• 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 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.

John

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.

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.

John

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.

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