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Running Roots

PITPfinishThey say you can never go home again, and they’re probably right. Most of us find that the home that we remember wasn’t nearly as good – or as bad – as we made it out to be. Big issues seem small. Small issues seem big. Through the lens of time nearly nothing is as it seemed to be.

This past week I went back to two former temporary homes. First, I spoke at the Champaign, Illinois library. I received my doctorate from UIUC in 1984 and was a music administrator from 1984-88. It was a frantic time, blasting through the degree in 3 years. Start to finish. Classes taken, comprehensive exams passed, dissertation written.

I stayed on after graduation as the assistant director of the school of music. Funny thing was that I got the job more because I had some experience in sales and marketing than because of my music or educational credentials.

On Friday and Saturday I was at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois which was my undergraduate home. Like so many others the life transition that happened during those years is unparalleled. On Friday morning I taught a class on sports marketing. I was more nervous for that than anything I’ve done lately. But the REAL reason I was in town was for the 5th running of the Penguin in the Park 5K.

The original concept was to create a small race in Decatur that featured – wePITPgirlsll – ME – that would raise some money for the running community in Decatur. The heavy lifting would be done by Mike Landacre, a local coach. He has also put on the Decatur Summer Park Series Runs for the past 30 years. Mike brings his whole family and most of his friends into the mix and the result has been a fantastic race.

Year one we had just a little over 100 participants. I ran the race and ALMOST finished in the top 100. This year, the numbers were around 450 and the potential for growth seems unlimited.

Most  of my life is spent at giant running events. And make no mistake, I enjoy it. But once a year it’s great to go back and remember what the running community is really about. It’s about big-hearted volunteers putting on races in their home towns for their friends and neighbors. There are thousands of people like Mike all over the country. They are the heart and soul of the running industry. Without them, the mega-events don’t exist.

So my advice to every runner and walker is to find a local 5K and support it. Participate in the race. Volunteer. Better yet, become a sponsor – or talk your boss into becoming a sponsor.

It’s not only fun, but it’s the right thing to do.

Waddle on, friends.

john_jbr_150hJohn “the Penguin” Bingham, Competitor Magazine columnist
Author, The Courage to Start, No Need for Speed, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals.

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