The Accidental Athlete

You know the type.  Perhaps you were the type yourself.  The slow kid.  The uncoordinated kid.  The kid picked last. 

You may not have realized at the time that you were horrible at hitting a ball or making a basket.  Not as a child.  Those realizations came later.  As a teen or young adult.  Like a swatter meeting a horse fly, perhaps the taunts and teasing from others brought your goals of being a sports superstar to a crashing halt.

Yet, despite the certainty of being the last one picked or the last one thrown a ball, you still had that inner drive.  The love of sport.  The joy of play. 

Over the years, adulthood set in, and your ability (perhaps capability) to play went away.  You got stuck in the rut of life.  Only later did you rediscover the joy you knew as a child – the joy of playing.

Such is the story that John “The Penguin” Bingham shares in his new book, An Accidental Athlete:  A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Middle Age (Velo Press, 2011). 

An Accidental Athlete: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Middle Age. By John "The Penguin" Bingham. Velo Press. Paperback, 212pp. $16.95.

Bingham shares a story of how he was an outsider.  How he loved to play sports as a kid – any sport, but namely baseball and basketball, but ultimately wasn’t any good.  He was the perpetual “last kid picked”.  He describes the life of a nerd.  The life of one who looses the ability to play.  Bingham shares how he became a quintessential middle-aged American – he ate too much, drank too much and smoked too much.  He shares how he treated his body as if it were “disposable”.  He tells of having two heart attack scares and describes himself as a 40″ by 40″ cube.

Through embarrassment and shame, Bingham became an athlete.  First a cyclist; then a runner.  Afterwards, a triathlete, adventure racer.

Bingham uses a great knack for storytelling, and some really funny examples, in his new book about becoming a middle-aged athlete.  He shares stories of enjoying the runner’s high, black toenails, a stockpile of race t-shirts, and his door knob as a trophy cabinet.  He talks about “older” athletes recover, and why he loves competing.

Some of the best stores (perhaps because I can relate to them) are those of the real racing done at the back of the pack.  Whereas racers at the pointy end of the race get the glamour, says Bingham, the glory belongs to everyone.

It’s so clear from reading this book that Bingham found a way to play again – through endurance sports.  His story is not unlike many of our own stories. 

This book was a really quick read – the stories Bingham shares are compelling.  Very much a “page-turner” of a book.  It’s a light-hearted book that lots of readers will connect with. 

An Accidental Athlete:  A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Middle Age by John Bingham is available now in bookstores, running shops, and online at Velopress.com.  You can download an excerpt of the book by clicking on this link:  book_an_accidental_athlete_excerpt

Disclosure:  Velo Press supplied me with a free copy of this book so that I could read and write a review.  I did not receive compensation for a favorable review, nor did I commit to write a positive review when I agreed to review the book.  The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.  You may disagree.  Or not.  Any images are used with permission from Velo Press.
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