• He's been called the Pied Piper of the Second Running Boom. Once an overweight couch potato with a glut of bad habits, including smoking and drinking, at the age of 43 Bingham looked mid-life in the face—and started running.

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The Final Countdown

jumpingjohn copyThey say a photo is worth a thousand words. This photo is actually worth over 160,000 words. 18 years. 12 columns a year. 750 words per column – give or take. And that’s just the written words. There’s no way to calculate the number of spoken words over the course of the past 18 years. From small gatherings in running specialty stores to hundreds of people at race expos to thousands of Team in Training participants at inspiration dinners I’ve talked to, tried to inspire and motivate, and made giggle more people than I could possible count.

This December that all comes to an end. I’m going to retire.

In the next few months I’ll take time to articulate all the reasons for retiring. The obvious: I’ll be 66 years old. I worked through college, had a full-time job in addition to being in the Army Band, worked through a master’s degree and doctorate, had careers as a musician and academic, created and sold a race management company, and since 1996 have been an evangelist for living a healthy, active lifestyle as “the Penguin.” I’m tired!

Hunter Thompson wrote: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”  Take my word for it, I have done my very best to live up to that admonition.

The few people that I’ve told have asked me what I’ll do with my time. I don’t have a great answer. But, then aJOHN_CGIa copygain, if you had asked me in 1996 what I thought would happen with “the Penguin” I wouldn’t have had an answer either. What I’ve learned is that no plan that I could ever have had could have possibly been as great as what happened. I have faith that whatever happens next will be every bit as exciting and fun as what has gone before.

I’ve got a handful of Rock ‘n’ Roll events left: Seattle, Chicago, VA Beach, Philly, Savannah, Las Vegas, and the last hurrah in San Antonio. I’ll also have a few more columns on Competitor.com, and then it’s time to turn the page and look forward to the next chapter.

To be honest, I do have few ideas. There are races that I’ve always wanted to run but couldn’t because of my schedule. I’m looking forward to lining up with a few hundred – or a few thousand – of my closest friends and challenging myself. I’ve also got a motorcycle or two that are begging to be ridden. I haven’t ridden cross-country since my son and I did it to promote the 1999 Suzuki Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.

I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty again. There’s something both peaceful and cathartic about working in the garage. Bringing an old bike back to life, or keeping a new one looking and running well has always been one of my favorite things to do.

What will I miss? You. You, the readers. You, the runners and walkers. You, the wonderful people who were kind enough to allow me to enjoy the life that I’ve lived these past 18 years. Without you, none of the joy that has defined my life would have been possible.

So stay tuned. It ain’t over till it’s over, as Yogi Berra said.

Waddle on, friends.

John

 

 

Flashback Friday: White Line Fever

Since I’ve spent so much time riding in the past couple of weeks, this old column has been on my mind.

Believe it or not, the human machine can equal the power of a Harley.

Until I discovered running, I had only two passions in life: music and motorcycles. Each fueled the other, and employment in one usually meant greater opportunities to pursue the other.

For many years, this combination was perfect – I worked long enough as a freelance musician to build a financial base, then rode long enough to need the next gig.

Maintaining the balance between time and money was tricky, but with care and a willingness to consume nothing more than peanut butter and beer, it was possible.

Most of my friewith jimnds didn’t understand my consuming passion for motorcycles. It wasn’t my love of bikes that astounded them; it was my intense need to ride. As I tried to explain to them, riding wasn’t about transportation. For me, riding was about transformation. Watching the world pass beneath my feet stirred my spirit. The blur of the broken white line that ran down the center of the old U.S. highways was completely hypnotic. A classic (and terminal) case of “white line fever.”

Then one day I discovered that same feeling, the same sense of moving over and through the world, the instant I laced on a pair of running shoes and felt the asphalt under my feet. I had no idea that moving slowly across the ground would feel as satisfying as moving fast on a bike. But it did. The motion, not the rate of speed, was what felt so good.

This must be why I can’t remember ever having a bad ride – or a bad run. As a runner and a biker, I’ve been hotter, colder, wetter, and more tired than I’ve ever wanted to be. I’ve been ready to stop hours before I could. I’ve ridden roads and run courses that I swear I’ll never travel again. But none of these times were bad.

