The Accidental Athlete: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Middle Age, John “the Penguin” Bingham

There are some books you pick up and you just know the story is going to be about you. You may know the author so well you feel he or she is a kindred spirit. You may have read the book a hundred times. You may love the topic of the book so much that there’s no room in your heart for anything but acceptance and understanding. I have encountered a number of books like this over the years – these are books that don’t change your life so much as reinforce that the path you’re on is the right one. For me, Bingham’s memoir on becoming an “adult-onset athlete” is one of those books.

I’ve been enjoying his articles in Runner’s World since I started running myself in October 2010, and when I saw that he had a book out, I put it on my Christmas list along with Born to Run. Without having any idea how old he is (in his 60s), where he lives (Tennessee, I think), or how long he’s been running (20 years), I felt immediately that this man was my running soul mate. I had to hear his story, the complete version, rather than the bits and pieces that make it into the magazine, and I wasn’t disappointed.

“The Penguin” might as well have been me as a child. He was chubby, unathletic, and desperate to be the kind of person who got picked first (or at least not last) to be on a team. His dreams of who he could be were tangled up with the joy of being a child, and the disappointment he experienced as he faced down a system of organized sports that slowly sucks the fun out of games for the vast majority of children was so familiar to me I felt like I was reading an old diary.

He was 43 when he started running, having been a heavy smoker, drinker, and eater for most of his life. Twenty years later, he has run countless races, from 5ks to marathons to Iron Mans, and his focus is on discovering the fun in running rather than insisting on that it’s only fun to be the very best. Unlike Born to Run, which made me weep with joy for the pure sport of it, Bingham’s book made me get up and go for a run yesterday afternoon after I’d already decided I was going to skip it for the day.

There is no higher praise for any coach or motivational speaker than that – I literally put down the book when I reached the end of chapter 8, got dressed and hit the road. It was a brutal three miles. My whole body felt fatigued from two tough workouts on Tuesday, and on top of that, I hate to run any time but the morning. It’s too hot. There are way too many other people out who are much faster than I am. I just ate lunch. I have about a thousand excuses to pull out when I don’t run first thing, and this book shut me up and got me on the trail.

His book was a constant reminder to me of why I run. I run because even though I’m not good at it, it makes me feel good. While I was reading it, I felt like I was, for once, not alone in this bizarre mindset. Most of my friends are, from my perspective (if not an Olympic one) phenomenal runners; it’s no trouble for them to run eleven miles at a go or consistently clock 8 or 9 minute miles. They run triathalons after training for only a few months. They have medals from more than one marathon.  It has taken me almost a year and a half to feel comfortable running 5k, and even now, I’m a twelve-minute miler on my good days. I barely clock ten miles a week, and I often wonder why I’m not getting any better.

Bingham’s story made me feel like I don’t have to get any better – not to enjoy running, not to be considered a runner – because I run, I’m a runner, and that’s final. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in back of the packers improving; he’s done it, and I know I eventually will too. It’s more that he has captured, for me, the essence of running – that it’s an expression of strength and joy and respect for the life I’ve been given.

It’s incredibly difficult, and at times downright discouraging, to be an adult coming to running for the first time. So many runners have been doing it their whole lives, and it’s a constant game of catch-up for us beginners. Maybe that’s why I cherish this book, my new running bible, as a testament to my ability to discover courage in a place where I’m very comfortable (the world of books), and then take that advice out to the roads and trails, where I am still a struggling novice.

John Bingham has plenty more to say at I’m personally going to check out his training section right now.

302 thoughts on “The Accidental Athlete: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Middle Age, John “the Penguin” Bingham

    1. Isn’t that a great idea?! I think the fact that Bingham started running at 43 is amazing, and surprisingly, I’m always finding stories about people who started running marathons in their 70s and 80s – if they can do it, so can we!

  1. As I turn 50 next week and am working on getting back into shape, this post is especially motivating. I totally love it! And congrats on FP. I promise–that will be a heck of run, as well!

    1. My mother started getting back into shape when she was about 50 as well, and 12 years later, she can kick my butt in the pool and sometimes on the yoga mat too! I’m forever jealous that she can do a headstand and I can’t even come close :) I’m slowly accepting that age and ability come far second to a desire to live a longer, healthier life, so don’t doubt yourself; even on the days when I feel so lethargic that even a walk seems strenuous, I know that the baby steps count!

      1. Thanks for sharing the story about your Mom…. that’s me- two months from 50 and feeling like I want to get back in shape- or be banished to jello-dom forever :) I’m excited to read the book- thanks for telling us about it.

  2. “I literally put down the book when I reached the end of chapter 8, got dressed and hit the road.” ~ that line alone makes me want to read that book. I need that kind of motivation!

    1. I literally felt antsy trying to finish the chapter! I don’t think I’ve felt so excited to go outside and “play” since I was a kid. It’s a fantastic (and strange) feeling…

      1. I do not run and have no desire. I am going to read this book b/c for you to feel “excited to go outside and play”…it must be a very transcending concept. I am always the one telling people to play more. I need more ways to help motivate them and myself to exercise in some manner. Glad I read your blog and the comments. The comments always make you think! GReat FP post, congrats! AmberLena

  3. “His book was a constant reminder to me of why I run. I run because even though I’m not good at it, it makes me feel good. ”
    I love it! I paint because it gives me joy! It’s the act itself, not your time, or my paintings that matters.
    Thanks for the reminder :)

    1. Life is way too short to only do things we’re naturally good at, right?! It gets boring after a while to know exactly how to complete every task – running and yoga sometimes bring me to my knees, but I love the surprise of doing something new and difficult! I actually felt the same way about painting and drawing until I had a professor in college who nurtured her students’ individual talents; she saw that the written word was important to me and helped me to incorporate that into art that I ended up loving (and I never thought I would say that about my art skills!). It’s amazing how we convince ourselves to live in a tiny comfort zone when the whole world is out there to explore.

  4. Wonderful review, well-written, thank you. I am a on again, off again runner and I understand very well the appeal of it.

    1. Thank you so much! Bingham talks about how, when he’s injured, he often runs through pain he shouldn’t because he’s afraid if he stops running, he might not start again. I have the same fear – even a week or two off has me panicking that I’ll have to start all over again (not a fun thought!). I’ve talked to friends who have long running histories, however, and they seem nonchalant about taking even a year or more off; they pick it up again so easily. It’s amazing to me how differently our bodies can respond to the same challenges!

  5. I have his book “Running for Mortals.” He is very relateable. This blog is so timely. I just signed up for my first half marathon today. Ran the longest I ever have yesterday: 9.2 and I was slow (between 11 and 12 min miles the whole way!) BUT…I’m doing it and actually learning to love it. Maybe faster times can come later but for now at least I’m doing the distance! You should read my post: Thanks for the post!

    1. I love that post! I especially love the poster because I do feel like a warrior when I’m running (at least some days), but whenever I get back to my car, my entire head is bright red (I’m part Norwegian, and my brother and I both have an unfortunate gene that turns very pale skin very flushed very quickly!), I’m sweating (I’m a big time sweater), and my hair looks like I’ve been through a tornado (I have no clue how this happens, but it’s always does)! I can only imagine what other runners think when they pass me :) In fact, last week, I passed a very elderly woman taking a walk and she gave me a big smile and a thumb’s up, I assume because she thought I was likely to die any minute; I ran with a big idiot grin for the rest of that run!

      Keep up the good work, and I’m going to try to catch up with you, running wise!

  6. Oh I TOTALLY have to get that book! I love his RW articles too. Makes me feel so much less alone in my “Starting to Run is The New Mid-Life Crisis”ism!!
    And Born To Run.

    1. He never fails to make me feel better! Born to Run was a life-changing read for me (I actually cried several times in awe of what those runners can do), but it also made me feel very far from the life of an ultra runner. Bingham has the opposite effect on me – I feel like I just might meet my dream of running a marathon with people like him coaching and cheering me on!

    1. I’m definitely putting that on my to-read list, although I’m trying out his plan for a 10k first! Small steps! I grew up in Boston watching the marathon every year, and now that I live out west, I really miss seeing that particular race. Someday I very much hope to be running in one myself, even if it takes years to prepare!

    1. Thank you so much! I took a peek at your blog and I have to say, I’m looking forward to reading more (I especially liked your description of yourself as a Chapstick-wearing woman – that’s me in a nutshell, and I love it!).

