Wanna run? Here are two great books (and a story)

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life49 Comments


Aidan and I biked up to the library last week and I decided to look up books on running. (Imagine that!)

Turns out, there were a gazillion, so I had to choose based on title alone. I loved the title: No Need for Speed: A beginner's guide to the joy of running, by John "The Penguin" Bingham, and thought it sounded perfect for a speed demon like myself.

From the first few lines of the book, I was hooked. Little did I know, being the newbie runner that I am, that John Bingham is a very well-known figure in the world of running. Bingham is a former contributing editor for Runner's World and author whose message seems to speak to every single person who never really felt like they could or even should run. An overweight, former pack-a-day smoker who laced up his running shoes for the first time at theβ€”ahemβ€”advanced age of 43, Bingham set out to lose some libbies, but in the process, ended up discovering an absolute passion for the sport.

This book is extremely beginner friendly. John's tone is supportive, humorous and very, very real. He encourages you to start from where you are with the body you've got and go at your own pace. He believes that the greatest joy in running comes not from how fast you go, or how thin you get, but simply from having the courage to take the first step. He has another book called, "The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Your Life" which from the reviews I've read online, takes a similar tack.

My local library had his books, and yours might too. Again, a really inspiring read that makes you believe you too can make this part of your life for all the right reasons.


The second book is one I've mentioned before, Run Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. My attitude toward running changed completely after reading this book. I instantly felt connected to a wider community of women getting out there, making the time to take care of themselves while balancing so many other things that we all are responsible for on a daily basis.

Told in 26 chapters as a nod to the 26 miles of a marathon (plus little ".2" extras at the end of each chapter), both Dimity and Sarah are real, funny and smart (not to mention both accomplished runners.) You feel like you know them at the end of the book, or that you want to know them.

When I read this book, I didn't know what a tempo run was from a hole in the ground, but I still felt inspired to keep lacing up my shoes and plodding along at my less than race ready pace.

Lucky for me, I've gotten to know both women via email, and had the pleasure of meeting Dimity (a Minnesota native) when she was home last weekend for her 20th high school reunion.

We hooked up at my hubby's downtown coffee shop to swap books, t-shirts (well, I got one out of the deal!) and chit chat about running, life and how amazing it is that the internet can connect and inspire people.

While neither Dimity nor Sarah are scrapbookers, Lord knows I'm trying to indoctrinate them any way I can.


And as you know, any chance I get, I'll try the same thing with Dan:


(Though secretly, I think he'll get more from Run Like a Mother.)


In short, I keep this book on my nightstand, and re-read parts because it continues to inspire me. I think it is an absolute gem of a read that deserves as broad an audience as it can find.

The only reason I went trail running last weekend was because Dimity was in town leading a group on an official RLAM tour stop. Yet another reason to love the internet and meeting people who inspire.

You can check out their awesome blog or their Facebook page, too, for more inspiration and to get to know their growing community.


Just sharing a bit of the running inspiration with you today. I realize it might not be for everyone. I mean, afterall, I speak from experience.

Running was never my thing.

p.s. Sarah, I'll catch up with you on Portland trails, where I'm sure the Twilight vibe is WAY stronger. xoxo

Cathy ZielskeWanna run? Here are two great books (and a story)

49 Comments on “Wanna run? Here are two great books (and a story)”

  1. #2
    Nancy M

    Yep, because of you Cathy I ordered/read “Run Like a Mother”, checked out their blog and was pointed {by another poster} to and began the C25k program. I then ordered/read John’s book The Courage to Start”; I did not know he had another book out I will have to look up that one. From our library I took out “Runner’s World Complete Book of Women’s Running”. It’s older {like John’s book} copyright 2000 but still good info.

  2. #3

    oh those books sounds really interesting. after running my first 10km run a few weeks back I’m hooked! keep up the awesome work cathy!

  3. #4

    I just finished RLAM, and I loved it too. It’s great to see your pictures of Dimity. I am a beginning runner for the 3rd time in my life, and I’ve decided to do it my own way this time, which is run, walk, run…a Jeff Galloway approach. I should read the Penguin’s book, ‘cuz I’m not about speed!! I love reading your running posts & following your new journey with WW and exercise. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. #6

    I have been a reader of RLAM for months, love the inspiration. Another book I would not have thought would inspire my running but has been awesome is:


    Long Distance: Testing the Limits of Body and Spirit in a Year of Living Strenuously by Bill McKibben. Its not about running, but about an average guy writer who decided to push his body to near olympic levels in nordic skiing for one year. He is an excellent writer and really takes apart the why behind what moves us when we choose to push ourselves physically. Also lots of interesting information about a sport we really arent’ allowed to know much about in this country.