I’m not really sure how they could be bad. I suppose if comfort is your sole criterion for happiness, then being soaked to the skin and knowing you still have 200 miles to ride or 10 miles to run would be bad. If being so cold you can barely grip the handlebars or so hot you can feel your brain turning to soufflé makes you unhappy, then you may have had some bad rides or runs. But not me.

Countless stories testify to the limitless physical reserves of the human body. Men and women routinely endure hardships that make the most difficult run seem like a walk in the pjust gsark.

As runners, we have the extraordinary capacity to detach ourselves from the discomfort we feel. At extreme levels, this can almost become schizophrenic: We tell ourselves that we should stop what we’re doing, yet we continue to enjoy every minute of it.

But running is certainly not all about extremes. Somewhere between those runs that tax our reserves and those that are simply too easy are the countless runs that are just right. These are the runs when we’ve read our bodies and spirits accurately, and have found the place where we can simply go along for the ride. It’s in that place where we catch the fever. And, take it from me: Once you’ve caught the fever, and felt the heat of that passion, there is no cure.

I’m not sure exactly when liking to run became longing to run, when wanting to run became needing to run. I only know that, as there once were roads that had to be ridden, there are now roads and trails and courses that must be run. There are miles and moments and memories that only converge when the shoe strikes the ground. And, in that white-hot instant, the world makes sense.

Waddle on, friends.

Back to The Penguin Chronicles Archive

The Longest Day

Sometimes we set goals well in advance. We plan for months, or even years. We carefully consider all the requirements to be successful; equipment, training, travel, and support.

Sometimes a goal jumps up and bites us. Yesterday, I was bit.

I’ve spent the better part of that past two weeks on the road. I visited with family, spent time with friends, and worked the RnR VA Beach event. Everything I needed for all of that was packed on a BMW R1200GS. It was my transportation, my office, and my companion.

You don’t have bsauseto know much about me to know that motorcycling has been a life-long passion. From the time I rode a Sears Moped, at 11 or 12 years old, I have been in love with the magic and the motion of motorcycles. The fact that the “older boy neighbor” across the street had a BSA Lighting and wore a leather jacket just made the desire to ride even stronger.

I suppose the “penguin” philosophy started with motorcycling. I didn’t care how far I rode. I didn’t care how fast. And I never cared very much what I was riding. I liked riding big bikes and small bikes. I liked riding on the street and off-road. If it had a motor and two wheels [sometimes three] I wanted to be on it.

But it was being “on the road” that always had the greatest appeal. Maybe it’s just wanderlust, or an insatiable curiosity, I don’t know. What I know is that traveling the highways is where I felt most at home.

A big day for me would be 300 miles or so. That’s about 8 hours in the saddle and that seems about right. Twice in my life, once when Jenny and I did the 1000 miles in 24 hours “Saddle Sore” challenge, and once when my old riding and Army buddy Larry and I decided to ride from Arlington to Chicago, I’ve ridden over 700 miles in a day.

Yesterday’s ride was just a little over 700 miles. And, it was the longest solo day I’ve ever ridden.

I didn’t plan to ride that far, it just happened. They day was nearly perfect, the traffic wjust gsas light, the bike was running well, and I was feeling good. The miles kept adding up. I’d get gas, ride a 125 miles or so, get gas, and do it again. Before I knew it, I was almost to Indiana. At that point, stopping wasn’t an option.

So often, as a runner, I limited myself to what I thought I could do. When I thought that a 5K was a far as I could run I ran a lot of 5K’s. Then it was 10K’s. The half marathons. The fulls. At each new distance I defined the limit of far it was that I could go.

I look back now I think how wrong I was. I look ahead and wonder whether I am still setting limits based on imaginary limitations. To paraphrase Satchel Paige, I wonder how far I could go if I didn’t know how far it was.

It may be too early to start setting goals for 2014, but I’m beginning to think I’m going to have to find out how far too far really is.

Waddle on, friends.

Looking for Adventure

pc_therigI should mention this at the very beginning. This edition of the Penguin Chronicles has little to do with running – in an absolute sense. It has to do with looking for, and finding, a means of expressing one’s self, one’s joy, one’s desire for some unique experience that defines a moment in one’s life. Come to think of it, maybe it does have something to do with running.