      1. I’m glad you enjoy it so much that you’re willing to stop by again…glad there are other Chapstick types out there talking sports and humor. :)

    1. My husband is the exact same way. I’ve recently convinced him that if it’s not fun, he shouldn’t do it (super inspirational of me, huh?!); but he really loves to ride his bike (which I tolerate but don’t particularly enjoy), so I told him that if he focuses on that, I promise to try my best to get on my bike with him at least twice a month. That is a difficult promise to keep, let me tell you, but in the end, we both get exercise that we enjoy. I’m also trying to convince him to join my Zombie Apocalypse training, but he doesn’t seem to think the potential rise of the undead is enough motivation to get out on the obstacle course :)

      1. Zombie Apocalypse training? Now that sounds like something that would make me get out there. Saying ‘I don’t feel like it today’ to that is just a different way of saying ‘just kill me now’…

  7. Thanks a ton for this review. I’m definately gonna grab this book. I just got into running late last year and turned 40 this year. I enjoy it so much I suddenly had direction in my blog.

    1. Thanks so much! I’ve been taking a peek at as many of the blogs of my commenters as I can, and I really looking forward to reading about your experiences. My husband is a cyclist, so it’ll be great to see what you have to say about our two favorite sports!

  8. First off, congratulations on bieng freshly pressed! (:

    With that out of the way, I’d like to say that I hope I am a late bloomer in the athletic field, as well, because 40 seems to be fast approaching me and only good things can come from that! Right?! ;)

    Great post!!

    1. Thank you so much! This is my first time being featured on Freshly Pressed, and I’m incredibly excited about it. I think it’s hilarious that anything in my blog would be tagged under Sports, but it just goes to show how many of us “Penguins” love to read and bond over the trials and tribulations of other newbie athletes!

      Also, all my friends who are approaching forty say it’s the new thirty, but I say, let it be the new 7! Remember how much fun it was to run and play as a little kid?! That’s what I want forever!

      1. You’re welcome! I’ve always thought good things come not to those who wait but to those who work the hardest! (:

        Yes, I remember! Now all I need is to build up some stamina because I am a zero fitness level and I’m feeling it! I’m not a runner because the idea of flaunting my body in tight running gear scares the living daylights out of me! Lol! But I just recently started working out on my elliptical at home and I’ll be sure to follow your blog and peek back in here for some more inspiration when I start feeling discouraged. Who knows? I may eventually work up the stamina and the courage to start runnning! ;)

        1. :) I taught preschool for years and watching young children in the day-to-day exploration of their bodies and the world has been a huge inspiration! I have no idea how they have so much energy while basically working out all day long, but if I could bottle it, I would!

  9. I just started running too (well once and hoping I can do more) am 38 and a bit overweight so not an easy thing to get into … but I’m trying

    1. I feel you! Even after a year and a half of running, cross training, and yoga, I still haven’t experienced the slim down that I feel everyone else has, but my whole body feels so much stronger that I (mostly) don’t mind :)

      I started off using Couch to 5k, and although it didn’t work for me the first time, it did when I gave it a second chance. I remember the thrill I felt when I jumped from being able to run 3 minute intervals to 5 minutes – it seemed impossible that I would ever make it to a solid 30 minutes, but after 12 weeks I did, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve also been checking out John Bingham’s training plans because I would like to try to run a 10k, and it looks like he and his wife have some great, gentle plans for all experience levels.

      If you ever need a cheerleader, just let me know! I know how it feels to start from a zero fitness level, and I love finding other people who are working hard too!

  10. Fabulous review and inspiring! Now, I must add his book to my read list. I signed up for a 5K this spring (hey… it’s a start). LOL.

    1. Congratulations! I’m a huge wuss when it comes to races. My husband keeps trying to sign me up and I keep backing out at the last minute because I’m so nervous about competing – I’m afraid it will remind me of how unfun gym class was – although everyone I know who races tells me it’s a lot of fun. I hope you have a great time, and I’ll try to work up the courage to toe that starting line too!

  11. Every year I set myself a goal of going to run a 5 k, it takes off to great start, me running/walking or crawl on a daily basis, but somehow somewhere I seem to run out of steam or something more important comes up and the excuses are endless.

    But I think I will read the book(s) and hope that the motivation hits me to keep running.

    Great post.

    1. I recommend very tiny baby steps! I haven’t made much progress on my distance or speed in about eight months, but I know that just going out there three times a week is worth getting excited about. It’s when I try to set my goals way too high (like going from a 5k to a 10k with no idea how to go about it) that it starts being a lot less fun! After reading Bingham’s book, my new mantra is “Fun!”

  12. As a “jog-ler”, I walk / run / sprint / do lunges / and then do it again… just feels good to know my legs can get me there, even if I’m not a “runner”! Kudos to all who are runners.

    Thanks for the inspiration and sharing.


  13. I know what you mean about being surrounded by great runners. It’s embarrassing. It’s nice to embrace the fact that you don’t need to be a marthoner or super fast runner, you can just run because you like it.

    1. It’s especially hard to ignore when I’m getting passed by women pushing two toddlers or old men with limps, but I try to remind myself that I’m not running their race, just my own…which sometimes works…although I admit I like running at 10am when the chance of seeing other people is very low :)

  14. I love reading people’s experiences as they come into running for the first time. You’ve definitely got the right idea by focusing on having FUN as opposed to gaining speed. There’s no hurry. Speed, stamina, and distance come of their own accord in good time. Just get out there and never give up!

  15. I play roller derby and we have women join in their 30’s and 40’s who have lost their athletic prowess or never had it to begin with. Some of these women are in way better shape and have better endurance than I have in my 20’s. It’s good to know you can exercise at any age.

    1. Roller derby is so amazing! I can only imagine the strength (and pain tolerance) necessary to compete! It gives me great hope to know that my body could be resilient enough to take on that kind of challenge even years from now.

    2. I’ve run along side John at Disney world and San Diego as a Team in Training participant. I have always enjoyed his motivational talks given at our pre-race dinners. One of my favorite quotes from him is “Start slow and taper down!”

      I also play roller derby and I am one of the “older” girls in my forties who loves playing the sport. I’ve had to change my mentality from the start slow and I’ve been spending the last few months learning how to all out sprint to get the results I need to compete. To pass our quarterly assessments in order to be “bout eligible” we must be able to skate 25 laps in 5 minutes. It was a true challenge for someone who’s always be a 10 min./mile runner.

      His books and articles in Runner’s World are great. Thanks for sharing your post!

      1. I have to admit I’m really excited to have comments from a couple different roller derby girls on this post! I’m a total dork for roller derby and think it’s one of the most kick ass sports out there. If I wasn’t such a wuss, I would love to try it too! I’m cheering you on internet-style for your quarterly assessments!

        (Also, I adore the quote “Start slow and taper down!” I need a t-shirt of that stat!)

  16. This makes me wish I could run. Alas bad knees make it very unwise. But it’s great that you’ve found an inspiration to run! :) Congrats on Fresh Pressing!

    1. Thank you so much! I have to be careful with my knees as well. I do a lot of strength specific training to keep them working, but I live in fear of a day when they might give out completely! It’s good to be grateful for every day my body allows me to do something I enjoy so much.

  17. Totally relate to your story. I’ve struggled to be a runner forever and even though I’m still trying to push myself, I’ve come to terms with not being a marathoner, a triathlete or a fast runner :)

    1. Well, if you ever feel like you want to try for that further distance, I’ve started checking out Bingham and his wife’s plans and they sound pretty solid. I’m going to try to use one of them to run a 10k, and then (fingers crossed) a half marathon. Most days, those goals seem so out of reach, but I want to keep trying as long as it’s fun, you know?! I figure even running 1 mile is better than 0 and just go from there!

  18. I’m no marathon runner, but at almost 27, I am more athletic than I was in high school or college. Mostly because nobody is around to keep me on the bench, tell me I’m not good, or show me how much better they are than me. Working out on my own desire and time has made me stronger and more confident than ever!

    1. Love it! That’s exactly how I feel! There’s no one around now to make me feel bad for going at my own pace, and if I perceive that someone thinks I’m lame or slow, I just ignore them knowing I’ll probably never see them again anyway. It’s liberating not to be tied to anyone’s expectations or hopes but my own!

    1. Yay! I totally know the feeling of suddenly getting inspired to go out and “play” late at night, then trying to recapture it in the morning – it can be really tough for me sometimes, but if I’m doing something fun, I never regret making a little extra effort. Here’s to hoping you wake up tomorrow ready for fun!

  19. Great review! I’m not a runner myself, but recently signed up for a Boot Camp in the mornings thanks to Living Social. It’s only been a week, but I’ve had the same struggle as you – trying not to compare myself to all the super fit people there, getting my butt outta bed at 5am to go, and telling myself that it’s fine that I didn’t run the whole mile, at least I finished it. I’m glad you found your soulmate and inspiration. For me, that pick-me-up book is The Alchemist. Can’t wait to read more of your reviews!

    1. Oooh good for you! I’m always tempted when I see sign-ups for boot camp but usually end up wussing out…mostly because they require me to get up at or before 5am, and I’m more of a 7:30 kind of riser :) I hope you have fun with this challenge – just remember how amazing it is just to get out there.

