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I’m running my Longest. Run. Ever. today.  14 miles.  Kinda freaked out about it.  Now, I’ve BEEN out there longer, having run a 5-hour how-far-can-you-go run and an 8-hour ultra.  But both of those longer distance runs also involved lawn chairs and a change of socks.  This run involves me, my shoes, my water bottles (binkies) and hopefully, a stop at Mom’s Halfway House Potty Stop.  

I. Can. Do. This.  

Last week’s long run was only 6.5 miles, so I’ve officially done the “backing off” portion of this cycle of the training program.  The verdict:  yuck.  I need a long run, for sure.  I may be getting pretty far gone with this running sickness thing.  Possibly.  Perhaps it’s too soon to tell.  

What’s that?  You want to know where the heck I’ve been for the past 10 days?  Besides whining about my not-so-long run?  Well, I’ll get into that story on a different post if you really want to know.  But for now, I gotta get out there and hit the pavement… 

 

Photo Credit~Again, This ISN’T Me~Hardly! 

THE PLAN:  14 mile run today.  Longest ever to date.  Woo Hoo! 

PREDICTION:  Awesome, of course. 

THE REALITY:  To be determined.  I’ll update you all afterwards, assuming I survive. 

 [UPDATE]:   Well, 14 miles is a very, very long way.  But I made it!  And I was able to run the whole way (of course, be mindful that I run very sloooowww, so I was out there a loooooooooonnnnnnggg time!).  

The weather was perfect for me.  Not messy enough, mind you, with the dry pavement, but in the 30’s the entire run.  Only felt too cold at an especially windy stretch.  

I was at the 13.1 mile point (half-marathon distance) a full 10 minutes faster than I ran in VA Beach in September, so that’s a big improvement for me.  

[GUY ALERT: I don’t care at all if you’re a guy and read the next three paragraphs, but you might.  I’m just saying…]  The biggest challenge, though, was the dreaded PMS that I’m SO sick of dealing with.  My family, they love dealing with it,  but me, I’m sick of it!  You’d think that when you’re perimenopausal, you’d at least be able to get rid of some of the more obnoxious PMS sidekicks, like the Zit Monster and the Desire-To-Eat-Everything-In-The-House Monster.  But NO.  It’s like you’re being squeezed in from both sides of nature’s timeline.  Monsters everywhere.  Just. Not. Fair. 

The delightful PMS sidekick that went with me on my run today was the Water Monster.  More appropriately, it would be named the Water Retention Monster, but that doesn’t sound nearly as scary.  Now, back when I wasn’t watching what I ate with any real consistency, or before then when my favorite method of dealing with stress was diving headfirst into a family sized bag of peanut butter M&M’s, I really didn’t notice the Water Monster much.  But now, when I’m doing Weight Watchers and sticking with the plan for REAL and STILL end up putting on a pound and a half in the course of a week, I am acutely aware of the villain that is Water Monster.  So today, I ran 14 miles with the equivalent of several water balloons happily sloshing along for the ride.  

 

Photo Credit 

Not the most enjoyable way to spend the morning, but hey, it was beautiful and quiet and generated a supply of endorphins that are sure to help me doing battle with the Mood Monster, Water Monster’s ugly twin.  And that’s a win.  Any way you look at it! 

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The challenge is on!  Well, actually, the request has been made, but I operate so much more effectively when I think of things as a challenge, contest or goal.  Here’s the thing:

My friend Ann, has made the simple request (not for her, mind you, but for a hypothetical and anonymous friend) for a post on How-Do-Ya-Get-Started with this running gig, especially if you haven’t been that into it beforehand. 

I aim to please and I can’t wait to hear the input from the readers of this blog who are much more expert at this than me.  I’ll be doing a series of posts on this, because there’s really too much to say for one post.  Not that it’s complicated.  It’s just that I like to editorialize and that takes time and space.  So it’ll have to come in spurts.

“How many posts in this series?” you ask.  Who knows?!  Not me.  However many until I’m done.  “Are you going to post them one right after another?”  Well that would be the most logical and rational way of handing this information, but also highly unlikely.  I am Way. Too. Random. for that.  Just bear with me and it’ll all get out there. 

