Race Report: Hangry 5K

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At the end of the Public Image Ltd song “Rise,” John Lydon repeatedly exclaims, “Anger is an energy.” We normally think of anger as a negative emotion:  the anger of a person who lashes out in violence or speaks a harsh word.

However, anger can also be a force that motivates us to bring positive change. Every day the news reports a story worth being angry about. Too often, we sit in that anger and feel helpless to do anything about it. Today, a group of people gathered to do something.

One of the things that angers me most is the number of people in our community who go hungry, while at the same time we have plenty of food. According to a PBS news article this week, “Roughly 40 percent of food produced in America never makes it to the table.” At the same time, many people have to choose between buying groceries, paying for rent and utilities, or purchasing medicine. We, as Americans, waste 40 percent of our food while people go hungry. For me, this is not an abstract statistic, but is the world in which I seek to offer the hope of Christ. This makes me angry.

Today, 100-some like minded people gathered at Sharon Woods Metro Park to do something about this. Despite  non-stop rain that flooded steep dirt trails, we came together to raise money, awareness, and provide food for hungry people. The “Hangry 5K” embodied the spirit of addressing hunger from our anger. We raised over $1,500 for the “Heart to Heart” food pantry and donated hundreds of cans of food.

  
The run itself wasn’t easy, but was in a beautiful wooded course. My overall time was two minutes slower than normal, but considering the muddy conditions, 500 feet of elevation gain, out-and-back traffic on a single track trail, and recently sprained ankle, I was definitely satisfied with the run. I finished 9th overall, which might be my first ever top 10 finish in a race. More important than my individual run, it was great to see such a group of people dedicated to helping others, especially in uncomfortable conditions.

Throughout this run, I listened to songs related to food. At the end of the Public Enemy song “31 Flavors,” a voice challenges the listener by saying, “All people of good will better step up today to protect the rest.” Today, we stepped up.

    This weather is for the turkeys!

#runningnashville

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Near the end of March I turned my ankle.

Over the last three weeks in Nashville my running recovered. I traveled more than 70 miles across the city and I loved it. The Music City revived my running soul. Nashville, on your streets I found myself in the midst of unexpected marathons, inside stadiums, running behind people in wheelchairs, and I found myself amongst wealth, heart, poverty, architecture, nature, and music. So long, and thanks for all the miles.

Here are some pics from the journey. You can see the rest on my instagram page, https://instagram.com/grennifer/

#runningnashville

A photo posted by Perseverancerunner (@grennifer) on

#runningnashville

A photo posted by Perseverancerunner (@grennifer) on

#runningnashville

A photo posted by Perseverancerunner (@grennifer) on

#runningnashville

A photo posted by Perseverancerunner (@grennifer) on

#runningnashville

A photo posted by Perseverancerunner (@grennifer) on

#runningnashville

A photo posted by Perseverancerunner (@grennifer) on

Race Report: Achilles 5 Miler Hope and Possibility

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IMG_4495Yesterday morning I ran passed the Athletes House running store in Nashville. I actually stopped at this store before checking in at the hotel two weeks ago. I needed some long socks to wear under my ankle brace and found myself in the oldest running store in Nashville. Without trying, yesterday I found myself in the same place. On the outside of the store was a bulletin board advertising local races. The Achilles 5 miler got my attention, since it was a unique distance and because I have had Achilles issues.

Over the last several years my running journey has been detoured by injuries. Turning aIMG_4500nkles and falling off a bicycle have limited me. However, the Achilles 5 miler reminded me that there are people who have overcome much more than I. This run benefited and included the participation of children and adults with varying levels of ability. At the start line, groups of blind people walked arm-in-arm with sighted guides. Wheelchairs and pushchairs climbed the hills on the five mile course. Amazing athletes ran, walked, struggled, and overcame together.

FullSizeRender_1However, the benefit of the race was not only in the accomplishment of the task and raising money for differently abled persons. Every participant was invited to select the card of a child to run and pray for. I ran for “Team Jonathan” a nine year old boy who is blind—the same age as Nathan. Also, in addition to a traditional race bib number, we were also given a bib with the word “HOPE” on it and asked to write what we hoped for. I wrote the words “imago Dei”—in my hope that all people would learn to see each other as equally created in God’s image.  In Renaissance art God is portrayed as masculine and strong, but I wonder how we see the image of God reflected in the person without sight or limbs?