For the past week, Jenny and I have been exploring the Great Smokey Mountains on dual-purpose motorcycles. When my son, Terry, was young he and I did a lot of this kind of riding. The bikes are smallish, the challenges different than those that you find on the roads, and the satisfaction is immense. While Jenny is an accomplished road motorcyclist, this was her first real exposure to dual purpose ridingpc_dan

The plan was simple. Jenny contacted Dan and Debbie of GSM Motorent , arranged to rent a cabin and get some advice on places to ride in the area. What we got was much more than we could have expected. Dan was an old-school motorcyclist that I felt like I had known my entire life, and Debbie made us feel like friends who had stopped by for a visit. It was perfect.

The first afternoon we did a combination of on and off road riding to get a feel for the bikes and the area. The next morning, armed with one of Dan’s route lists we took off to find the checkpoints on the 185 mile route. Our first mistake was forgetting the very detailed maps that Dan had suggested we get. Undaunted, we took on the challenge with nothing but the checkpoints, dead reckoning, a GPS, and our own skills.

Everything went well until we missed a checkpoint and followed a trail that led deeper and deeper into to woods. After about an hour of searchipc_john_smokiesng out every Jeep trail and deer path in the area we did what every experienced navigator does; we went back to the last place where we knew were were right.

We found ourselves back on the course and after a quick lunch we headed back into to mountain. Our navigation was dead on and we were having a great time finding the marked and unmarked trails. And then we came to the creek. Or at least it was supposed to be a creek. It was a raging river. Too deep to cross on foot let alone with motorcycles.

By then is was late afternoon and we knew that we’d be losing the light soon. Under the heavy canopy it was already getting dark. We couldn’t go on. We didn’t have a map to figure out another way around the obstacle. And we were running out of daylight. We had no choice but to backtrack for nearly two hours.jennycrossing cropped

Jenny went in to full “adventure racer” mode and flogged her Yamaha. She rode fast and well. She led with complete confidence. I was hanging on for dear life. After a couple of serious “seat puckering moments” we made it back to the gravel roads and eventually to the pavement, and ultimately to the cabin 12 hours and 225 miles after we had started.

We spent the next two days riding around and through the park, on and off road, experiencing great roads, beautiful scenery, and wonderful people.

In the end I learned a very important lesson. At 64 years-old, I’m too young to not be adventurous. But, at 64, I’m too old to be foolish. That’s not always an easy line to find and too often an easy line to cross. Kind of like a mountain trail in the middle of the Smokies.

Waddle on, friends.

John

An Accidental Athlete is available in print and ebooks versions now. BUY THE BOOK

Review An Accidental Athlete on Amazon or Barnes and Noble

What others are saying: Looking for some motivation to start running and improve your fitness? You’re sure to find some inspiration from John Bingham’s new memoir, “An Accidental Athlete.” As an overweight, uninspired pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker, Bingham realized that he had to make some changes in his life and began running at the age of 43. With wit and humor, Bingham recounts his journey from couch potato to self-proclaimed “adult on-set athlete.”- ESPN Gear Guide

Facebook Friend-see

friendsWhen Facebook first come into the national consciousness I had no idea what it was or what it could do. I couldn’t even figure out how to get an account so I hired a recent college graduate, a 20-something computer whiz, to establish my Facebook presence. He created two pages; a John Bingham page [Facebook/jjbingham] and a “Penguin” page [Facebook/john the penguin bingham] What I didn’t know then was that the personal page, John Bingham, allowed people to “friend” you. The “penguin” page only allowed people to “like” you. And, as you know, you are limited to 5,000 Facebook friends, a threshold I hit pretty early on.

Not, I must confess, because I actually have 5,000 friends. I just didn’t understand how it all worked; when someone send a friend request I eagerly accepted it.

This morning when I opened my Facebook page and saw the collection of “friends” photos I was astonished at what an elegant, if somewhat bizarre, snapshot it was of my life. So, for those of you who are curious, this is who they are: From the top, left to right.