I’m expecting to post Part One on Tuesday.  Yes, this Tuesday.  As in today.  Cant’ wait!  🙂

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It’s a 12-miler today.  Drove the route Thursday in my car.  Um.  It really is kinda long.  Hope Mom’s HalfWay House Potty Stop is open for business at mile 6.4. 

It’s been since Monday since I’ve laced up my shoes and gotten out there to run.  Don’t care how cold or yucky it is.  So. Excited. To. Run. Today!

Photo Credit

THE PLAN:  12 mile run today.  SO glad to get back out there after three days off and after the monstrous-hills-from-hell trail I ran last weekend!

PREDICTION:  Awesome, of course.

THE REALITY:  To be determined.  I’ll update you all afterwards, assuming I survive.

[UPDATE]:  Okay, so 20 degrees really is cold.  Not so bad when you’re running down residential areas where houses and trees break the wind, but today I went an extra mile out and back in the middle of my longest running route (turning 10 into 12 miles), and I got to run in some Very. Open. Spaces.  Wondering if I will ever completely thaw out!

That being said, the run was AWESOME!  There were little snowflakes flurrying around the entire time I ran, but no where near enough for accumulation.  Had to avoid the puddles ice patches, where water had frozen for a stretch on the sidewalk, and make friends with some doggies who were bravely defending their yards from intruders, but overall, it was a very great day. 

I felt better about running the 12 miles when I considered that it was only 1.1 mile short of the half-marathon distance that I’d conquered and that I’d be able to do one of those again with more grace than the first time.  But I had to force myself to stop thinking that even when I was finished with my Longest Training Run Ever (to date) that I still wouldn’t have gone half the distance of the marathon that I’m going to be doing in less than three months.  Ack! 

Among many other things, I’m especially thankful today for my hydration belt, my hideous compression pants, Mom’s HalfWay Potty House (just knowing it’s there makes me feel better, whether I end up stopping or not!), safe streets, courteous drivers, warm showers and a family who supports me in this truly crazy journey.

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Running Shoes: BEFORE

So here’s the thing. 

I had this whole post planned with the title:  You Don’t Expect Me to Run Up THAT, Do You?  And the post was about the Wild Wild Wilderness Run hosted by the Kennekuk Road (and must.not.forget.the.TRAIL) Runners a couple months ago. 

That trail featured 7.55 miles of pure running torture.  (So terrible that I plan on running it again in the arctic weather we surely can expect during the Sibearn Express on January 2, 2010.)  Seriously, though.  It was terrible.  There was a nearly vertical hill that only mountain goats or really nimble deer should ever be expected to climb, one that hugged an earth wall and where a single step to the left would leave a person pummeling hundreds of yards to their demise in a thornbush-infested ravine.  There were three or four miles of challenging, but bearable terrain that initiated the uninitiated WWW trail runner.  Then (surprise, newbie!) the turn-off to the hill-from-hell.  Only to be followed by three or four miles more  of Really. Hard. Trail Running. 

Now, I love running hills.  But these weren’t people-hills.  They were animal-only hills.  And those super-runners who could just prance up them with ease–well, I’m astounded by those people.  They need a special category of fitness just for them.

As for me, I was so proud of Finishing Without Dying that I floated along on that experience for quite some time.  It mattered very little to me that I was near the Very End of the pack.  I was thrilled beyond words to have finished on my feet instead of a stretcher.

So that was the essence of the post I was going to write.  Because that was the craziest trail I’d run so far.  Until today.

Today I was introduced, quite accidentally, to the Backpack Trail at Forest Glen.  I personally believe they call this the Backpack Trail because most normal humans would need to bring camping supplies (or at least a meal!) in order to traverse the sucker, because it takes SO LONG and is SO HARD to finish this monster of a trail.

Now the introduction to the trail was only partially accidental, I confess.  Because I planned to do the 4.5 mile trail.  You know, the “this-11-mile-trail-intimidates-me-so-I-want-a-shorter-version-of-the-Backpack-Trail” trail.  What I did NOT plan to do was the 11 mile version of the Backpack Trail. 

