From walking to running to half marathons


Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

Contributed Photo Robyn Shingler strikes a pose at the 2016 Madison Half Marathon. Shingler started walking for exercise at age 52, then started running and now is preparing for her second half marathon.

Contributed Photo Robyn Shingler shows off the awards she won at the Biggest Loser Run/Walk in Eau Claire in 2015.

Dedicated. Determined. Disciplined. Those are just a few words that describe local runner/athlete Robyn Shingler.

Not unlike most running enthusiasts, Robyn started out by walking.

She commented: “I was motivated to walk two years ago, when on a lark for my 52nd birthday, I deactivated all social media and set a goal to accomplish a few things with my time off the grid.”

Robyn used her free time in a variety of ways. She sang at two events, wrote several letters, read four classics and walked 100 miles in 52 days.

Robyn remarked: “The amount of free time I had and what I was able to accomplish was incredible! I felt I really reconnected to what is important — relationships, health and my faith.”

Robyn added: “Walking, in particular, was invigorating, and I began feeling the health benefits immediately. I went on to train an additional 300 miles that fall in preparation for my first half marathon, the Biggest Loser held in November 2015 in Eau Claire. I took first place in my age division and second place overall in a field of 1,500 runners and walkers! It was the first time I participated in a sporting event. I would never have imagined such a thing. It felt good.”

The health benefits of her walking were quickly recognized by Robyn’s physician. Her blood pressure dropped down to the 98/65 range. Her resting pulse is in the upper 50s. Her good cholesterol improved in a way even her doctor questioned.

Robyn smiled and remarked: “She stated that you typically only see that type of improvement/reading in athletes. Athletes! I’m in my 50s. I never imagined I would ever belong in that category.”

Robyn is proud, as well she should be, for successfully losing a significant amount of weight. Her new active lifestyle has kept the weight off for several years, and she has resolved to never gain it back.

Walking soon turned into running. Robyn laughed while admitting she thought running was a unique form of punishment that people put themselves through — until the day she tried it for the first time.

“I’ll never forget that moment on the Mountain Bay Trail behind the Crawford Center,” Robyn shared. “The breeze from the west was just right, the sun was setting, my music was urging me on. In a sense, I felt like I could fly. So, I ran. I ran 3 miles without stopping. I’ve been running ever since, and I completed my second half marathon in November of 2016 as a runner.”

She readily admits, “I didn’t anticipate being able to run the whole distance. The farthest I had run was 8 miles without stopping. But somehow, being around all those other runners and their energy, gave me courage. I was able to run the entire distance with family and friends cheering me on at most of the turns! It was one of the most important moments in my life, to cross the finish line in Madison as a runner. I was 53.”

Robyn is currently training for two upcoming runs, the Mackinac Bridge Fall Colors Run in October and the Madison Half Marathon in November. She is running four or five days a week. Ron Lawrence has been assisting Robyn with some cross-training.

She acknowledges she is nervous about the bridge run. It is the fifth longest suspension bridge in the world. The running distance is 5.06. The incline is unrelenting for 1.6 miles straight up and runners must cross the finish line in 60 minutes.

Runners have to set aside their fears of heights and water to participate in this difficult endeavor.

Robyn works two jobs and is a college student at NWTC. It is often a challenge for her to make the time to train, but she is determined and inspired, and definitely an inspiration to others. She has been utilizing the hills on Waukechon in the evenings, as well as routes Shawano Pathways suggested. She also runs a 13.1-mile loop in the city.

Then Robyn will be off to Madison in November. Robyn’s daughter just moved back from New York City to accept a position as an editor in downtown Madison. Robyn commented, “I thought it might be invigorating to run that race again. It’s challenging navigating through the hills around Lake Mendota. The race is incredibly well-organized and is a Boston Qualifier if you run the full race.”

Robyn smiled and said, “You never know.”

“I’d love to see you at the finish line and on the streets and trails of Shawano. If you are reading this, I have a message for you: it’s your turn,” Robyn concluded.

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.