  • Linda Raymond: My son’s mother and my first wife. I met her when I was 17.
  • Nancy Stutsman, AKA “theQueen”: An old motorcycling musician friend. We’ve been friends since I was in my 20′s.
  • Martha Raymond: My son’s stepfather’s sister. We met when I was in my 30′s.
  • Peter Jacob: The service manager at my local BMW dealership. We’ve argued a bunch but share a passion for motorcycles and good Scotch.
  • Pat Raymond: My son’s stepfather and one of my oldest friends. We share a long-standing love of motorcycles and a new-found love of our grandchildren.
  • Jan Loichle: My high-school girlfriend that I haven’t seen or talked to in 45 years. She was the first, and only, girlfriend that convinced me to wear a “steady” sweater.
  • Evan Wert. A newer friend in the running industry. We discovered early on that we’d rather talk about fast cars then about pronation.
  • Howard Gould. My son’s mother’s younger brother. I met him when he was 8 or 9 years old.
  • Michael Sardo: My cousin/nephew. I’ve known him his entire life, through the awkward transition from child to Marine to Chicago Police officer to father. VERY proud of him.

What do all these people in common? Me, I guess. I’m sure, though, that if each of them were to johntriumphdescribe the “me” that they knew they would be very different “me’s”. Jan would remember the high school John the drove his sports car inside the school. [that's not Jan in the photo]

The “Queen” would remember a pretty decent bass trombone player who could “wheelie” any motorcycle ever made including a full-dress Yamaha XS1100.

johnhondascramblerHoward would remember a Steve McQueen wannabe who showed up at his parent’s home on a Honda 305 Scrambler. I don’t know how cool he thought I was, but I know how cool I THOUGHT I was.

Michael would remember an uncle that took him camping for the first time and explained that the bathroom was a stand of trees. Years later as a young Marine in Desert Shield, I’m sure a nice tree would have been welcomed.

Pat Raymond would remember working together at Cycles Incorporated and a time when indyriding was as important as breathing. He might remember 3 guys sleeping in a two-man tent in the rain. [that's Pat with our oldest grandson at the MotoGP race at Indianapolis. In the backround is my son and younger grandson with our buddy John]

In the end, though, this snapshot brings more memories to me than to any of them. It is a reminder of how far I’ve come, how difficult that path has been at times, how important certain people have been in my life whether they were there for a few months or 40 years, and of how fortunate I’ve been to have ever been able to call each of them “friend.”

It may be my age speaking, because the theme song from Golden Girls is ringing in my ears. I’d to say to every one of them:  “Thank you for being a friend.”

John

The Well Lubricated Runner

duct tapeYears ago I worked with a crusty, old [like maybe 40!] Scottish motorcycle mechanic named Stewart. His brogue and the fact that he had lost one leg below the knee in a motorcycle accident made him seem more like a pirate than a master mechanic.

He used to fill the junior mechanics, me among them, with his hard-earned words of wisdom. The one that remains with me all these years later was: “If it CAN be lubricated it NEEDS to be lubricated and if it CAN be adjusted it NEEDS to be adjusted.”

He had one other simple explanation for the mysteries of the mechanical world. “If it moves and shouldn’t, use duct tape [DUCT, not duck]. If it doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40.” You’d be amazed at how often that’s all you need to know.

In some ways life as a runner – or walker or cyclist or any of 100′s of other activities – is almost that simple. If it hurts you’re doing too much. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing enough. If you think about it, it’s pretty much all you need to know about training. Too much, something hurts. Too little, it doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything at all.wd40

Unlike the mechanic’s dilemma, the athlete’s dilemma is much more nuanced. If a little training feels good then most of us believe that more training will feel even better. If we start seeing progress in our training by doing speed work one day a week then we’re sure we’ll progress twice as fast if we do two sessions a week.

On the other hand, if we’re feeling achy and sore and know we need to take time off we’re never sure exactly how much rest is enough and how much is too much. And nothing that we experienced previously can help us decide. As George Sheehan wrote, “We are all an experiment of one.”

The best we can do is use the time-honored method of trial and error. We’ll get it right sometimes. We’ll get it wrong sometimes. All that matters is that we keep trying to figure it out.

Even Stewart couldn’t argue with that.