      Also, love love love The Alchemist. I adore Paulo Coehlo have also been inspired by him in the past. I wrote a review on Veronika Decides to Die a few weeks ago – definitely a book of his to check out if you haven’t had the chance yet.

    1. I’ve loved walking for a lot longer than I’ve been a runner, and everyone (more knowledgeable than I) says that it’s just as good as running in terms of cardio, and much better on the knees. The great thing is you’ve found something you enjoy doing – not to mention a companion who won’t let you take a day off ;)

    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate you stopping by! (Also, I popped by your blog and I wanted to let you know that I have a BA in Underwater Basket Weaving :)…or at least that’s what I tell my parents when they ask what all that schooling was for!)

  20. I’m slowly trying to get back into running after spending many years loathing it (ironically, after ten years doing it to train for volleyball). This post was great, and I’m going to get the book for my TBR pile (maybe on my e-reader so I can read it at the gym on the treadmill….hhhmmm….) Congrats on FP!

    1. Thank you so much! Definitely a great read for the gym – his style is so easy-going that it’s almost like having a good talk with a more experienced exercise buddy (always a good thing to have in my experience!). I hope that running, or another activity, eventually brings you joy!

    1. Thank you so much! I wish my love of running translated to the bicycle since that’s my husband’s sport of choice. My brother is also an avid cyclist, but I have trouble getting past the saddle sore stage! It’s something I’d like to work on in the coming year, and I’ll just have to remember that just as with running, baby steps are better than no steps at all!

        1. As I was reading through comments, this one got me off-guard and made me laugh with the truth of it! My brother is an amazing cyclist and he tells me the same sort of thing all the time. One of my other big challenges is that my wrists tend to get tired and hurt when I ride for too long (and for me, that’s maybe 8 miles) – I wish I knew of a magical remedy for that because between trying to ride one handed and with my butt off the seat, I must be a sight to see!

    1. You can do it! If you’ve already quit smoking, you must have fantastic will-power and motivation to make the most out life. In my experience, having that kind of grit counts more than anything. I hope you enjoy the book, and I wish you luck.

  21. Loved your comments. I’m not a runner, rather a photographer, but feel the same way as you at times. That I got into it later in life, that there are so many other photographers better than me who have been doing it for so long, that it’s so hard to get really good and recognized. Then I pick up my camera and go out for some shooting – practice, practice, practice. Great to know other endeavors have the same issues and there are people out there who push through.

    1. I agree – it’s somehow very comforting to know that the struggle exists across the boundaries of interest and ability. It’s too easy to allow tunnel vision to take over until we forget why we find joy in an activity in the first place, no matter what that activity might be. I love feeling connected to others who are struggling to find and make meaning with the gifts and hopes we all have.

  22. Though running has little to do with drawing & painting, yet after reading your review I am just reminded simply to to draw and paint even though I am not good at it, just simply because it makes me feel good. I draw simply because of the artist in me, that the essence of painting is an expression of joy and beauty, and the respect of life that I have been given.

    The message is universal. Makes me just smile. Thank you.

    1. I think the common thread doesn’t have to be the activity we choose, but rather the desire burning in us to do something new and hard and scary. The feeling ignited is familiar then, allowing us to feel a little less alone, and hopefully less overwhelmed knowing there are many others just like us trying to make magic out of a tiny spark.

  23. Even I, at the age of 55, am ready to put on my jogger’s shoes! Your post has inspired a lazy me who has been procrastinating run-a-mile in the morning/evening desire for a long long time! A nice post indeed!

    1. I have read more stories about people in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties lacing up their shoes and running than you would believe! I think that aging just gives us more freedom from the harsh judgements of our youth, and when you are released from that inner critic, you’re free to just go out and have fun!

    1. Thank you so much! I love to share my joy of running with others, especially since I think we spend an awful lot of time dwelling on what we can’t do when we could be spending time making something special happen!

      1. My son is a runner. He has been running since he was about 12 years old and is now 25. I am not a runner myself but I have great admiration and respect for those who do run and set their personal much of what goes into running is carried through in other areas of life.

    1. You are definitely not insane, and from the sound of other commenters here, you are also not alone! We all have to start somewhere, right? Bingham certainly wasn’t afraid to dive in at 43, and he has done so much in the running community – that gives me hope that we can all do it too!

  24. Sounds like a book worth checking out or at least Bingham’s blog.

    I relate so well to your experience: a klutz in phys. ed class in school. I returned to cycling at 32..and still cycling over 20 yrs. later!

    1. It’s definitely a great read (and quick – he has such a conversational style that his story flew by), and I’m enjoying perusing his blog and training plans as well. It makes me so happy to hear from people who started out like me and now have twenty or thirty years of training under their belts – it helps me believe I’ll be able to reach that point someday as well!

      1. I really don’t think of my cycling all the time as “exercise”. It’s how I get around because I’m car-free. Nowadays I just recommend that if a person wants to take upon exercise several times per week, whatever they chooose, it needs to be for them, something that they love to do and do it often without thinking of it as a “chore”. It could be swimming or lawn bowling. Or even golf. Some regular exercise is better than none.

        I don’t think too much about “training” when I cycle. I just think of going farther. Otherwise “training” suggests to me, personally, a “chore” or a necessity or a regimentation. That’s not the point. The point is to naturally weave in whatever form of exercise into the natural rhythms of one’s personal schedule/lifestyle.

  25. Good review – I think I’ll pick this up. I’m 34 and working on the C25K program – slowly! And the “fat kid that got picked last (if at all!)” story *does* sound very, very familiar. These days when I get on the treadmill and start running I keep having to stare at myself and mentally tell myself “you’re running – *you* are running – *you*, who a year ago couldn’t climb a set of stairs without getting winded. You, who two years ago couldn’t climb out of bed without feeling exhausted. Look at you, you’re fucking *running*!” It’s only for 60 seconds at a time, but I feel kinda godlike when I’m doing it, and *really* godlike when I get through a whole day’s program without faltering!

    1. I am so with you! C25K was what worked for me (although I definitely had to repeat a couple of the weeks in order to be ready for the next step!) and I hope you have good luck with it as well. That feeling of godlike strength keeps me coming back for more – I have no idea if that’s what people mean when they talk about a “runner’s high,” but it certainly keeps me motivated! If you need any cheering, just give me a shout and I’d be happy to send along encouragement!

  26. I love how personal this book review is. Maybe it’s not really even an actual book review, but it makes me want to head out and pick up the book more than any “regular” book review would have. Thank you for this.

    1. Thank you! I admit my style is definitely not a typical reviewer’s approach, but I just adore books, and I love using this blog as an excuse to read great books and connect with others who either also love reading or who are particularly interested in one of the topics I’m discussing. I feel really lucky to get to do this, and I hope you enjoy the read!

  27. Thanks for sharing that, I will look out for the book. I HATE running but am trying again and have done 2 x 2 miles this week. It’ a start but for me it has been HUGE to do this. thank you for sharing how sometimes it is hard for you and 12 minute miles are ok. It’s reassuring to hear!

    1. Yay! Congrats on getting out there and giving it your all! And trust me – the 12 min miles are on my good days – I’m no stranger to slow times! I just keep at it because even after my worst runs, I still feel a spark of happiness just to have a body capable of trying.

  28. I absolutely love John Bingham! I have one of his mantras “Courage to start” on my dusty Road ID! I have done a few Team In Training events and he speaks at the pasta dinner and is fantastic! He’s a joy out on the course or speaking to a crowd! I am adding this book to my list to read!

    1. Ooh! I’m jealous that you’ve gotten to hear him speak! And I love that mantra – I’m going to keep that one in my back pocket for the days when it seems impossible to get out the door. I hope you enjoy the book and that’s for stopping by!

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you stopped by. I saw on your bio that you’re a novelist, and I wish you much luck. Although I’m a wuss in the “getting my pants scared off department,” if you ever have a book (that’s isn’t too scary :) that you’d like to have reviewed, I’d be happy to do it. I always love meeting other writers and trying to give them any boost in publicity possible!

      1. Your reviews are so well written, I would be ashamed to turn you down! But my book is unpublished until the end of April, but I am putting up bits of it on, one of my other blogs, if you want to check it out, I’m not sure if it’s the type you’d enjoy to review. It’s not horror, but it’s dark fantasy, fiction, and has some scary stuff. But I very much appreciate the offer :) I’m looking for publicity at the moment and I’m struggling with it. I’m going to school at the end of April and I want to try and build up a readership and interest before I e-publish it before I go to school. That’s my goal, anyway, lol. Thanks

    1. Thanks so much! I really hope you enjoy it as much as I have! (Also, I love the name of your blog – earlier in the thread we were talking about how 40 is the new 30…and how 30 should be the new 7 because why shouldn’t we all spend as much time as we can recapturing the fun parts of being a kid?!)