Had I completed the 4.5 mile version, I’d still have had plenty of material to share with you, believe-you-me.  But the fact that just one teensy-weensy turn to the left rather than the right had us move our bodies over 11 miles of terrain instead of 4.5 miles is just plain wicked.  Indeed, we made the left vs. right decision because some Very Helpful (sadistic) Campers advised us that everyone had headed toward the left.  Thank you campers. 

What followed was an adventure that my two running buddies and I certainly had not anticipated.  We were told that we’d be heading over a creek.  Indeed, we headed over multiple creeks.  “Creek” is a highly subjective term, apparently.  I’m thinking, it’s a little thing you can hop over.  Nope.  It’s several big things that, even if you don’t fall off the slippery rocks that pose as steps across the current, you’re going to be wading in the water at least up to your ankles.  (Before you Florida readers think me a wimp, now, please remember that it was 33 degress when I got in the car to drive to this adventure!). 

And there were hills.  So many hills.  This trail wasn’t playing.  And let’s not forget that it’s been raining for, like, 952 days straight here in Central Illinois, so it was Mud City everywhere we went.  Read that:  No Traction.  Slip-N-Slides are fun when you’re eight and in your front yard with your neighbor buddies.  When you’re 43 years-old and trying to find footing climbing up a Monster Mud Hill, there are few humans that would call the exercise fun. 

Indeed, as we got to the bottom of our 382nd hill (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not much) we stopped thinking, “surely this is the last big hill we have to deal with” and started thinking, “surely this stinking trail has to end at some point.” 

Who knew that any trail, anywhere in the known universe could have So Many Gigantic Up’s and Gigantic Downs?  One after the other.  (Of course, happily interspersed with flowing creeks throughout.)

And the downhills.  I believe they were even worse than the uphills.  I’d always had the strategy of running on the downhills whenever possible.  It’s just that it was Very Rarely possible on this Sadist Trail.  The first bad boy that we faced, I remember clearly thinking that we’d taken a wrong turn.  People aren’t supposed to go straight down hills that steep with NO earth on either side.  Just a little mountain goat path straight down with an occasional tree mercifully situated for holding-on-for-dear-life on the downward descent.  I remember thinking after that first hill that the worst was behind us.  HA HA HA HA HA.  No.

All three of us in our brave little what-in-the-blazes-are-we-doing-out-here-without-a-GPS-or-a-cell-phone party fell nicely on our touckases at least once during the adventure.  We kept a good eye-out for each other and never got too far apart while out there.   We learned the difference between a shriek of  “Woo Hoo!” (“We’re awesome!  Look what we’re doing!”) and a shriek of “Woo Hoo!” (“Heaven help me, I’ve just fallen into the biggest mud pit in a five state region!”).  We learned the difference between this-hurts and this-sucks-but-let’s-keep-going-because-we-still-have-daylight.  And we most certainly learned to love the signs with the little red arrows and how to look for the red splotches on lots of trees. 

Most of all, we learned that there was more within us than any of us bargained for when we set out to Forest Glen for a little run one cold Saturday morning in November.  We learned we could do it.  At least for me, I surprised myself that I could do it.  And any one of us could have gone the 13.1 half marathon distance–so we learned that we were able to do that too!  I had another chance to give one something that had intimidated me a beat-down.  And we were blessed with the commraderie, the friendship, that comes from battling those stinking hills and creeks and elements together. 

Overall, it certainly was a day worth having.  Maybe even a day worth repeating.  A great adventure by some unlikely adventurerers.  And a great achievement by some tough-as-nails women who, though total newbies, were ready and willing to give it our all.  And we did. 

Three other Very Important Points: 

1.  Hats off to the Kennekuk Road (and Trail) Runners who gave every one of us a round of applause as we staggered off the trail.  These Super Runners had been done for well over an hour, but were still glad to cheer on the lost-little-newbies that somehow finished that 11 mile beast without dying! 

2.  My trail shoes are now officially trail shoes.  Here’s the after picture: 

Shoes: AFTER

3.  WW Activity Points mean I can EAT after today.  Yes!

4.  I’m certain I’ve forgot to mention much more than what’s been said here already.  I’m sure you’ll get more tidbits as the days and weeks move on…

For now, here’s proof of the mud: 

Muddy!