  5. #7

    Loved the book as well! I also go back and read parts of it when I’m feeling a bit funky. I’m gonna grab the other too. Thanks!

  6. #8
    Amy L

    This may be just what I need. For the last couple of weeks I have been successful at getting up and running before work, which is something I have never been able to force myself to do. But I’m starting to feel like I’ll never get better; this is so hard, this hill wasn’t this steep yesterday, etc. etc. I feel like I’m going to need a better overall perspective to keep this up!

  7. #9
    Barb M.

    Thanks for sharing the books. So cool that you got to have a meet up with one of the authors or RLAM.

  8. #14

    Yep. I was feeling pretty giddy. Plus, the best part? Dimity is a really warm, cool woman who I would totally hang out with. Love her.

  9. #17

    I picked up the RLAM book on your last recommendation and I’ve been loving it! I live in Denver too so I’ll keep a lookout for any RLAM events.

    Cathy, thanks for sharing your story. I have been of the opinion that the only way I want to run is if a crazy dude is chasing me with a chainsaw, but you & RLAM have inspired me that maybe, just maybe I can do it. πŸ˜‰

  10. #18

    How very cool that you two could meet up!

    No Need for Speed remains in my basket of “Don’t you EVER donate these books or magazines!”

    And, because of you and my love for my custom orthodics, my 13 year old and I plan to run a 5K for our local autism society in September. We have done the walk for the past two years, but something…probably my better aerobic fitness level…keeps eating at me to do the run this year. Both my sons are on the spectrum, and I figure, if they can make gains, so can I.

    That said, I hate running in the summer (I sweat putting socks on), but outside is far superior to a treadmill. I will start off with some run/walks this weekend (after I walk, and walk, and walk at the CHA SuperShow on Friday…woot!) and see how it goes with my foot.

    I am losing my two favorite Zumba classes when I go back to school because they are during the day. figure I can run whenever I can schedule it.

  11. #20

    Glad you found Bingham! He has a great book that he co-wrote with his wife, “Running for Mortals,” that has great info and training plans for 5Ks and 10Ks. After I finish my 10K this October I am investing in their book, “Marathoning for Mortals” which has plans for 1/2 and marathons. I’m planning a 1/2 marathon for May 2011 (the Flying Pig in Cincinnati), another for October 2011 at Disney World (they run at night through the park!) and then a marathon in January 2012 (also at Disney…I’ll use any excuse to go there!) to celebrate my baby girl turning 18. We wanted to run a marathon together before she heads off to college:)

  12. #23

    LOL! I just have to say that it was something i said i would NEVER do. Not my thing. I have been quoted saying that. Never say never.

  13. #25
    Tina M

    I used Bingham’s Marathoning for Mortals to get me through the training for my first half marathon last spring..I highly recommend it!

  14. #26

    thanks for the tips, cathy! do you think that one who is not a mother can read “run like a mother”? or single ladies should read mr. bingham’s books?

  15. #27

    I absolutely do! I mean, yes, theress stuff about post pregnancy, and getting back in shape, but honestly? This book talks to women about finding the time to put yourself first, you know? kids or not. I know on the RLAM blog there are lots of readers who arent moms. : ) Its a very woman centered book, not exclusive to moms.

  16. #28
    Susan K

    That’s awesome you got to meet Dimity. She and Sarah feel like my friends, yet I’ve never even met them! I really love their articles in Runner’s World and RLAM was an awesome and inspiring read.

  17. #29

    I love Dan’s face as he’s reading your book. He’s such a crack up. Thanks for all your running inspiration. My mind is willing…waiting on the body.

  18. #30

    I’m gonna pick these up. I’ve been running for the last 3 weeks, starting out very slowly. Yesterday my knees started to hurt. I finished my goal for the day, cuz’ I don’t want that to be my “out.” These books should help me power through. Thanks for the inspiration, Cathy!

  19. #31

    I used to be a runner…haven’t ran since I had my kids…just had baby #4 in January and I’ve been SO inspired by your posts on FB to try to find my way back to running again. πŸ™‚ I started week 3 of C25K last night and am unfortunately battling shin splints big-time πŸ™ so I am trying to figure out where to go from here – whether I need to step it down in terms of mileage/speed (I’m using the treadmill right now), give myself a couple more days of rest, etc because the thing is…even despite the pain right now, I’m having fun getting back to my running roots (even if I’ll never be as fast as I used to be :-P) and just feeling good with MOVING again. πŸ™‚
    Just got RLAM through Amazon and can’t wait to dive in!! Thank you for the recommendation and continued inspiration. πŸ™‚

  20. #32

    Denise, if your knees are hurting, you may also want to pick up a copy of Chi Running. The whole book is about proper running form to minimize impact on the joints, keep injury at bay, etc. Focuses on posture, foot strike, and a little new age chi ness. It has helped me learn to run tremendously!