      1. Amen sister! Thanks. I have a feeling that I am going to really enjoy this book. Thank you again for sharing. :)

  29. I know the feeling a runner gets all too well. It’s my most favourite of all feelings when it comes to exercise. Unfortunately my knees don’t feel the same and give up on me every time after a few attempts. It’s the worst feeling knowing you are mentally capable but physically unable, I’ve been told by my physio, a years worth of strength exercises and then I might be able to go running without injury, so in the meantime I stick to just walking every day. Not as fun, but still outdoors moving! :)

    1. I know the feeling – my left knee occasionally flares up on me now, and I’ve had to work really hard on non-running strength training and phys therapy exercises to keep it in line. I also really enjoy walking though, so whether you’re able to run again, I hope you find joy in the time you get to spend outdoors. I especially started to appreciate being able to even walk when I spent a lot of time with my 94 year old grandmother who was slowly losing the ability to do so even with a walker – it’s a great blessing to have legs that work at all!

  30. Great stuff- I have been a runner for years but encourage everyone to try it. It’s painful, it hurts, but you feel great afterwards—physically, mentally, emotionally. Love the post.

    1. Thank you so much! It’s always nice to hear from people who have been running for a long time and still recognize what a challenge it can be, especially for newbies, but really for anyone who wants to push their bodies to a new level!

  31. I love The Penguin for everything you said here. Great post and I loved your review! Keep on running, sister! Do what you love and love what you do, although sometimes running can be a love-hate relationship. ;-)

    I’m also a late to the game runner. I only began running about 5 years ago and now I’m in my 40s with 3 marathons under my race skirt. I’ll never know the feeling of finishing first, because I prefer the middle of the pack and no pressure performances. I like to run happy and snappy as I snap photos along the way.

    1. Congratulations on your marathons! That is no easy feat, and I am so inspired to hear about others who manage such a thing after only a short time running. It gives me hope that someday 26.2 won’t feel so incredibly far away :)

  32. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Isn’t it great to find a book that motivates you that way? I’m not a runner, but I often dream that I’m running. Maybe reading his book would give me the impetus to leave the desk and buy myself some running shoes… Really enjoyed your post.

    1. Thank you so much! If anything, I think his book was a reminder to get out and find something that brings you joy (instead of just an obligation or a workout) – whether it’s running or something else entirely, I hope he’ll encourage you as much as he has me!

  33. I usually do not comment on the blogs of writers who I am not familiar with, but this is different. I want to say that you are a fabulous writer-I really enjoyed reading what your commentary about Bingham’s book. I have not read that one yet, but I have read, The Courage to Start AND I have ran with him and his wife when I was in Chicago. I went to the first Penguin Conference. I have since stopped running and miss it bunches. I hired a physical therapist to bring my muscular structure back in balance. It is my goal to run again. I am 42….so we shall see.

    Anyhow…..what a great review!

    1. Thank you so much! Having so many people stop by and comment is a new experience for me, and I just can’t believe what wonderful stories people have to share about their own lives and passion. I am also incredibly jealous that you’ve gotten to run with him and his wife – I hope I get the opportunity to do so someday as well!

      I think I have the weight of the commenters behind me when I say that 42 is plenty young enough to keep trying! I wish you the best of luck getting back on the road (or finding a new physical challenge); I hope what you find brings you joy.

  34. Great post and Congrats on being FP :)
    I absolutely LOVE running but I live in a place which unfortunately doesn’t offer enough space for any running or walking or cycling. So i have to contend myself with an indoor workout. If I could have it my way, I’d be cycling to work everyday!

    1. Thank you so much!

      I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to have to workout inside; I have definitely lived places like that and it can be anti-motivational to say the least! I’ve started doing some crazy obstacle course work inside as a change of pace when I’m strength training, and I’ve discovered it doesn’t take as much space as I thought to do things like jumping, crawling, and generally making my workout a little sillier. I know that isn’t everyone’s style, but it’s helped keep me motivated this winter for sure!

  35. when i was in a boarding school i hated the early runs to skip a wink. One of my seniors used to tell us how great full we would feel later having been forced to go for cross country. He ran to lose weight. We did so to keep him motivated. Its been 7 years since i was forced out of my cozy bed. But now i really love it. I have been running on off for last one year. I also has the courage to run for half marathon. although it nearly killed me, but the feeling of having conquered your limits is beautiful. I could totally relate to the part where – ” I literally put down the book when I reached the end of chapter 8, got dressed and hit the road”.

    I run to chase my demons.

    1. Good for you – a half-marathon is one of my next goals and it seems very intimidating from where I’m standing! I’m lucky to have a flexible work schedule that allows me to run in the later mornings, and I’m always in awe of people who get up early because that’s when they can fit it into their schedules! I think you’re right on the nose when you say that conquering your limits is beautiful – that’s exactly how I feel too!

  36. Maria, I’ve been reading “The Penguin” for many years and, as an aging runner, his words resonate with me. If you have a moment, I blog about running and writing, from a practical sense, at and am in the process of publishing my memoir about the marathon. Chapter Summaries are included in the blog link. If you like what you see, please pass along to your running readers and friends. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for linking, Jim! I’m always excited to read about other runners’ perspectives and to find good advice wherever possible. I look forward to checking it out in the next few days and I will definitely pass it on. From the other comments I’ve received, it sounds like there are a lot of interested people out there, and I hope they find you as well!

  37. As someone who didn’t start running until age 39, I absolutely loved this post. Thanks for acknowledging all of us who run because it makes us feel good, even if we aren’t doing half-marathons or breaking records. It is wonderful to be able to run even three miles, something I couldn’t have done in my 20s.

    1. I have definitely learned that running to feel happy is what makes it worthwhile to me. I’m also really happy to be meeting others who feel the same way. I know in my heart that being the best is not always the key to being joyful, but I sometimes have to remind myself of that when I get discouraged seeing others blaze past me. It’s good to know we are not alone.

  38. Another book you’ll probably like then is: “Medical Advice For Runners” by ? blanking on his name…possible George Sheehan, MD…but I think he passed away. But lots of good info…he was a better runner in his 60’s then teens ostensibly because he learned the value of REST vs overtraining…especially if you’re older….you can only train so much and can only go so fast relative to the ratio of “slow twitch/fast twitch” muscles you’re endowed with….same with cardio…the author could tell anyone what there max speed and endurance was and explain why it is absolutely useless to train harder when your physical endowment is circumscribed…it sucks…but if one does not have the natural endowment of an “elite” runner overtraining will only produce injuries. I know cause I ran with Hartford Track club and I was the slowest guy on some of the teams that went to races and I could run a single 5:30 mile and 3 6 minute mile repeats…not bad but not “elite” but close enough to tantalize me to try harder until one day, after a 5 mile race in Manchester, CT I couldn’t lift my foot over the curb without pain which took a full year to recover from (groin…micro tears…all up and down my legs) so…go slow…enjoy it…know your limits but you never know…you could be sitting on a world class endowment that proper training with support could reveal…I’m thinking about resuming running now but need new shoes…so I found your piece inspiring and I’m ready to give up drinking and smoking again…Peace! Arthur.

    1. I think running a 5:30 mile might make you the fastest person I have ever personally communicated with! It may seem silly to get excited about that on your behalf, but I’m a huge fan of watching marathons and the Olympics just knowing that if I have to sacrifice a lot to be a slow runner, how incredible is it that others can use the power and strength of their bodies to do so much more?! Also, even if you haven’t technically qualified as an “elite,” it sounds like you have been blessed with great natural ability, and even better, the perspective to now get the most out of yourself without injury.

      I will definitely check out Sheehan’s book as well; I’ve read a lot about him and I think he and I might be on the same wave length. Thanks for the recommendation, and good luck to you getting back on the road!

      1. Thanks for your thoughtful reply to my reply. I was just thinking…cause I ran in my thirties to mid-40s and off and on and ran 530 around age 45 so I do wonder if I could have broken 5 minutes when I was younger…I’ll never know now…getting back to an 8 minute pace would be quite an achievement now but doable and If I got there I know I could do a 7 minute mile so thanks again for the inspiration…I’m grabbing all I can with both hands. I’m 56 now and fairly bike fit but my bike just got stolen or misplaced by me while drunk for the second time in 2 weeks!!! (two different and separate bikes…so lock you bike even when you’re under surveillance cause they’ll pretend they didn’t see anything…you know? They figure they have to cause it wouldn’t look “natural” for someone to go around leaving his bike unlocked everywhere…you know? It’s a good thing I’m only paranoid though cause otherwise it would be on a moral level and that would affect my deeper sleep…Think there’s a message in there somewhere?

