Back of the Pack Runners’ Book Club

By PAM GARDINER, Wellbuddies Coaching

Long nights and cold days mean more reading, and since I love to run, I love to read about running.

Most running books appeal to runners of all abilities: Born to Run (Christopher MacDougall), Running and Being (Dr. George Sheehan), and Running Until You’re 100 (Jeff Galloway) are favorites on my bookshelf.

In this piece, however, I want to focus on books written in particular for us, the slower runners at the Back of the Pack. John “The Penguin” Bingham is a master of books for the BOP.

Bingham’s story begins with a childhood love of running; touches on discovering that he wasn’t good at it; and resumes with John on the couch, cigarette in hand, significantly overweight, living life as a 40-something professional trombonist with a motorcycle habit.

Books for Back of the Pack Runners

Then, one day, he runs to the end of the driveway. Then to the end of the block. Embarrassed by short legs and an awkward stride, he adopts the penguin as his icon, and intones the motto: “Waddle on, my friends.”

A few years later, he is writing “The Penguin Chronicles” for Runner’s World.

When The Penguin wrote, in The Courage to Start, that we can begin to run at any age, I believed him. His first book inspired me to step out the door in a pair of discount basketball shoes at age 52 and take him up on the challenge.

Thirteen years and thousands of miles later, I am hopelessly hooked on the sport. When friends express any interest in running, I give them the same book.

More often than not, they believe him too.

Books by John "The Penguin" Bingham

With aging and adjusting to life changes, I periodically return to Bingham’s second book: No Need for Speed. When he writes that I can experience all the joys of running at a slower pace, I believe him. When he says he gets his money’s worth by running a 5 or 6-hour marathon instead of short-changing himself with 3 or 4, I laugh.

And I agree. The races I have run “for fun” with friends, stopping to take pictures and eat snacks and going slowly enough to chat have offered their own special delight.

Bingham has continued to write books, some co-authored with his wife, Coach Jenny Hadfield. I haven’t yet read them all, but they are on “the list.” For more about The Penguin, his blog, books, programs, and archives, visit his website.


Do you want to join the Back of the Pack? You might like more of Pam’s posts: Galloway Training for the Back of the PackBack of the Pack Welcomes New Runners, and Who Will I Find at the Back of the Pack?.

  Visit the Run It / Walk It Archive.


Pam Gardiner retired from the US Forest Service in 2008, and trained as a wellness coach (doing business as Wellbuddies Coaching). She also volunteers for Run Wild Missoula, co-directing the Galloway marathon training program and developing programs that encourage slower runners and walkers at the Back of the Pack.

Pam started running in her early 50’s, and ran three marathons the year she turned 55. A decade later, she has settled on the half-marathon as her preferred distance. Pam is grateful for the diverse and inclusive community of runners and walkers in Missoula.