• 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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This Time for Sure

profileforfacebookI am not a Blogger. I’m not sure that anyone is a blogger anymore, except people who insist on calling themselves “bloggers” because they, well, BLOG. Blogger, it seems to me, kind of went the way of “jogger”. Runners used to call  joggers “joggers” because they didn’t want them confused with “runners.” If you’re a “runner” you want to make sure that everyone knows that you’re not a jogger.

I am a writer. Well, no, that’s not exactly true. I have written. I’ve authored. But, I think most writers would consider me a columnist. Old school writers and a lot like old school runners. They, the writers, want to make sure that everyone knows that they are writers, not columnists or – in some cases – authors.

Then there’s the editors. They’re not writers or authors or columnists. They’re editors. They edit. They take what writers and authors – and even columnists – write and they edit it. The best editors make what writers write easier to read and understand without changing the underlying voice. The worst ones re-write to the point that the writer doesn’t even understand what was written. In my career I’ve had some of both kinds of editors.

This is not a blog. Honest. It’s not. It’s something else. I’m not sure what. But it’s not a blog. I post on Facebook. It’s not a post. I tweet on Twitter. It’s not a tweet. I guess if a post is a long tweet then this is a long post. But it’s not a blog.

You see, I’m not a blogger. I’m a – wait, I think I have it – I’m a digital columnist. Nah. That’s not good either. You know what? I am a writer. The “columns” started out as letters to my friends. I wrote those letters. For 2013 I’m going to write this – whatever it is – in the same spirit. This time for sure.

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

Giving and Getting.

Before there were “The Penguin Chronicles” a friend and I, Lee Alsbrook, wrote a column called “The Recess Bell” for a local newspaper. This is one of those early columns.

December has always been a strange time of year for me. In addition to the holidays, my birthday is in December and so this month has become a watershed in my year and in my life. This was the month that society granted me important permissions. In December I became old enough to drive, old enough to get married, old enough to vote, and old enough to drink. I also got my induction notice in December.

As a child, though, December could be summed up with one word: Toys! My definition of a toy was fairly simple. If I could play with it, it was a toy. One year, my cousin and I both got full football uniforms with helmets and pads. We played some monumental one-on-one football that year. Those uniforms were toys.

I don’t remember when exactly, but at some point I stopped getting toys as presents. In fact, at some point I stopped getting gifts that I wanted and started getting gifts that I needed. I always thought that gifts should only be things you want, not things you need. If you need it, well, you need it, right? It shouldn’t count as a gift.

Looking back, I can see that, as my life evolved, what I wanted and what I needed changed. But probably the biggest change in what I wanted, and what I thought I needed, occurred when I became a runner. As a runner, the line between wanting and needing became hard to distinguish. As a runner, some of the gifts began once again to look a lot like toys. And getting toys is much more fun than getting things that you need.

One of the toys on my list this year is a pair of shoes. No, I don’t need shoes, but I want shoes. Not regular shoes, obviously. Not the kind of shoes that require polishing. Not shoes that are a part of my professional uniform. The toys I want have grid technology or gel or air pockets. I want toys with medial support. I want toys that cushion and stabilize and control.

More importantly, I want shoes/toys that will make me faster than I am. If they can’t really make me faster, I want some that make me feel faster. This year my toy list includes clothes. Oh, I used to hate getting clothes. I hated getting shirts and sweaters – no matter how well intentioned the thought. (My grandmother used to spend months knitting us sweaters.) Somehow, the gift of clothes always seemed to be too adult for me.

But this year I want shirts. I want toys that keep me warm in the winter and keep me cool in the summer. Not T-shirts please. I’ve got enough race T-shirts to clothe a small army. No, I want toys that wick and layer. Give me toys made from materials that sound like chemicals. Give me polypropylene!!

This year, I’m asking for underwear and socks. Can you imagine? Underwear and socks as toys! If someone had given me underwear and socks before I was a runner I would never have forgiven them. But now I want toys that go 1,000 miles and are double layered or that are ultra thin and won’t make me blister.

I want underwear that wicks and protects and won’t make me chafe! What struck me as I began to assemble my list of wants and needs was that I had returned to my youth. I was asking for, and I had the hope of getting, toys. Gifts that I can use when I play. My shoes and socks and underwear have become items in my toy chest.

And I realized that in this December, as I creep without shame towards the half-century mark, I am really going backwards in time. I am going forward to the past. Not only is my body getting younger as I age, but my spirit is as well. This December I get a little older, but I’m not growing up.

So for me, and I hope for you, even if running does nothing more than bring back the joy of getting [and giving] gifts, that will be enough. Even if there are no other benefits, I will still put on my toys everyday and play with them.

Happy holidays. And waddle on, friends.

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.


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.

New Year’s Resolution Series radio interview

Listen to my radio interview with The Joyful Organizer, in his third edition of the New Year’s Resolution Series. Take the first step to getting active and get inspired to take control of your health: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thejoyoforganizing/2011/01/19/new-years-resolutions-series-running-wild-with-joh

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