  39. What a great perspective. I normally find myself on the side of the fence where it has to be competitive to be fun. That’s what has kept me from getting into golf – because I can’t hit below a hundred, and tennis, because I’ve never played. Recently I started playing ultimate, and quickly found myself pushing harder and harder to get to a higher level. Once I arrived there, I realized it wasn’t fun anymore. Your reflection makes me want to read this book to help me find the fun in just getting out on my bike and going for an adventure, experiencing the feeling of being fit without a purpose of getting better, and being able to go faster.

    1. It is such a hard line, isn’t it, between wanting to improve and needing to be the best?! I definitely have a competitive streak (although it usually emerges when playing Scrabble rather than on the road!), but I’ve realized that as a relatively inexperienced athlete, the way I can stay in this new world is to let go of the desperate need to improve or seek approval. It’s incredibly difficult when I see people who are barely breaking a sweat swoop past me with seemingly no effort, but I try to ignore the frustration and keep going. I also love the idea of going out looking for adventure – that’s a fabulous way to explain it!

    1. I think I might try to contact him via twitter or email because even though my post is just a drop in the pond, I think he deserves to know how inspired so many people are by his work!

    1. I totally agree! It’s been wonderful to hear from so many people who are onboard with that idea as well. These responses make it easier for me to understand how Bingham has ignited a movement of people wanting to get out and be fit for the fun of it!

  40. Maria: If your wrists hurt it could be that the bicycle frame is too large for you. A cyclist should have his weight distributed between his butt, wrists, and shoulders. You may be extending too far forward and putting too much stress on the wrists. Have a good bike shop check out the frame fit for you.

    1. Thanks for the advice. I do have a strange-ish body type, with very short legs and a long torso, so maybe I’m compensating by leaning too far forward. I’ve asked a couple of people for advice before and no one has mentioned that it could be the frame either. I will definitely check that out because I remember how riding a bike as a kid gave me freedom and joy – I want that feeling back!

  41. I love this. My mom always wanted an ‘athlete daughter’, and being as I’m as slow and uncoordinated as they come, she ended up sticking me in track because it was the only thing my school had that didn’t have try outs. For half the season, I wasn’t in any meets, I just attended practice. (They would start us out on the track and everyone would be a quarter-lap ahead of me the first 3 seconds) One meet we got beat by this super crappy school. The coach wanted to punish us so he had us run 3 miles. As it turned out I was the first to complete the entire mile, and the only one to complete the entire 3. And that’s how we discovered I was a distance runner – and not a *fast* runner. I think endurance says more about someone’s character anyway. I stopped running after high school, and 5 years later I am just starting up again because my friend invited me to join her on the St. Jude’s Warrior Dash (I’d look it up it’s a really great and fun event). I appreciate this post – as a runner and as a woman. Kudos =)

    1. It feels so good when you find a workout that really fits, doesn’t it? I often start feeling best in my third mile, so I’m hoping that means I mean to be a distance runner. The idea of running miles and miles seems so fun to me (just typing that made me realize I’m kind of a weirdo :) ), but my brain keeps holding me back, telling me I’m too tired when really, I think my legs could keep going! I hope you have a great time at your race and let me know if you need any cheerleading – I’m always happy to offer a web-high five on the tough days!

  42. Running to me is about the competition…

    As a competitive runner, there was no greater satisfaction than the effortless solo long runs. These were runs that were restricted not by my bodies willingness, but by the time that I had allotted for them. Those runs were the fruits of my labor. Moments to be savored.

    Many of mankinds greatest achievements were accomplished by regular people, with average talent, but by persons who had an internal driving force to achieve.

    1. “Many of mankinds greatest achievements were accomplished by regular people, with average talent, but by persons who had an internal driving force to achieve.”

      This reminds me so much of what I learned from reading Born to Run. Ordinary people were doing truly extraordinary things and I just found it magical.

      I can’t imagine being able to truly compete as a runner, but I do love the ferocity of spirit that I’ve discovered when out on my own. I never knew I had such strength or force of will until I started running, and I wouldn’t want to give that up for anything.

  43. The simple truth is if you don’t find value in doing something simply for the joy of doing that act or the benefits from that act, the motivation to continue will quickly fade. I, too, struggle with finding the motivation to run, but after I am done, I always wonder what was so hard about that. The positive feelings after a run far out weigh the bad, which is a reminder I use everyday I am struggling to get out there. Thanks for a great article and I’ll put this book on my must read list, and now it’s time to go hit the road.

    1. I completely agree. No matter what your passion is, if it doesn’t bring you happiness, no power on earth is going to keep you from quitting. On days when I really struggle to get out there, I force myself to turn my brain off and focus on the act of getting dressed for the run. Once I’m out on the trail, my concentration shifts into a physical mode and I have a lot less energy to focus on pain or frustration. I hope you have a great run, and thanks so much for stopping by!

  44. Thanks for sharing this Maria and Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! i am a large man 6′ 5 and 250 lbs always avoided running because of the high impact I was concerned about injuries. I do walk and I have started to bike, but have done neither consistently. I think I will read this book though and perhaps it will aid in motivating me to “Go out and Play” :-)

    1. Bingham does an especially good job of talking about mistakes he made when he tried to kick it into high gear – mainly that he always injured himself when he tried to make too big a jump – and I think that’s true. I think even us bigger athletes have the ability to do anything as long as we take it slow and listen to our bodies.

      One of the other commenters mentioned that going out should be an adventure, and I’m trying to think that way too. Instead of it just being a dull workout, I try to imagine finding something new to do or see. I mean, these are our lives, right?! And for all we know, this could be it! So we might as well go out and have a fantastic time, whatever it is we’re doing!

  45. I find this inspiring. I started serious biking at age 53. I thought I was in shape because I had been a walker for years, but realized rather quickly that I was not in shape at all. It was quite a journey to reach my current fitness level, which is not elite or competitive, but much better than when I started. I now consider a 30 mile bike ride a standard, easy daily ride. I remember when I thought 15 was really a lot.

    Wonderful story and thanks for sharing it.

    1. Congratulations! That’s really amazing! I definitely feel immersed in my journey as a runner, and while I know it’ll have ups and downs, I take great comfort in hearing from more experienced athletes that progress and joy are part of that process!

    1. Inspired, good – guilty, bad! I have learned the hard way that nothing good has ever come out of my feeling guilty (and I am one of those people who feels that way more than I’d like). Bingham’s book is really about both his triumphs and his failures, and how the effort, not the end result, has shaped who he is as a person. Plus, guilt has no place in my “just have fun” philosophy, so relieve yourself of it to make room to find something that brings you ridiculous amounts of joy!

  46. Great post and review of his book. I had the pleasure of running in the Penguin in the Park 5k today with John Bingham himself! He went to college where I live, and he comes back every year for his namesake race. Like you, I run, not because I’m good at it, but because it makes me feel good! And hey, we’re lapping everybody on the couch!

    1. Oooh I like that! We totally are lapping those on the couch :)

      I hope you had a great run today (and that it’s not pouring rain as it is here!) I wish we had a Penguin run to look forward to – I’m going to have to find out if John Bingham is going to make out to the west coast because I would love the chance to run with him too!

    1. It was pretty funny actually – on the one hand, my brain was telling me I really needed to finish the book so I could write up a review, and on the other, my body was reacting like a hyper puppy! I’m still happy my body won that argument :)

  47. The following are my heartened reactions:

    “the disappointment he experienced as he faced down a system of organized sports that slowly sucks the fun out of games for the vast majority of children” This was like me too! Often I was picked last, but even when I wasn’t, I was disappointed, because I didn’t *want* to play!

    “having been a heavy smoker, drinker, and eater for most of his life.” Lol! For me, it’s just the heavy eater though, thank you very much.

    “I have about a thousand excuses to pull out when I don’t run first thing, and this book shut me up and got me on the trail.” That’s what I need with my writing.

    “and I often wonder why I’m not getting any better.” That’s how I am with my weight, and is why I often haven’t bothered in the past.

    1. I definitely feel you! I was a reading child, not a sporty one, and I often dreaded any kind of physical activity when I was a kid – even if other children weren’t specifically unkind, I judged myself harshly enough for all of them. I also am not a typical runner now – I’m still heavy, and I sweat like an ox pulling a plow in the August sun, but I’ve found that I love going out anyway, and I was tired of being the one stopping myself. I know it’s hard to find faith to put in yourself after years of being discouraged, but know that you are absolutely not alone – there are plenty of us “Penguins” who are fighting similar battles!

  48. I used to run track & field in high school, 1.5 and 3k events. I never really became dedicated to the sport enough to run full-length marathons like others I know, but I can understand the appeal.

    I appreciate his message though, and what I like about it is that you can easily translate running to other activities that post-youngsters seem revel in. You’re never too old to start.