And proof of the buds:

We Made It!

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Well, one of my friends just lost her 100th pound on her 40th birthday.  (I would post her name here, but I don’t know if she’s willing to be a public figure, so you’ll have to die of curiosity.)  Another friend is in size 9/10 jeans as of this weekend, in spite of her PMS.  (I have absolutely NO qualms posting her vitals here, since she’s crazy bold enough to share them with the world herself!) 

I am SO happy for them.  Not a bit jealous.  Not. One. Little. Bit.  Okay, well maybe a little.  But sheesh, these ladies have quite literally worked their fannies off, so it’s not like I can begrudge them their awesome achievements.

This just ain't right.

Photo Credit

As for me, faithful readers of this blog know just exactly how much weight I’ve (not) lost.  Indeed, LOTS of you have weighed in (No pun intended…I leave the puns to Linda and Charlie, who are really, really good at puns.  My humor usually occurs by accident.) with really great recipes in my recipe contest, designed to give me ideas and inspiration to be able to cook/eat/feed my family in a more healthy manner.   (Do you notice how often I interrupt myself?  Imagine being my husband (known here on this blog as HH).  Constantly being interrupted by my bursts of inspiration.  He’s such a lucky guy.)  Thanks for your entries!  I will be using them!

Anyway, it is not that I haven’t worked hard enough.  As you (may) know, I’m training for a marathon, so I am getting bunches of exercise.  And as you (may) know, distance runners are particularly weight-loss-challenged because of the distinct nutritional requirements of their sport. 

However, it occurs to me that my sport does not require me to have a burger and fries twice in one day.  And it also occurs to me that I now do have LOTS of awesome recipes from my faithful friends who read this blog. 

Further,  it occurs to me that I have this most salient reminder of two friends that have had MEGA success in the fanny-shrinking department, that these women are really normal, nice, friendly gals, who weren’t doing anything faddish or into some wierd trend.  They were just doing the Hard Work of monitoring what they put into their pie-holes.  These women aren’t supermodels, but they’re superheroes–at least in the weight loss department (and my eyes).  Worse yet, they are totally likeable.  I really LIKE them.  You can’t hate someone who you like, so since I like them I am now left with:  No Excuses.

Since I found myself today at the crossroads of No-Excuses and Forever-Fat, and since I found myself at the end of My Own Strength and Will-Power to Do Anything About It (seriously–I’ve made this a pretty public journey–the public nature of any “failure” would have been enough to have caused me to change if I’d been willing/able/ready to do it), I did the only thing that there was left to do.  I prayed.

[Time out now, because this is something I’m actually serious about.  I take myself pretty lightly, but God?  Now, I take Him seriously.  Just because God has a sense of humor doesn’t mean He’s a joke and He is one of the few things you won’t find me kidding about.  Just wanted you to know.]

SO, I prayed that God would just help me care.  Seriously.  I obviously hadn’t cared enough to do something about it.  I’m not trying to be hard on myself and I’m not trying to make light of God Almighty here.  But I knew that He cared about me taking care of myself, and I obviously wasn’t caring enough to make the necessary changes in the Eat Less curriculum of the Eat Less/Move More game plan I’d taken on. 

If God cared and I didn’t, then I had a problem.  So I asked Him for help.  And of course, He gave it to me.   [Aside:  Even if you’re not a Christian, the exercise/weight loss/diet stuff you’re about to read will probably interest you.  It’s worth it to continue reading.  If you are a Christian, please do not believe for a minute that I “heard from God” just because I said so.  Test it.  If you don’t know how, then message me or ask your pastor.   I’ll be happy to share my testing-process with you personally, but that’s way beyond this post.  Listen, the important thing to know is God does care and He does talk to us, but our “feelings” are not the litmus test for the will of God.  Even if you love everything I say, I don’t speak for God.  God is perfectly capable of speaking for Himself.]

SO…very surprisingly, the help that I received was in the form of several distinct and unassociated people who’ve had great success in this weight loss program called Weight Watchers.  Perhaps you’ve heard of it. 