Waddle on, friends.

John

An Accidental Athlete is available in print and ebooks versions now. BUY THE BOOK

Review An Accidental Athlete on Amazon or Barnes and Noble

What others are saying: Looking for some motivation to start running and improve your fitness? You’re sure to find some inspiration from John Bingham’s new memoir, “An Accidental Athlete.” As an overweight, uninspired pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker, Bingham realized that he had to make some changes in his life and began running at the age of 43. With wit and humor, Bingham recounts his journey from couch potato to self-proclaimed “adult on-set athlete.”- ESPN Gear Guide

Imported from Detroit

What happens when you send a car-crazed gear head to the headquarters of an iconic American car company to talk to the employees about living a healthy, active lifestyle? What happened to me was that I got to spend two fantastic days with people who are as passionate about cars and trucks as I am. And, I learned that there are a lot of similarities between what they do, the way new vehicles and equipment are imagined and created and the way an adult-onset athlete like myself changes their life.

When I was younger, when I was smoking and drinking and working 80 hours a week I couldn’t imagine living a lifestyle any different from that. I didn’t know that there was any other way to live. I didn’t know anyone who lived any differently.

I wasn’t fundamentally a different person back then. My history, my education, my influences and influencers were all the same. I didn’t have a personality change when I discovered the joy of being active. The things that I enjoyed when I was locked in sedentary confinement – cars, motorcycles, racing – are the things that I enjoy now.

So it was with great eagerness that I accepted the invitation to go to Auburn Hills, Michigan to speak to the Chrysler folks. All I asked in exchange was the opportunity to learn a little more about the inside workings of a great car company. What I got was that, and a whole lot more.

It would take a book to describe everything that I got to see and do. Even they highlights would be longer than a blog. But, in summary I got to see the “Pilot” area where they cut and chop and glue together new models to see what will work and what won’t. I got to visit the assembly plant where the new Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos are produced. I had a special interest in that since I own a new Durango. All I can say is that the absolute dedication to making a flawless vehicle was palpable. It was impressive.

I got to spend time in the design studios and see how a vehicle goes from concept to showroom. It is a process that is part art, part science, and part pure magic.

And, I got to spend time in the “innovation” department. Think about the weapons room in the movie “Men in Black”. These folks are working on devices, and contemplating improvements to the driver and passenger experience, and the safety of the vehicles that are light years ahead of where we are now. They are not just mad scientist, or engineers. They are wizards who imagine what might be and then make it happen.

What I learned was that it’s impossible to make the perfect car. All it took was a walk through the Chrysler museum to drive that point home. There were cars there that were designed and built by the best minds of the time using the latest techniques and yet today they look antiquated. It’s not that they weren’t great vehicles in their time. They were. And many were ahead of their time. [Think Chrysler Airflow]

What I now realize is that it’s impossible to make the perfect me. And it never was. That person that I used to me was what I thought was the best me possible based on the information I had at the time. I thought smoking made me cool. I thought fat was where it was at. I thought over-indulgence was a right of passage.

Now, though, just like the wonderful folks at Chrysler, I have to be willing to abandon some of my most closely held beliefs. I have to be willing to accept that what is, is not what will always be.

And that the only way I will ever be better than I am is to imagine what I am not.

Waddle on,

John

An Accidental Athlete is available in print and ebooks versions now. BUY THE BOOK

Review An Accidental Athlete on Amazon or Barnes and Noble

What others are saying: Looking for some motivation to start running and improve your fitness? You’re sure to find some inspiration from John Bingham’s new memoir, “An Accidental Athlete.” As an overweight, uninspired pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker, Bingham realized that he had to make some changes in his life and began running at the age of 43. With wit and humor, Bingham recounts his journey from couch potato to self-proclaimed “adult on-set athlete.”- ESPN Gear Guide

Two For the Road

John and JimThere are days when everything comes together. You feel good, the weather’s good, and planets are all aligned. It’s what Frank Shorter calls a “no excuses” day. And when that day happens on a goal race day you just know something special is going to happen. Yesterday, March 24, 2012, was that kind of day for me. It was one that I will remember for the rest of my life.

