Getting Hangry

I have spent a great part of my life feeding people. Great, not only in terms of years spent, but great in terms of the impact feeding others has had on me.

 
The journey of finding joy through food began in high school as I pushed carts and stocked shelves at a grocery store.

 
After entering the Air Force, I worked in food supply: unloading trucks, cutting produce, supplying clubs and dining halls, and shipping food to humanitarian operations in northern Iraq, to the Kurds in Iraq, and to people dying from feminine in Somalia.
 

It was in sharing the gift of grace of food and worship at Community of Hope that I experienced a second calling to ministry and dedicated my life to ministry with the poor.

 
Today, through the Healthy Eating and Living program, Community Development for All People provides 600,000+ pounds of food a year to a food insecure community and teach families every week how to make healthy meals for a family of four for under $5. Every Tuesday night at the Reeb Avenue Center hundreds of people gather for a community meal where relationships are formed and a community gathers.

 
When a person is vulnerable enough to put his knees under the table of someone different than themselves, mutuality is formed and relationships are created.

 
Today, the Hangry race series took this same step of building community.

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Four miles of hills at Highbanks. Photo Courtesy, Stuart Siegfried

 
img_0689On the surface, over 120 people gathered at a cold and beautiful Highbanks Metro Park to run four miles and to stand (run, walk?) against hunger. More than that, participants and sponsors raised funds that will be used to provide the Thanksgiving meal at the Roots Café. Taking a further step, racers were invited to come and follow their contribution and to be a part of the community. People signed up to prepare the meal and to eat with those who they have helped.

 

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Me, Mr Turkey, and Molly

Something special happens around food. When shared, food becomes a gift of grace that fills hearts more than stomachs. Grace motivates the race director, Jonathan Flores, to create an event that makes a difference. Grace exudes from members of our community, like Molly Mustaqeem, who passionately shares the gift of abundant life she has experienced with others. Grace leads us to work to end hunger and in doing so we are the ones who are never the same again.

 

Oh, by the way, since this is a race report, I didn’t specifically train or prepare for this event and finished 14th overall and am happy with that.

Columbus Marathon Race Report

Running is one of the most individual sports.img_0543

The isolation of running struck me today, not at a moment on the course, but as I waited for the start of the Columbus Marathon. Around 15,000 people gathered together in the same place to run a half or full marathon. Yet, we all faced a journey we would travel alone.

While I felt alone and emotional at the starting line, preparing to run my first full marathon in the post-bike accident era, as I ran I connected with many of the people who have had an impact in my life.

I used thimg_0548is marathon as a fundraiser for our church, as we are taking 30-40 low-income people from Columbus’ South Side to the Holy Land in February. With the support of 31 donations, we raised $3,515. I made a list of those 31 names and carried them with me and thought of who these people are and the adversity that they overcame in their lives. In addition, friends held signs with my name and cheered for me as I ran. My family endured traffic and patiently waited for me at the finish line. I was surrounded by love and support the entire way. img_0546

I didn’t notice it before the run, but as I ticked off mile after mile it occurred to me that most of the names of the 31 donors were women, 26 of 31 to be exact. I not only noticed the prevalence of women’s names, but the strength of these women:  women who sacrificed for their families, raised their children as a single parent, helped their husbands and sons overcome addiction, faced disappointments in life with grace, graduated with degrees after caring for others, deployed to Afghanistan, cared for aging parents, overcame cancer and pain, lived faithfully in difficult conditions, and shared the gifts of who they are with others. As we ran around Ohio Stadium, I thought of my grandmothers: one who raised my dad as a war widow, single parent in the 1940s and 1950s. and the other who faced a heredity of depression in herself and which tragically manifest itself in her son. I thought of the love of my life, Jennifer, and all that she has given me.

img_0547Running 26.2 miles never happens without pain. No matter how well-trained or gifted the athlete, everybody hurts. I ran a great 20 mile race, but unfortunately still had another six miles in front of me on an unseasonably warm day. In the last three to four miles, my calves cramped every time I ran. When I took my shoes off after the run, I discovered a large blood blister on the side of my foot. But in those moments when my tired body hurt, I thought of those strong women. The things they overcame are much more difficult than a leg cramp. If they persevered over bigger obstacles, I could continue putting one foot in front of the other.

I didn’t finish in the four-hour and thirty minute time I hoped. According to my watch, I finished in 4:43, more than 20 minutes faster than any other previous marathon. I struck the PR gong with satisfaction and knew I didn’t achieve any of this alone.

First ever DNF: Hocking Hills Race Report

This morning I embarked on the Hocking Hills 40k. It was a beautiful morning as fog lifted from the rolling hills. The first six miles were flawless, even the steepest hill on the course that gains 200 feet of elevation in half a mile didn’t feel that bad. At a quarter of the way through the race I was exactly on my race pace. 

 
At mile 7 I began to feel a slight discomfort in my knee. Nothing bad, just the kind of thing that makes you go hmmm. I got water and a fig Newton from an aid station, crossed the bridge at Cedar Falls, and all seemed good with the world. About a quarter mile later, the discomfort became a sharp pain. For a moment I thought about running the next four miles and stopping at the half way point, but I listened to the voice of my doctor and physical therapist who said if you feel a sharp pain, stop. 

 
Over the last decade I’ve probably run close to 50 races. This is the first one I didn’t finish. It was very disappointing not to finish because of all of the people who supported me in helping to get people to the Holy Land. But, sometimes in life, the journey to the finish line is indirect. After all, we are taking people to the Holy Land and the original pilgrimage was longer than expected. I am hoping that I will be healed and strong enough to run the Columbus Marathon on October 16 so I can honor their gift.