Now, I’ve done WW before and was quite successful with it.  I have clothes that used to fit me in my closet to prove it.  The problem was that I “did” WW before and I’m now really, really looking for a permanent lifestyle change.  One that can accomodate my new lifestyle as Mom-Who-Runs.  One that I can do as a Normal Person (which I desperately would love to be) instead of either a Dieter OR as a Rebelling-From-Being-A-Dieter-And-Doing-Whatever-I-Please-Person. 

My big objection to WW was that I would have to go to those meetings.  Now, when my world operated on a different schedule, the meetings were not a problem.  At this point in my life, though, the meetings are Out Of The Question. And so, WW was out of the question.  Until now. 

I know this is old news to some people, but it’s new to me, and I’m kinda excited to hear it.  Weight Watchers now has an ONLINE program.  Which means no more (stupid) meetings!  No more needing to get a babysitter so I can step on a scale!  No more lecturettes!  

And *ahem* no more excuses.  

Undaunted, I had one last remaining excuse.  This bit of being an endurance athlete.  Seriously, people.  We need CALORIES to run 26.2 miles.  Or 13.1.  Or 10.  Or 6.  Reasonable people understand that there’s no way to safely crash diet and safely train for a marathon.  But THEN, while poking around on the WW site, I discovered something I’d forgotten entirely.  ACTIVITY POINTS.   

Hallelujah, activity points!  I don’t remember the way they are calculated.  (It’s been a long time since I achieved lifetime WW member status.)  But essentially, activity points help to account for the activity you do by giving you more points that you can/must consume for that day.  So there was actually a chance that I might be able to lose weight, train for my marathon, and not starve/injure myself in the process. 

There was a light at the end of the tunnel.  I just needed to reassess my WHY.

My motivation to lose weight is no longer what it used to be.  I’m not even willing to tell you what it used to be.  Seriously, I don’t even know if I can get my brain to go there.  NOW, however, my desire to lose weight has to do with not having to caring this extra 40 (to 45) pounds with me as a passenger on my marathon on February 21st.  My motivation is to lose some of that weight so that it doesn’t have to come along for the ride on my first marathon, or even most of the training for it.  Losing the weight will help me avoid injury, improve my time, and enjoy the experience (not to mention take a cuter picture) during that race.  So THAT’S the motivation.  And I can’t wait until January 31st to start thinking about it.

So here’s my question:  Who among you has tried (or knows someone who’s tried) this Weight Watchers Online thing?  Would you recommend it for someone as random as me?  Would it yield itself to the odd requirements of an adult-onset-endurance-athlete with a sweet-tooth husband and two athletic daughters to feed?  Would I injure myself trying it while training for this marathon?  Would you recommend it?  In essence:  HELP! 

Please, please, please give me your comments about this if you’ve got an opinion.  Even I’m not such a lover-of-contradiction that I’d start WW three days before Thanksgiving, but I’ll be making a decision about What To Do very soon.  It would be great to have input from people who’ve been there.

As it stands now, the extra weight I’d be carrying would be like carrying a preschooler in my arms for the entire 26.2 miles during my race in February.   Um, pass.  Clearly, it’s time for drastic measures. 

Can’t wait to hear your words of wisdom.  I thank you from the bottom of my…well, never mind. 

P.S.  Another benefit:  HH doesn’t know that there is a WW for Men Online available.  I feel a master plan cooking up.  This could be good!

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It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.   ~Theodore Roosevelt

Today was a “rest day” in my marathon training schedule.  But it wasn’t restful at all.  And I’m glad.

We spent the greater part of this day screaming our lungs out at our local high school, where our team, the Danville Vikings, were in the 6A state semi-finals.  An hour and a half before the game, the stands were packed.  Packed.

Not so long ago, our local program was in the cellar of the state.  Then native son, BJ Luke came home and accepted the head coaching position.  The team began to win and Viking Fever was epidemic.  The entire community embraced the team and rallied around these players.  Their hard work, their passion, their toughness, their fight, their refusal to quit was contagious.  The entire community has a shared pride in these valiant young men, whose efforts went way beyond football and caused hope to burn bright in our little corner of the world. 

