"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, May 26, 2017

Running With "Iron Horses"

I am almost forty-nine years old. I have never ridden a train (amusement parks, zoos, and rollerskating rinks do not count). Trains have never figured into my transportation plans. Never.

Until today ...

In what was a last-minute decision, involving a complicated series of travel details, I found myself surfing the net, racking my brain, and weighing options (aka, evaluating just how cheap I could be).

I'm not exactly sure why the thought came to mind, but after hours of despair (aka, nothing was especially cheap), the Amtrak idea surfaced. Keep in mind, at this point, I had no clue as to whether trains even passed through North Carolina, much less if any stopped in the Triad and could get me to New York without too much hassle. So many questions, so little time.

Long story short, I write this post from aboard the Crescent Line, Train #20, somewhere between Trenton and Newark, New Jersey. I just might have found my new favorite mode of travel!

The clock is correct - Good Morning G'boro
Like a kid at Christmas, I sprang from bed to be the first passenger in the Greensboro terminal this morning for the 3:44 train (yeah, that's right, 3:44 a.m. But what an awesome sleep till sunrise). By 1:30 in the afternoon, I will be climbing off at Penn Station and will have had a day of great scenery - old depots, small towns, major cities, mountain views - with time to read, write, and relax; all for about the price of gas and tolls to drive.

Even better, there is something that has resonated with me about the train, particularly as a distance runner. I've realized that you just can't help but slow down and enjoy the steady pace of the trip. The train, much like how I feel on a hill, or in the later miles of a good hard training run, just keeps chugging along, head-down focused, but yet not so fast or focused, that the journey is completely missed.

It also has me thinking back to the old song Life is Like a Mountain Railway. In all the ups and down, the twists and turns, the conductor is critical to keeping us on schedule, safe, and headed to the intended destination. The song speaks to the ups and downs of life, and the conductor we choose to take us home - a clip of Steven Curtis Chapman's version is below, have a listen. (It doesn't hurt that the third line is, "we must make this run successful."

Next stop Penn Station.

From Greensboro to ... 
the lounge car,  to ...
tracking the Crescent across Virginia, to ...
our nation's capital, to ...
the city of brotherly love, to ...
stepping right out on the street of the Big Apple, to ...
catch one more train, just in time for graduation at West Point!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

On The Road Again ...

... I just can't wait to get on the road again ...

Taking in a new favorite route this past weekend - which does include a Yadkin River crossing as shown above - it dawned on me that it was officially "that" time of year!

With extended daylight, consistent temperatures, and less busyness in general, the window between Memorial Day and Labor Day has historically been my favorite and most productive time. A time of higher mileage, longer distances, and overall, more exhilarating and fulfilling runs; you know, "that" time of year.

For one, due to a more intense focus on my fall marathon, there is just no getting out of a June or July training plan start. Additionally, as someone with south-Texas roots, made tough in 100-degree football two-a-days, and employed at the local steel mill (the furnace department, no less), I actually like the heat, and try to encourage others to embrace it as well; isn’t that right RFG members? - "the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire!"

So, here's to everyone gearing up to hydrate more, sweat more, and run more. May you find open roads and sun-soaked trails.

Have a great summer of running!

 ... like a band of gypsies we go down the highway ... (Yes, Willie was on the playlist and triggered the above reflection at about mile 5 on Saturday. It might just be the ultimate running tune).

Friday, May 19, 2017

Race Day Reflections - ROCC 5K 2017

The sixth annual ROCC 5K has come and gone. This past Saturday, months of planning culminated in an event that technically took between 15 minutes - 51 seconds and 1 hour - 14 minutes - 11 seconds to complete, depending on which end of the clock you ran toward.

As I finished my post-race run, I couldn't help but think about the perspective which I am truly blessed to hold each second Saturday in May. To watch my fellow Run for God members, many of whom are running their first 5K, cross that finish line, and to assist a great team of race committee members, where serving our beneficiary and our community are equal priorities, are both great privileges that I don't take for granted.

So, given the dual views I am allowed to have, as coach and director, what did the 2017 edition of the ROCC 5K teach me? Here are a few thoughts on a few of those observations ...

* It doesn't rain on the ROCC 5K! The forecasts were not too optimistic in the days leading up to the race. However, Saturday morning was near perfect, with temperatures in the mid-50's and not a drop of moisture. I'm sure one day we might enjoy the pleasure of running in the rain, but as of yet, the Lord has provided some really wonderful mornings across these past six years, and an optimistic position, even at packet pickup when everyone says your crazy, is still the best position to take!

* The pre-race RFG Photo  remains as emotional as ever. The feelings from May 12, 2012, are never far away when we line up each year for that victory cheer. It never fails that the emotions of the past 13 weeks - the laughs, the struggles, the stories - all come out in this space. I look into the mass of color and see your faces, and BAM, all choked up. I continue to hold it in much better than year one, but just barely. I can't explain it, and I honestly never expect it, but it happens. Thank you all for believing in yourself.

* "Don't mess with success!" That's what many might say. But as one who actually kind of likes taking calculated risks, I say, "Tweak success, to remain successful!" With that philosophy in mind, we made a few slightly risky changes to the course and, by all indications, the changes worked. The track, both part-novelty and part-purposeful, along with the elimination of Sedalia Hill and a stroll past Titan Rock, all seemed to have helped spread out runners along L-C Road and flatten the course. Obviously, it is still just as fast, or faster, as our five-time champion, Justin Pfreunder, set a new course record, 15:51. Thank you to all the course support volunteers and the runners and walkers who were ready to roll with these modifications.

