"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Results Are In!

After almost 4 years of data collection, observation, poking and prodding, the TRAILS study at Wake Forest came to a phase one conclusion this past week. Participants met to review the individual and group results at the new Fleet Feet store on Stratford Road (which, by the way, is super nice and perfect for this sort of meeting with their dedicated training area).

My Profile Pic
As a reminder, I was one of 300 runners who took part in this study, commissioned by the U.S. Army, with the objective of better understanding and preventing overuse injuries. The only stipulations were that you committed to running an average of 10 miles / week and that you reported this mileage, along with responses to a series of survey questions, on a regular basis. I was also asked to come in four times for a series of measurements, exercises, and running diagnostic activities.

The results were interesting, to say the least, but not surprising. In fact, I rarely pull the "I told you so" card, but .... what appears to be the most direct correlation to injuries, is exactly what I thought it might be (explained below). And in areas of biomechanics that I already knew I wasn't the model runner, it is even worse than I thought (again, more below).

So, what did the runners, Wake Forest, and the Army learn from this study?

*  Of the 300 runners, 196 became injured! 65% - Whoa. Now, before you start back with your own "I told you so," keep in mind that "injury" also included discomfort that did not result in having to miss a run. So I actually see this as 104 runners who ran relatively pain-free for several years - that's pretty good.

* Out of the 196 "injured runners", 51% did require having to stop running for more than 2 days (100 runners, or 30% of total group). And of these runners, 55% of them experienced the same injury on multiple occasions.

* Runners averaged between 1 mile / week (recall injured runners may have had '0' weeks) and over 30 on the high end. The average pace was in the mid-9:00 range.

* The average pre-run stretching time was 8 minutes.

* 20% of participants ran in Brooks, 20% in Asics, and then down to 13% for Nike, Mizuno, and New Balance.

* The most common injury was "knee pain." An interesting comment was made in regards to weight management, shoe selection, and running form, as they relate to knee pain. In short, the force to ground for the trial runners was 2.26 X body weight on each foot strike. However, the load on the knee joints was an average of 9.64 x body weight! No wonder our knees thank us when we lose just a few pounds.
Click on to enlarge: Looks like I step lighter, but load on knee is greater and pronation is extreme!
* High arches are a bigger problem than flat feet or low arches - contrary to what we always heard about running flat-footed.

* Not part of the study, but when discussing BMI results, it was noted that BMI in everyone increases at the age of 60. In everyone, except for regular runners who actually maintain their pre-60 BMI well past the age of 60!

OK - drum roll please .... how do we prevent overuse injuries ..... are you ready for this ......

LEG STRENGTH! (Although I was secretly pulling for the doughnut-a-day theory). Of course, there are many variables that play into injuries, so don't disregard these others, but the research showed the most significant statistical correlation between runners who remained injury-free and those that did not, was that of leg strength.

I have personally always considered that to be my good fortune as a runner, I just didn't have the science behind it. It seems that the leg muscles--calves, hamstrings, and especially quads--do more to offset the impact of force on the knees than anything else. In a way, "duh!", but in a way, I don't exactly see most recreational runners working the leg lift machine at the gym.

Definition of "flat foot" - I also need shorter stride

Anyway, the packet of information was 12 pages of really great running geek data, and the session was a lot of fun. I'm hopeful to participate in future studies as well. Until then, let's keep working those legs and building up those quads. And here's to many more injury-free miles.

Coming at you!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

It's Who I Am ... (Yes, But No)

We recently wrapped up a sermon series at River Oaks on the subject of Identity. These messages spoke to the biblical instruction of how a follower of Christ should answer the question, "What / who defines me?" For believers the answer is based on the transformed life "in Christ" that is identified as being ... a new creation, set apart, complete, loved, called to love others, God's workmanship, and courageous.

Although I would love to provide more detail to these teachings, this is not the place. However, you can listen here: Identity - River Oaks Community Church, and read the weekly summary comments and questions under the 'notes' section. I think you will find the idea of Identity especially interesting and encouraging.

So where am I going with this? Well ...

While in the middle of this series, I came across an article on a runner who has run everyday since 1969 (see: Running Streak). This is an amazing accomplishment. As a runner, I get the drive, the passion, and the discipline that is necessary to make this happen. I take my sweat-soaked Nike running hat off to this guy.

