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The Courage To Start: A Guide To Running for Your Life

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  914 ratings  ·  102 reviews
“The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” Take your first step toward fitness and a happier, healthier life.

Has the idea of running crossed your mind, but you haven't acted on it because you don't think you have the body of a runner? Have you thought about running but quit before you started because you knew that you would be brea
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 7th 1999 by Atria Books
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Joanne Smith
Oct 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'd just participated in my first 5K when I started reading this book, so the timing was perfect. I have a tendency to discredit myself, because I am really slow and just a beginner, and this book dealt with a lot of feelings that I could relate to.

It was also inspiring to see someone start from very out of shape, to eventually run marathons. My favorite moment in the book was when the author came to the realization that he'd need to find a reason other than winning to keep on going.

The author
Aug 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It's like this book was written FOR me. I started running after my 42nd birthday--the author started after his 43rd. He had to blaze his own trail of discovery about "adult-onset athletics," including a generous allowance for running at your own pace, finding enjoyment in the running itself, not worrying about time or pace, giving yourself a break when you "fail," and all the rest. I think I heard about this author from running blogs, and some Amazon searching led me to try this one first. It wa ...more
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it
John Bingham loved running as a kid. He wasn’t any good at it – he flailed his arms and wouldn’t impress any stopwatch-yielding kindergarten teachers with his time – but he found it an innate pleasure. Every advancing year in elementary school, however, made him increasingly self-conscious about his physical limitations, to the point that he stopped running altogether. He focused on his music, preferring to take part in physical activities only vicariously, by watching athletes on tv. As the yea ...more
Vanessa Fuller
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it
I started reading this as a part of a running/reading group and then never finished it. Until now. More than anything this book helped me to stop obsessing about times and pace and how I 'should' run and to start just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. A run is a run is a run. The rest is just noise really. I can't say that I fully embrace running as a guide to my life. But, running certainly helps me in my life.
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read
Dec 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, but found it rather dull and not nearly as humorous or light-hearted as I'd expected. I enjoy the author's writing in smaller doses (i.e. magazine articles), but over the course of an entire book he became a bit preachy, repetitive, and as cliched as a Melissa Etheridge song. You could invent a fine drinking game by downing a shot every time Bingham-the-psychotherapist goes on about "every journey begins with a single step and you can't get anywhere unless you put one ...more
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'll start this review by saying that I have seen the author John 'the penguin' Bingham speak at many rock 'n' roll marathons. During my first-ever marathon in 2004, his speech was so motivating that I felt I could conquer the world one step at a time and knew that it would not be my last race, but the first of many to come.

This book is meant to be solely motivational to the couch potato or beginning runner looking for motivation. John tells his personal story of getting off of the couch at age
Jul 16, 2010 rated it liked it
This was a pretty good overview of beginning running by a man known for encouraging thousands of would-be runners to strap on their shoes. While I appreciate the effort to provide his personal story AND a basic breakdown of training, equipment, etc., I thought the result was a little watered down. I would have preferred to stick with one topic or the other, rather than trying to cover everything in one volume.
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Slow runners and anyone who has even thought for a moment about running
Shelves: running
I picked up this book after reading a couple of good articles by John Bingham about being a slow runner. Despite the embarrassing title, this is an excellent book and I couldn't put it down. John is humble w/ a touch of self-deprecation, honest and a little nerdy, which is a combo I cannot resist. Though I noticed some repetition throughout, I was able to forgive it since I got the impression the book is mostly a compilation of articles; no big deal.
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: running, health, fitness
This wonderful little tome is short on concrete training advice but long on motivation. John "The Penguin" Bingham took up running later in life in order to improve his health and lose weight, and he has become a spokesperson for "running for the rest of us." This book will not turn you into an Olympic Athlete but it will help turn you into an athlete, which is were it all starts. A great, inspirational book!
Jennifer Moore
Sep 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
John Bingham is my hero. and it is because of this book that i don't care what anyone thinks when i run (and i use that term incredibly loosely - an airforce shuffle is too fast for me). It's not really a book about losing weight, it's more about becoming what you really want to be. and if you are overweight and want to be a runner, it will give you inspiration.
Oct 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The book that started my adult athletic career.
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: running
Great book for beginner runners to read, helped me feel like I wasn't alone, and it was ok that I was running at the speed I was. Looking forward to reading the next one!
Catherine (literaryprints)
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bingham sure can write. Feels like a classic of running literature, if a little unorthodox. Or maybe it's not orthodox at all - only reinforcing the truth that people run for a variety of reasons. That there are vastly different types of runners - including ones that are quite opposite from the stereotypical speed-obsessed, strictly disciplined, racing athlete.

Bingham's aversion towards prioritizing speed or constantly trying to one-up your PR is rather refreshing, if a bit repetitive at times.
Thomasin Propson
2.5 stars. More of a chatty and really long article in a Sunday circular than what I’d expect for a book on running. Or it's a book on mindfulness disguised in penguin clothing (the author's nickname and his symbol for you're-a-runner-even-if-you're-not-fast type folk). For an encouraging “you can do it!” type piece (and other than being really long for that type of read) this was nice. I liked the author’s enthusiasm and passion—I’m honestly happy for him and thinking to myself: “Maybe I CAN do ...more
Maryanne Wilson
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really like this author's style of writing. Makes everything seem totally approachable and not so daunting.
That said, I read two of his books in quick succession so can't remember exactly which was which.
I'd say, if you are going to read multiple, definitely read this one first (makes sense, it is the "start" book).
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Just what I needed in this moment. Struggling with these crazy stressful times and looking to start running as a positive activity to ease my mind and strengthen my body. I ran in the past but not regularly in recent years. I will never be a fast or graceful runner with a svelte body, but I can be a runner. Great message in this book for people like me, “penguins.”
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
For the slow and steady runners who could use some encouragement that runners are people who run, not just people who run fast or far.
Kristy Hales
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is very inspiring for those of us not into the technicalities of running but into a more satisfying and enriched life. I love that he began running in his forties and has found joy in it that makes him younger. I'm starting to pick up running again as I remember my brief year or so as a runner the best I'd ever felt!
Jane Lebak
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
I began reading this because I was having jitters prior to my first 5K. I'm slow, and I have to walk a couple of times while doing a run of that length.

