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End of an Era

RWpaceteam_chicagoThey say that time flies when you’re having fun. If that’s true then I have been having one heck of a good time. The last time I checked it was 1996, I was reading the very first “Penguin Chronicles” in Runner’s World magazine, I was excited about running in the 100th Boston Marathon – because I was chosen in the lottery not because I qualified – and my days were filled more with music and motorcycles than with running. Boy, did that change.

I don’t have the kind of ego that leads me to believe that the world was waiting to read what I had to say. Quite the opposite, I’ve been surprised every month that ANYONE wanting to read what I had to say. But people did want to read. You wanted to read. And here we are nearly 14 years later looking forward to a new chapter in my life, and yours.

But, before I say goodbye I’d like to take a minute to recognize and thank the people to whom I owe so much. It is not an overstatement to say that without these people I’d still be the music department chairman at Middle Tennessee State University.

First, Marlene Cimons; writer for the LA Times and member, in 1995, of the then secret “Dead Runners Society”. DRS, as it was called, was one of the first internet-based running community. It was a mail server – which I still don’t understand – and I started posting email descriptions of some of my running and racing experiences. Marlene saw something and forwarded a bunch of them to Amby Burfoot.

So the next thank you goes to Amby, then editor of Runner’s World magazine. For reasons known only to him he decided to give a completely unknown writer, who was a slow runner, a full editorial page in Runner’s World. Why he thought anyone would relate to a former overweight smoker-drinker is a mystery for the ages. But he did. And I’m grateful.

In his next move of insanity, Amby assigned Mark Will-Weber to be my first editor. Mark, collegiate running coach, 2:22 marathoner, old-school, nylon-shorts, runner was going to have to edit columns about the joys and advantages of running slowly. I’m sure Mark was being punished. What I learned from Mark was the skill of being succinct. Why say in 25 words what you can just as effectively say in 10. Thank you, Mark.

Susan Lindfors was my next editor. Susan is a singer/song writer who took my words and turned them into lyrics. The columns were never more beautiful then when Susan edited them. Thank you, Susan.

Mark Remy, who is still a big part of the editorial team at was – sorry Mark – the smartest person who ever edited the column. I’d read his edits and smile. He was WAY smarter than me and it showed. There are columns in the “Mark” years that are much, much better than the ones I wrote.Thanks Mark.

Jane Hahn had maybe the most difficult job. She edited the column while Runner’s World underwent a nearly complete editorial change. She was charged not with just editing the column, but protecting the voice. With the removal of the penguin character and the change in the column title Jane had the nearly impossible task of keeping the continuity of the message while navigating through a new paradigm. She did a masterful job. Thank you, Jane.

There have been a few others who have taken their turns at editing the column. Catherine Gunderson, Jay Heinrich, and Joanna Sayago among them. Each has brought their unique skills and perspective to my words. I thank them all.

But, the time has come to move on. Beginning in March of this year you’ll be able to read “The Penguin Chronicles” again in Competitor Magazine. Look for it in your local running specialty stores and at other sports outlets. I’m looking forward to reintroducing “The Penguin Chronicles” to a new readership and welcoming home the current readers.  Together we will discover the path that we’re on.

You’ll also find an archive of old columns and two weekly blogs at

Waddle over, friends. I’ll be waiting for you.


John “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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