• 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 Last Brain to Clarksville

left-brain-right-brainI’ve tried. I have REALLY tried. I studied the shoe reviews. I bought all the latest gizmos. I’ve read all the diet and sport nutrition books. I’ve read all about how I can get faster, how I can run farther, how I can get more efficient, stronger, more flexible, with less injuries. To be honest, especially in the early days, I thought that all the experts were right and I was wrong. I thought that if I was a better runner – whatever that means – I would be a happier runner. I wasn’t.

I wasn’t that much better and I certainly wasn’t that much happier.

Almost from the very beginning I was having fun. FUN. I didn’t have the faintest idea what i was doing, I didn’t have anything like a plan or a schedule or a program. I was just having fun. I’d put on my running shoes, walk out the door and have fun.

What too often happens is that we start doing something – running, walking, cycling, playing the cello – because we think it will be fun only to find out that unless we get good at it we aren’t having fun. When I started playing tennis I thought it would be fun. Tennis looks like fun. It isn’t fun when you or your partner spend 90% of the time chasing after the balls or – worse yet – yelling at people walking past the court and asking them to throw the ball back to you. Tennis is fun if you’re good enough.

My first fitness activity was bicycling. Biking is FUN. Then i started walking and running. Walking and running are fun. If you take away all of your expectations about what you could be doing and concentrate only on what you are doing it’s fun. I’m not talking about the “glass half full” mindset. My glass wasn’t even 10% full. I’m talking about having fun when you are truly no good.

I don’t know for sure if it’s the whole right brain/left brain business. It just seems like the entire running industry is populated by people who are number-crunching, pace-calculating, mileage-recording, “failing to plan is planning to fail” types. I’m not.

I haven’t kept a running log in probably 10 years. Blasphemy, I know. After all, how I will I know what I’ve done and what I need to do ifrunners I don’t keep track. And these days it isn’t enough to simply right it down in a logbook. I would need to chart it and post it and tell my friends and send them the GPS coordinates. Aaarrrggghhh.

What I want from my running or walking or cycling – or any other activity – is the sense of well-being that comes from doing it. ANDand this is an important AND – I want it to be fun. When I’m finished with the activity I want to feel better than I did when I started. I want to be glad I did it. I do NOT want to feel like there was something more I could have done or that I failed in some small or large way.

If you haven’t done it recently, try just going for a run. Leave all the training toys at home. And don’t go on some course where you know the distance. Turn left where you normally turn right. Get it your car and go someplace you’ve never been. Run or walk as much as you want to, then stop. Be done when you’ve done all you want to do not all you’re supposed to do.

You may find, as I have, that the joy is in the doing not in the planning or recording. What makes running fun is the running. It’s just that simple.

Waddle on, friends.


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: I laughed, I cried, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I could identify with so many of John’s experiences. While some may view slower runners like myself with disdain, John made me proud to be out there. I run for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I have seen John speak at many of their events. He is a very entertaining speaker as well as writer. John is an inspiration to many people who never thought they could ever step up to a starting line let alone cross a finish line. Lynn Nelson on Amazon.com


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