"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, December 22, 2014

At The End of the 1st Quarter ...

... the home team remains mostly vertical and enters the second quarter of play in better than expected condition!

That’s right, on December 13th, I completed my 13th state with the Rocket City Marathon (Huntsville, Al), in a time of 4:13:13! (And no, I did not play the lottery on the way home). Although it was a cool way to surpass a major milestone that I had set for myself back when this crazy idea sort of came together--to get out of the first quarter (25% of the states) in good health and on pace to complete half of the states by age 50.

First, Huntsville.

Rocket City is an established and well known event. With close to 2,000 runners, it was large enough to merit good support and decent swag, while not so large that it became inconvenient for parking, starting corrals, and packet pick-up requirements. The course was a good challenge (more elevation changes than I had expected), and running through the Space Center complex was a nice feature. However, the best part of the race was the finish that took you inside a downtown coliseum and a climate controlled post-race holding area.

Choose your colors! 
I’ll admit, it was nice to be back in the land of orange & blue, and that other color. Seemingly every house flew a flag with either the ugly script ‘A’, or the inspirational symbol of encouragement and excellence (those homes typically came complete with a “War Eagle” or two). Of course, there were also some War Buckeyes flying around. Even one of the official shirts required that you choose loyalties.

The goal for Huntsville was to finish with an easy pace. Indianapolis was six weeks prior and there had not been many runs since. Mission accomplished; a 9:36 pace, extremely consistent throughout, and the opportunity to chat with other runners, volunteers, and supporters. The morning was absolutely beautiful--34 degrees to start, 45 to finish, and partial sunshine. In other words, a good time was had by all.

Now, did I mention we are beginning play in the 2nd Quarter!

Keeping in mind that it is definitely "a marathon, and not a sprint,” I realize that finishing 13 states is the equivalent of completing the first 6 1/2 miles of the race, and there’s a lot of road out there to cover. So we’ll savor the moment, for just a moment, and then begin the next stage. A few thoughts about these past four years:

1) The most rewarding aspect of this pursuit has been the race day relationships; running Marine Corp with my brother, Myrtle Beach with Ken Brown, Little Rock with Stadt, Indy with the Brantleys, West Virginia with Christy along, Wilmington with my daughters along. In addition, I have had the pleasure and privilege to converse with hundreds of kindred spirits along the way. From small words of encouragement to several miles of getting to know someone. There is nothing like it.

2) Favorite Courses (in order): Chicago, Savannah (PR course will always rank high), Disney.

3) Least Favorite Courses: Huntsville, Knoxville, Wrightsville Beach

4) Most Beautiful Course: Hands down, Hatfield-McCoy in Kentucky/West Virginia

5) Average Q1 finish of 4:10:23. My goal had been to average sub-4:00 for all 50. That’s still possible, but not likely. I have reverted to running one, sometimes two, races hard each year, and the others just to finish. I had 6 races sub-4:00 (with Savannah at 3:31:13), 6 races in the low-mid 4:00’s, and then there was Knoxville - ouch! I used a calendar in Tennessee instead of a watch.

Ok, moment over, time to move on. Quarter 2 will include more challenges as driving distance is extended and training time continues to be at a premium. We are planning a Louisville race in April, for which my wife and youngest daughter plan on running the half (very excited about that), as well as getting home to Texas in 2015.

I will also begin playing the NYC registration lottery in hopes that my number is drawn at some point over the next few years. As to Boston, hmmmm. From Savannah, I needed 6 more minutes minimum. I think I have one or two more hard training cycles in me, but it just might be a strategy of holding on until age 55 or 60 to make Boston a reality, we’ll see.

I truly hope to meet many of you along the way, especially fellow Run for God instructors and participants, and to catch up with many others (by the way, I might need a place to stay ... Corey and Krista in AK, Brent and Elena in AZ, Sanford and Kristi in CA, Julie P in TX, ....). As long as I enjoy putting in the miles and hanging out with fellow crazies, the journey will continue.

Have a Merry Christmas and a running start to the New Year!

