• 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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Woolly Worms

In case you don’t recognize the photo, it’s the larval stage of the Isabella tiger moth, Pyrrharctia Isabella, also known as woolly worm. I spotted one yesterday on the trail during my walk.

Legend has it that the woolly worm, a tiger moth caterpillar, can portend what weather winter will bring. According to folk wisdom, when the brown bands on fall woolly bears are narrow, it means a harsh winter is coming. The wider the brown band, the milder the winter will be.

I’m no expert, but it looks to me like the brown band is pretty wide which would suggest a milder winter. I live in Chicago so what I consider mild might be awful somewhere else. There may be better ways to predict the winter weather but for now, I’m going with the Woolly Worm Effect.

What this really means is that it’s time to start rotating my running and walking gear. It’s time to dig out the tights – loose fitting, thank you. I’m not interested in going out looking like a kielbasa with glasses. I’ll dig around and find some of my heavier long-sleeved shirts, a light-weight fleece or two, and search for where I put my gloves and stocking caps last spring – when I told myself I would forget where I was putting them.

I’ll also find a couple of my favorite running jackets. I’ll have to sort through about 20 or so that are no LONGER my favorites, but I’ll do it gladly. Even the jackets that never get worn anymore hold memories so I can’t make myself get rid of them. So, they just hang there, unworn but not forgotten.

We’re lucky these days to have such great fabrics. Even in a climate like Chicago there are very few days when the weather makes it impossible for me to get outside. I’m careful to say that if I stay inside it will be by choice, not because I don’t have what I need to be safe outdoors.

More importantly, I’m going to get out as much as I can in the next few weeks. My world is changing every day. Of course, it’s always changing every day but it’s so much more obvious in the fall. I don’t want to miss anything in the fall. I don’t want to have skipped what turns out to be the most beautiful day of the season.

And I’ll take that as a reminder that every day – no matter what time of year it is – it’s important to get out there and live life.

Waddle on, friends.


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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

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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