• 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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Passing the Baton

I’ll tell you up front that this blog has nothing to do with running. Or at least, not much. The beauty of having a blog called “The Penguin Chronicles” – seeing as how I’m the Penguin – is that it doesn’t have to do anything except chronicle. So that’s that.

I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t interested in, and in fact crazy about, motorcycles. The neighbor across the street had a shiny red BSA when I was growing up. He had the leather jacket and everything thing. He was COOL. When he eventually got a Harley-Davidson Sportster I was in awe.

My uncle showed up with a Sears moped when I was about 12 years-old. My cousin and I rode it nearly non stop for days. Then, just as suddenly, it disappeared. I think someone must have worried that we’d get hurt.

A friend had an old Cushman motor scooter. Not one of the cool Cushman Eagles that are still VERY collectible. Nope. This was the base model with a tw0-speed manual transmission with the shifter on the left side of the gas tank. Whenever he let me I’d ride that scooter for hours. No one in my circle of friends was cooler than me. My senior year in high school I  nearly had my parents talked in to my getting a new Triumph Bonneville until a crashed a different friend’s Honda 65.

I bought my first motorcycle, a very used Honda CL77 [305 Scrambler] with my first tax refund. It was the best $300 I ever spent. I won’t bore you with the litany of motorcycles that I’ve owned – well over 60 – but I can tell you that I remember every one of them. I worked for 10 years in a motorcycle dealership and I can remember nearly every motorcycle I ever even sat on.

My son started riding in front of me, sitting on the edge of the seat and gas tank, and hanging on to the handlebars when he was not much older than 2. He went to his first day of school in a BMW sidecar. He got HIS first motorcycle, and Honda Z50, when he was 7. He’s now 40 and that very Z50 is being restored by his step dad. And I’ve got a pretty good idea whose going to be riding it.

The first photo is of my 6 year-old grandson, Hunter, on HIS first ride. Yamaha was offering a “Learn-to-Ride” experience for kids from 2-12 at the MotoGP races at Indianapolis. His “Opa”, Pat, another old-school motorcycle enthusiast and I just looked at each other and KNEW it HAD to be. Hunter HAD to learn to ride THAT day. And ride he did. He bounced off the hay bales once, popped up, and never looked back.

There are hundreds of recreational lifestyles, from fishing and hunting to boating, camping, and more. If we’re lucky we enjoy one of these lifestyles ourselves. If we’re REALLY lucky,we get to pass that interest on from generation to generation.

I now have two recreational passions in my life. Running and motorcycles. The second photo is Hunter running. I am committed to exposes my grandchildren to both of my passions. It’s the only way that I can think of to help them experience the joy that I have.

Waddle on, friends.

John

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What others are saying: Read your book, loved it, it was wonderful. It made me laugh, it made me cry. In it I saw glimpses of myself. I may be old and I may be slow, but I am an Athlete, I am a Competitor, I am a Runner! Wow, thanks John, for enabling me to see that! D W, Senior-Onset Athlete

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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Summer in the City

It’s gonna hit 100 degrees here in Chicago today. That’s the air temperature. That temperature, and the humidity, makes it feel like it’s, I think, 136 degrees out. I don’t care what anybody says, that’s hot.

But, I want to run or walk or do something active today. I’ve gotten out that last two days into the 100 acre wood and could probably do that again today. There’s shade on most of the path. And the temperature drops to, I think, 127 degrees in the shade. Look, you know it’s hot when the deer are standing neck deep in the small ponds.

What am I going to do? As soon as I finish this blog I’m going downstairs to Jenny’s Gym and walk/run on the treadmill. You read that right. I’m giving in. I’m conceding. I’m wimping out. I’m using my head. We say that there are old motorcyclists and bold motorcyclists but there are no OLD, BOLD motorcyclists. I think it’s true for runners too.

We runners and walkers tend to be a little obsessive about our activity. At least I am. And this year, now that I’ve hit the 200 day mark, I am especially obsessive. And cautious. I am not going to do anything today that risks my not being able to do something tomorrow. So, I’m heading downstairs and inside.

There will be people running along the lakefront today. There always are. Maybe they don’t have a choice. More likely they think they don’t have a choice. Their training schedule calls for a 5 mile tempo run today and – no matter what – they’re going to get it in. I get their commitment but question their judgement. It’s fine to be disciplined. It’s fine to have a schedule and sticking to it. But it’s not fine to ignore the truth about what’s going on around you.

The truth is that no matter what your training schedule calls for just getting out and walking is better than not doing anything at all. If, like me, you have access to a treadmill then you can adjust your schedule to something you feel comfortable doing on a treadmill.

Or, you can just take a day – or a couple of days – off. OFF.

You can’t finish if you don’t start. Please folks, let’s be careful out there.

John

John “the Penguin” Bingham, Competitor Magazine columnist
Author, An Accidental AthleteThe Courage to Start, No Need for Speed, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals.

