• 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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A Year of Living Actively

2011 was quite a year. I’ve been a runner, or what I think of as a runner, for 20 years. I’ve run 45 marathons, I’ve done more half marathons and 5 and 10K’s than I can remember, I’ve done duathlons, triathlons, and even a couple of half Ironmans. But what I did in 2011 means more to me than all of that combined.

In December of 2010, after the most frustrating athletic year of my life, I decided to move, intentionally, for 30 minutes a day for the first 100 days of 2011. I wasn’t concerned about what I did, or how well I did it. I just made the commitment – to myself – that I was going to move every day.

I discovered in the first couple of weeks that I couldn’t run every day. The old aches and pains started coming back and I knew that if I didn’t get smart in a hurry that my 100 days would be over almost before it began. I changed my strategy. I decided to walk for at least 30 minutes a day through January. I figured I started running again come February 1.

In February, I figured I start running on March 1. In March, I figured April, after the 100 days challenged ended. But a funny thing happened. I discovered that I really like walked. Not just kinda liked it. I really liked it. Instead of having to have a training plan and schedule, I could just put on my shoes and go for a walk.

I walked in the woods near my house. I walked at 3 a.m. in rural Princeton, Illinois. I walked in Phoenix, and Seattle, and San Diego, and San Francisco, and a lot of other places. I walked in the dark, in the sunshine, in the heat, cold, and rain. It didn’t matter. I walked on the treadmill with a cup of coffee in my hand.

I’m a runner. In my heart, despite the fact that I’ve never been able to be competitive, I’ve been a runner – and a racer. I’ve pinned on the race numbers. I’ve stood nervously at the start lines. I’ve crossed finish lines exhausted, exhilarated, and humiliated. So for me to walk for 100 days was more an emotional challenge than a physical one.

Looking back, now, I can see that this was a journey that I had to take. I’d often talked about how important it was to live an active lifestyle. What I meant, though, was that it was important to be a runner. I talked about the importance of moving. What I meant, though, was finding ways to go farther or faster.

Now that I’ve done it. Now that I have moved intentionally every day for an entire year, I’m ready to take on a new challenge. That challenge, for 2012, will be to rediscover my identity as a runner. During the Runner’s World Pace Team years I ran a bunch of marathons, sometimes 6 in one year. My body wasn’t designed for that.

I’m going to train for, and race in, some 5K’s. The goal will be to set a “modern era” personal best. At 63 I don’t have the faintest idea what that will be. So I’ll go in search of that answer.

More importantly, I’ll move every day. I’ll train some days. I’ll recover some days. I’ll be eager some days. I won’t want to do anything some days. I’ve learned, though, that every day counts. This year, all 366 of them.

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


4 Responses

  1. I’ve been sidelined from activity for 5 months now from a foot injury, so time to get moving again. Thanks for letting all of us know, it isn’t how fast or how far you go, it’s that we go!!!!

  2. As a guy who runs, bikes, lifts weights and studies karate, I sometimes have to remind myself it’s about movement and fitness, not “the next thing, the next thing, the next thing.” What’s needed to be healthy and fit? That’s a lot of times something quite different than what you need to be competitive.

    I remember years ago listening to an NPR interview by Terry Gross of an olympic swimmer (not Michael Phelps, I don’t think) and she made a comment about how healthy he must be with all the swimming and he laughed and said, “There’s nothing healthy about exercising at this level. It breaks down your immune system and your body. We all have colds and sniffles and we’re always fighting injuries.”

  3. I love your determination. It has never failed to inspire me. Thanks again!

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