, nearly three hours later.

I am a runner.  I am a Penguin.  I run for joy, not for speed.  I look forward to blogging for other runners and walkers who count their “race pace” in double digits.  I look forward to hearing back from you!

PHOTOS:  Above:  Griz Start.  Right:  Griz Finish

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Pam retired from the US Forest Service in 2008, and trained as a wellness coach (doing business as Wellbuddies Coaching).  She also volunteers for Run Wild Missoula, co-directing the Galloway marathon training program and developing programs that encourage slower runners and walkers at the Back of the Pack.

Pam started running in her early 50’s, and ran three marathons the year she turned 55.  A decade later, she has settled on the half marathon as her preferred distance. Pam is grateful for the diverse and inclusive community of runners and walkers in Missoula. (Left: Pam with son, Johnathan)