From the Introduction
The real joy begins when we, like that boy, run the bases. The celebration begins when we stop deciding if we are going to run or how we are going to run, and start deciding when we are going to run. The miracle begins by taking the first step.
The Courage to Start shows how, with that first step and with every subsequent step, you can begin to write your own story. It shows how each of us, no matter how ordinary we may seem, is capable of greatness...if we will only risk starting.
What you will read in this book is just about everything I know about running and just about everything I know about myself. It's everything I have learned, everything I have been told, and every discovery I have made. There are no secrets. It is just you and me...and the road that we are on.
That road is not always smooth or flat. There are times when it may seem as though you are running away from who you are much more than running toward who you want to be. There may be times when your body betrays you and your spirit abandons you. The path to enlightenment is not always clearly marked.
But millions of runners have gone before you. Each of them has faced the same fear and uncertainty. Each has learned, as you will, the truth in the Penguin credo. For all of us, the miracle isn't that we finish, the miracle is that we have the courage to start.
Copyright © 1999 by John Bingham
From Chapter One: The Courage to Start
Every January it was the same story. Like so many others I looked to the New Year as the time to start my new life. I started thinking about it in July, of course, but I reasoned that it was better to wait until the New Year to start.
Every year I told myself that this was the year that I was going to change my life. Every year I was filled with hope.
Since I had so many bad habits to choose from -- smoking, drinking, overeating, lack of exercise -- I usually just picked the one I was most concerned about at the time. Some years I told myself I would stop smoking. Other years I resolved to lose weight. Once or twice I planned to get into shape.
Quitting smoking was easy. No problem. Although I had been a smoker most of my adult life, I still wasn't willing to accept that it was anything more than a bad habit. Addicted? Not me! After all, I had quit twenty or thirty times.
Losing weight was easy, too. I just stopped eating. Or at the very least I stopped eating all the foods I liked to eat and replaced them with foods I couldn't stand putting into my mouth.
I liked losing weight and I got very good at it. Unfortunately, I got even better at putting it back on. When you are carrying sixty, seventy, or eighty pounds more than your ideal weight, you've got plenty to work with. The beauty is, with that many extra pounds, almost any diet works...for a little while.
Losing weight satisfied the martyr in me. During the first few weeks of January, I would allow myself to feel a strange combination of self-pity and self-righteousness. I stood in judgment over those who didn't have the self-control that I had. Like any good martyr, I wore the wounds of self-denial as badges of courage.
I wasn't sure exactly what getting in shape meant, but I was pretty sure it had something to do with having a flat stomach, since everyone I saw who looked fit seemed to have a flat stomach. So all of my getting-in-shape programs began with doing sit-ups.
Once, in my early thirties, I actually tried to become a runner. I had an old friend who had become a marathoner and appeared to be a fairly normal person. He lost weight, looked great, and seemed more content than I had ever known him to be. I figured if he could run marathons, so could I. At the time, I had no idea that there was any other distance for a road race. If you were a runner, I thought, you ran marathons.
For a few painful months I tried to be a marathoner. I didn't read any books or magazines about running before I started. How complicated could running be? I reasoned. How much could there be to know? You just put one foot in front of the other, right?
Of course, none of my "get fit" plans lasted more than a few weeks. They never lasted until the spring thaw. In the course of my lifetime I became very accomplished at one thing though: I became very good at quitting.
Copyright © 1999 by John Bingham