Alternative Running Role Models #2 – Willy the Wimp

imageI’ve probably covered a few thousand miles since I started running around 2008. However, I reckon if I took the number of miles and doubled it, that would be the approximate number of children’s books I’ve read since becoming a parent in 1999. I’m probably a bit out of touch now, but I reckon I could get quite a high score on Mastermind with the specialist subject of “Children’s Picture Books, 2000-2010”. There’s one character in all of those books which I think left a lasting influence on me, helping me to realise that pretty much anybody can become a runner and that character isWilly the Wimp

Willy is a chimp who happens to be a runner. Not a sprinter or a marathoner, but someone who relaxes by lacing up his trainers and running around his local streets. I’ve only recently noticed that Willy’s serious enough about running to get some gait analysis and invest in a pair of New Balance shoes. However it’s hard to tell from the illustrations whether they’re neutral, stability or motion control.

Unfortunately Willy lives in a neighbourhood where his runs are often interrupted by a gang of “suburban gorillas”. It’s tempting to think that he goes on to order some weights and take up body-building to help him to stand up to the tyranny of the Suburban Gorilla Gang. Us runners will know better – Willy’s simply got to the stage as a runner where he finally heeds the advice that to make the leap to the next level, he needs to build his upper-body and strengthen his core. After some serious pumping of iron at home, Willy emerges a better runner. Author Anthony Browne realised that the subsequent smashing of Personal Bests wouldn’t really impress his target audience so he added a nice sub-plot where his bulked-up body sends the Suburban Gorilla Gang packing in fear.

If you haven’t read any Anthony Browne books then what have you been playing at? The illustrations are often surreal with little visual puns that will reveal something new every time you look at them (and if you’re a parent or spend a time with young children, you might have to revisit the same book a few hundred times). If you become a fan of Willy he goes on to have some other adventures as a Wizard, a Champ and with his friend Hugh. Personally I’m still (maybe misguidedly) hoping “Willy Makes the Transition to Barefoot” will be published soon.

Willy the Wimp, New Balance shod suburban runner with an increasingly stable core, we salute you.