This Year Find the Courage to Start at a Disney Race

| January 23, 2010

We’re three weeks into January.  Did you make a New Year’s Resolution this year?  Maybe you vowed to get in shape or exercise?  Maybe your sights were set a little higher… maybe you plan on using one of the races held at Walt Disney World such as the Princess Half Marathon, Muddy Buddy, Inaugural Wine & Dine Half Marathon, or next January’s Goofy Race and a Half Challenge as motivation to get moving.  At Disney’s Health and Fitness Expo held this past marathon weekend, I was able to speak with one of the invited clinic speakers, Mr. John Bingham.  Listen to my interview below to hear how running allowed a self-described short, fat trombone player to discover himself, and, if you are new to running, how you can find the “courage to start”.


Click here to listen to the complete interview with John Bingham.

In addition to the races held during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, one of the big events is Disney’s Health and Fitness Expo held at the Wide World of Sports Complex.  The Expo has a number of vendors, guests, and celebrity speakers including John Bingham, one of the speakers who led a clinic.  John Bingham has been called the “Pied Piper” of the second running boom.  However, he is not the elite athlete one might expect.  John goes by the moniker “The Penguin”.  He began running when 43 years old, weighed 240 pounds, and a heavy smoker and drinker.  After a few months of this increased activity, he felt good about himself, and glanced at his reflection when running by a plate glass window.  Instead of the lean athlete he envisioned, he saw a short, fat man waddling down the sidewalk, and the image of a penguin stuck in his mind.

John embraced the Penguin identity, and continued transforming himself from a sedentary couch potato through walking and running.  His approach is from the point of view of someone never an athlete but, instead, a short, fat kid who played trombone.  John represents the “everyman” out there, and has become a model for people of all ages and abilities to find joy in walking, running, and racing.  John maintains that when starting to get in shape later in life, your goals and aspirations need to be realistic.  John has enjoyed discovering what his body could do – starting with his first run of less than 100 yards.  After finishing a marathon, someone commented it was a miracle he finished.  John replied, “the miracle isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”  He encourages everyone to start to lead a healthy lifestyle by taking wherever you are at this point in your life and commit to being more active.  When asked how to get started, John replies, “Get out of your house a couple days a week, wander around your neighborhood, look at your neighbor’s garden, and get used to the idea that a couple of times a week you’re going to move.”

For those thinking of trying your first Disney race in the upcoming year John suggests two things: 1.) be patient with yourself and 2.) be gentle with yourself.  For example, he had been smoking, drinking, and overeating for years, and it takes time to get out of shape – incrementally a day at a time.  Therefore, it also takes time to get back in shape.  You are not going to turn it around in a week.  If you want to participate in the Walt Disney World Marathon next January, set intermediate goals to keep moving toward your ultimate goal.  Another good idea is to find a support group to help you with your training.  As far as the Disney races go, you’ll find a great group of people training to run any Disney race on the WISH forum of the DISboards.  WISH stands for “We’re Inspired to Stay Healthy”, and in those forums you will find people of all abilities to support you in training for your race.  Once you make it to the starting line, John sees “no need for speed” during the Walt Disney World Marathon.  He encourages race participants to stay on the course as long as possible – get your money’s worth.  He says, “it’s Walt Disney World, we runners and walkers have the parks to ourselves.  Everyone else going to the theme park wants to stay in there as long as they possibly can.”  So take John’s advice, slow down, enjoy yourself, and I’ll see you at the finish line.

You can find out more about John Bingham’s marathon training programs, books, and articles on www.johnbingham.com.  John is a runner and writer who has had a monthly column in Runner’s World magazine since 1996.  In 2010, John left Runner’s World to write and blog for Competitor Magazine.  He has also published a number of running books including: The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for your Life (1999), No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running (2002), Marathoning for Mortals: A Regular Person’s Guide to the Joy of Running or Walking a Full or Half Marathon (2003), and Running for Mortals: A Commonsense Plan for Changing Your Life With Running (2007).  In addition, John serves as the national spokesperson for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training the official Race Beneficiary of the Walt Disney World Marathon.

