The Ballad of the Penguin, P-Hustle, and the Turbaned Torpedo

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to
start.”  – John Bingham

“Anything worth doing is going to be difficult” – Fauja Singh

“Arch support is for pansies!” – Phidippedes

Writing a screenplay is a Marathon, not a sprint. It’s 26.2 miles of bad road, and for someone with ADHD – a sprinter in every respect – it is a formidable Adversary. They say that when you reach the 20th mile, you hit the wall. After completing my first draft in two months (actually achieving my timeline!), I am slogging through my rewrites. I am at mile 20, and have collided with the wall like a crash test dummy.

But thinking of my Quest in these terms has inspired me. The word Marathon itself has so many Courageous connotations that I have bestowed it with the highest honor on this blog: a Heroic Capitalization. So, to help break through the wall, here are my three favorite marathon runners and the lessons they impart.

“Can one of you learned philosophers invent me a jockstrap? I have been playing tetherball for days”. Phidippides. Photo credit: Wikipedia

You may have heard of Phidippides at the Battle of Marathon, a man who was the inspiration for the race run in his honor. Phidippides (or as I like to call him, P-Hustle) was an Ancient Greek professional runner and human courier service. P-Hustle famously ran 26-ish miles from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens to warn the city of an impending assault by the Persians. What many people don’t know is that he made this famous run after running from Athens to Sparta (to ask the Spartan army to join the battle against the Persians) and back. Oh yeah, Sparta was only about 140 miles away! Oh yeah, and he did it barefoot! By way of comparison, I get winded and sweaty clipping my toenails. Also barefoot. Hey, save your judgement. Those bastards can cut glass. But, more importantly, P-Hustle crashed through “the wall” more times than Kool-Aid Man in order to be a Hero.

“Any resemblance to Burgess Meredith, living or dead,  is strictly coincidental.” John Bingham. Photo Credit:

John Bingham is an American Marathon “runner” and author who has championed the idea that marathons need not be run fast. Or at all. He is also known as “The Penguin” for his racing style (not his uncanny resemblance to Burgess Meredith), and he started a movement of Marathon walkers that value enjoyment over competition. So, while he may have inadvertently contributed to a culture that hands out participation trophies and which bans tetherball in the name of political correctness, he has also inspired thousands of non-competitive athletes to challenge themselves. I personally think the bigger lesson that the Penguin offers is that Heroes need to create their own definition of success. A Heroic Quest is first and foremost a personal endeavor.

“Nothing can escape the Turbaned Torpedo. Except, perhaps, the method for programming my VCR. Get it? Because I’m super old…” Fauja Singh. Photo Credit:

Finally, today we celebrate Fauja Singh, a 102 year old British Punjabi Sikh runner who recently completed his last race after a remarkable career. Singh, known affectionately as the “Turbaned Tornado”, took up running at the age of 89 after the tragic deaths of his wife and son. He finished Marathons across the globe, even after he reached the century mark, and became an international sensation. Singh carried the Olympic torch as a part of the pre-game ceremonies in London, met foreign dignitaries and traveled the world. “From a tragedy has come a lot of success and happiness,” Singh once said of his running career. The Turbaned Torpedo teaches us that nothing, not age or tragedy, can stop the determined Hero from transforming their life, slaying Demons, and creating real life Magic. Hell, even his nickname sounds like a golden age DC Comics superhero.

So, this week I resolve to follow in the footsteps (so to say) of these three Titans in the world of running. I am going to demolish that wall.

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