"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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Brrrr ... Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Recap

Continuing past mile eleven into 15 mph headwinds, thankful for the sunshine that seemed to have brought the “feels like" temperature above 20° for the first time all morning, when one of those unique marathon moments occurred (remember that the one constant to each race is how awesomely different each experience becomes).
Mid-morning once the sun came up!

We were fully exposed to the wind for this stretch of the route without any houses, trees, or structures of any kind helping us out. So I start to pull upon my NASCAR know-how and scout out a drafting partner. We’re still in a pretty good size pack so there has to be a bigger runner that I can fall behind and block the wind for a mile or so. I look left - no. I look right - no. I look well ahead - again, nobody to help me out. Then it hits me. I take a peak over my shoulder, and you guessed it, I’m that bigger runner that everyone else is using to block the wind! Like ducks in a row, I was playing lead duck. Nothing to do, but laugh and suck it up -- come on ducklings, onto mile twelve.

Head down, into the wind
The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon will go down as one of the coldest thus far, but in no way was it one of the most miserable--think Little Rock, Pocono, and Knoxville. In what was planned to be my PR course, the summer blues forced me into making it a finisher run and a good time with old Kentucky friends, which ultimately was just as good as a PR.

Below are several photos from the event. Overall, I can understand why the Brantleys have tried to make IMM an annual race. It was definitely PR friendly--congratulations to both the Brantleys and David Fedrick with new PR’s--as the long straights and the level elevation is almost unprecedented. There were a few bad spots in the road, that are probably the result of hard Indiana winters, but mostly the paths, trails, and streets were clearly marked and in good shape.

IMM is not necessarily for those seeking an overly scenic course or one filled with sights and sounds. You do not go near the speedway, and once you clear downtown it’s an uneventful trek out to 66th street for the turnaround. Realizing that the cold weather didn’t exactly help, but the IMM is not known for it’s enthusiastic supporters or course entertainment. Actually, there were probably more irate drivers having to wait patiently (or impatiently) at intersections as runners passed. They were backed up and seemed to have not known it was marathon day.
This one really resonated with me - Moving Forward! 
As for personal performance, I felt pretty good. A steady 9:30 minute mile throughout. No sign of knee or foot pain, and plenty comfortable at the finish. It was nice to relax and enjoy the run. I also saw two original signs, which is always an exciting find. One was simple and kept my attention for many miles that followed. It read: “Relentless Forward Progress.” RFP - yes, indeed! The second was either really funny, or it just came at mile 22 and everything can be funny then. A lady was holding it next to a gentlemen that I’m still not sure she was with or if he was just a random dude. The sign, with arrow pointing at the guy, read: “Run faster, he’ll take your Gu.”
Finish line at the Capital
Finally, a couple of thoughts came to mind as I was walking from the finish area to the hotel. First, wow, this swag is pretty good--nice beanie cap, great shirt, cool medal, and post-race chili! But also, this was my 12th marathon, and really without exception, running miles 20 to 26.1 always seem to make me reconsider why I do this. I don’t think I ever tell myself that this is the last one, but I do wonder if I have enough in me to stay at it. Then comes 26.2 ... and I start figuring out my travel plans for the next one. I absolutely love it, and the relationships, however brief they might be across that 4 hour path, are one of the main reasons that the marathon starting line is truly one of my happy places. See you soon - Huntsville, Alabama, on December 13th.
8 Hours till Start! 
Nice and cozy one hour to start
Medal is year one of 5 year series to make one XL medal
Expo in downtown Indy - easy in and easy out. 
Finding the groove, thinking about a Krispy Kreme!
If you know Indy, here’s the route North of downtown

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"These Things I Remember ..."

I've long realized that I am wired in such a way that looking back serves to motivate me as much as, or more than, looking ahead. Whether it's with spiritual, physical, relational, or in any other 'al' area, I tend to reflect on past experiences in order to achieve future results. I don't dwell on the past, but I definitely don't forget the past.

That said, from this perspective it's no wonder that one of our recent small group studies, Psalms 42 & 43, really resonated with me. With a theme of spiritual despair, the psalmist offers his laments before God, then follows each with a message of hope. But what especially struck me was Psalm 42:4, which reads, "These things I remember, as I pour out my soul." In other words, when going through a difficult life situation, a time of spiritual depression, there is great benefit to recording the details, the emotions, the responses, the thoughts--pouring out the soul.  

