"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.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The ROCC Running Club

Since the inception of ROCC Run for God in 2012, several of our graduates and RFG faithful have been asking for a 10K program. And despite the fact that the RFG courses and materials are available for a 10K group, I have tended to answer these requests by reminding them that "RFG is primarily a beginners-focused program and we really want to give all of our energy to those 5k first-timers. However, I do really like the idea, so let's get back in touch in the fall and see what we come up with." Then life would happen and the fall would come and go.

But as R4G concluded this past spring, we committed to make contact in August to gauge interest for a fall 10K. Not the full blown RFG study, but an 8 week running club (thank you once again, Hal Higdon, for the very best of training plans). If we could get a core group committed to meeting on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and most Saturdays in September and October, we would train for and run the Ardmore RAH 10K in Winston-Salem.

Well, we did (get the commitments), we did (do the training), and we did (run the RAH)!

For 8 weeks, this core group of usually between 12 - 15, pushed hard to run distances and paces that were new personnel bests. Going off the beaten track with new routes, new hills, and new training methods, each and every member of "the club" did so well. In fact, I was truly amazed (and not in a way that might imply I had low expectations), but in that we avoided any nagging injuries, we increased mileage without issue, and our race day saw practically every goal met or exceeded. This group worked hard and ran hard. I am very proud to run alongside them.

Finally, speaking of "running alongside." One of the better benefits of holding a less formal club for this increased distance was that I actually could run the race with our runners. It's been a long time since I have had the joy of running a local race. The 10K really is a great distance and I enjoyed every step. Pacing is such a critical element for me, I had the privilege of pacing a small group that was looking for a sub-1:00. No pressure or anything, but I’m relieved to report that they all came in at 59:34 or better, depending on how much gas they had in the tank for that final .2 (remember, it’s the .2 that gets you every time :)

Thanks again to our runners for your perseverance and continued prodding to go a little further. I really enjoyed these past 8 weeks and I look forward your help and participation in February as we kickoff RFG 5k in Season 5, and who knows, maybe a half-marathon next fall .... tbd.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Standing Alongside - GP/OW Unit 1

God's Power in Our Weakness: A nine week sermon series and small group study which kicked off at River Oaks on September 20. And for the next few months we will look closely at the Apostle Paul's 2nd letter (at least what we refer to as the 2nd letter) to the Church at Corinth. Considered to be the most personal of his epistles, 2 Corinthians reveals a transparent Paul opening up his heart and defending his convictions to a church body that he dearly loved. There is much application and many points of reflection for us to discover in this great letter. We would love to have you join us.

As with past studies, I thought I would post an introduction week commentary to get you started. The entire guide is provided via a link below, and I encourage everyone to read through this great letter.

INTRODUCTION & Chapter 1 of 2 Corinthians
Running Theme: I've thought about this passage of coming alongside through suffering, as that moment that you connect with someone around mile 20 and make that often non-verbal, but yet very real, pact to stay together and help each other to the finish!

Read Chapter 1 Here / Find Sermon Guide Here

In Acts 9:15, the Lord pronounces Paul to be “a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles.” And that is exactly what Paul became. In fact, check out Acts 13:42-48 for an example of the early work of Paul among the Gentiles, and consider what a great privilege it was to hear God’s Word preached (can you imagine if we were as excited about being exposed to God’s Word as these early Gentiles?

I mention this because it is an interesting footnote to the founding of the church in Corinth. Specifically, in Acts 18:1-9 we see the origins of the Corinthian Christians. Having met up with fellow tentmakers, Priscilla and Aquila, Paul began preaching in the synagogue. Almost immediately, the Jews opposed Paul, so he begins to preach Jesus to the Gentiles. Acts 18:8 says; “And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” This occurred on what we refer to as Paul’s second missionary journey, during the years AD 50-52, as he stayed over a year and half in Corinth during this time (Acts 18:11).
Fast-forward to the writing of 2 Corinthians in what is believed to be circa AD 56. A lot has occurred between the Corinthian Church and Paul since these early conversions some four years prior—much of it not very good at all. There are accusations and slander against Paul, there were outsiders misrepresenting the ‘Good News’, there was disunity in the church, and there were ungodly cultural influences everywhere the Corinthians looked. Paul had addressed much of this in 1 Corinthians, but now he was preparing to visit Corinth himself and decided to spill out his heart in letter form before he arrived on the scene.

