Race Report: Chicago Marathon 

Numbers don’t lie. 

The temperature on Sunday reached 81 degrees. The humidity climbed in to 90th percentiles. By mile 6 my shirt was so soaked with sweat that I tossed it into a street-corner trash can.

My Garmin kept giving me false data. Despite five resets, it told me I was running faster and longer than actual. I tried to catch the pace team that started ahead of me and in doing so I ran the first 9 miles faster than I should’ve.

I slowed down, trusting the pace on my watch, but when I hit mile 15, while my watch said I was exactly on pace, I was almost 30 seconds per mile behind my plan. I tried to do the math in my dehydrated head of how fast I would have to run the last 11 miles to catch up. But as I saw a line of runners pressed against a fence, trying to stretch out their cramps, and recognized that the course had taken us from the skyscraper-sheltered downtown streets to exposed neighborhoods on a cloudless day, I knew there was no catching up.

Numbers don’t lie.

In the week leading up to the marathon, I researched the impact of heat and humidity on marathon times. Scientific studies show that if you planned on running in 4 hours and 30 minutes (which I did) and the temperature is 80 (which it was) you can expect to finish in about 5 hours and 18 minutes.

When I researched this in my air conditioned home I didn’t want to believe it. My pride and ego had a goal in mind and I was going for that goal. But, numbers don’t lie.

But this race was never about numbers. It was about running for those who can’t.

I ran for Katie Ingram, who instead img_5758of competing in the world ironman championships recovered from injury and surgery. Katie is one of the strongest people I know, mentally and physically. She once did the second half of an ironman with blood caked down her body and her arm immobilized. I ran for Katie. In my darkest moments in Chicago, when my calves cramped over the last six miles and wouldn’t let go, I thought that despite the heat and humidity and cramps that she would give anything to be here.

img_5755I ran listening to the music of people who are no longer alive. From David Bowie to Tupac, from Tom Petty to Amy Winehouse, in the final miles that often resembled a death march, I would hear a favorite song come on, think of that artist and people close to me who I associated with that song, and say to myself, I have to run until the end of this song.

I ran for Bart Yasso. I met one of my long time heroes at the marathon expo. Despite four exposures to lyme disease, and a noticable change in his speech pattern, he laced up his shoes once again. The impact of Lyme disease kept him from running and he dropped out half way through the marathon, but his voice echoed in my head to enjoy the moment.I ran for those who couldn’t run and finished the race. The fact that it took me 40 minutes longer than expected disappointed me. The emotional toll is as draining as the physical effort. But for this run, on this hot day, and with the focus on running for those who can’t , finishing was enough. Overcoming obstacles and recognizing the gift of each step is its own reward.

Numbers don’t lie, but life is not about numbers. Life is about living in the joy of each moment.

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The humility of running

Running has a way of keeping one humble.

I have stood at the starting line of races next to children and senior citizens that made me wonder why they were there, only to have them beat me. Wearing the right shoes or having the “right” body type is no indication of one’s ability to run.

In the last decade of running I have been humbled by weather, altitude, others, and my own physical limitations.

Today, I had to relearn this lesson.

I have been running confidently since the 12 hour “Run for the KIA” in April. In June I started specifically training for the Chicago marathon and have been checking off speed workouts better than ever before.

My confidence level was at an all-time high, maybe too high.

Today I ran from my mother-in-law’s house in Cleburne, Texas. Whenever we are here visiting I circumnavigate Lake Pat Cleburne. The hills, rural roads, and lake provide a great course. I left the house feeling strong, the weather not too hot, and the music kicking from Bad Brains to Hendrixx. The first six miles went by smoothly, in fact I was running faster than planned. Too fast.

sunrise-on-Cedar-Lake-at-Cleburne-SPAnd then the sun came up, it felt like someone flipped a switch, and the temperature soared in to the 90s with the humidity not far behind. The next three miles were brutal, I was isolated on rural roads, having left my phone at home so I didn’t kill it with sweat. I had planned on running 12 miles, but after nine I was done.

Out of nowhere I heard a pickup truck coming up behind me, the first vehicle I had seen in over an hour. A man with a large beard pulled over to check on me and offered me a ride. One could make assumptions about a bearded stranger in a pickup truck in rural Texas, but Andy turned out to be an incredibly kind and interesting savior. Born in Switzerland, he has lived all over the world, served in the Marine Corps, and cared for his ailing mother. As a man of faith we shared stories of Jerusalem and running.

I was humbled, not only in running but in life. I am not stronger than the elements and am not beyond being blessed by a stranger.

 

Race Report: 1 Day for the KIA

IMG_1922The 1 Day for the KIA honors those who have sacrificed their lives and given for others. As 27 runners repeatedly circled the OSU Oval for 12 hours yesterday, the names of nearly 1,000 OSU alumni were placed around the course. While each name tells an individual story, the collection of all of them shows the impact upon a community.

On an uncharacteristically clear Saturday morning, runners and volunteers gathered together. Most were college students connected with ROTC programs. There were also representatives from veterans’ organizations, volunteers, and even a group or researchers doing EKG tests to evaluate the effects of long-distance running on the human body.

One of the things I love about the running community is that it is truly a community. In the most individual of sports, people shared each other’s names, ran with each other, offered words of encouragement, and supported each other. While I continually thanked the team of people who organized and volunteered to put this event on, they responded saying how much fun they were having watching us. It is hard to imagine how watching people run the same loop 70-some times can be described as collage-2017-04-09fun, but we were all in this together. Not only did I have the support of the race community, but of eight friends who drove me to the start, ran with me, gave advice, brought trail mix, and inspired me. Coupled with those who were physically present with me, I also carried with me the names of the 32 people who pledged a donation. I assigned a mile or two for each person and as I ran those miles I imagined that person being with me, offered a prayer for them, and thought of the ways they have been a blessing to me.

