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An Accidental Athlete: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Middle Age Paperback – August 1, 2011
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"The Penguin does it again! An Accidental Athlete is a charming, witty and relatable tale of John finding himself through running. In this great book he shares his journey with us one stride and two laughs at a time." -- Deena Kastor, American marathon record holder, Olympic medalist, and 12-time national champion
"John Bingham is Edward Abbey, Frank Shorter, Brad Pitt, and George Carlin all wrapped in one. John as writer has a lesson or tale in all his adventures." -- Bart Yasso, Runner's World magazine
"Looking for some motivation to start running and improve your fitness? You're sure to find some inspiration from John Bingham's new memoir An Accidental Athlete." -- ESPN.com
"Most of us can truly identify with John Bingham's story: There are no gold medals, no laurel wreaths, no world records. But John shows us that we have something more important: a chance, if we have the will and believe in ourselves." -- Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon race director
"In An Accidental Athlete, Bingham…describes his journey from a clumsy wannabe-athlete kid to the realization of a dream: that by being a runner, especially a back-of-the-packer, you are truly an athlete…Bingham's witty, engaging prose will [provide] you with a few hours of delightful distraction." -- Canadian Running magazine
"John ‘The Penguin' Bingham has touched a nerve with runners worldwide like no one in the last decade. He's funny but serious, informal but inspirational." -- Amby Burfoot, Runner's World magazine
"For anyone who might feel overwhelmed or overly fond of couch time, John Bingham's charming memoir can help....[Bingham's] sense of humor...adds to the sweet appeal of the story, providing enough encouragement to anyone looking to exercise more." -- ForeWord magazine
"This charming, gently funny autobiography from the big-hearted Bingham is a testament to hangin' in there…If more people were like him, where each event, run, mile, step is a celebration, the world would be a better-and healthier-place." -- Library Journal
"Bingham uses a great knack for storytelling, and some really funny examples, in his new book about becoming a middle-aged athlete…Some of the best stories (perhaps because I can relate to them) are those of the real racing done at the back of the pack." -- TriMadNess
From the Back Cover
A funny thing happened on my way to middle age. I became an athlete. And not just any athlete, but a runner—all without taking a running step until I was 43 years old.
Known by fans as “The Penguin for his back-of-the-pack speed, John Bingham is the unlikely hero of the modern running boom. In this warm, witty memoir, the best-selling author and columnist recalls his childhood dreams of athletic glory, sedentary years of unhealthy excess, and a life-changing transformation from couch potato to “adult-onset athlete.
Overweight, uninspired, and saddled with a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoking habit, Bingham found himself firmly wedged into a middle-age slump. Then two scary trips to the emergency room and a conversation with a happy piano tuner led him to discover running—and changed his life forever.
In turns inspiring, poignant, hilarious, and heartbreaking, An Accidental Athlete is the story of the unexpected joys of running—the pride of the finisher's medal, a bureau-busting t-shirt collection, intense back-of-the-pack strategizing. And one man's discovery that middle age was not the finish line after all, but only the beginning.
More About the Author
His break-through first book "The Courage to Start" and his best selling "No Need for Speed", John "the Penguin" Bingham inspired hundreds of thousands of men and women to run for fun, fitness, and self-affirmation. His book, "Marathoning for Mortals", co-authored by Coach Jenny Hadfield, revolutionized long-distance running and walking. With "Running for Mortals" John and Jenny brought the joy of running to everyone.
Once an overweight couch potato with a glut of bad habits, including smoking and drinking, at the age of 43 Bingham looked mid-life in the face--and started running. Since then, he has completed 45 marathons and hundreds of 5K and 10K races--and developed a whole new outlook
John is the National Spokesperson for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training Program and is the voice of the Competitor Group's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series.
Top Customer Reviews
The writing is ok, it is written conversationally and it is a conversation I'd leave quickly in person. I think that this book would have made a great article in a runners magazine with some tight editing.
The book explores the author's relationship with being overweight, a smoker and always wanting to be but never quite being an athlete until he is in his 40's. I give the author great credit for taking the initiative to change his life and get in shape, that is tough no matter when you start and I admire his resilience. But, the book doesn't really give concrete examples of how someone might get started, it does give you kudos for staying at the back of he pack and for finishing and I get that to a certain point but he goes over and over again how he consistently finishes last and is ok with that. You don't have to be in shape or do anything other than show up to finish last. I'd like to see more of what he did to increase his ability, I'd have liked to see a training example, I'd like to see him really encouraging others to do it rather than hoping that they'll read about him working through his issues and find a path of their own. There is really no arc to the story, it is just a flat line, "I started, I got marginally better and just kept at it, I raced the guys at the back of the pack and somehow became an athlete." He does make mention of getting better and even winning races bu you never know how the transition occurred other than imagining that he put in enough miles and kept improving.Read more ›
Unlike Mr. Bingham I have spent most of my life competing in one sport or another. After high school I found that there was not much in the way of football to play for older guys so I took up running, biking, golf and competitive shooting (pistol, trap and skeet). I was young and to be quite frank was at least semi-good at what I did - I was at least competitive and while never a "top gun" at any of the sports, but those who I went up against at least knew I was there lurking just behind them. I am extremely competitive in nature and these sports fulfilled my needs.
And then ooops!
I got old. I was no longer even in the broadest sense of the term "competitive." I felt as if I were a non-person in every event I entered. As I got older, the worse it became.
As chance would have it, I finally grew up and came to many of the same conclusions that John Bingham has arrived at. This was a painful journey for me; this inability to accept the fact that I was simply older and could no longer perform at the level I did during my twenties and early thirties but I must say, by adopting Mr. Bingham's attitude over time, I am now a very well adjusted geezer who still participates in his chosen sports and am again able to enjoy them to the fullest.Read more ›
It doesn't matter when you start as long as you have begun a program to feel better and accomplish a dream. Bingham takes us through his own journey which is both entertaining and amusing. He stresses that it is alright to "accidentally" bring out the athlete in you. There is no need for speed but strive to enjoy your run..along with any set backs you may have you can do it.
I am a follower of Bingham's articles in Runners World and always find his stories inspirational and funny. His tenacity to show that anyone who sets out to accomplish their goal regardless of when they started can do it and also have a lot of fun ion the process.
Wonderful book for an older athlete getting back into shape of even a first time athlete. I found it to be an enjoyable book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Enjoyed every page. Could really relate to his poor eating and overindulgence. This is quite inspiring. Brings new meaning to "its a marathon not a sprint."Published 6 months ago by Lawrence Ryan
Loved this book. I laughed so hard it hurt. I didn't want it to ever end. I want to be a runner and this book is really encouraging.Published 8 months ago by TincieM
This book explains the joys and humor of fails in running. An excellent read for anyone wondering why a runner runs.Published 12 months ago by Keith M. Carey
I've been running for a few years now and this helped me remember all the fun I had when I first started off. It was great to think about those times.Published 15 months ago by Peter J. Flagg
I like the penguin started running later in life (53) I truly understand and can relate to all that he masterfully writes in this bookPublished 22 months ago by Jeffery R. LaDow
Wonderful book on showing that you don't have to be slender and fit to start running. That once you start running, you can have a great time and meet new friends.Published 22 months ago by Maggie A.