I couldn’t pass up the chance to meet my personal hero of running, John “The Penguin” Bingham, at the 10th Annual Penguin in the Park 5k at Millikin University in Decatur, IL. Yes it was March 28 and I am just now writing about it almost 7 months later. Hey, I’ve been busy! OK? Anyway, here’s the rundown.
I found myself slightly questioning my own sanity when I looked at the weather on that fine freezing spring morning but I figured “what the heck, I drove 3 hours to get here last night so I might as well just get out there with all the other crazies.” I even tweeted about it that day as you can see from the photo below.
But honestly, how can you be a Penguin if you can’t stand the cold?!
So it was cold. Yeah. It warms up when you start running so as long as I have a hat and some gloves, I generally don’t care. I had been doing a lot of treadmill training over the winter because I wanted to become faster than I had been in the past. It was my goal for 2015 to run my fastest 5k ever and to perhaps finally break the “under 3 hour” mark in a half marathon. I had spent a lot of time on the treadmill doing intervals but did not expect to try and break any speed records on this day. My goal setting out was simply: (1) meet the Penguin, and (2) have some fun.
The course is touted as “a rolling bicycle path” in Decatur’s Fairview Park — which in plain English means “hills”; maybe gentle, maybe steep, but definitely not flat. However, it is a beautiful and scenic spot even in the dead of winter and the 810 runners were in for a nice treat. Since John the Penguin himself planned to come in last, nobody even needed to worry about their pace. After hearing that, I tried out a new rhythm of 4 minutes running and 1 minute walking to see where it would take me.
Eventually I found the finish line.
Afterwards we were served a very nice post-race breakfast of muffins and chili (which I must say was some of the best chili I’ve had in a long time) from Ray’s Chilli which is a local outfit in Decatur. A packet of their chili seasoning was included in the goody bag, and I have now ordered a full pound of the stuff as it has become part of my standard recipe, along with a few of my own secret ingredients.
It was around Mile 2 when I noticed my time was faster than usual, possibly even faster than ever, so I picked up the pace just to see what I could do. And it did turn out to be my fastest 5k ever. Not fast by anyone else’s standards, just mine. So I ended up with a few outstanding moments that day. A good race. A new chili recipe. A chance to finally meet in person the guy whose written words got me started and kept me going long before they inspired me to get a penguin tattooed on my leg.
It was a wonderful day and a great way to kick off the spring running season.