Running others to the Holy Land

Yesterday I ran my first 12 mile, long distance marathon training run in over three years. Okay, it is an almost marathon. On September 16 I will be running the 40K version of the Hocking Hills Indian Run. Personally, this is a big step as it is my first return to the marathon in the post bike accident era. But it is not just about me.

I am using this (almost) marathon as a fundraiser for our church’s trip to Israel in February 2017. Just having been there, I am not going on the trip. However, we are taking a group of low income people from our church to the Holy Land. A trip like this is normally limited to the privileged, but the Church for All People is taking those whom Jesus called “blessed” in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5).

Running around Old Jerusalem

While I am training for the marathon, we can use your help. All proceeds from this (almost) marathon will go to cover the costs of the trip. Donations of any amount are accepted. For each person who makes a donation, I will carry your name with me on the run and dedicate a mile to you. More importantly, you will enable a low income community to experience the historic and sacred sights of Israel. In Jerusalem, I had some of the greatest spiritual experiences of my life, and want others to experience the same. You can help make that happen with a donation to: http://www.active.com/donate/runtotheholyland

Thank you.

Hilliard Classic Half Marathon

There aren’t many days in life that you can point to and say this is the day I overcame an obstacle. Today was one of those rare moments. 

I ran my first half marathon eight years ago. Since then, I’ve probably run in a half dozen halfs where I have finished around two hours and five to seven minutes. For some reason, whether the external challenges of the course or the internal challenges of fighting through fatigue, I have never been able to break two hours.

For the last couple of months I trained to break this barrier. Overall, my training was good but not perfect. I had some of my fastest training runs, but also had persistent issues with my ankle and some long training runs cut short by heat and humidity.

While I much prefer running in the winter to the summer, training in the heat served me well on this 80 degree day, as many people who signed up for the half changed to 5K or 10k. The course for the first ever Hilliard Classic Half Marathon followed a converted rail trail. This meant running in a straight line for six and a half miles, turning around, and running back. While we didn’t have any hills to climb, there was little scenery and a whole lot of sun. 

Nonetheless, I felt good for the first ten miles. At the half way point I had built up a 30 second cushion ahead of the needed 9:09 pace to break two hours. The next four miles ticked off on pace. After passing mile 10, I began to regret not doing more longer training runs. I was not alone, people I had been running at pace with began falling off. The sun beat down on us and my cushion evaporated in miles 11 and 12. I looked down at my watch and realized I had no time to fall back on and began to wonder if I had the endurance to break two hours. 

Then something happened. I don’t know what. With a mile to go, running around the Hilliard school campus, I found an unkown strength. I finished mile 13 at a pace around 8:30, saw what I thought was the track where we started, and knew for the first time I was going to make it. 

But I ran to the wrong track! Behind Hilliard Memorial Middle School there are two tracks. I turned in to the first one instead of continuing to the second. I looked at some people gathered there and asked, where is everyone? They pointed me to the other track. 

Relying on this unknown strength, I kicked it in to gear and finished as hard as I could. Even with this extra detour, I crossed the finish line in 1:59:45. The allusive barrier is broken. What is the next challenge that can be overcome?
 

Columbus international 5K race report

We can only control what we control. There are many things in life  that happen to us that are outside of our hands. We are not defined by the things that happen to us, but how we respond to them.

In my last four races I have finished in the top 5 to 10%. I have been in a groove. I have felt stronger and faster than ever. As I entered today’s race I had visions of capping off my third race in six weeks with a strong finish. I ran the first mile in seven minutes and 45 seconds. And, I felt as if negative splits were before me. I hoped to break 23 minutes and after the first mile that seemed a realistic goal. 

However, I soon reached a point on the course where a volunteer did not know where to tell us to go. As she called to find directions, I watched my average pace drop from 7:45 to 8:30. Frustrated by standing and waiting, I took off and followed other runners.  Following a lost crowd sent me on a long  and comical journey. We knew where we needed to go, but could not get to the other side of a branch of the Scioto River.  By the time the winding trail got us back to the finish line, I had ran nearly 4 miles. My streak of top finishes was over.

In contrast to the focus of this race, my extra mile is a first world problem. The Columbus international 5K showcases the different cultures who live in the capital city. Many of these people came to the United States as refugees.  

Pre-race festivities included the arts of many cultures.
 

Additionally, this year the race focused on infant mortality. Columbus has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. In fact, an area near our church is one of the most dangerous places for an Aftican-American family to have a child. Running an extra mile on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, on the banks of the Scioto River, while experiencing multiple cultures and listening to jamming music, is not a bad thing. Any frustration I had today will only serve as motivation as I train for my next race, the Hilliard Classic Half Marathon.

Instead of being frustrated by a less than noteworthy finish, I am inspired by people who have overcome real struggle and celebrate life. 

Running for those who can’t 

There are many reasons I run. I run for health, I run as a spiritual practice, I run to fundraise, I run to race, I run for joy. There are a lot of reasons I run, but today, I ran for those who can’t. 

Yesterday I returned to Albuquerque to visit New Mexico churches. The first person I saw was my friend Jeff who had been in a motor cross accident years ago but today can’t run more than half a mile. I stayed with my friends Phil and Kim. Phil recently had a second surgery on his arm.

Today is the sixth anniversary of the passing of my father-in-law, Robert Hudgins. He was one of the kindest, strongest, and most generous people I have ever known. Bobby was the kind of man I want to be. And yet, from the day I met him his body was broken. Diabetes tore him apart. While he had the same beautiful spirit, he struggled to see, walk, and get through life. 

Today I ran for Jeff, Phil, and especially Bobby. I ran for all who can’t. I breathed deeply, took in the beauty of the sunrise, and treasured every step.