Monday, November 12, 2012

November Book Club: The Courage to Start

It's that time again!

It's book club time.  If you haven't joined yet don't worry you still can, just go here to do so.

This month the book that we read was "The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Your Life" by John "The Penguin" Bingham. 

I was hesitant to pick this book at first because I thought it would be too basic, however, I went ahead anyway because not everyone in the book club is an avid runner.  We all start somewhere and often, as Bingham mentions in his book, we can learn something new about running even if we have been doing it for years.

Mike and I revisited running after a long hiatus, we both ran cross country when we were younger but swimming was our true passion.  Since we started running again in April 2011 we have completed over 30 races, but does that mean that we are experts about the sport? Heck no!

I loved reading about Bingham's reasons for starting to run and laughed at (and related to) many of his stories.  His description of his first race, where he went to line up at the front and his friend slowly made him move to the back, was hilarious but right on. 

As with many books, I often felt like he was talking about me and Mike throughout his writing. It was a little scary at times some of the similarities. (One story talked about how he DNF'd a marathon, but his wife went on to finish the race. Been there, done that).

No, this is not us AT ALL

Love it!

The book is separated into four parts: "The Courage to Start", "The Next Step", "The Road to Victory" and "Running for Your Life".  I enjoyed each of these parts in the book and I found that "The Road to Victory" and "Running for Your Life" resonated with me the most.

I enjoyed his descriptions of the four kinds of runners: the really fast runners (the elites), the pretty fast runners (the local runners who win races), the kind-of-fast runners (runners who may place in their age group) and the back-of-the-pack runners (The Penguins). 

Bingham chronicled his journey through running in such a way that I felt like I was with him there the entire time.  From when he just ran to the end of his driveway to when he ran his first race to running his first marathon and to identifying as a runner, I was there for it all.

In his own words, "this is, in large part, a book about why to run. Whether you are simply thinking about beginning to run, or have been running for a week or a lifetime, this book will help you think differently about the activity of running and about the sport of running. This book will show, through my own experience and the experience of hundreds of others, how you can find the joy in running that we do".

 I'm a runner because I run.

I would encourage any of you to read this book and discovery the joy of running, or rekindle that love, for yourself.

Here are some reviews from other book club members:

Carrie at Fitness and Frozen Grapes
Leah at Chocolate and Wild Air
Emily at Life, Fitness and Me!
Ed at Everyday Living in the Pacific Northwest

Now onto the discussion portion of book club! And thanks Carrie for some of the questions!

Bingham ran a bit when he was younger, but he didn’t start running on a regular basis until he was 43.  When did you begin running?

Waddling, round, and emperor-proud, Bingham says he runs like a penguin.  How would you personify your running style?   

Which of the four kinds of runners would you identify with the most: the really fast runners, the pretty fast runners, the kind-of-fast runners or the back-of-the-pack runners? Why?

What is your greatest running accomplishment?

Don't forget that January's book is "You Are an Ironman" by Jacques Steinberg and the discussion post will be up on January 14.  Feel free to email me your book reviews so that I can include you in my post!


  1. I started reading this book in the summer and had to return it to the library before I finished it. I found it kind of a slow read for some reason. I'm not sure why I had such a hard time getting "into" it. I may revisit it at some point, but my reading time has been minimal lately. Oh, and I did a review of "You Are an Ironman" a while back - I'll try to find the link - it was with a bunch of other books.

    -I didn't begin running until 38 (last year).
    -My running style is slow and while I don't think I "waddle", I don't think "penguin" is far off.
    -Definitely a back of the packer. I have been dropped before getting out of the parking lot where the race started (duathlon last year).
    -Greatest running accomplishment to date is that I started at all.

    1. That is a good point..I think anyone starting to run and keeping with it is an awesome accomplishment!

    2. I agree, that is definitely a great accomplishment! If you don't start, then you can't achieve anything else!

  2. I started running when I was 27. I think I was trying to start running way befor ethen whith no luck...

    My running style can be described as one of my wife's nicknames for me, Mr. Bump! Lol I am very clumsy so I tend to trip and hurt myself all the time...

    I think I am the kind-of-fast wont find me in the front, but i wont be last!

    My greatest accomplishment would be finishing my first 1/2 in 2010....not all that exciting but something...oh and learning to run hills, so much show that i started to enjoy it, that was a big deal for me!

    I have an additional question for everyone...What was your most embarrassing moment when learning to run?

    For me it would have to be my first 5k, which I wore track pants that were way to big and way to heavy for the run, I spent the entire time pulling up my pants, to the point that one of the other runners noticed and commented on it after the race lol

    1. Great responses, Ed! Thanks for asking another question.

      I'm not really sure I have an embarrassing moment, but I definitely wore "inappropriate" clothes while running. Cotton t-shirts, too baggy pants, etc. I think it's all part of the learning process!

  3. I've heard a lot about this book and his quote about he is a runner because he runs is everywhere I look these days. I'l have to look into reading this!

  4. Great review, Jamie! Technically, I've run recreationally since middle school--running to stay in shape for field-hockey, basketball, and softball--but I didn't truly identify as a runner until last year. Even today, I struggle with calling myself a runner because I'm swimming and biking too. Off to read the other reviews now. :)

    1. Oh yea, I identify as a runner and a triathlete ;) I think right now it is easier to call myself a runner because most of our races have been road races, but as we do more triathlons I think I will call myself a triathlete more often.

  5. I actually thought of you and Mike when I read the section about John and his wife. I'd love to have a spouse someday who appreciates health and wellness as much as I do!! Great choice for my first book club participation book. Looking forward to more!

    1. I think that is important in any relationship. If you are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to fitness, the relationship can suffer (doesn't mean it wont work though)

  6. I am really late posting my review as I was in Disney for the Wine and Dine 1/2 Marathon, but here it is now!

  7. Just looking ahead to the future books for next couple months and came across Life Without Limits - Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life by Nick Vujicic while I was looking for March's book. This may be an interesting book as well. It is not running related but thought I would throw it out there for consideration.

    PS I am really enjoying You Are an Ironman so far.