• 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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Afternoon Delight

wakingI am NOT a morning person. And by that I don’t mean that I just don’t enjoy getting up early. I mean I am NOT a morning person at all. The perfect schedule for my natural body clock was the years that I was freelancing as a musician. First thing in the morning was 10am – ish. A little toast and coffee, lunch around 4 or so, go to work at 7pm, dinner around 11, listen to a little music or watch late night television [there were no DVR’s in those days] and get to bed by about 2am. It was perfect.

Of course, I wasn’t a runner back then. But, I did practice every day and often practiced in the early afternoon. I don’t know if it’s just a lingering habit or my circadian rhythm but that’s exactly when I like to run – or walk – or bike. Early afternoon. That’s MY time.

Please don’t email me and tell me how beautiful and peaceful it is in the morning.  Or how it get’s your day started right. I get it. I get that SOME people like it. I don’t.  And, by the way, it’s VERY peaceful at 2 in the morning too. Not if you’re getting up at 2, but if you’re going to bed at 2.

Let me explain why running in the afternoon is better than running in the morning. First off, in the morning you’re never sure what to wear. Will you be cold at the start? Will you be too warm later on. When you run in the afternoon you already know what the temperature is and what it’s going to be. You don’t need to try to figure out what to wear.

Then there’s the whole “what should I eat before I run” conundrum. Do I eat nothing? Do I eat a little? Do I drink coffee? Do I AVOID coffee? Good grief. When you run in the afternoon you don’t have to think about any of that. You’ve been up for hours. You have, at the very least, had breakfast. So, you’re ready to go.

And speaking of being ready to go, the whole being “ready to go” morning concerns are gone by the afternoon. Should I go? Do I have to go? What if I get out there and THEN I have to go. You have to plan your routes around gas stations or public restrooms. It’s a nightmare. When you run in the afternoon you have ALL morning to take care of whatever business you need to take care of. You’ll be much more relaxed.

And speaking of business, one of two things are true if you run in the morning; 1) you check your email and Facebook and Twitter and all your other social media accounts before you snailturtlerun and THINK about what you have to do when you get back from your run, or, 2) you DON’T check your email and social media accounts and WONDER the whole time your running what your Facebook friends are doing that morning or what clever Tweet you might be missing or whether you got an email saying that someone in Nigeria needs to send you $3,000,000 dollars if you’ll only send them your banking information.

When you run in the afternoon you already know what your Facebook friends are doing. [Fluffy got a new cat box, Little Bobby learned to pee standing up, and some high school friend that you didn’t like 40 years ago somehow thinks that you’ve forgotten how lame they were back then and want to reconnect] So, you realize that there’s nothing to think about and especially nothing to worry about. You can just run.

There are other reasons; it’s light out, other people aren’t out walking their dogs, or rushing to work; you get the point. It’s just better. I know that not everyone can run in the afternoon, but, someday when you CAN, give it a shot. I think you’ll find it’s a lot more satisfying than you thought.

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: 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

The Autumn Leaves

Johnny Mercer wrote the words, and many of us hear Nat King Cole singing it, but the classic “Autumn Leaves” has been ringing in my head all week here in Northern Virginia. We had the freakish snow last Saturday which gave way to a chilly Sunday and a stunning Monday and Tuesday. By early November most of the leaves have turned at home in the Chicago area. Out here, though, Fall is extended. It seems to wander leisurely from Summer to Winter.

The romantics like to think of Fall as the most beautiful time of year. They wax eloquently about the beauty of the changing leaves, the robust colors, and the harbingers of Winter. I’m not immune from that kind of rhetoric. I get it. I get the beauty. I experienced it. I embrace it.

But I don’t do so as naively as I once did. I know longer embrace the coming of Winter with the same reckless enthusiasm that I did when I was younger. Maybe it’s because I have the sense of being in the Fall of my own life that I can’t willingly accept the necessary death and renewal cycle that this season represents. I can’t as easily view the mask of color that hides the truth about what is happening.

What has happened, for me, is that I find myself more deeply engaged in the sights of the season. I stopped and watched a squirrel nibble on a fallen acorn knowing that he’d soon be finding places to bury his winter stash. I stopped and watch a single leaf float aimlessly towards the ground knowing that soon enough the last leaf would fall. I stood and stared at the slow moving Four Mile Run and the reflection of the trees in the water.

I’ve been on this path many times. In the past twenty years I’ve run or cycled much of the W&OD trail. 40 years ago, in my first year in Northern Virginia, and Army buddy and I rode motorcycles on the rough dirt right-of-way of the W&OD railroad. I’ve seen the path change from a forgotten relic that was nearly inaccessible to a fully functioning and active running, walking, cycling thoroughfare. It’s now a place for children and seniors. A path for serious runners and casual hikers. It is treasure for all who choose to use it.

The trees that I rode past in my youthful enthusiasm have stood guard over hundreds of Fall transitions. I have been a part of many of them. This year, as in no other year, I feel connected to them. I feel like they have been patiently waiting for me to notice them. I’m glad they waited.

Waddle on, friends.


An Accidental Athlete is available now. BUY THE BOOK

Here’s the direct link to the Amazon Kindle version

Here’s a link to the Nook version

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

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.

Put another Blog on the fire.

As I said last week, this is a new blog for me. It’s not that I haven’t tried blogging before. I have. I had the “Ask the Penguin” blog on RunnersWorld.com for several years. I blogged for a couple of years on Competitor.com. I even had a Penguin Times blog on, where else, Blogger.com.

The world is changing. The world of publishing is changing. The way we provide and receive information is changing nearly every day. In 1996 I started as a columnist for Runner’s World magazine. I felt like the guy in the old joke who says “Two weeks ago I couldn’t even spell journalist. Now I are one.” Being a print columnist meant putting down one idea per month in 750 words.

Now that I’m writing for Competitor magazine it’s about the same thing. One idea every month. To be honest, it’s not all that hard to come up with 12, 750 word ideas every year.

Blogging is different. In the early days of the internet, bloggers were journalistic outlaws. They wrote what they wanted without editorial review. Nearly overnight it seemed like everyone had a blog. It was nearly impossible to distinguish actual digital journalist from people sitting home in their bathrobe commenting on the world around them. And, in some ways, it didn’t matter.

At first all bloggers were put into the outlaw category and, frankly, they weren’t given the credit they deserved. But that’s all changed. Digital journalist, bloggers if you will, are on the front lines of contemporary journalism. There’s still a lot of noise to filter out, but, the good digital journalist will stand out.

So this is my attempt to join the ranks of the digital journalists. I’ll still write the print column and books. I like doing those. But I’m also going to try to learn the new skill of putting out more thoughts in a shorter format.

John [author, columnist, blogger]

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