Do you have plans to run one of the Disney races this year?  Are you inspired to tackle your first or maybe your 50th marathon?  Log on below with your DISBoards Username and Password and leave a comment to share your plans.


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  • mla1977

    Another great blog Dave! I was at the TnT Inspiration Dinner (held in the World Showplace Pavillion) and I got to her the Penguin speak. He was great! I’ve been trying to follow the training plans in his book and have successfully completed 3 half marathons in 10 months. I’ll be back next January with TnT to do my first full marathon!

  • deekaypee

    Great blog, Dave! I always appreciate the coverage you give on any topic, and it’s particularly gratifying to see your work on Disney marathon weekend and it’s connections with W.I.S.H. The DISboards have given many of us penguins (and tortoises and rabbits, all the wonders of the animal kingdom) “the courage to start” pursuing our Disney race dreams. Thanks for highlighting both Bingham’s work and W.I.S.H.!

  • dsnyfan21

    Thanks so much for the interview with “the Peguin”. I have read his book, Marathoning for Mortals and loved to hear his thoughts on things. I love doing Disney races as it helps me with my Disneyworld Addiction. WIth races in Jan, March, Sept(dl) and now October, it is just awesome!
    It was a great interview and love hearing about us W.i.S.H.ers. Thanks

  • Scotth

    In this day and age of lack of activity the words of the Peguiun ring sooo true, thanks Dave for brining forth this message that these events are for all, I really hope this brings and inspiration for folks to get out there toe teh line, know the joy of crossing the finish line, wearing a KEWL medal and yes even knowing that should one not finish, realize that there is a big world of folks who admire and respect them for training and toeing the line. Well done and Thanks.

  • MoJo

    This is one of the most inspirational blogs on running that I have read in a long time. I love to do Disney running races and have never been a “speedster”, but the “Penguin” reminds us that it is not how fast you do the race, just getting out there is what is important. Thank you, Dave, for interviewing him.
    I just want to also make a note that I would like to hear more segments on the Disney Endurace Series on the podcast. There are tons of people like me that enjoy Disney racing, but there seems to be a lack of coverage of the events.
    Well done, Dave.

  • OKraysLoveDisney1

    Truly a wonderful inspiration “penguin”! It gives me the courage to know that a Disney race is within my reach. Four years ago I was barely able to walk due to damage from taking a Rx medicine. Thankfully, I am doing much better and I take daily walks and feel great. A Disney race is a goal of mine…even if I don’t finish it will still be a big accomplishment for me. Please continue to provide info on Disney racing and thanks much!

  • AnneR

    Dave – I just wanted to thank you for including this topic with your WDW blogs. As someone who has recently started an exercise program that is including running, I found this blog both helpful in terms of what to focus on and inspirational. I am still waffling with setting a race goal but am really considering setting a Disney race as a goal. How cool would it be to not only achieve my health goals but get to run through a Disney resort hopefully with a group of my friends.

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  • http://mommywho.blogspot.com tonyadenmark

    Great blog Dave! I always enjoy your informative interviews and blogs. I plan on running the Expedition Everest this year with my hubby. This will be our first race. I’ve been doing the Couch to 5K, but I’m now interested in the Penguin’s books since another poster said they’ve now run marathons based on his program. Thanks again for sharing!

  • timmac

    Nice job getting an interview with Bingham… and good for you for encouraging people to give these races a go. No other place besides WDW is quite as friendly to newbies! :)

  • cinderrunner

    So excited to see this article! Disney is a terrific place to run and I am so excited that they embrace runners of all speeds! Bingham’s books are by my bedside every night and I often refer to them! He is the whole reason why I am a runner! I have completed 3 Disney half marathons (WDW half 2009, Dl 2009 and WDW 2010) with more races to come! In 2011 I will be running my first FULL marathon in Walt Disney World and I am so excited to make a dream come true! Thanks Dis Unplugged for thinking of us runners!


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