• 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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School Days

What a wonderful day. My travel schedule allowed me to visit my son and grandchildren this week, just in time to be here for their first day of school.The twins are actually entering first grade and the little guy is starting kindergarten. They are all at the same school which will certainly make life easier for everyone.

I walked each them to their new classrooms, watching all the anxious parents – and some grandparents – and eager children and teachers. I suppose it’s the same scene that was being played out in schools all over the world. Children, parents, and teachers all meeting at one of life’s crossroads. For this time, at least, they have all been thrown together. The hope is that they will all bring their best selves to the situation.

It’s been way too many years for me to remember the specifics of my first day at school. There are vague memories of standing outside the red brick school building that is still being used today. I have images of children lined up like soldiers waiting for permission to enter the school. The parents may have been there in the background, but they weren’t stationed in the hallways with their iPhones and digital cameras recording the moment. It seems to me that we were faced that experience without parental assistance.

I do remember my son’s first day of school. I took him in the sidecar of a 1967 BMW R60/2. He looked like a character right out of Hogan’s Heroes. We got to the parking lot, took off his helmet, and – with some hesitation – walked into the school. I think I was probably more emotional about it than he was. When I peeked in the school window he was there in class, making new friends, and enjoying the start of a new phase of life.

It reminded me that each phase of life has some of the same elements. Each big life change requires courage whether that’s meeting a new first-grade teacher or lining up with 30,000 people and attempting to complete a marathon. It’s also true that no matter how many people are there, no matter how many people are with you, supporting you, or taking your photo, you are – in the final analysis – alone. Even if we are surrounded by thousands of other participants we have to take every step on our own.

In the end, though, that’s what makes going to the first day of school or finishing your first half marathon so rewarding. It’s facing the fear of doing something that we’ve never done before that helps us discover the courage to explore whatever new paths our lives take.

Waddle on, friends.


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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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