  49. Yes! I know everyone says “it’s never to late to…. ____” but truly those who begin a daunting task (like running) midway through life pave the way for the rest of us. Specially when you hear stories of people in their 70’s.

    What better way to begin the next season of your life but to take on the impossible task of running?

    1. One step at a time, right?! Running definitely feels more impossible to me when I think of running a marathon, but it’s much easier when I just focus on putting on my sneakers and getting out the door!

  50. Hi Maria, You should also try to pick up John’s book: “No Need For Speed”. I had the same reaction to it, which you describe – just do it!
    Some of the replies (also) made me smile as I toddle along at my 18 min/mile and dream of the day when I might ever get back to 12 or 15 min/mile… All things ARE relative!
    Loved the review – I felt like I read the book.

    1. As one of the earlier commenters mentioned, “We’re all lapping the people who are still sitting on the couch!” I’m definitely taking that to heart. We may be slow, but we’re still doing it, and that’s the crucial thing. I may never get faster than I am, but I plan to have fun no matter what!

  51. I don’t run, although in my head I crave it. My imagination sees running as running into the future, fast. Unfortunately my body having not experienced exercise for so long, could probably only manage half a block right now. Maybe this is the book for me!

    1. It definitely is! That’s the Penguin to a T. His story made me laugh and wince with recognition of my own slow journey. He has a gift for inspiring the dormant athlete in all of us!

  52. I’ve just started running just before Christmas and I’m 50. Now and I am running 10kms at 6.30min/km and improving. I found this great running app for my iPhone, ease into 5k and then bridge to 10k. I can so understand where you are coming from and good on you for having a go.

    Capt. Savage
    (Trained killer who hopes never to use his skills)

    1. Sounds like you are doing really well! When I run, I go back and forth between measuring in miles (which is usually how I track individual mile times) and in kilometers (which I use to measure the time it took me to run a complete course), so it took me a bit to do the math! I hope you’re enjoying yourself and feel proud of how quickly you’ve jumped into the running world!

  53. I love Born to Run! I haven’t read Bingham’s whole book, though I also love his columns, it’s on my list though. I started running late in college and couldn’t believe I had waited even that long to start…but it truly is so, so rewarding. The way it makes me feel, both about how my body looks and more importantly what it can do, is impossible to really explain to someone who doesn’t run.

    1. It is such a rewarding experience – I think the hardships of running have taught me more than I ever expected about how strong I can be as a person (as opposed to just as a runner). I hope you enjoy Bingham’s book as much as I did, and that he’s able to inspire you to new levels!

  54. I’m training for a marathon right now. I haven’t run consistently for many years. I have had countless minor and not so minor injuries. These past few months have been awful (for running). I used to love it and now that it is so hard it seems like it is quite a different experience. I kind of love it in a new way now– a way that I never did when I was younger. I am not looking forward to my next marathon (it will be my fourth) but at the same time I kind of am…

    I’m totally going to check out this book. Keep running. Cheers.

    1. Fourth marathon! That’s amazing! I’ve heard from many people that the marathon is a love/hate relationship – many people swear they’ll never do another after the first time, but most feel the pull of it again and again and again. I’m glad you’re digging down and finding the courage to do this again, even though it’s been much harder this time around. As someone who also faces difficulties running, I both sympathize and love your spirit! I hope you have a great race!

  55. Oh my goodness … I felt like both you and Bingham were speaking to me! I started running – well jogging actually (didn’t call it running til I could do it without feeling like I need an oxygen tank) – when I was 45; turned 50 this past February; and signed up for my first 5k a week ago. (for the Baltimore Women’s Classic – June) I always wanted to run, but getting winded and discouraged ran hand-in-hand with me. :) I didn’t get the courage to stick it out til my mid-40’s. And now I’m summoning the courage to go the distance of the 5k. I love running. I love feeling like I’m flying – not as high as longer distance runners. But I’m up there! Thank you for this post – and congratulations! :)

    1. Thank you so much, and congratulations on signing up for your first race! I’m scared of racing myself – I worry that being surrounded (however briefly ;) ) by faster runners would be so nerve wracking I’d forget what I cam there to do! I hope I have the courage to do it myself sometime soon, and I wish you the very best of luck kicking some butt in Baltimore!

    1. A couple of people have specifically recommended his book Marathoning for Mortals: A Regular Person’s Guide to the Joy of Running or Walking a Full or Half Marathon. I haven’t read it yet myself, but given everything I’ve read by him thus far, I’m sure it would be a great place to find inspiration!

      Keep up the good work – I very much hope to be in your position some day, and I’m happy to send cheering your way!

  56. Another adult-onset runner here: Don’t worry about comparing your speed and distance to others, or catching up with lifers – if you like running then you’ll naturally (though gradually) get faster and stronger if you practice regularly. (A little every day or so is better than a lot once a week.) I’m sure that every 7 and 8-minute miler will encourage you anyway.

    ‘First Four Minutes’ by Roger Bannister is also an excellent book about why we run, no matter our level.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation – I’ll definitely check it out!

      I also really appreciate the encouragement. Right now, I run three days a week, strength train two, and do yoga once (sometimes twice if I’m being extra good). Part of me would love to add a fourth day of running, but the strength training has had such a positive effect on my running that I know I can’t give it up and I mentally need one day to recover. I really look forward to the days and years ahead – even if my progress is slow, the journey is a blast!

  57. Lovely story and congratulations on being freshly pressed. You have inspired me to run again, I’m by no means a natural runner.
    I found running very therapeutic it helped me get through an emotional time, it increases your energy levels aswell as making you feel & look better.
    I wonder if my 2 year old will be as keen!

    1. In my experience, two year olds are excellent motivators :) If you take them to a hilly park, they’ll help you get up and down the slopes with a smile on your face. They also get a kick out of spending time running back and forth in a small area, so if you’re limited on space, you can still squeeze a workout in. I think the coolest part though is that it means quality time together, and it might even lead to a common, healthy interest you can share in the more terrifying teenage years!

  58. Thank you for your review of the book and sharing how it touched you. I’m a beginner runner and just getting going again after the snows have now melted. Presently…I don’t run in the snow or really cold. I live in Thunder Bay Canada, so….we get both!

    I’m also working for my first 5K. I’m doing the Running Room’s ‘learn to run’ plan. Not sure if that’s it official name. But, in 5 min increments begin with walk 4:30 and run :30 for 45 minutes. Then move to walk 4:00 and run 1:00 and keep changing by 30 secs. I still haven’t reached run 45 min….the best I got to when working on this before was walk 2:30 and run 2:30. My aim is to move past that to 5K …and actually if I get to run the 45 min supposedly that is 10K.

    I really like the routine of this plan. Ha…though when I first started, I changed by 15 sec increments because I couldn’t handle the first run 1min. 30 sec had been sort of okay, but a min was too much. So I did walk 4:15 and run :45! Really out of shape was I! (hope my math is clear)

    I’m going to check out his book and in the meanwhile til it gets here….I’ll get out and run!


    1. I totally understand not running in the snow and the cold! My family lives on the east coast and when I went to visit them recently, I had to run from my gate to try to catch the bus (I’d estimate it was only about a mile total, but I had a roller suitcase and had gotten up at 3:30 in the morning, so I looked…well, pretty much insane!). I didn’t realize how cold it would be when I finally hit the outdoors, and after running through the snow, my chest was burning for a good forty minutes after! Not a fun feeling! I only hope spring comes soon and you can really get out and enjoy yourself!

    1. Thank you! Sometimes I have to get tough on myself when it seems like I’ll never get any better than I am, and that’s when I remind myself that getting out there is very best option I have in the grand argument of desire vs ability!

  59. This was a really well-written post! Thanks!

    Having toyed with the idea of being a runner, myself, I could really relate, and even felt somewhat compelled to get up, get on my treadmill, and run right now! LOL (mind you, being that I haven’t done that in about a year, I might hurt myself if I try!).

    I’ve read John “The Penguin”‘s other book, “The Courage to Start”, and it was really good… very motivational. So, thanks for this review, as I’m probably going to seek out this book of his, too. ;)


    1. Thank you so much! I can’t believe I didn’t know he had other books published before I read this one, but I’ve heard such good things now that I’m definitely going to check them out as well.

      I hope you find the courage and excitement to take a chance on being a runner, or to embrace another hobby if it appeals to you more. Just remember to have fun – life is way too short to “work” out when you could be challenging yourself to a new adventure!

  60. “ability to discover courage in a place where I’m very comfortable…”

    Love it! I enjoyed this post, and I can’t wait to read the book. I need all of the help and motivation I can get!

    1. Thank you! I hope the Penguin inspires you as much as he has me; know that many of us are struggling together on this journey, and we’re here cheering you on!