I pass this house on most of my training runs. Funny thing. After seeing this sign, I don't give slowing down or stopping a second thought.

You would have thought they’d won.  Sadly, the Vikings were defeated in today’s game.  After the clock wound down and the season was over, the crowd grew still and…didn’t leave.  The crowd waited quietly until the Viking players had respectfully choked back their personal heartbreak and congratulated their opponents.  Then as the team turned to run back to their locker room, the crowd erupted in a roar of pride and encouragement. 

This team had given our town so much hope and passion and vision.  This undefeated season had been a win for the entire community.  Written-off, and yet, coming back and winning.  Again and again and again.  Underestimated, and yet, giving it all.  Again and again and again.  These young men reminded us all that it is possible to overcome obstacles and be victorious.  They reminded us what it means to be valiant. 

And for the next days, weeks and months, we’re going to have a whole lot of valiant people in this community.  Valiant teachers.  Valiant runners.  Valiant parents.  Valiant secretaries.  Valiant waitresses.  Valiant students.  Working hard.  Giving it all.  Refusing to quit.  Exceeding expectations.  Setting new standards.  Working and playing with heart. 

For that, this community owes Coach Luke, his staff, and especially each member of the DHS Vikings a debt of gratitude.

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Okay, so ya’ll were pretty much on to me in the poll about my Top Secret Cross Training Exercise.  (I’d surely like to know which one of you voted for “Other” and typed in “12 oz. curls after a run!”  Confessions, anyone?)

So you guessed it.  My cross-training exercise of choice is:  Tap Dancing.  This is only mildly remarkable because I hadn’t danced in a group/team/class since high school.  And I’d only even put on tap shoes a couple times in my adult life.  I would have had better chances at success being a hockey player or a nuclear scientist.

But I thought I’d give it a whirl since my little princess is The Dancing Queen and my darling ninja has decided to take dancing lessons to make her a Better Hockey Player.

Photo Credit

So I see this sign:  Beginning Adult Tap Lessons–Try It!  And I think:  how hard can it be?  After all, I’m an athlete, a runner.  I signed up for the class, thinking it would be fun, but wouldn’t really qualify for anything mildly aerobic. 

Imagine my surprise when I learned that there were very few times that tap dancers actually ever stopped moving.  Think of it as the equivalent of jumping rope for 45 minutes while trying to learn new ways to move your feet, remember these ways in varying patterns, have each move of your toe or heel make a particular noise at a particular moment,  figure out how not to run into the other dancers in the room (all 15 years younger than you, of course) and, if possible, to do all this while not falling down on your larger-and-older-than-the-rest-of-the-group’s fanny. 

So maybe this actually was exercise.  Yes, definitely. 

Way different than running.  Which is, for me, essentially a solo endeavor and in which the tricky footwork consists of exactly two moves:  thump, thump.  And the biggest challenge consists of willing yourself to go farther or faster. 

So the tap dancing thing has been a welcome way for me to get that aerobic exercise without pounding on my old joints once a week.  It’s given me a chance to focus my mind a different way than I’m used to, which is a welcome brain-stretch.  It’s given me a chance to educate some whipper-snappers in the reality that indeed, Thriller and Bust-A-Move were, not that long ago, songs that real people danced to, not just some funky retro music.  And it’s given me yet another opportunity to laugh at myself, because truly–I’m quite a sight to behold, let me tell you. 

And just today, another thought occurred to me.  Happy Feet.  Oh, yes.  It makes total sense that I would love tap dancing, since I am a penguin. 

One of my running heroes, John Bingham, refers to himself as “The Penguin.”  He refers to a time in his early running career where he envisioned himself as a swift and beautiful, muscular animal, running mightily, at which time he passed by a storefront and saw his reflection in the plate glass, where he saw something closer to:  a penguin.  Are you a Penguin?  Click this link to find out:  You Might Be a Penguin If…

How does this penguin business relate to tap dancing? 

Of course, this runner would love tap dancing.  This runner is a penguin.  And in both persuits, my feet are truly happy.

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