One of the best ways to "pour out the soul" in way that can be remembered, is the discipline of journaling. Yes, I said journaling, please don't stop reading now (especially the men reading this), there's a good running lesson to follow!

Journaling can provide us with several blessings:

1) Journaling can stretch us and make us think more deeply on a situation. When we write out our thoughts--the good, the bad, and the ugly--we have more of an opportunity to come to grips with what life has thrown our way.

2) If you have ever kept a running log, then you know that journaling allows us to look back and learn. Sometimes I'll pull out logs from 10 or 15 years ago and I'm reminded of what worked, and what didn't work. I read one from 2002 the other day ... Felt tired, but finished 1 mile without stopping, feel better now. Goal of 1.5 tomorrow ... That one journal entry will motivate me more than any inspirational running video I could ever pull off the Runner's World website. When I'm tired, I know that I have run through it before. When I think of progress, I am grateful from where I have been. You get the idea. The same is true, and is much more important, with our spiritual journey. Remembering the good and the bad (and the ugly) will help us persevere down the road.

3) Just as journaling can help us to remember certain moments in time, it can also be used to help others overcome. In Psalm 51:13, David prays that his sinful ways might be used to teach others. In other words, what we are going through today might just be the journal entry that someone else will need to hear at some point in the future. Our trials, our blessings, our life lessons, can be shared if only we can remember them.

So, whether it's old school pen and paper, new school electronic document, or even starting your own blog site, I would highly encourage you to find ways to journal. You'll thank yourself later.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Pain in the Side ...... of the FOOT!

Blessed. That's my usual response to the question I often hear regarding running. The question that inevitably follows any discussion on marathon training. The question: "Don't you ever get injured?" Not really, I have been very blessed. Of course, I also throw in that I've been smart about training, disciplined in knowing my limits, and perhaps saved by the fact that I didn't start putting mega-miles on the legs until I reached middle-age, but mostly I've been blessed!

So when I have had a tweak here or there, it has never forced me off the plan. I typically hit the Advil, wrap with ice, and run through it. Well .....

This summer, in what should have been good prep for a fall PR, I've been slightly taken off schedule. West Virginia in June resulted in another one of those tweaks--knee pain for a month, that went away by mid-July. The bigger issue since then, has to do with a sharp, burning pain on the side of my foot. I have no idea what it is. It begins to flare up when I finish a 5+ mile run, or when I am on my feet for more than a couple of hours. It also flares up when I mow the yard. In fact, the more zig-zagging I do--like mowing and changing directions--the more intense the burn.

It is not debilitating, it is frustrating; an annoyance and an easy excuse to keep the shoes kicked off and the body in a lazy boy position. I think it's getting better, but from time to time it strikes back. I would love to hear from anyone that has an idea of what is going on. A few other details include:

* There is no swelling, redness, or unique texture on the side of my foot.

* Advil and ice do not effect the pain or burning. A massage does seem to help ease the pain some, at least temporarily.

* I changed shoes! After 7 years of Adrenalines, I just had to change and see if it helped. I went to an Asics 2000 a few weeks ago. Although, I still can't imagine that being the issue.

Indy is up in two weeks. It will be fun. I will start, and I will finish. I will not PR. That's ok. I've been very, very blessed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Wouldn’t You Know It!

Over the past few years, Eddie Wooten has been kind to Run For God, the ROCC 5k and even to the Running with Horses blog site. His presence on social media, and through the Greensboro News-Record print editions, for all things running is well known in the Triad. In fact, many of our ROCC runners have enjoyed reading his daily articles and posts. 

In today’s online edition, Eddie highlighted some of the local running blogs. These are all really good, and they all seem to provide a unique perspective relative to running. Again, Eddie was probably overly generous to list the RWH blog as a recommended site, but it is much appreciated. Of course, as Murphy would have it, the posts have been more sporadic in the past 60 days, than at anytime over the past 4 years. So nothing like a little accountability to guilt one into a quick post and a promise to get back on track. 