Order your EARLY copy of John’s NEW book An Accidental Athlete today.

Have a question for John? Write him.

A Historic Ride

There’s an old adage that says “You can’t step in the same river twice.” The philosophical position is that a river is always changing. As a life-long motorcyclist I would add that you can’t ride the same road twice. Neither you nor the road are the same.

This is certainly been the case for me. US Rt. 50 runs East-West across the center of the United States from Annapolis to Sacramento. I’ve ridden every mile of it East to West once, and have ridden bits and pieces of it many times over the past 40 years. One of my favorite stretches is from Clarksburg, West Virginia through Romney, West Virginia, on to Winchester, Virginia. Riding that road on a new bike is a form of initiation. If a motorcycles handles well and makes me smile on that part of Rt. 50 then I know the bike’s a keeper.

Before the Interstate Highway System made traveling long distances by car accessible to almost everyone, it was only the brave and adventurous spirits who dared to take off from, say Chicago with the goal of getting to Los Angeles. That road, US Rt. 66 is probably the most famous U.S. highway, but it isn’t the most beautiful or most interesting. Nearly every highway that starts with a U.S. has got a history and nearly all of them are worth riding or driving.

This year Coach Jenny and I set off  headed East from Chicago to meet up with my son and grandchildren for some well-earned vacation time and the celebration of my son’s 40th birthday. Unlike most trips where the “getting there” was the least important element, this trip we made getting there, and getting back, one of the highlights. Heading East we traveled on US 35 and 50. Heading back West we traveled on US 30, known as the Lincoln Highway, US 40, known as the National Road, and US 6, known as  the Grand Army of the Republic Highway. We spent a little time on US 250 which, depending on where you are, is either a North-South highway or an East-West highway. Good luck with the GPS.

There is an entire country of small towns and of people out there living along those roads that you’ll never see from the Interstates. Some of these towns and people are flourishing. Most are not. A few have found ways to keep themselves viable. Most just seem to be waiting for the inevitable. You know the old joke: will the last person leaving town please turn out the lights.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I kept up my streak. I’m at 194 days of moving, intentionally, for 30 minutes or more. And yes, some days it was exactly 30 minutes.

But we moved, intentionally, for hundreds of miles every day for no particular reason except it was what we wanted to be doing. Sounds a lot like what  running and walking or any other activity should be.

Waddle on,

John
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 EARLY copy of John’s NEW book An Accidental Athlete today.

Have a question for John? Write him.

What to do now?

Ever notice how the simplest ideas can blow up in your face? You know, sometimes what seems like a quiet idea, something that will attract no attention and create no personal problems develops a life of its own and you find yourself hanging on to the tiger’s tail?

To review; I was injured for nearly the entire year of 2010. It started in January with a slipped sacroiliac joint. A failed injection then a SUPER injection and I was able to run and walk comfortably. Then came the cuboid subluxation syndrome, which I created on a motorcycle trip and then aggravated for months by running on it. By December I was ready to get back at it. I missed being active.

So, I challenged myself and my Facebook friends and fans to join me in committing to 30 minutes of intentional movement every day for 100 days. And, much to my surprise over 10,000 people joined up. Now we’re on to the 100 Days of Summer which is more about play than intentional movement. And here’s my problem.

I did the 100 days. I nailed it. Every day. 30 minutes at LEAST. For 100 days. Then, on day 101 I kept going. And on day 102 and 103 and 104. You get the idea. It’s now day 180 and, you guessed it, I’m still going. I’m just a couple of days short of being half-way through the year and I’m still on it. NOW WHAT?

OK, the WHOLE truth is that I’ve been walking, mostly, cycling every now and then, and mixing in some running when the mood hits me. But mostly I’ve been walking. And I have been enjoying it. More than that, I’ve found that I really look forward to it, the walking that is.

I’ve walked alone. I’ve walked with Jenny. I walked last Friday with fellow announcer Ian Brooks and I walked on  Sunday with my friend Indro. I walked with them. Nearly no one ever wanted to run with me. I was too slow. People said they wanted to. I got invited by clubs to go “run” with them, but it never worked. I always ended up running – in the back – by myself.

Something’s different about walking. It seems, almost by its nature, to be social. And the pace lends itself to conversation. Or, when I’m alone, to contemplation.

I tell myself at the beginning of each new month that I’m going to focus on running. One of these months I will. For now, though, I’m on a roll and I’m not going to do anything to risk getting banged up again.

Yep. You guessed it. I’m going to try to move every day for an entire year.

Waddle on, friends.

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 EARLY copy of John’s NEW book An Accidental Athlete today.

Have a question for John? Write him.

Summer vacations | The Penguin Chronicles

Read about the joy of growing up in the 1950’s.

Summer vacations | The Penguin Chronicles.

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