* Smiles are contagious. One of the key principles for our event, a principle that is modeled so well by our committee and our volunteers, is that we strive to put on a race that is best known for 'encouragement and excellence.' We believe that both of these can, and should, be the expectation. As a gauge for how we are doing, I watch faces and post-race interactions. I also like to look at the post-race photos. Each race bib represents an individual who is most likely dealing with at least one "something" that is really pretty messy. One "something" that physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, is a real stressor and challenge. But for one encouraging moment, a little "run therapy" helps to lessen that burden.

There are more thoughts, but who needs to read a novel about a 5K! For now, we close the books on the RFG Season 6 and the ROCC Crisis Control Ministry 5K. Thanks for sharing in our day.

"We should laugh, we should think, we should be moved to emotion --- that is a really great day" (Jimmy V. paraphrased).

Monday, May 8, 2017

ROCC RFG 2017 - Week 12

And just like that ... 34 runs, 12 weeks, and over 1,200 minutes of fellowship, learning, laughing, sweating, and connecting, have come down to this ... race week!

It has been a wonderful season with a large number of committed runners and walkers, perhaps the largest number we have ever had. But more importantly, it has been a season of deeper connection and Scriptural pursuits. Thank you for your interest and your participation.

I am excited about your race and cannot wait to share in your moment. You will all do well if you will:

* Trust your pace
* Trust your training
* Trust your "why?"
* Trust your plan

Let me know of any questions this week, and I look forward to seeing you at packet pickup Friday night, and in front of the church, 7:30 am, on Saturday morning.

Keep running with horses and keep running for God.

ROCC RFG 2017 - Week 11

And then there was one ...

Our next-to-last evening together and what an eventful night. Thank you Pastor Andrew for your words of encouragement and for kicking off our evening in prayer. Also great to have our friends from Fleet Feet join us on the run.

The rain blew right on by and it was a beautiful, if not a bit muggy, night for a run. Great work everyone as we all did a little sweatin' to the oldies!

Below are the slides from tonight including the link to a truly convicting video on perspective and the call to extend kindness to all. I like to think of it as the starting line philosophy. You just never know what that runner next to you is, or has, or will be going through. Never project your assumptions onto others and be compassionate and encouraging. 

Finally, you will note the slide on race weekend schedules, including the group picture and information for parking. Review it carefully and be there no later than 7:15. 

Ok - one week to go. I cannot wait to see you for our celebration Monday next week. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Calling All Art Aficionados

I am not an art collector. I have little-to-no working knowledge of famous artists. In fact, I couldn't tell you the difference between water colors, acrylics, oils or latex house. However, I especially enjoyed paint-by-number sets when I was a kid, and I am finding that art galleries are not necessarily the waste of time I previously thought them to be. Oh, and I could never turn away from Bob Ross creating those "happy little clouds."

All this to say, I do appreciate art, even if I am not that well-versed in it. For one, I value the emotional and introspective stirrings that it can create when there is a strong connection to the subject or style. And I am certainly a proponent of the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words (my office is evidence to the stories behind the photos).

So, when I walked into a restaurant the other day and saw the painting above, I froze. Seriously, you would have thought I had been handed a free Boston Marathon entry. I have seen hundreds of running horses, depicted in many ways (it's sort of what I do), but I haven't ever seen this one.

What struck me was something about the relational element of the horses; the better together philosophy. There is a pace and a connection that seems to imply great momentum and purpose. I have no idea if it is "any good" but I really love the colors and the texture of the entire image. When I think of the challenge and exhilaration associated with running with horses, something very much like this comes to mind.

Here's my dilemma; there is no signature or title, and the restaurant was not certain of any information regarding it. I have written their management and await, but thought someone out there might know the style and artist, or might have seen something similar, or might even could be commissioned to do a similar work (ha, kidding, "commissioning a work" sounds more like something Thurston Howell would do, and not the running with horses guy). Anyway, looking for a print of this painting if it is out there.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

ROCC RFG 2017 - Week 10

Given our music-themed week-ten evening, I'm going with Here Comes The Rain Again, (who can forget that synthesized Eurythmics sound of the synthesized decade), as the best descriptor of our time together - both last night and for much of this season six!

But here's the good news, did we let that rain stop us - NO! Great work by each of the groups, running 25 minutes non-stop through either our indoor cross-country track or the rain-soaked 5K route. Nobody melted and what didn't stop us, made us stronger.

Following workout, we tried our hand at a little Name That Tune (with a twist). Connecting with fellow RFG'ers, the group came up with most all of the songs and artists. (If you watch the facebook live video, you can find it starting around the 5:45 mark).

Our study time tonight focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is the gospel? What does it mean? Where did it come from? Can you share it? All of these are covered in unit 10 of your book, and are touched on in the fantastic video (link included below). This is a great week to reflect upon our problem (the sin of fallen mank), our broken solutions (works, morals, religion), His perfect solution (Jesus Christ, fully divine / fully human, paid the price for our sin), and our response (Romans 10:9 - Confess He is Lord, Believe He died, was buried, and raised = We will be saved).

Finally, some thoughts, tips, and suggestions for using or not using music when we run.

Have a great week - only two more Mondays!