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The Penguin Chronicles

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Giving and Getting

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The Penguin Chronicles :: December 1995 :: Giving and Getting December has always been a strange time of year for me. In addition to the holidays, my birthday is in December and so this month has become a watershed in my year and in my life. This was the month that society granted me important permissions. In December I became old enough to drive, old enough to get married, old enough to vote, and old enough to drink. I also got my induction notice in December. As a child, though, December could be summed up with one word: toys. Toys!…

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Frankly Speaking

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For  years I  had the privilege of interviewing many of the top runners of this and past generations. The one interview that is guaranteed to be filled with surprises, thoughtful nuance and outrageous proclamations is Olympic Gold Medalist Frank Shorter. Typically I’ll ask Frank what’s on him mind and 45 minutes later we stop. Recently I asked Frank how it was that he maintained his enthusiasm for running for so many years. His reply was that he simply loved to run. Training and racing weren’t things he had to do but things he wanted to do. More than that, he…

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Running Home

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Originally published online and in Runner’s World Magazine There are many advantages to starting to run later in life. Among them is the ability to use running as a means to rediscover memories long forgotten. For me, running is the key that has unlocked the most foreboding doors in the cellar of my psyche. Having had a life before running means there are many people and places which exist for the pre-running me. As that pre-runner recedes into my past, I’ve found I need a guide to take me from the person I was to the person I am becoming….

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Band on the Run

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Marching to the beat of a different drummer Most people’s lives don’t move forward in a straight line. I know mine has had the usual zigs and zags, ups and downs, even an occasional U-turn. But recently my life circled back, in a way I never anticipated. From 1971 to1976, I was a member of the U.S. Army’s premier musical organization—TUSAB, THE U.S. Army Band (Pershing’s Own). Those were the days of the draft and the Vietnam War. The military was the last place most of the band members wanted to be. It was an unusual time for us and…

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When to Say When

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Okay, it was the right thing to do. So why does it hurt so much? It isn’t always easy being a runner. It isn’t always easy being the Penguin. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to be both and to be true to either. One of the canons of the Penguin philosophy is that running – all running – is joyful in its own right. It’s the act of running, being in the moment of the motion, that brings satisfaction. And it’s the process that matters most, not the outcome. But some runners wrongly think that this focus on participation rather than…

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If I Can Make it There…

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A few things that New York City Marathon runners – and spectators – can teach the world. One of the biggest thrills of my former life as a trombonist was working with Frank Sinatra. And one of the biggest thrills of working with Sinatra was performing “New York, New York” – it just doesn’t get any better than that. So standing with more than 35,000 runners on the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge at the start of last year’s ING New York City Marathon and listening to Frank blasting through the speakers made me more than a little emotional. It is, after…

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The Perfect Run

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Is the perfect run 30, 40, 50 minutes? What works best for you will change – and that’s fine. I’ve always felt that 40 minutes was the perfect length of time for a run. Even at the very beginning of my running days, 20 to 30 minutes felt like not quite enough and an hour was, well, simply impossible. Of course, in the early days I couldn’t walk two miles in 40 minutes, but all that mattered was that I moved my body for that long. Eventually I did cover two miles in 40 minutes. In just a matter of…

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White Line Fever

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Believe it or not, the human machine can equal the power of a Harley. Until I discovered running, I had only two passions in life: music and motorcycles. Each fueled the other, and employment in one usually meant greater opportunities to pursue the other. For many years, this combination was perfect – I worked long enough as a freelance musician to build a financial base, then rode long enough to need the next gig. Maintaining the balance between time and money was tricky, but with care and a willingness to consume nothing more than peanut butter and beer, it was…

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One Door Closes

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The surest route to running satisfaction may be the path of least resistance. My grandfather had many favorite expressions – nearly all of which are unfit for publication. But the one he used often as a means of defusing disappointment over some failure was: “When one door closes, another door opens.” In the years since his death, I’ve often changed this expression to reflect my own uniquely pessimistic outlook: “When one door closes, another door closes.” There were times, I assure you, when that seemed to be the case. More often than not, though, my grandfather was right. In most…

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The Chosen Path

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When where you are is where you want to be. It’s a safe bet that I talk to more runners than just about anyone else on the planet. With traveling 300 days a year, my overflowing e-mail inbox, and my own curiosity, I communicate with thousands of runners a year. It’s interesting because I meet so many different kinds of runners: old and young, thin and not so thin, good and awful, and everything in between. But despite their differences, most have one thing in common: They’re either running to or from something. Some are running to a new PR…

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