  61. Thanks for this post!! Not only did you get me interested in a new book, you helped me feel better about my new objective to become a runner. My story is much like yours, and at 40, I’ve just started running. I’m not doing a whole 30 minutes yet (sticking to the C25K schedule), but I love the way it makes me feel, and I have to force myself to start walking when they tell me.

  62. Maria, love the post! I’d love to feature you on if you have interest. On the blog, I’m featuring all kinds of runners who want to share their city and their favorite cause through a run. See the Join Us link at the top to learn more.

    1. Thanks for letting me know about this! I’ve bookmarked your page so I can look at it when I have more time to read other entries and read the Join Us section more thoroughly. I appreciate your thinking of me, and I’ll be in touch!

  63. It sounds very good, I’ll have a look if I can get in on german. I hate runnig as child at school and did never imagine that i could have fun on it.
    But than I started runnig (with 42, to get my shape back after children) I had so much fun. Now I can’t imagine that I will stop it someday.

    For all couch potatoes go out expierence the fun.

    By the way my motivation coach is a great app on my mobile, there I every time can see how far, how long and how much fun.

    1. I LOVE The Hunger Games (my friends and I made t-shirts to go to the movie on Friday, in fact :) ) and I would love to write a review! I’ll need to reread them (I’d probably do a review of all three at once) since I haven’t read them in about two years, but I think I will later this spring!

      1. If you have a Hot Topic in your area, they were selling the shirts (black with the gold Mockingjay on them)…I got one for my daughter and she wore it to the movie :) The books were great weren’t they?!

        1. We went a little old school and bought freezer paper (it has wax on one side), then traced the designs we found online that we liked, cut out the stencils, ironed them on and painted them. It was totally silly and fun! This was the design I recreated: (Hopefully the link works!) I wore a Peeta shirt but my favorite thing about the books is how wonderful it is to have such a strong female lead.

  64. I ran in his 1/2 Marathon as my first very long run. I love the fact that one the medal it says, “It isn’t the miracle that I finished, it is that I had the strength to start.” or something to that affect. Every time I come across a very difficult challenge I remember what it was like training for that race and the way I felt 3/4 the way through (that was when I THOUGHT I hit the wall but kept going) when the colors were so vivid, my mind telling me I couldn’t continue and I found myself having a conversation in my brain about “I know the game you are playing. The body can endure more that you think it can. I’m continuing on!”

  65. I love this. I was just writing about my young boys and the medals they “won” at a gymnastics festival. When people ask them what did they win they look confused. Everyone got a medal. Everyone won. Yes I know life doesn’t work that way, but why can’t it? We are all winners when we set the bar anywhere above where we are and reach for it. Keep running. No one is keeping track but you.

    1. Thank you! I loved gymnastics as a kid, and although age-wise I was on the edge of the trophies for all movement, I always remember that getting one, even for participation, made me feel good…and isn’t that the point?! I certainly look forward to getting a medal or a t-shirt at race just for participating – it’s not why I run of course, but a little validation feels good :)

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy his blend of silliness and strength as much as I have! I have to admit I popped over to your blog as well and am very much looking forward to a quiet moment this week to read more (having already enjoyed the posts on Juliet and Steve Jobs).

  66. Is it just me, or is it rare to find blog posts about older adults? I think we all need to remember to feel inspired, that life isn’t over when you get older. You’re not dead yet!! Take advantage of the time you’ve got and do everything you always wanted to, but wouldn’t let yourself for one reason or another. An inspirational post!

    1. I was lucky enough to have grandparents who lived into their 90s, and it gave me the opportunity to see through them how important it is to have a strong body. My 98 year old grandmother is still walking today (albeit much slower and more carefully) because she treated her body with such respect during her younger years! That’s what I aspire to as well!

      1. Excellent thinking… consistent movement and cardio exercise will keep you limber! I had always exercised (usually *too* much, ironically) but didn’t coordinate proper eating with exercise until my 40s. Best to start sooner rather than later. I spend a lot of time in Sweden and they all live longer than we do, for some pretty specific reasons, and one of them is constant exercise (they ride bikes, for example). Good habits Americans should consider.

  67. I always get frustrated whenever I think I am going to start running again. I played sports when I was younger but now that I want to get into running, I find it difficult. Then I stop.

    Yesterday was the first time I went running in many months. Three steps in, my inevitable side stitch hit me. Then frustration sets in—I have to run so slowly now, that guy who is fifty years older than me is passing by me, etc.

    So thanks for this post—I needed it. (Even though I do not love running. ;-) Ha.)

    1. There’s an 80 year old guy in my neighborhood who regularly passes me without even sweating! It used to drive me crazy, but now I just hope that I’ll be so feisty when I’m his age.

      And don’t even get me started on the super-moms who live down the street and are always out with their two-toddler strollers! I figure there will always be people out there faster and stronger than I am, but I’m not going to give up because of them – if I did, I would never do anything!

      I hope you keep trying – you deserve to find something you love to do and that makes you feel good!

  68. Reblogged this on waking up- and commented:
    I swim. I am not an athlete, I am not that good.. I just do it cause I like it. I enjoy being a swimmer.
    I blog. I write it not because I’m a professional writer. I just do it cause I like it. I enjoy writing my own life down.
    I live.. because I like it, and because I am thankful for the life I’ve been given.
    I hope more people will live in this spirit. :)

  69. Wow, I must say your blog was awesome. And I know what you mean about having friends that are all phenomenal runners since most of my friends run cross country and are Kenyan. Haha, but I have to say the most impressive thing I saw on this page was the fact that you took the time to reply to all the comments. As a new blogger I don’t really know what goes into being Fresh Pressed…but I think you deserve it :)

    1. Thank you so much! Taking time to respond to all the comments means that I have the opportunity to really absorb what people are sharing with me – otherwise, a lot of wonderful advice and links might go by in a blur! Also, it’s fun and incredibly flattering to get so much feedback :) and I want to repay the respect of all my commenters to the best of my abilities.

  70. I like knowing I’m not the only one out there who runs even though I’m not good at it. I have my first 10k this weekend and I fully anticipate it taking me over and hour to run. But you know what? WHO CARES? I’m doing it, and that’s what counts. Plus running makes me feel so accomplished! I’ll have to check this book out :)

    1. Oooh congrats on your upcoming run! I hope you have a blast! I know for certain it would take me over an hour to run a 10k (my very best runs come in at 5 miles an hour), but I still look forward to the challenge of it someday soon! Wishing you luck :)

    1. Love love love that post! It made me laugh and totally reminded me of myself on the weekends (when I always say I’ll do an extra run and somehow never get around to it…:) )

      1. Thank you! I must confess I didn’t actually run today after all (but I did walk 5 miles). I am in a bit of a running slump lately so hopefully your blog will continue to give me some inspiration.

    1. I agree! Running to be prepared for all sorts of crazy potential situations is half the fun! I often spend my runs thinking of all the things I could do if I needed to, just by putting in a little more effort!

  71. I just added his book to my Amazon wish list as I can totally relate! I just at 41 got started into an intense fitness regimen after doing nothing athletic ever. I am kickboxing 4 days a week but have been thinking about running on the other days. (here’s my post on it: )

    Thanks for the inspiration and congrats on being fresh pressed!

    1. Love your post! I totally know how that feels – when I started running a year and a half ago, all my friends and family ever heard about was how it was changing my whole mentality, my outlook on life! I think they started to get sick of it ;) but I still love the feeling of trusting my body to be strong enough for the challenges I tackle.

      Here’s to a couple of tough broads!

  72. “I don’t have to get any better – not to enjoy running, not to be considered a runner – because I run, I’m a runner, and that’s final.”

    I loved that!
    Great reminder. I needed this post. I’ve been an on-again/off-again runner for the past 15 years. I took up running at age 30 (I thought I was “old” then. Ugh) I even completed 4 marathons (fastest time just under 5 hours, others I barely squeezed under the mandatory 6.) I was in great shape, for me anyway. Never achieved that skinny little “runner body”. Not in my genes. But, it was a fun time. I love the energy and camaraderie at a race. Anyway, various life stuff got in the way and I fell out of running regularly. Even though it has always been joyful to me, I have a huge list of excuses. As the years go by, it is definitely getting harder and harder to get out the door and actually do it. Carrying around about 50 more pounds than I did 15 years ago certainly does not help. My “running” is basically more like hobbling now. I don’t know if it actually qualifies as “running”. A 5K seems about all I can handle, and I admit to having to stop and walk every so often. Last summer I felt really ambitious and I signed up for a 5K that involved climbing a mountain at one point (I found out later it was actually longer than a 5K, the race organizers measured wrong…). I came in dead last! In fact, I crossed the finish line about an hour later than everyone else – including my “non-runner” husband. Pitiful. The race organizers were actually tearing down the finish line when I came down the pike. (I believe I gave them a good startle!) But… I finished! That’s always been my mantra. Just keep going. I suppose there’s something to be said for that. I’m going to find a copy of this book. It sounds very motivating. Perhaps there’s hope for me yet. Thanks, and congrats on FP. – MoSop

    1. Bingham has some great stories about being the last one in on many races (apparently in some longer races, they have support vehicles, and he has been shepherded in very slowly by them :) ) – the important thing is that you did it! Think of how much faith in yourself it takes to try when you’re not sure if you’ll succeed. In my opinion, it takes a lot more than when you know you have the natural talent or ability to come in first!

