As a person who previously did an awful lot of slow running, it’s hard to avoid the wonderful writings of John “The Penguin” Bingham. At the ripe old age of 43, John started running, slowly. And I mean slow. John started by running down his driveway. And every week he ran just a little further, but not necessarily a whole lot faster. Jeff has since become a fitness icon. He is spokesperson for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s team in training. Early in his effort, John took on a mascot or “spirit animal” calling himself “The Penguin”. He says he picked this animal for it’s waddling, shuffling gait. Since choosing that moniker, John has written a column for Runners World called “The Penguin Chronicles”. It ran for over 14 years.
I love so much about what John has to say. He has a number of wonderful books that encourage exercise beginners. And how can you not love his motto, “waddle on”. But I will say that John was lucky in quite a few ways as a beginning exerciser. He was white, he was male, he was relatively prosperous and relatively thin. And this is said in no way to diminish his amazing accomplishments. But I will say that he got the chance to choose his own mascot, before one was bestowed upon him by 16 year old boys as he ran down the street.
Those of us guilty of RWF (Running While Fat) have not always had that opportunity. Some of us have been called elephants, or hippos, or as my dear friend Ragen Chastain explains, we’re called “land whales”. Ragen says:
The thing is, there are fat animals that live on land and I feel like they’re not getting their due. There is just no need to make up animals when you could call me an elephant, hippo, or rhino. Or, go the extra mile and do some research (I mean, do you want to be just an adequate hater or do you want to really excel?)
Recently, on Ragen’s facebook page, some of us were ranting about the whole “land whale”, “hamplanet” and “land blimp” phenomenon and talking about how great it was if we could choose our own mascot. Nora suggested “Flying Rhinos”, Sara developed a killer logo, and we were off to the races. Literally. We created a division within the Fit Fatties Forum and created an awesome new mascot, that we chose for ourselves and wear with pride. Wanna learn more? Here’s some details:
Introducing the Flying Rhinos
The Flying Rhinos are a way for people of all sizes who want to carve out space and obtain visibility and respect for fat people in the fitness world to be public about our involvement, show our pride and solidarity, and recognize each other when we’re out and about.
We live our mission out loud, wearing our official Flying Rhinos shirts in everything from our own movement activities and classes, to organized races, sports, and events. We have our own group on the Fit Fatties Forum to discuss our training, get support, swap stories and race reports, talk about events we’re in and plan meet-ups offline to do events together and/or just hang out.
Our official shirts help us show our Rhino pride and recognize each other when we’re out and about. If you want to order a shirt either for you individually, or for your team (whether it’s for an organized sport, a 5k, a charity event or whatever) just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. When we have a big enough order we place it and split the cost among the people making the order.
Who Can Join?
Everyone, of every size, who participates in movement at any level and is committed to body positivity is welcome to become a member of the group, and wear the official shirt. Wear it to yoga, wear it to roll your wheelchair in a 5k, wear it at the pool, wear it to your Krav Maga class, wear it to Zumba, wear it going around your block or in a marathon, put together a softball team or a team for a charity race and we’ll get you some shirts. Roll with the Rhinos for a fun, supportive, body positive, rocking good time.
Wrapping it All Up:
In closing, I want to encourage you to choose your own mascot. Don’t let some socially underdeveloped cretin choose one for you, yelling it at you as you run down the street. I don’t care what kind of mascot you choose. Be it a penguin, a turtle, a mustang or a flying rhino. Just remember, that you have the power to choose how you define yourself in the world. And remember that every animal whether it’s a turtle, a manatee or a racehorse had to take its first few tentative strokes or wobbly steps in the world at one time. Don’t worry about wobbly, just take a deep breath and begin.
Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)