John Bingham describes himself kind of the way I feel about me:

"At age 43, when I decided to run again, I realized that the images used to describe runners didn't fit me. I wasn't a rabbit. I wasn't a gazelle or a cheetah or any of the other animals that run fast and free. But I wasn't a turtle or a snail either. [...] I was a round little man w
Marian Estrada
Sep 09, 2015 rated it liked it
I've chosen this book because it seemed interesting to read, at first I thought it was going to be about an actual penguin who ran. Soon I realized it was a type of runner. The protagonist in the story is John Bingham, and his supporting characters are his friends and wife who support him and join him. The antagonists is being at the back or the pack, a ’’penguin”. John’s conflict began when he had realized he had been a penguin all his life. Years later, John had decided to get faster and bette ...more
Apr 11, 2016 rated it liked it

This book grabbed my attention the second I picked it up. I chose to read this book because I find running to be interesting but not many can achieve this talent. The Courage to Start by John Bingham is a nonfiction, health and fitness book about rediscovering oneself. It inspires many to get up from their couches and try something new in their lives that will benefit them and their health. The protagonist of this book is the author himself, John Bingham, with his friends and wife being the sup
Yuliana Ibarra
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
- Genre: Exercise/Fitness
- I chose to read this book because in the title it says "A guide to running" and personally I have tried running before but than I run out of motivation to keep on running so I simply just stop. I chose to read this book because I wanted to be motivated about running again and I want to learn little but important details about running. I wanted to learn how to be physically ready to run and also mentally ready to run.
- Protagonist: John Bingham
- Supporting characters
Sharudin Jamal
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very inspiring book. John had successfully captured the essence of running in a simple and eloquent writing style. This book is suitable for the newbies as well as those who had been running for a while but wanted to rekindle the spirit of the sport. I had read many books written on the subject but none surpassed the writing style of John Bingham. He is funny and yet dead serious when comes to describing the matter at hand. Will certainly reread it in the near future.
Feb 11, 2016 added it
Shelves: 2016
I did not want to rate this book because I have very distinct opinions about the content and the style. The content is really good, motivating not only for running but also for the real life. The sentences of the author can be quoted for our daily lives. The introduction tells useful things to start running and indeed as soon as I read that chapter, I went to buy a running shoes. I am very determined by knowing "fail to failure".

However... The style makes the book a little boring, there are many
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
This book showed me that running can be fun. The penguin approach to running interests me because I'm running now (1) because I want to be able to outrun the zombies in the Zombie Survival Dash I signed up for, (2) I used to be able to run forever without stopping and now I can't, and (3) as a social activity, since I have people in my life who run. The penguins -- as described in this book -- do put everything they have into the race even though they know they aren't going to win. They are havi ...more
Aug 11, 2008 marked it as to-read
I've read this one before, mnany years ago when I first started running. It was given to me by a friend who runs and it helped me get the right mindset about it's written by a kinda slow pudgy runner.

I just ran my first 10K (only my second race) yesterday and thought I'd dig this book out again for a second read. At the time of my first reading, working on speed and endurance were far from my mind. I was working on being able to run just one mile without stopping.

Maybe I'll find so
Rachel Weingarten
Jan 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'm not a runner, though I dream of being one. In fact I'm fairly klutzy and mostly uncoordinated and know that if I ran the pavement of NYC would do a number on my knees, and yet I adore a book on running. Bingham applies his philosophy to running or starting to run, but his wisdom can be applied to anything tough or challenging in life. A great motivational book that doesn't rely on cliches or rehashed concepts.
Dec 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This might be my new running bible. Bingham is philosopher, coach, cheerleader. I love his attitude. Wish I had written down some of my favorite quotes, but I got it from the library and returned it way too quickly. Might have to buy it just to read it again often. Whether you're new to running, coming back after a layoff, or just need some inspiration, this is a go to book for anyone who might not be fast, but who has the heart of a runner.
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aka 'The Penguin'. John Bingham became well known for his 'The Penguin Chronicles' in Runner's World where he told in detail about his development from couch potato to runner and how that changed his life.

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“At age 43, when I decided to run again, I realized that the images used to describe runners didn't fit me. I wasn't a rabbit. I wasn't a gazelle or a cheetah or any of the other animals that run fast and free. But I wasn't a turtle or a snail either. I wasn't content anymore to move slowly through my life and hide in my shell when I was scared.

I was a round little man with a heavy heart but a hopeful spirit. I didn't really run, or even jog. I waddled. I was a Penguin. This was the image that fit. Emperor-proud, I stand tallto face the elements of my life. Yes, I am round. Yes, I am slow. Yes, I run as thought my legs are tied together at the knees. But I am running. And that is all that matters.”
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