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:

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.


Hangry 5K

IMG_6923Team CD4AP moves to end hunger.

America is a land of abundance. We have natural resources, rich farmland, high technology, and hard-working people. A short drive anywhere in the Midwest will place you in the middle of cornfields; and, across Texas ranches fill the landscape. We have so much food, that almost 40 percent of the food grown and produced is never eaten, but ends up in landfills.

At the same time, an astonishingly high number of people are hungry. Across the United States, almost 15 percent of people are food insecure–which means that over 48 million people don’t have adequate access to food. In Franklin County, Ohio, that percentage is even higher. Over 17 percent of people in the same county that is booming economically are food insecure. For children in Franklin County, the number is over 20 percent.

Starting to end hunger.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about all of this, is that we accept food insecurity as normal. We have become desensitized to the disparity of kids arriving at school hungry, in the same place where so much food is wasted.

Today, that complacency was countered with righteous anger.

Approximately 150 people gathered at a cold and windy Highbanks Metro Park to take a stand against hunger. We ran up steep hills, navigated stairs, and overcame our own discomfort so others might have the basic dignity of having food on their table. Over $3,000 was raised to help Heart to Heart and Community Development for All People overcome hunger. This money will go a long way.  Last year we provided almost 600,000 pounds of free produce to our community and are equipping people through health education, cooking classes, and health coaching.

Liv and Bianca overcome the cold to help others overcome
Christina takes home a third place finish.

We don’t have to accept the ways things our as normal. In a land of abundance, no one should go hungry. We can end food insecurity and today we took a step in that direction. Join us in giving your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness to end hunger.


Seamus O’Possum 10 miler

“Let me go down in the mud, Where the rivers all run dry.” -The Pogues

In some strange way, the struggles of this week resulted in a great race today. I don’t know why, but I always seem to do better in life when the challenge is the hardest.

For the last two months, my training was great. I’ve been training at times I’ve never trained at before. The last couple of 5Ks I’ve run in I have finished well. My foot drop is still there, but the best it’s been in two years. I came to this week with a good foundation.

And then, for some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to get a cyst on my back removed on Monday. I’ve had this cyst removed twice before, so didn’t think it was a big deal. This time, the doctor dug a little deeper to get it all out. Since it was on my back I didn’t sleep well and the antibiotic has bothered my stomach all week. Two months of great training almost seemed lost to an ill-timed decision.

  The running course itself was beautiful, through the woods of Delaware State Park, hugging the lake shore. I had been on parts of this trail before, on a hike with Nathan’s scout pack. But after spring Ohio rains, the trail that was dry in the fall turned to mud in March. I’ve never signed up for a mud run before, but unintentionally participated in one today. In the first half of the race I spent a lot of effort trying to avoid the mud as much as I could and find firmer ground. By the second half, I abandoned that effort and just ran straight through them. 

I love trail running.  

 I love the rolling hills.

I even love the sound of my feet splashing in puddles. 

Between a tired body and a soft earth, today was a recipe for disappointment. But the premise of this blog is perseverance. I am not the strongest, fastest, or smartest person around. But I will stick it out and keep my legs turning even when my feet are cold and wet.

Today, perseverance paid off, I finished as the second male, and was handed a recycled trophy with a coach on the top of it. 

The greater the obstacles, the sweeter the victory.

Rise above.