And speaking of getting back on track, the countdown to Indianapolis has definitely started. Less than 6 weeks until I try to survive Indy with the Kentucky Brantleys. I am looking forward to the trip, I just don’t know if I am looking forward to the race as I thought I would be a few months back. Knee is healed, but nagging, burning, bruised knot feeling on the side of my foot is just not cooperating. It will not stop me from completing number 12, and it will not stop me from enjoying number 12, but it will likely stop me from running well at number 12 - Oh well, there’s always number 13! 

Thanks Eddie for the push. I’ll be back soon. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back in the Saddle - Finally!

After two looooonnngg months (sixty-three days, 7 hours and 41 minutes to be precise), consistent training runs have commenced. In a like way, a blog post draught of over three weeks will end today. For both, it's been the longest interruption in almost four years--it has not been fun.

What started with a tweaked knee in West Virginia, was followed by a mid-summer, mid-semester load of reading, writing papers, and on-site residency. Throw in a few recreational runs here and there,  primarily to test the knee, when along comes move-in day at Auburn and the resulting back pain due to setting up a college sophomore daughter's third floor dorm room, without the assistance of working elevators no less. Key words - daughter (yes, it makes a huge difference), third floor, and no working elevators.

But it's all good. Classwork is momentarily lighter, knees and back seem fine, and the late summer / early fall weather is upon us. Plus, as they often say, injuries and rest can sometimes lead to better performance down the road. So, here's to better performance and to heading on down the road ... one foot strike at a time.

Here we go. Giddy-up.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Beach: Only Two Reasons I Go

This summer has been a blur of pick-ups and drop-offs. From school, to school, from camp, to camp, and, literally, from one camp to another camp!  Throw in the college tours and it becomes painfully clear that we have spent a good bit of time on the road for these little pony express “vacations.”

This past week we decided to take advantage of yet another of these pick-up appointments. Our youngest spent a wonderful week at the beach with a close friend. However, due to a schedule conflict (yep, volleyball practice), she had to return to Winston-Salem a few days before her friend. So the most reasonable option was for us to drive down on Wednesday, spend the night at the beach, celebrate our anniversary and return on Thursday. It’s not that far, and given that the beach is my wife’s happy place, it seemed like the perfect date.

Notice, “my wife’s happy place.” See, you might ask me if the water was warm, to which I would reply, “I don’t know.” You might ask if the sand was clean, and to that, “I’m not sure.” In fact, my goal at the beach is to avoid the sand at all costs. And to the water, I look to the fact that my daughter was stung by a jellyfish and was ordered back to the beach after spotting a four foot shark--enough said!

Now you might be wondering why it would seem like the perfect date? Two reasons. First, and again I’ll say, it is my wife’s happy place. She loves it, so I love going with her. Second, and you knew I would get around to it, running along the coast is outstanding. Flat, straight roads with so little traffic in the morning, make for some of the best routes. I also actually enjoy the heat and humidity; good training weather.

So, on Thursday morning, Christy hit the beach, picked up some shells and waded in the “shark infested waters” along her walk. As she totally enjoyed this time to herself, I laced up the Brooks and headed out Ocean Blvd. Morning greetings to my running kin, a little breeze blowing through the breaks in the oceanfront condos, and a return back up highway 17. Best of all, my knees did really well. Six miles and I felt reborn and ready to go. Best run in several months. I absolutely LOVE the beach--just not the actual beach!

Back at the hotel, we sat on the balcony and shared our adventures, while spending some quality time together, before ......

...... it was time to pickup our daughter and drive back to Winston. Although this particular pickup trip was by far the most relaxing to date. Next week, it’s back to Auburn.

Oh, and it was definitely a perfect date. Happy 23rd and here’s to 23 more.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Sower - A Painted Parable

    “A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,  but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matt 13:3-8)
    “Hear then the parable of the sower:  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.  As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matt 13:18-23)

    In the chapel at Gordon Conwell Seminary is a painted fresco, by NC artist Gerald Steinmeyer. A large work--approximately 17' x 20'--that depicts the parable of the sower in a very powerful way. The seed falls along the various soils while different individuals represent the ones that rejected, fell way, proved unfruitful and grew in the message of Christ. The faces of each give much to consider, as does the "evil one" scurrying way down the path, as referenced in 13:19. There is nothing like viewing in person, but hopefully the image below provides a sense of what a great creation this fresco is, and what a great passage it portrays.
    (click on for larger view)