A little recap. In January of 2010 I did something to my sacroiliac joint. It’s a plate joint, not a ball joint and it was out of alignment. 6 months and weeks of physical therapy and two injections later the pain was manageable. It was about that time that the pain in my foot became really obvious. In September, when I was finally diagnosed with a dislocated cuboid joint the year was officially a write off.

In January of 2011 I started the 100 Days Challenge of moving, intentionally, for at least 30 minutes a day every day for the first 100 days. Turns out I kept going and walked at least 30 minutes every day for the entire year.

In January of 2012 I committed to getting back to training. I know enough to know that I had to start with reasonable goals and achievable results. With that in mind I chose the Penguin in the Park 5K as the race for which I would train. I had a very reasonable goal of finishing in 45 minutes. Not world record pace, but for me it was a serious goal.

As I spent the first few weeks of the year assessing my fitness and making my training plan it became clear that 45 minutes would not be easy. I couldn’t run for more than one minute and needed plenty of walking for recovery. I had a goal, though, and that’s what mattered.

What is sometimes misunderstood about those of us farther back in the pack is that to perform at OUR best we have to do the very same kinds of workouts as those in the front. So, I did long runs and tempo runs and speed work and race-pace runs. I calculated and recalculated. I figured out what it was going to take to finish in 45 minutes and worked hard to get there.

Race morning was cool and dry. My buddy Jim Welsh had agreed to pace me. As you can see from the photo, Jim’s a lot taller than me. His walk pace is much faster than mine. As it turns out, my run pace was a bit of a push for him. So, together we set out in search of that 45 minute finish.

At mile one I was surprised to see our pace. Something around 12:45. I looked up at Jim but didn’t say anything. When we hit mile 2 in about 25 minutes looked at Jim and told him that I hated him. It was clear that not only were we on a sub 45 pace, we were – if we kept at it – on a sub 40 minute pace.

It was pretty quiet that last mile. I was at my limit. Maybe Jim was too. Whatever we were feeling we had a monster finish in sight. I came across in 38:45. Jim a second later. We hugged like a Gold Medal relay team. We’d done it. We’d BOTH gotten PR’s. It was magic.

What’s the next goal? I’m not sure. I know that I’m going to run/walk the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on Labor Day weekend. But I’ve got a feeling there’s gonna be a few 5 and 10K’s before then.

Waddle on,

John

An Accidental Athlete is available in print and ebooks versions now. BUY THE BOOK

Review An Accidental Athlete on Amazon or Barnes and Noble

What others are saying: Because of runners like John, the wall of intimidation has crumbled, and tens of thousands of Americans are now believing in themselves. John has helped raise self-esteem and self-confidence in people all over the world. Nothing is more important to a person’s well-being.- Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon race director

Passing the Baton

I’ll tell you up front that this blog has nothing to do with running. Or at least, not much. The beauty of having a blog called “The Penguin Chronicles” – seeing as how I’m the Penguin – is that it doesn’t have to do anything except chronicle. So that’s that.

I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t interested in, and in fact crazy about, motorcycles. The neighbor across the street had a shiny red BSA when I was growing up. He had the leather jacket and everything thing. He was COOL. When he eventually got a Harley-Davidson Sportster I was in awe.

My uncle showed up with a Sears moped when I was about 12 years-old. My cousin and I rode it nearly non stop for days. Then, just as suddenly, it disappeared. I think someone must have worried that we’d get hurt.

A friend had an old Cushman motor scooter. Not one of the cool Cushman Eagles that are still VERY collectible. Nope. This was the base model with a tw0-speed manual transmission with the shifter on the left side of the gas tank. Whenever he let me I’d ride that scooter for hours. No one in my circle of friends was cooler than me. My senior year in high school I  nearly had my parents talked in to my getting a new Triumph Bonneville until a crashed a different friend’s Honda 65.

I bought my first motorcycle, a very used Honda CL77 [305 Scrambler] with my first tax refund. It was the best $300 I ever spent. I won’t bore you with the litany of motorcycles that I’ve owned – well over 60 – but I can tell you that I remember every one of them. I worked for 10 years in a motorcycle dealership and I can remember nearly every motorcycle I ever even sat on.