With the most beautiful day of the year giving us low humidity and perfect temperatures; and, this cloud of witnesses journeying with me, the stage was set for a remarkable day. It took me a few miles to loosen up, learn the course, and get in to a rhythm. After that, laps passed quickly. At about mile 10 my left ankle (the one that always bothers me) started getting tight and uncomfortable. I tried periodically stretching it, tried to make adjustments to my running form, but thought this is just the way it is going to be. I sarcastically thought to myself, “I hadn’t had any ankle issues recently, so why not race day?” But somewhere around mile 25, the ankle loosened and I was back to good form.

IMG_1930Reaching mile 25 marked the half-way point of my 50 mile goal, not long after that I showed my watch to Caleb as we passed 26.2 miles and I said to him, “I’ve run a marathon and am only half way there.” Todd carried me through the next hour in to the 30s and not long after that I passed 38.5 miles, my previous record of longest distance run. Every step from here was a new personal record.

The first 40-some miles went fairly easily. When running marathons, people talk about “hitting the wall” around mile 20. I don’t know that I ever hit the wall. With a food table stocked with bacon, burgers, peanut butter and jelly, trail mix, Gatorade, and water, there was an opportunity to refuel every lap. I tried to balance eating and drinking enough without becoming bloated.

While I didn’t hit the wall, as the miles went by in the 40s, my legs were getting tired. In earlier laps I ran about 2/3 of the time and walked about 1/3. With enough time in the bank to achieve my goal, this number reversed and I was walking more than I was running. Yet, I always found the strength to keep running. In fact, the more I would walk, the tighter my legs would get, so I wanted to run more and particularly wanted to finish the last miles strong.

My strength came in the last three miles as Jennifer and Noah accompanied me. Their love and pride carried me through. At one point I asked Noah if he was doing okay and if he could keep running? He responded “You are the one who has done 50 miles, I can run as long as you want.”IMG_1938

With five minutes still on the clock, I reached my goal of 50 miles. 50 miles run in the year I will turn 50 (because no one wants to do this in August!). And more important than my individual accomplishment, the people who supported me donated $2,150 for the Living Legacy Scholarship fund, of the over $10,000 raised.

Thank you to all for being the people who support me, encourage me, and strengthen me to do things I never would have imagined.

NOTE: My actual distance run was 50.84 miles. I think someone missed me when counting a lap at some point.

Race Report: Seamus O’Possum 30K

Do you take the shot?

The pressure is on, the clock is running down, the ball is in your hands. Would you rather be the one to take the shot or pass to someone else?

I’d always rather take the shot.

That doesn’t mean I always make the shot. In September I attempted to run the Hocking Hills 40K and was humbled by my first DNF. But I would rather try and fail than not try at all.

Over the last several months I have been training for the 1 Day for the KIA, 12 hour run on April 8. I ran 150-ish miles in December and January. In February I developed “Popping Hip Syndrome,” I went three weeks without running at all, and since then have run slow and labored. On Thursday I limped three miles around the neighborhood and could mot move faster than over 13 minutes per mile.

I contemplated not running in the Seamus O’Possum 30K today. If I struggled on the flat streets in our neighborhood, how would I do on the mud trails and hills of Delaware State Park? Friday I felt a bit better and did as much stretching as I could.

I figured I would give it a shot. I could always opt out for the 10 mile option, and the 30K course had a 16 minute per mile cutoff and I could walk that.

So I showed up not knowing what to expect.

In fact, I started at the very back of the pack, with low expectations. Immediately, I started image2moving through the crowd. Within about four miles, I knew this was going to be a good day. I moved in ways I hadn’t moved in almost six weeks. Perhaps it was the stretching, the soft ground, or the Irish music I was listening to. Maybe it was the gift of being back on trails and among the nature, which I love. Maybe it was all of it.

No matter what it was, everything came together. Through the woods and the mud and the cold and the mist, I had one of the best races I’ve ever had.

I did not go home with a trophy, like I did last year. But I averaged 12 and a half minute miles on a challenging course. I ran stronger than I could’ve imagined and gained confidence for the April run.

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March showers bring muddy rac

Maybe the luck of the Irish shined upon me. Whatever it was, I am grateful and it felt great to move freely again.

I am so glad I took the shot. Taking the chance made all the difference.

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Be One of 50

I have run so others could go to the Holy Land.

I have run to fund mission trips.

I have run to end malaria.

But whenever I have used running as a fundraiser, I have never run alone. I carry the names of those who have donated with me. Each one travels with me for a mile. I pray for them and with them. I am inspired by their stories, struggles, and triumphs. In their presence, I am not alone.

On April 8 I will run to raise scholarship money for the children of those killed, wounded, and missing in action from wars. 

I hope to run 50 miles on the year I turn 50. 

I am looking for 50 people to join me.

Be one of the 50. Make a pledge by clicking here.

Change One

My initial goal for 2017 was to run a 50 mile race on the year of my 50th birthday. In the journey of looking for such an event, I came across the 1 Day for the KIA and decided to go after the 24 hour run.

Today I learned that the 24 hour run has been changed to a 12 hour event. So, I am back to the 50 mile goal! This works particularly well since last week a sports medicine doc diagnosed me with “popping hip syndrome” and my training has been limited.

If you would like to make a pledge to sponsor me in this race, which will benefit the Living Legacy Scholarship fund, click here.

50 here I come (in more ways than one).

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