But in his final statement, he says something that made me think. It's something that I have said a hundred times myself. I have no idea how he might have meant it, but I do know how I have understood it in my mind, and in light of this current sermon series, I think I need to be more careful. He says about running, "it is not what I do, it's who I am."

It's who I am. Innocent enough, right? Well, it probably is up until the point that we actually believe it. But should it really define us? Should running be the primary identifier of who we are? Again, this is more about personal conviction than preaching to the masses. But what I started to consider--mostly while out on runs--is that if running is truly "who I am," what happens if it goes away? Any number of things can happen tomorrow; changes in health, family situations, inner drive, life-altering accidents, and much more. Bottom line, I think I have to be especially careful about finding my core identity in anything that can go away tomorrow.

Additionally, I have been reminded about one definition of an idol; anything, that if lost, destroyed, or taken away, would result in the feeling of complete and utter devastation, so much that it would be difficult to continue on. Put another way, if we just can't live without it, maybe we are living too much for it.

Running is not who we are, it is what we passionately enjoy and intend on enjoying for as long as we can. It is often a happy place where we find much pleasure. It is our mission field and our intentional engagement with others. But if it is ever taken away, despite certain disappointment, it will not change how we define ourselves, who we are, or where we find our identity; that is permanently found in Christ.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The First Sign of Summer ...

... is the first squishy shoe run of the season. Not familiar with the squishy shoe run? It’s when any run less than 8 miles results in you leaving sweat prints on the ground behind you as you run. At 4PM and 88 degrees this afternoon, we welcomed in the summer of 2015!

A couple of things to help with squishy shoe season;

1) Thin Socks: This is where my Swiftwicks really come in handy. These ultra thin socks have been my favorites for several years. As one who ran in thicker socks, the change was a bit counterintuitive to me initially, but I have never had blisters and my feet really breath and wick sweat with these socks. Definitely the best stocking stuffers you can ever receive.

2) Post-run Sandals: A must for race day, but also for immediately changing into after a long, hot run in the summer. The sooner who can get the shoes and socks off, the better. This allows your feet and your shoes to dry out much more quickly and prevents any further blisters, if your feet are prone to blistering.

3) Earlier / Later: Yes, sometimes you just have to go mid-day (which I actually enjoy and need in preparation for Tupelo this Labor Day), but if you can go at sunrise or sunset, the squishy factor is significantly reduced.

4) Dry the Shoes: If you can rotate shoes in the summer, that’s the best. If not, try sticking them in front of a floor fan for a while to dry them out good before you run again.

5) Glide the Toes: Finally, even though I have never had blister issues, I still glide (or vaseline) my toes, heels, and side of the foot, generously before any run over 18 miles. This is even more important in the summer heat and/or with the chance of rain.

Other than that, there is really nothing you can do except to finish your training run with the satisfaction that at least you know what it is to experience squishy shoes - a badge of honor!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Runner's Profile

I still say that Eddie Wooten, sports editor and running guru for the Greensboro News & Record, has either lowered his standards relative to the definition of a runner, or ran completely dry as press time rolled around! But I was honored for him to reach out and ask me to provide a few responses to his Friday Running Shorts profile. It was a good chance to reflect on the past few years of running while sharing a few "rest of the story" answers.

If you have an interest, the interview is found here:
Runner Profile - David Holcomb: GN&R May 29, 2015

If you are in the NC Triad area, follow Eddie's running stories and blogs here:
Eddie Wooten Running Stories & Blogs: GN&R

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The 2015 ROCC 5K

The 4th Annual ROCC 5K is in the books, but not before yet another beautiful morning of race day fun was shared by all. Earlier this month, 401 registered runners took part in the 2015 event to help support the Winston-Salem Street School. Race proceeds totaled $3,068.44 and were presented to the W-SSS on June 3rd. Additionally, over $1,000 in breakfast cereal bars were collected and donated to the W-SSS. There were no course records this year, but plenty of fast times from our experienced runners and first times from our beginners.