First Quarter Medals, er .. Memories

Thursday, December 18, 2014

On the Run Christmas Shopping

I was asked earlier today, "What should I get a runner for Christmas?" Without knowing the runner in question--their needs or what they might already have--I could only answer with what I consider to be some of my favorite running related gifts. So if you are currently trying to determine what to get that runner on your list, here are those suggestions.

1) Investing in a GPS running watch changed my running life forever. April 14, 2010 was the day, and I would never be the same. A watch like the Garmin 610 (my current device) allows runners to train in a more disciplined and effective way by determining mileage, pace, intervals, elevation, etc., etc., etc.. The watch syncs directly to your computer for detailed online training logs, charts, and maps. This might be a bit pricier than you were looking to spend, but the current Amazon offering is really a great deal, and it will be shipped by Christmas if purchased today! Make sure your runner doesn't already have a similar device, but this is a fantastic way to encourage someone to keep on running.

2) The great thing about running is that you can run anywhere; around home, while traveling, in town, or away from civilization. Bring the shoes and off you go. Because of this it is critical that you have some sort of identification on your person. It's usually not practical, nor advisable, to carry along a driver's license or other form of card ID, but items from ROAD ID are perfect for wearing or strapping to your shoe. There are several styles, colors, and types. Usually somewhere between $17 - $25 and you have all the information you need engraved onto your selected item. I've been wearing a ROAD ID bracelet for many years, and have fortunately never had to rely upon it for providing medical information, but I have found it necessary to remember my wife's phone number after a particularly draining race!
3) Runners always need socks. Find your runner's favorite pair and put a few under the tree or in the stocking. If you don't know, I personally think Swiftwick is one of the best (hint-hint). The lighter the better and they have been especially durable.

4) For $1/issue (when subscribed for two years), Runner's World magazine is the absolute best bargain out there. From beginner to elite, RW is top notch. I have learned more, and laughed more, from Runner's World than from any other source. Once you read through your first edition, you will find yourself behaving like the little boy, Raphie, in  Christmas Story that can't stop checking the mailbox for his decoder ring everyday! It is that good - promise.
5) If you still aren't sure what to gift your runner--maybe you don't know the size, and they aren't into reading, and they already have a watch--then how about paying their registration fee for an upcoming Run For God 5k program (Feb 2nd - April 27th at River Oaks in Clemmons, NC) or for an upcoming race (perhaps the ROCC 5k on May 2nd in Clemmons, NC). And to really make it a Christmas to remember, sign up with them and run along!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shout Like You Mean It!

I'll admit it, I’m a shouter. Sometimes in the car alone, often on race morning along 26.2 miles of fun, and absolutely every time the Jordan-Hare stadium scoreboard puts a final second back on the clock, I will let out a shout. Partially because I can’t help myself--it’s just how I’m wired--but also because I’ve always felt like the joy down inside is suppose to make its way out into the world, to be shared by all within earshot.

Given this tendency, I was especially excited that our final fall small group passage last week happened to be Psalm 66. This psalm is one of great praise; praise for God’s great works, his gracious gifts, his deliverance, and the relationship he has with his people. Praise-praise-praise.

But better yet is the instruction we find in the first two verses of Psalm 66; it reads:

“Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.”  Psalm 66:1-2

The Hebrew word for ‘shout’ is ruwa, meaning “to split the ear with sound.” This word is also used to describe blowing an alarm or trumpet in triumph. In other words, David is directing the readers to GET LOUD! This is not a whisper of a praise, but a magnificent lifting up of praise and glory, so that all will know the greatness of God. Perhaps the shout around the walls of Jericho might provide a good example for what David is referring to in Psalm 66.

Ultimately, the shout of joy is an acknowledgement of the contentment, peace, and comfort that God has granted us. The world can steal our joy if we aren’t careful, and too often we associate joy, or a lack of joy, with happiness, sadness, frustration, and other momentary emotions. But pure joy flows from the heart out and should eventually be released, if not by a shout, at least by a kind word, a smile, or a laugh, all in the name of praising God.