      There is definitely hope for all us, and I hope you’ll keep toeing the starting line!

    1. I hope you check it out – Bingham is amazing at inspiring the hard-to-find athlete in all of us! And if these comments are any indication, there are a lot of people in the same boat! Some of us are feeling confident in our slow progress, others are struggling to get started, and even those who have some natural talent still face plenty of challenges. It’s tough to take that first step, but if you find something you love (and it doesn’t have to be running), it will get easier.

    1. Thank you so much! I definitely find my inspiration everywhere – not just from published authors or experienced runners. In fact, I especially look forward to my Monday runs because recently I’ve started passing two women walkers who always give me a wave and thumbs up when I run by. Just that little bit of encouragement can get me through some very tough runs!

  73. Wonderful post! I will have to check this book out and share it with my running buddies. We’re all in our late-30s/early-40s and started running togther a little more than a year ago. Some were already runners, and some were couch-to-5K types (like myself).

    Glad to hear, too, that I am not the only one who takes issue with some of the organized sports for kids. It’s not always a good experience. I just started coaching this year for Girls On The Run, and that has been a great experience, I think, for the girls.

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    1. I love hearing about programs that work to make active life choices more fun and accesible to children! I think it’s especially great since you’re newish to running yourself – what a great inspiration for those girls!

  74. Thanks for a great article Maria. I am not a runner, well I have never been a runner, even though I hear so many great stories from people who do run! After reading your article, I now understand that my preconception that to be a runner, you have to be a ‘good’ runner, was wrong. Maybe I should give it a go!

    Thanks again.

    1. I hope you give it a try! Now that I’ve tossed out the idea of the perfect runner, I have a lot more fun with it. I also realize that’s not for everyone – in fact, many of my friends (and all of my family) prefers to ride bikes – and while I don’t love cycling, I respect that they get that same kick of joy out of it that I do from running. It’s truly a great thing to find what you love and do it despite a fear of failure.

  75. I usually do not post a comment when there are over 100 already there. I assume the writer is beyond overwhelmed and may never read this. But this post really spoke to me. I was 37 when I ran my first 5k. I just recently blogged about getting down and depressed because I was going so slow. I recieved great feedback and it helped me embrace my 14min/mile self and keep running for the joy of the end (the high I get only when I’m done). I can’t wait to get this book. I think I need a little something to help push me through the bad days.
    Good luck and thanks!

    1. Reading and responding to all the comments here has brought me an insane amount of joy. I love the stories we’re getting to share – even though we’re all at different stages of the journey, I, at least, feel less alone just knowing there are other people on the path.

      I never would have believed there were so many runners like me before this, and it makes me want to cheer for every runner I see, slow or fast, because the sense of community is clearly a lot stronger than I ever imagined. I also have many 14 min/mi days, so next time you get discouraged, know that somewhere out there, a whole lot of us are running slowly together in the right direction!

  76. Excellent! I want to get a copy for my husband. He has such a runner’s heart but translating to making time in his schedule is still tricky (new to running since December). He’d love this!

    1. I hope he enjoys it as much as I have! It’s so heartening to hear Bingham talk about both his trials and successes, as well as that being a good runner doesn’t mean being the best, but rather finding the happiness in it!

  77. This is a great post! I’m glad I found it. Sometimes we get so caught up in defining ourselves by others’ standards or society’s standards, that we lose sight of the joy we find in our lives by doing those things we love. I love the way that books can offer us new perspectives about ourselves. That’s so powerful. Run on!!

  78. Pingback: Ophelia Reads
  79. Great post Maria!

    I started running last month and did my first 5K just two weeks ago. Now I am looking forward to another 5K race in the weekend.. Will run my first 10K in June.. Need I say more :)? Running is indeed ‘addictive’.

    Thanks again for a great post!


  80. I started running avidly about 3 years ago. It was tough at first but now I do pretty well in the races I enter. I have learned to love to run for the fun of it. I used to stress about a horrible training run, now, I just take it in stride. You can’t be the best everyday and sometimes, you just get what you need and enjoy the scenery and fresh air. Good for you!!! Keep it up and never forget why you run!

    1. So true! I had a run today that was nothing special in the speed department (due to a jammed toe) but the weather was perfect and I just loved how happy I felt! I hope that feeling stays with me for many more years of runs, good and bad.

  81. Used to run ages ago when I was in early twenties so I can understand some of the “call of the road” discussions. However getting me to ditch the comfortable chair and start running again will take a major dose of motivation :)
    Will be interested in understanding if he has any reccos on the couch potatoes like me

    1. You should definitely check him out. Bingham and I are no strangers to the couch potato lifestyle (in fact, I still love it, I just love to run too!), and I think he could convince you that walking is a great place to start. You don’t have to run ever if you don’t feel like it, but if after walking for a while, you feel like you want to jog a block or two, do it! If not, that’s fine too!

      The key, in my opinion, is to find something about the process that make you happy – we have enough work in our lives without adding soul-sapping “work” outs. I have a friend who stays in shape by playing DDR on one of those 20 dollar mats for the living room; sure, it’s not a marathon, but he has fun and he’s a lot healthier than he was!

  82. Love the phrase “adult-onset athlete!” I’m going to run right out, not for a run, but to get this book for my husband. It sounds like just the story to inspire his middle age as he tries, literally, to run his gut off.
    Thanks for the review and for *your* compelling writing.

  83. “It has taken me almost a year and a half to feel comfortable running 5k, and even now, I’m a twelve-minute miler on my good days. I barely clock ten miles a week, and I often wonder why I’m not getting any better.”

    That’s so me! I have actually improved from being a walker to a 12 min pace to my best 5K was 9:57 pace. Woo hoo! Single digit pace! Yay me! But I don’t put in the miles and I don’t do “speed work” or hills. Just the act of doing something makes you better at it. My best half marathon pace (Oct 2011) was 10:55 but my most recent one (Mar 2012) was 11:27. I can make any excuse for why I shouldn’t run or why I didn’t do as well as I wanted in a race. Usually the truth is that I wasn’t that motivated. I was not an athlete growing up – unless you count being in marching band – so I have a hard time calling myself a “runner.” Bingham is right, though; if you run you ARE a runner. The effort, not speed or pace, is the deciding factor.

  84. Maria! How encouraging! I started running in October 2010 at 45 years of age, and it’s been a love/hate relationship ever since. What keeps me motivated, however, are the friends I’ve connected with through run groups and on Facebook. But because I’m all over the “pace,” I could never really find that ONE person who matched my eclectic style of running/jogging/walking, and this year I let it get me down a little. I LOVE my run friends! Finally, I realized that I need to work on pacing well, and started running with someone who is a tad bit faster than me on the hills, and I’m a tad bit faster than her on the flat lands. Together we challenge each other and finish at the same time. It’s been heaven. So when the training gets monotonous I think of it like a half marathon: we don’t quit at mile 12 because the reward is just around the corner. Thanks for your encouraging and honest post. And happy running!

    1. This is such a great story! You and I have the same “running birthday” (yup, I just made that up!) and I find it inspiring that you’ve found such a great community to surround yourself with. I very much hope I can find a running buddy to help motivate me in the same way! Congratulations and thanks for sharing!

      1. Maria, you’re welcome to join our FB group for new-ish runners. The First Mile is just getting started, but I’m hoping that with more activity we can begin providing helpful links, races, encouragement, etc for runners looking to connect with others. Let me know if you’d like to be added. We’d love to have you on board!

  85. Good luck! I played competitive sports throughout childhood but never was a distance runner until I started in college. After a few health issues and putting races on hold, I think I’m finally ready to get back outside and trade up the gym for pavement :)

  86. I’m nearing 40 and know too well the ‘joys’ and tribulations of trying to reacquaint myself with the ‘inner athlete’ of my youth!!! Thanks for the laughs and wishing you well on your journey!!!

    1. Thank you so much! I think we need all the encouragement we can get and I’m loving hearing from so many people who are trying as hard as I am to get and stay on track. Good luck!

    1. I hadn’t heard that they found him until you sent this link. My first reaction was just a gut punch of the incredible loss of an amazing free spirit. Having thought about it all day, I’ve decided that he was a man who lived his life with as much or more joy than most of us ever will, so I’m trying to be at peace with it. Still can’t quite help but be sad though…

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