To get more of an idea of what race morning looks like around River Oaks, be sure to check out the near 1,000 race pics available on the ROCC 5K Facebook page; click here: https://www.facebook.com/ROCC5k
Photo Albums on FB Page

As a recently announced partner with Fleet-Feet's We Run Winston  race program, we look forward to a bigger and even better (if that's possible) 2016 event, as we celebrate our 5th annual race. The beneficiary will be announced in the fall and the race will be held on Saturday, May 14th.

I've said it a hundred times, and should say it at least a hundred more, we have the very best sponsors, runners, volunteers, and race committee members that I have ever seen around a 5K run. It has been a wonderful privilege to work alongside all of them as we try to raise needed funds and awareness for our local ministries.

See you next May!

Presenting a check to Sylvia Shelton of the Street School

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Bluegrass Homecoming!

The official Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon playlist: Purple Rain, Who’ll Stop the Rain, I Wish it Would Rain Down, Singing in the Rain, Raindrops Keep Falli ..... I think you’re starting to get the picture.  And have I ever mentioned that each race is a totally unique and unpredictable experience. This one happened to be an extremely wet one!

Excitement for a 1st half-marathon! 
But despite the less than ideal running conditions, Louisville will forever be memorable for more than the consistent soaking that we received. Yes, this one will be extra special for the single fact that my wife and youngest daughter shared in the adventure. And if that wasn’t enough, the opportunity to once again run with our good friends from Henderson, KY, and stop off at our old stomping grounds outside Lexington, made for a highly enjoyable, albeit whirlwind, road trip.

As to the family that runs together, it started around Christmas when my daughter challenged my wife to run a half-marathon. Neither had ever run more than a 5k, and when we started training we began with 2 minute run / 90 second walk intervals. But they stayed at, woke up early for runs, and put in a lot of hard work to run every step of the half. A proud husband and dad for sure.

The weather could have always been worse, but it could have always been a lot, lot, lot better. What looked like a beautiful weekend ahead with the 7 day forecast turned into a period of near 100% precipitation as Saturday morning neared. So we prepared with ponchos, layers, and a tub of vaseline. And as we walked to the starting line in dry conditions, we counted our blessings. The bugle called us to the gate and right on cue I felt the first drop as I crossed the starting line mat.

For much of the first 10 miles it wasn’t too bad. Oh, I don’t think it ever stopped, but it was light and the temperature was mild. Miles 11-15 were a different story. As we made our way up into Iroquois Park the sky opened and it was time to put my head down and plow ahead, one drenched shoe step at a time. Ultimately it slowed again and stayed light for the remainder of the race. Character building indeed. We didn’t melt and we will be that much more ready the next time rain swamps the course.
Not much more immanent than this race morning projection

Speaking of the course, it was nice. Nothing especially challenging, other than Iroquois Park, and nothing especially exciting, other than the trot into Churchill Downs and around the infield--which I’m sure would have been more special had the tunnels not started to puddle up due to the rain.

Personally, it’s a spring survival race for me. I don’t run a lot of distance in the spring and I pray that muscle memory pulls me through. I survived with a four and a half hour run that was easy on the legs and allowed for immediate recovery.

A couple of final takeaways; a) I have found a new favorite GU - Salted Caramel, awesome;    b) I am grateful to the course angel around mile 22 who offered me chocolate after seeing that I had pulled up slightly with some hamstring tightness. She actually pulled it out of her private collection, deep in her purse - I always appreciate race day kindness; and c) running through the heaviest of the rain, I just kept thinking to myself how stubborn most marathon runners are, and how it came in particularly handy for times such as this.

Coming up for air at the finish line

Number 14 is in the books, it’s on to Tupelo, Mississippi over Labor Day weekend. You read that right, Tupelo in early September. Check back for what will definitely be a post of either determined survival or insane folly.

Ready to go pre-race

The after-glow is always worth it! 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Run 4 God: Week 12

"It's the final countdown" (insert synthesizer: da-da da daaaa, da-da-da da da, ...). Can you believe it's been 13 weeks since that cold Monday night in early February. Starting with 60 second runs and concluding with tonight's 3 miler - fantastic job to our season 4 of ROCC RFG.

I look forward to Saturday's run and in hearing of your future running and/or discipleship endeavors. It's been another season of encouragement, laughter, and learning for me, and I am prayerful that each of you have grown physically and spiritually in our time together. Keep running with horses and running for God.