  21. #33

    AnnaMaria, you can always go over to the RLAM Facebook page, Like it and post for suggestions as to what to do with where your at. The women there are SO supportive and pretty much have seen every ache and pain known to rundom!

    You will LOVE the book.

  22. #34

    ah yes. i just love when you post stuff about running and the ‘realness’ of a beginner. i felt all of those feelings of uncertainty when i was a beginner, and as i became more acquainted with running and more confident, and then abrehensive once again, and then a bit more growth and so on, i’ve come to realized everyone has their own ‘story’ of running. I’m thankful that i can be part of this great sport, and i’m looking forward to coaching our towns only running club for my first time next spring!
    thanks for being so open about your experience as a runner. it’ll help me remeber that it wasn’t just me out there feeling out of place! πŸ™‚
    some random blatherig there; hope that made sense! πŸ™‚

  23. #35

    oh, absolutely. I am just now realizing that however i run, however slow, however far…. it still qualifies me to be part of the overall community. Im getting a lot more confident in my ability to just step out the front door and go. Im slowly losing the fear of what if i dont make it all the way around the lake?. Plus, i wear running skirts now. They are a girl with a bubble butts best friend!

  24. #36
    Nancy M

    Yes, I did like it. It’s really not a technique book {i.e. week 1 do 5 mins, week 2 do 9 mins, etc.} but almost more of an autobiography, a “You Can Do This” book with personal anecdotes.

  25. #37

    I keep following your running story and wanted to put a word in there for Moms In Motion: http://www.momsinmotion.com/
    Moms in Motion is how I got hooked on running, I signed up for a group in my city to train for a 10K, then signed up for a trail running group after that, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It was very nice to have a group leader to push us a little, and to have a group of similarly-situated women to run with and get together for coffee afterwards!

  26. #38

    hey Karen, thanks for the link! and i hope other blog readers see it too!

    Im going to run with a local group on Saturday called Moving Soles. I ran with them (the trail run last week) and they seem like an amazing group of women! I would have NEVER thought i would seek out something like that. Running is bringing me a bit out of my shell. : )

  27. #39

    Cathy you are truly inspiring (both for scrapbooking and running). Running was my never my thing either…a friend started me back in february doing a trail around a lake and now I am totally hooked but I mix it up. Funny things is I just came back from a trail in the Vancouver area (where they actually filmed Twilight!)

  28. #40

    Now THAT sounds amazing. Its so funny, because i grew up in the Pac NW, and never ONCE stepped out into nature. Sigh.

    I guess it just took 44 years, but at least I woke up to the coolness of it! : )

  29. #41

    For some added inspiration, I would recommend signing up for the Runner’s World daily email “Quote of the Day” – there are some wonderful gems in there. It’s great to get that daily kick in the butt . Here’s an example from John Bingham.

    “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.” -John Bingham, running writer and speaker

    Running World also has a couple of email newsletters – one just for women. AND make sure you check out their series “I am a Runner” where they interview people like Danica Patrick, Alanis Morisette, and others who talk about their experiences running. It’s a mental and emotional inspiration gold mine.

  30. #42

    The Penguin is so inspiring. I got the chance to see him talk at my first half marathon. He is so relatable! I love his race philosophy of getting your money’s worth. He said that as long as you paid $100 or so for the race, you might as well be out there as long as possible (aka. running really slow – like myself – is ok!).

    And if you ever make your way to San Francisco, there are some great trails here. Of course my hip is not cooperating with me lately, so haven’t been able to do much running. And I am definitely missing it!

  31. #45

    Checked out The Courage to Start from our library this week and almost cried through the first 20 pages or so. This man has an AMAZING way of building your self esteem. He is an excellent writer. And this comes from a runner-want-to-be person. So glad you mentioned it to us!

  32. #46
    Jessica McQuillan

    I started running two years ago participating in the Phila. Half Marathon in an effort to raise money for The Children’s Tumor Foundation (my 3 yr old son, Owen has NF). I still struggle as a “runner” but I am continually inspired by the support and encouragement from this amazing community… I love “Run Like a Mother” and had to laugh…I have it on my night stand too! I will have to check out the other book you recommended. I have fondly followed your blog for years. I decided to post my first comment today after completing my first sprint triathalon this morning- SheRox in Phila. It was another fantastic experience filled with women encouraging each other and challenging themselves… I highly recommend it!

  33. #47

    Go Jessica! I think that is something i could totally see doing next year. A little scary, and I think id need a better bike, but… a possibility!

  34. #49

    Jill, i just ordered that book from Amazon! : ) Im also reading Running for Mortals which is reminding me not to push so hard on mileage, lest i suffer some injury crap that im already feeling a little bit of!

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