So give it a try - find the opportunity and shout it out. Although, let me warn you, and I’ve learned from experience, the fine folks at Krispy Kreme get a little bit annoyed with all the whooping and hollering while you watch the glazing machine run!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Rest is Good

Whether training for a full, building consistent base mileage, or beginning to run for the very first time, there is a critical piece of advice that applies to everyone -- rest day is important! In fact, many coaches consider the rest day to be a training day, identified on the calendar, and expected to have full compliance. From injury prevention to improved performance to providing a mental break, there are many good reasons why our bodies need that day or two off per week to rest.

Recently, our small group study looked at the idea of Sabbath rest. In the same way that our bodies need a break from the physical demands of running, we each need a break from the demands of life. But even if most of us have heard of the term 'Sabbath,' many of us aren't quite sure about why or how we should consider Sabbath rest today. And is it just about rest, or is there more?

The following is taken from some commentary around the Sabbath study. Enjoy, and may we each consider how rest plays into our holiday season and the year ahead.

Small Group Spiritual Disciplines: Sabbath – “Unplug!”
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge.” – Psalm 31:1
Blessing or Burden? That’s the real question we face when thinking about the Sabbath. And our answer is often an indication of our understanding and/or appreciation for the Sabbath. So let’s look at what we know about the Sabbath.
There is little doubt that the model put in place on the seventh day of creation was used to help the Israelites, the early believers, and even those of us today, better appreciate God’s call to regular rest and worship. However, it is not the creation model that God first commanded his people to obey the Sabbath. We first find the call to Sabbath in Exodus 16:22-26:
“Tomorrow (7th day) is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord” (Ex. 16:23).
And here is a great example of why context is so critical to our understanding. Taken by itself, we read verse 23 and we again look to the emphasis on rest. But when we look at the full passage of Scripture we see that the primary message is not rest, but reliance and worship. Notice in the earlier verses that God provides manna for the Israelites. Each morning he provides enough to meet their needs for that day. Then on the sixth day God provides enough for them to collect for both day 6 and 7, for “tomorrow is a day of solemn rest.” Think about what this means:
- We can trust in God’s provisions. Even when we think the world will stop spinning (or we won’t be able to survive the day if we don’t collect more manna), God asks us to stop and trust him.
- We are thankful for God’s provisions. He supplies us daily, gets us through another week, blesses us with his goodness. So we stop and acknowledge that he has met our needs.
- It is God who provides. The Sabbath is a day to stop, worship, praise, and give thanks to God. It is also a day to reflect on the fact that we are dependent on him.
Of course, when we stop regularly to acknowledge God through a Sabbath, we do also experience the blessing of rest. And more than ever, rest would do all of us good. So what does that look like?
This is a good place to insert a note on compliance to Sabbath. There is sometimes debate on the requirement of Sabbath outside of the Old Testament. We know that it’s the Fourth Commandment and that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law (Mt.5:17), but we also see in Mark 2:27 that the practice of Sabbath had become overly legalistic and Jesus reminded his followers that the “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” So perhaps the real question is if we view the Sabbath as a blessing, a day made for man, one that provides rest and allows us to worship God in an intentional way, what is keeping us from observing it? Whether we are still commanded to or not, why would we not want to? If we view the Sabbath as a burden, why?}
Possible Sabbath applications:
Unplug – Commit to unplugging from social media, texting, emails for a Sabbath period. This might be Sunday for many of us. Rest in the assurance that the world will keep spinning and you will be better able to take on that world come Monday morning fully recharged and more reliant on God’s grace. Unplug the “work brain”, the to-do list, the NOISE! Unplug and find refuge.
* If Sunday is not a day for you to Sabbath, that’s ok; contrary to popular opinion, Sabbath is not the Hebrew word for Sunday or Saturday, but it is the word for “ceasing, coming to an end, to a rest.” Your Sabbath is that point in the week that allows for a regular time of worship and relaxation.
* Rest and relaxation does not always mean lazy-boy time either. A regular Sabbath of mental and emotional rest might include worshipping God out in is creation, along the trail, a back porch rocking chair, a purposeful day out with family.
* During this next week, in the spirit of Sabbath, express let’s express our gratitude for God’s provisions through our time of personal devotional and with our small groups.

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.