My son started riding in front of me, sitting on the edge of the seat and gas tank, and hanging on to the handlebars when he was not much older than 2. He went to his first day of school in a BMW sidecar. He got HIS first motorcycle, and Honda Z50, when he was 7. He’s now 40 and that very Z50 is being restored by his step dad. And I’ve got a pretty good idea whose going to be riding it.

The first photo is of my 6 year-old grandson, Hunter, on HIS first ride. Yamaha was offering a “Learn-to-Ride” experience for kids from 2-12 at the MotoGP races at Indianapolis. His “Opa”, Pat, another old-school motorcycle enthusiast and I just looked at each other and KNEW it HAD to be. Hunter HAD to learn to ride THAT day. And ride he did. He bounced off the hay bales once, popped up, and never looked back.

There are hundreds of recreational lifestyles, from fishing and hunting to boating, camping, and more. If we’re lucky we enjoy one of these lifestyles ourselves. If we’re REALLY lucky,we get to pass that interest on from generation to generation.

I now have two recreational passions in my life. Running and motorcycles. The second photo is Hunter running. I am committed to exposes my grandchildren to both of my passions. It’s the only way that I can think of to help them experience the joy that I have.

Waddle on, friends.

John

An Accidental Athlete is available now. BUY THE BOOK

Review An Accidental Athlete on Amazon or Barnes and Noble

What others are saying: Read your book, loved it, it was wonderful. It made me laugh, it made me cry. In it I saw glimpses of myself. I may be old and I may be slow, but I am an Athlete, I am a Competitor, I am a Runner! Wow, thanks John, for enabling me to see that! D W, Senior-Onset Athlete

John “the Penguin” Bingham, Competitor Magazine columnist
Author, The Courage to Start,No Need for Speed, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals.

Order your copy of John’s NEW book An Accidental Athlete today.

Have a question for John? Write him.

Anzio

The father of a very good friend of mine, let’s call him Bob, was a great guy, and a World War II Army veteran. We joked that he lived his life just 3 beers from Anzio. Anzio was the site of an Allied forces landing (Operation Shingle) and ensuing battle (known as the Battle of Anzio) during World War II. American forces (5th Army) were surrounded by Germans in the caves of Pozzoli in February 1944 for a week, suffering heavy casualties. We knew that when he popped the top off the fourth Pabst Blue Ribbon we were going to start hearing war stories.

I don’t know how old he was then. I was 18 or 19. My guess is, though, that he was then a lot younger than I am now. And I’m beginning to understand. Although I don’t drink Pabst Blue Ribbon [I did drink more than my share] I’ve become aware now that I’m well into my 60′s that I am often tempted to start telling personal war stories or stories about the good old days.

It starts innocently enough. Someone mentions a place, or an event, or a situation and it triggers some memory. I do my best to quietly listen while my mind races around my own experience. I doesn’t matter if it was a pleasant or unpleasant experience. Once my mind goes into that cave there’s no getting it back.

I see this most often around my grandchildren. Even though they are only 5 and 6 years old I somehow believe that I need to bring them up-to-date on the historical nuances of my life. Sentences that begin with “Did grandpa ever tell you about” are already met with rolling eyes. It’s only going to get worse as they, and I, get older.

There’s a t-shirt that reads “The older I get, the better I used to be”. For runners it should read “The older I get, the faster I used to be”. For the most part, it’s true. For most of us the fastest years of our running lives were the youngest years. Even if, like me, you didn’t start until you were a bit older you were still younger than you are now.

And maybe it’s OK. Maybe as we get older the stories that stay in the front of our minds are the ones we want to remember that most and the ones that we want to tell most often.

So the next time you start telling a story that no one seems to want to hear, think about Bob. In the end he wasn’t telling us about Anzio, he was telling us about himself.

Waddle on,

John

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What others are saying: Read your book, loved it, it was wonderful. It made me laugh, it made me cry. In it I saw glimpses of myself. I may be old  and I may be slow, but I am an Athlete, I am a Competitor, I am a Runner! Wow, thanks John, for enabling me to see that! D W, Senior-Onset Athlete

John “the Penguin” Bingham, Competitor Magazine columnist
Author, The Courage to Start,No Need for Speed, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals.

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