The Courage to Start

Healthy Lifestyles, self improvement, The Inspired Life

“The Miracle isn’t that I Finished. The Miracle is that I had the Courage to Start”

John “The Penguin” Bingham

How did an overweight, 43 year old couch potato who smoked and drank and had a clumsy gait like a penguin end up completing 40 marathons, hundreds of 5K and 10K runs, become the author of several best selling books and inspire hundreds of thousands of men and women to run for fun, fitness and to feel better about themselves?

He started.

He woke up one day, put on a pair of sneakers, ran down to the end of his driveway, and ran back. The next day he did it again. The next time a little further. Next thing he knew, he was running three days a week. Soon after that, he became a runner.

The amazing part of John “The Penguin” Bingham isn’t that he discovered a latent talent for running that had gone unnoticed, or that he was more special than you or I. The amazing part about John is that he is one of the few who actually woke up one day, looked at his life, deemed it unworthy and started over. He gave himself a do-over.

Somewhere along the way, it is common for folks to imagine that their lives are a train going down a very long continuous track. They peer down that track, seeing no end in sight for miles and miles, years and years and think, “well, that’s my train, that’s my track, can’t change it, it’s the track I’m stuck with.”

They may even be able to look back and tell you, right where the train took the switch and changed directions, veering off the course they had dreamed about. But never-the-less- it’s too late now. Their train is on a one way path to wherever…

John Bingham was able to peer down that track and see what lied ahead. It wasn’t going to be pretty. At 43 years of age, he was overweight, washed up, with no dreams or inspiration, nothing to look forward to and a lifetime of sedentary, passive existence on the sidelines of life.

He pulled the switch and turned his train around.

He had the courage to just start, just jump right in to something new. A new way of living, a new plan, a new mindset, new habits and ultimately a new life that would take him to places and adventures and success that he couldn’t have even imagined when he first stood outside his garage and laced up those sneakers. He had no idea where he was going or even if he would be able to run more than a few steps. All he knew was that the certainty of the past, continuing into his future was a worse bet then trying something new.

The best keys to success state that to succeed you need to have a vision, a plan and the steps to make it happen. Know where you are going and how you are going to get there. In theory, I agree.

However, there are times, and often it is somewhere between a rock and a bottom, where just about anywhere is better then where you are about to end up. Drastic times call for drastic measures and at times like that, there isn’t time to wait for the Muse of Vision to shine on your path.

In those times, it’s time to take a step, one step, in the right direction. Just a run to the end of the driveway if that is all you can do. Tomorrow, you can go a little further. Just jump in and get started. Soon you you will be able to look back and see how far you have come, but for now, just one step.

Everyone has the power to improve their lives. Though faith, through community, through love, through hard work, through self-discipline, through soul-searching and a willingness to serve others, we can all become better people, we can all become a better community. It can happen one step at a time. We are not really trains on tracks. That is only an illusion.

It takes courage. Courage to take the first step. Courage to take the next and the one after that, one baby step at a time. Soon, if it wasn’t there to begin with, the vision will come, the plan will evolve and then the runner will be able to run. All the way to the finish line.

It takes courage to cross the finish lines of life… It takes even more courage to believe you can start running at all.

Are there places you could change by just starting? Why not just jump right on in? What are you waiting for?

If not Now then When?



18 thoughts on “The Courage to Start

  1. “What are you waiting for?”

    Courage, Wendi, courage. Have joined an energy circle filled with like minded people and find they accept my “gifts” and we share unconditionally. A sanctuary away from home, several times a month. It took courage to walk into that room two weeks ago. It took courage to let all the “walls” down and just Be. No more waiting. . . that first baby step has been achieved. Love this post about John Bingham!
    Thanks again, for a fabulous “visit”.
    Ms. O

  2. WOW! I don’t know if you have read my blog lately but I briefly touched on this same subject. It wasn’t as inspirational as yours was but there was a glimmer of the idea. You definitely inspired me with this one, I’ve been throwing around an idea in my head about a triathlon and actually looked into it a few times, this post definitely makes me think that if I don’t “jump in” I may never.

  3. excellent post! and if you consider quantum physics the very moment you get the idea to do something, like run a marathon, a new timeline appears in which you do indeed run that marathon (as time only appears linear to us) and your future self can give encouragement to your present self (if you listen!).