Speaking of visits and letters; one additional point of historical context is something that many of us are not that familiar with, but it gives us insight into Paul’s concern for the Corinthians and his determination to disciple these young Christians. That is, the letter we refer to 2 Corinthians is most likely Paul’s fourth letter to the Corinthian Church, not his second. Why do most biblical scholars come to this conclusion, and how do they know that? Good questions. So, when in doubt, go to Scripture (actually, when not in doubt, go to Scripture!)

The following is a taken from Burges’ book The New Testament in Antiquity. It highlights Paul's trips and letters to Corinth, according to Scriptural references.
  • 1st Visit: AD 50 – 52 (as discussed above) / Acts 18:18
  • 1st Letter: ca. AD 52 (lost to history) / 1 Cor. 5:9; also 1 Cor. 7:1, the Corinthians write back
  • 2nd Letter: AD 54 (known as 1st Corinthians) written from Ephesus / 1 Cor. 16:8
  • 2nd Visit: AD 54 / “a painful visit” 2 Cor. 2:1
  • 3rd Letter: AD 55 (lost to history) / “a letter of tears” 2 Cor. 2:3-4
  • 4th Letter: AD 56 (known as 2nd Corinthians) written from Macedonia / 2 Cor. 7:5-7
  • 3rd Visit: AD 56 or 57/ 2 Cor. 13 (Note: Paul warns them that although he is weak, he is coming in God’s power; uh-oh!)
In chapter one, a key theme is that of suffering and comfort; notice how many times Paul refers to his comfort AND suffering in Christ. Paul sees both of these as going hand-in-hand. This will actually be a major theme of the entire letter. One important note is to realize the type of “comfort” that Paul speaks of when describing his comfort from trials and tribulations. It’s not simply a passing relief or the sympathy of others. Rather, Paul uses the word (paraklesis) to give his readers the understanding that comfort is about “one who stands beside us in the midst of struggle to encourage and support.” It’s the same root as used of the Holy Spirit (Paraclete). In other words, Paul views the comfort of God as being present and alongside. He also views the comfort of genuine believers as those who stand alongside one another.

Question: When we give comfort to someone, is it a passing relief, a sympathetic word, or is it the standing alongside to weather the storm as one?

For the record; Paul wrote of the suffering and comfort found in 2 Corinthians some 30 times across his letters. More than 3 times that of any other writer in the Bible.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead

One look at the Tupelo Marathon race shirt and you sort of figure out that this was no ordinary event.  And after shuffling to the finish line, all I could think about was how accurately the race motto for this quirky Mississippi 26.2 had described my run. Without a doubt I had been trampled (felt like many times) and hurdled (at least once)!

Background: In late spring, a fellow church member and RFG alumnus, who we will call 'The Lewisville Flash,' decided that a Labor Day weekend run in the Magnolia State would be the thing to do. So we registered, trained, and headed out for Mississippi.

All summer we had expected hot, humid, muggy conditions in Tupelo, and so it was good news (tongue-in-cheek), that our expectations were met. Actually they were exceeded. We gathered in the dark streets outside the convention center for a 5 am start. Already in the mid-70's with 95% humidity, it would only climb higher after sunrise. But enough about the weather, it was no surprise, besides I've always believed that the strongest steel is formed in the hottest fires anyway. What really made Tupelo was the overall vibe, which was especially evident at the starting line.

Just before it was time for the gun to sound, a voice calls out from the middle of 600 runners:

"Hey, everybody quiet down and come closer ... tighten it up so you can hear me. Now, we are running the same course as last year. How many of you ran that course (about 20%), good, if you didn't run it last year just follow one of these people. You start when I say 'go!' Now, let's pray ... alright, everyone take off your hats and let's pray....Amen. This guy who prayed will be running out there with you. Go!"

Of course, this is even more classic when coupled with this email that we received last week:

This was great. It was nice for a marathon to take itself seriously, and yet, not take itself seriously. And I mean that in a highly complimentary way. In fact, all informalities aside, the areas that really mattered were fantastic; like aid station support, runner camaraderie, and the post-race atmosphere--especially comfortable as you finished inside the air conditioned coliseum and were met by plenty of seating, refreshments, BBQ, and really nice blues music.

Ultimately, the course--not the hardest, but not the easiest--the heat, and the stage of training that I found myself in for Tupelo, all led to a brutal run. Fun, memorable, enjoyable (yes, it can be miserable and enjoyable at the same time), but very brutal. It was a PR alright, just on the wrong end of the spectrum.

