All good things must come to an end, or so they say. The truth I’ve learned is that all things, good and bad, come to an end. In life, as in marathons, there are good patches and bad patches—and neither last forever.
And so it is that this is my last official column. Beginning in May 1996 with the first “Penguin Chronicles” in Runner’s World Magazine, through various title changes and magazine placements, I have been writing for, and writing to, a running community that has been the greatest collective of people I have ever known.
As word of my impending retirement has made its way around the running community, the most common question to me has been “What’s next?” My answer is simple and honest: I have no idea.
It’s important to remember that I had no plan for the past 20 years. Truth be told, I really didn’t have a plan for the past 40 years. I’ve been fortunate to be able to work in the three fields in which I have passion—music, motorcycles and running—my entire professional life. It’s hard for me to believe that there is some undiscovered passion that will overtake me.
But I could be wrong. Sitting with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, it never would have occurred to me that running would become a passion. But it did.
And if there’s a message that I want to close a writing career with, it’s just this: be open to new passions.
I was absolutely certain that I wanted to be a high school band director. I was a music education major. I took piano lessons, learned how to play all the band instruments and bought a conductor’s baton. I’ve never been employed for one day as a high school band director.
Not having a plan is different than not having a passion. A plan will often limit you because it defines success before you get started. I’ve often said that no plan I could have ever had could have been as good as what’s happened.
In my case, the passion wasn’t really about running. It may have seemed that way, but the truth is that running was never easy for me, was never especially satisfying and I never had the kind of success as a runner that others have enjoyed. My inherent lack of talent always put me on the outside of the real running community.
My passion was, and is, people. It’s you, the reader. It’s the person sitting on the sofa miserable like I was, who has no idea that the secret to happiness is their own two feet. My passion is sharing the extraordinary transformation of body, mind and spirit that happens when you start working on your body.
The battle was, and still is, convincing the pathologically speedy that running or walking can produce the peak experience at any pace. Nearly 20 years after the first Penguin Chronicle appeared, the industry magazines and books are still focused on speed as the sole criterion of success.
Whether through my writing, speaking or owning and producing events, my goal was to show people that they were, each of them, capable of much more than they thought they were and that they were, capable of defining success in their own terms.
And so as this chapter of my life comes to a close, I want to leave you with the words that have changed thousands of lives and that ring as true to me today as when they were first written over 20 years ago.
“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
Waddle on, friends …