  4. Ms. O,
    I have known you to have a lot of courage. Congrats on this new endeaver, it sounds very interesting, I will be very excited to hear where it all leads.

    Every day is a new chance to make a change.


  5. Jenny!
    I like the new name, Random Ramblings!
    If you decide to really do a triathlon, let me know. I have my medal for my first one sitting here by my desk and I look at it from time to time, thinking about doing another. I did that one solo…it would be a lot more fun to do one with a friend.

  6. Daz,

    When I ran my first Marathon, I wanted to quit a month before. But myself wouldn’t let me. ( one could say I am very stubborn once I make up my mind) Maybe it was my future self talking my presnt self into sticking with it. Either way, I am glad I did it, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

  7. Wendi – this is a very inspiring post! You are my hero(ine) today – I also want to run a marathon, and I know I can do it. I actually plan to do it barefoot (I’m a barefoot runner) and I figure I should be ready by about this time next year. Maybe sooner, with some luck… 🙂 thanks for sharing this story today.

  8. Brett, Thanks!

    I am pretty sure there is another marathon in my future as well. My last one was one of my greatest memories. I am thinking for my 50th birthday…

  9. I turn my train around every few years. For awhile there, it was actually a habit for me. I was searching for what I wanted out of life and learning by trial and error, riding the tracks to train stations all over the place. Now, my train is still chugging along but I make less frequent stops. I have a better idea of where I am going. Changing directions is something I’m familiar with. I’ve done it both through careful planning and on a whim — and it almost always turns out for the better.

  10. the best.. it inspires all the people.. laziness would be the main problem..
    but if we love what we are doing we can have the courage to start.. 🙂

  11. I am on a growth path to really refocus my mind and the direction my life is going. It is refreshing to see that other like minded people are able to articulate exactly the way you feel. I know this has been a gradual process, but I feel like Bingham. Like I just woke up one morning and put my foot to the earth and declared that this is the direction am going to head in and nothing is going to stop me from achieving this goal. I am going to enjoy each moment of the day, knowing that I don’t have to fear tomorrow, or be afraid of what it will bring. I also understand (now) that this journey is a process that takes time. For some reason, I had this crazy idea that I could ingest the entire “elephant” of life and not choke. Well, I have choked enough and I am ready to sit at the table and learn, process, understand and share and cut the elephant up piece by piece. Thanks for the insight …I get it now! Sherita

  12. Jonathon,

    Welcome to Life’s Little Inspirations! I hope you will come back often. I think laziness is a problem we all fight. But it can be conquered. Most days. 🙂

  13. Sherita,

    Those darn elephants are hard to chew! I’ve tried to swallow a few myself.
    Thanks for coming. Pull up a chair and we’ll travel through the lessons together, teaching each other as we grow.
    It’s good to have you here for the journey. There are a lot of good people traveling with us.

  14. Wendi,

    There’s a saying in Iowa, where I lived for a few years, that if you pick a calf up every day from the day it’s born, some day you will be able to lift a cow. (Hokey but inspiring!) That’s about how I try to approach the big tasks in my life. I can pick it up today (which may be tough!), or I can wait until tomorrow, when it will weigh a bit more. So I get up and do it, whatever it is. (Well, mostly… 🙂 )

    I’m glad I wandered over here from Men With Pens! Your writing is wonderful!

    [Brett, 26 miles without shoes? OUCH!]



  15. Kelly, I had heard that saying about the calf. but what happens if you can’t pick up the calf the day it is born??

    oh well….

    I’m glad you wandered over too. Now if we could just get the pen men over. It might be a bit to sappy for James, but Harry might like it on a good day.

    And as far as Brett goes…26miles in bare feet??? I’ll bring him an extra pair of shoes, that’s what friends are for.

  16. @ Wendi: you are welcome! I know you can do it, and I know I can do it too. Perhaps we will run the same race someday. I’m sure you’ll beat me though.

    @ Melissa: *blush* well, thank you – I think it’s one of my more interesting quirks. If you go back far enough in my genealogy I have some Native American in me, so perhaps that is part of it.

    @ Kelly: yes, it sounds kind of crazy, doesn’t it. I have a barefoot hero, a guy called Barefoot Ted. Ted runs loooong races, 100+ miles, with no shoes. When he used to wear shoes, he’d only go for about an hour. So I know I can do it.

    And if I can’t Wendi will have some spare shoes for me.

    @ Wendi: thank you for bringing the shoes, my friend 🙂

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