Oh well, the experience is always infinitely more important than the finish time (unless of course I grab a PR on the right end of the spectrum), and after 1,400 miles behind the steering wheel, and 26.2 miles on our feet, the experience was more about seeing the Flash run a sub-4:00 PR, receiving a lesson in Notre Dame football, listening to super interesting life stories, and learning how various rubber products are manufactured. Bottom line; Tupelo was an awesome experience.
(Fill in your own caption on this one!)

Pre and Post Race: Never Easy / Always Worth It!

You run the 1/2, you get a 1/2! Funny :)

The Updated Map - Member of the Southeastern State Club if 50 doesn't work out!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

ROCC Running Club - Inaugural Training

For each of the past several years, there is one question certain to be asked on the final night of our Run For God 5k program: "Have you ever thought of doing a 10K training?" And each year I reply with, "Well, there is a RFG 10k book and plan, but it's difficult to hold both of them together - maybe someday." However, with our group this past May the number of those raising this question increased to such a point that the request could no longer be ignored.

So .....

Beginning tonight, Tuesday - September 1st - @ 6:30 pm, we will kickoff the ROCC (River Oaks Community Church) Running Club. Our primary purpose is to honor God in our running (words, attitudes, actions, encouragement, gratitude, and perspective) as we train for the Ardmore RAH 10k to be held on October 24th.

The training is 8 weeks and will be based on Hal Higdon's Novice / Intermediate plans. The Ardmore event is a Run Against Hunger race and is also one of Fleet Feet's We Run Winston premier races (similar to the ROCC 5k). You can certainly chose to walk / run your race as our goal is for you to complete your first or your fastest 10k.

We begin tonight with a 2.5 mile training run. That might sound too difficult, and yes, it should be somewhat difficult (no pain, no gain, right!), but if you could go out and complete a 5k today in some manner of completion, you will be perfectly fine with our training. The key is slowing the pace and to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

There are no costs associated with this training, other than your race entry fee, and this is not a Run For God program. We will meet and run. While doing so, we will fellowship through our runs, provide some devotional conversation during our warm-ups, and talk through some distance running tips and observations during our cool-down.

Finally, I'll try to use the RWH site and the Triad Run For God Facebook page to update everyone on group run locations, but many will be from the church, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Share with a friend or neighbor as all are welcome, and hope to see you at RRC tonight!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Testament of Devotion

What a great title for a post about running! If there is one thing that most all of us runners can attest to, it’s that to have any degree of success (however you wish to define success) and to experience any level of lasting enjoyment with running, there must be some sense of devotion. It is rarely the case that a runner continues mile after mile, year after year, if there is not love, commitment, enthusiasm, consistency, or persistence for the sport.

STOP.  Now, consider your thoughts and personal reflections from this first paragraph.

This is not a post about running, though there are parallel truths. Rather it is a title taken from a collection of essays written in the late 1930’s by Quaker missionary, Thomas Kelly. And the question is this: As believers in Christ do we exhibit devotion in our daily faith? Does our devotion ascend beyond worldly attributes--listed above for running--and demonstrate itself through a more appropriate devotion of worship, piety, holiness, and reverence? Or does our devotion fall short of even that which we show for everything and everyone else around us?

One of Kelly’s primary points in the first essay, The Light Within, is that there is a place deep within us that ceases to be our "noisy workshop.” In this place we find a “holy sanctuary of adoration and devotion, where we are kept in perfect peace as our minds are on Him.”

The key is that when we are truly devoted, when we look to maintain a perpetual flame of this light within, we experience more of the moments for which we “are able to carry the sanctuary flame of the heart and mind and soul out into the world.” These are the moments that our love for God and love for others is most natural and complete.

Kelly goes on to suggest that a "conscious worship throughout the day, undergirded by living prayer in every moment, becomes the background to all moments of life.” He also stresses that living a devoted life is not an absentminded spiritual discipline, but one that allows us to walk, talk, laugh, work, and go about all the daily activities, while “behind the scenes, we are keeping up a life of simple prayer and inward worship.” What a great picture of going through the day!

Runners have a lot of free ‘mind time,’ Hours and hours of deep thought (mixed in with hours and hours of Springsteen playlists). Taking time to reflect on whether or not our witness is one of true devotion would be a challenging thought to wrestle with on the next long run. If we are to truly “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thes. 5:16-18), then it will require unparalleled devotion and the pursuit of a perpetual flame.

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.