Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Help from "The Penguin"

As a minister who has read a lot about counseling and as a person with mental illness who has been in therapy for 100 years (well, it feels like 100 years), I have read plenty of "self-help" and psychology books. Books about cognitive behavioral therapy, how to manage attention deficit disorder, nutrition and mental illness, 12 step programs, family systems theory, childhood psychology, Dr. Phil, and many more.

Each book and writer promises to be able to help me change my life, inspire me, and give me personal revelations. However, there is only one author I turn to in the midst of a life that is spiraling out of control and a breakdown of mass proportions- John, "the Penguin" Bingham.

John Bingham writes about running. He writes about how to start running, how to train for a marathon, how to avoid black toenails and chafing. So, why is he the author I turn to when I am, as I say, "loosing it?" Because exercise and a healthy lifestyle helps keep my bipolar, panic and ADD manageable and his books inspire me to do those things.

I stopped running when we moved back home a few years ago. In Chicago, the running community is huge and every pace runner and run/walker is welcome. In Cleveland, I am almost always the slowest, which would be ok if the running culture here was more open to slower runners. You clearly get the vibe here that slow runners should not be at a 5K, half marathon, or marathon, and there are very few slow runners at Cleveland races. It makes racing awful, yet one of the things I love about running is the races.

So, I picked up John Bingham's newest book, "An Accidental Athlete" and I have the courage to start running again. His book helped me remember I should not care that I am slow, because I love running. I love running for the fun of it and I like training for long races because it is a challenge. I like long runs with my husband where we talk and discuss the important stuff in life. Bingham focuses on the fact that running pace does not matter, instead, we run for all the great things it brings into our lives. Running changes our life no matter how fast we run. He says in his book No Need for Speed, "Through running, I create myself as I have always wanted to be."

The whole process of training for and finishing a race makes you a different person each time. You learn more about who you are and what you value. Not to mention, training for an event keeps you running, which is important because of the proven benefits of exercise on mental health.

When I stopped running, I lost myself. I lost all the progress I had made. I lost my decision to care about myself and believe I could get better. Bingham's books remind me I don't have to loose all of those things. I have the ability to change all of that and make my dreams come true. John Bingham says of runners, "The miracle is that we were able to reach down and find some part of ourselves that still believed our dreams were possible."

Reading his books reminds me that I still believe my dream of a good life is possible.

Where do you find hope and inspiration?


Rev. Katie


  1. Steven Covey says that the compass needs to be our measure, not the clock. Direction, not speed.

  2. Hi RevChris,
    I like that saying. Sounds like I should check out Covey's books as well. I always hear about them but have not read them.


  3. Frankly, at this moment I am finding inspiration from you! (But I'm going to order the book you referenced too). I think I've come across "The Penguin" on the runners world website/magazine? Thanks for your coolness and honesty.

    1. Hi Clare,
      Thank you for reading the blog and I ma glad it is helpful to you! You would have seen "The Penguin" in Runners World, he used to write for them. If you are already a runner, I hope the book advances your running, or if you are a new runner I hope it inspires your new endeavor. I am really glad you commented on this post because it reminded me to go back and read some of my favorite quotes from him for motivation!


      Rev. Katie