A mile and a half in to the race, a man in a wheelchair and a man with a prosthetic leg remained in front of me--impressive.

A mile and a half in to the race, a man in a wheelchair and a man with a prosthetic leg remained in front of me–impressive.

For me, today was a special gift. Not only did I have the chance to meet some amazing people, but I ran a race much greater than I expected. Six weeks ago I turned my foot underneath me in the first run after the 5K. I didn’t run for almost a month and then came back with a brace. Today, I would have been happy to average 12 minute miles as my ankle is still not 100 percent. However, despite running almost 50 miles in the last two weeks, my body still gave me more than I expected. I ran the second mile in under nine minutes. While my ankle let it be known that I needed to back off from the pace some, I still finished five miles in 47:05–much more than I hoped for. I crossed the finish line with the joy of Flavor Flav singing “31 Flavors” in my ears, watching the embrace of people who overcame great obstacles, and being a part of a community of people who made the journey together.

 

 

Running Hot

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I can’t remember the last time I ran in heat. It might have been as long ago as the Sedona Marathon heat-tastrophe of 2013.


Normally I am an early morning runner. Not because I avoid the heat, but I try to run while others sleep so I don’t take time away from my family. However, yesterday, the opportunity to run came in the afternoon. An 87 degree run up and down the hills of Nashville (550 feet of elevation gain in 4.5 miles).


I am not complaining about the heat. When running, I actually like a good challenge. The more difficult the obstacle, the worse the weather, the steeper the hill, the sweeter the accomplishment. In some strange way, I enjoy the sting of sweat in my eyes. Pushing against the temperature, wind, and humidity makes the accomplishment of running all the sweeter.


However, as my face turned red with heat I also recognized the heat of the world around me. 


Yesterday I ran through the remains of Fort Negley. This Fort was built through the work of Freed Slaves during the Civil War as a protective wall for the Union. Ironically, these walls now stand at the top of a hill in a predominantly African American neighborhood. This neighborhood looks starkly different from the one of our hotel two miles away. Instead of the high scale restaurants and shops where I have spent most of my time in Nashville, this area of the city included cracked sidewalks, crumbling infrastructure, and neglect.

  

As I stood among the walls of Fort Negley that overlook this neighborhood of Nashville, I wondered about the sacrifice of the men who built these walls. How would they see our world today? A century and a half later we still live in a divided country. While physical walls do not divide a nation, walls of class, race, and poverty create different worlds of safety, opportunity, and even life expectancy.


Freed Slaves labored on hot Tennessee days to protect the Union. How is the Union at work in these hot days of civil unrest to protect vulnerable people today?

A place like no other

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I have the worst case of runner’s envy.


I can finish a run in the morning and if I see people running later in the day, I look at them and wish it was me. I am a covetous runner.

Imagine the skip of my heart when I learned yesterday that the Rock n Roll Marathon was happening in Nashville. Not only in the same city where I am staying, but the course was planned to pass right by our hotel. When I woke up this morning, I looked down from my hotel window and saw the flashing lights of a police car blocking the course.

 

under my window

 
How could I resist? With a sprained ankle and all, I strapped up my brace and headed down to be a part of the energy. I ran down the middle of blocked city streets, passed bands warming up, and into a crowd of 23,000 runners. With timing chips in place, the crowd was filled with enough pent up anxiety to blow the speakers out of the music city.

 

my name is greg and i cant resist a start line

 

Among a selfie-taking crowd, I hopped in to the 5k start. I didn’t have enough time to run the 5k and make it back for the morning training events, but I ran the first mile with the crowd and passed the corrals of waiting marathon runners.

It was a joy to be among the throng. But, it was like tasting an appetizer at a buffet. I can’t wait to get back to the place where I can be numbered among those who run. As crowds cheer and signs mark miles, these runners will discover a place at the core of their being like few other experiences. They will touch places that are fallible and find strength they never knew they had and will never be the same. 

Run on, my sisters and brothers. I’ll be with you soon.