Author Archives: Perseverance Runner

About Perseverance Runner

I have never been fast or blessed with hand-eye coordination. I am not the smartest person in the room. I don’t claim any special abilities. But I do have endurance and perseverance. These gifts have allowed me to explore the art of distance running and taken me to places I would have never experienced from the living room couch. I hope you enjoy this page as I share my experiences, reflections, photographs, and writings related to running.

Burning River Relay

I’ve never waited until 12:30 in the afternoon to run in a race. The morning filled with the pent up energy of anticipation as I waited for my teammates to run the first two legs of the Burning River Relay.The 100 mile course winds through the rollings hills of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. In the ultra world, the race is known for those who run solo for 100 miles, but also includes a 50 mile and relay option.

I was invited to join the relay fun by my friend, Michelle Rupanovic who later had to drop for surgery. Two parallel teams formed which gave us a tandem partner for the journey. Although I didn’t know anyone on either team, I was lucky to be paired with Carole Krus who is a strong, yet humble, runner who showed me a lot of grace.

After a short time of cheering people at the transition point, our teammates popped out of the woods and we were off. Our 13.6 mile portion of the relay included a little bit of everything. We started on towpath, ran through fields of corn as gunfire echoed to scare off the crows. Some short portions of ankle-deep thick mud nearly pulled off a shoe, but most of the afternoon was spent in the woods. While the course features continually rolling hills it is also very runnable. Never having run in this part of Ohio before I must’ve commented on how beautiful it is a dozen times. I even did my best Julie Andrews impersonation while descending the “Sound of Music” hills.

A couple of miles in, Carole and I picked up a companion. This young man had all of the energy and lightheartedness of youth. He was running the same 13.6 miles as us, but he had just started running and his longest run in preparation was three miles. He also was wearing a two year old pair of ASICS that were already causing a blister. However, his youthful energy was stronger than his lack of preparation and he soon left us in the dust. (Epilogue addition by Carole: To add an epilogue to your blog post, I saw the young man with the worn out Asics and blisters at Kendall Lake where our leg was finished. He was hobbling around barefoot with visible blisters and bloodied cuts on his ankle. He may had only trained for 3 miles, but he sped off down the trail after spending a few minutes with us and finished the 13.6 miles loooong before we did. He and his coworkers were running in two relay teams after raising $33,000 for the City Dogs rescue in Cleveland!)

A few miles later we saw someone running back in the opposite direction from us. At first, we stopped this man asking if he was alright or lost. Turns out he was running the solo 100 miles and was on his way back. We saw the leaders of the 100 running against us. They were in the 70-80 mile range and moving faster than us mere relay people.

An afternoon filled with natural beauty, good conversation and company, and a fair amount of heat and humidity soon came to an end. We descended in to the Kendall Lake Station and while others would run through the night, our miles were finished. But not merely miles checked off on a map, but friendships formed and memories created. Among the list of races completed, one segment of a relay may not sound like much in comparison. However, the joy of dancing over trails and being among creation and community is just as powerful in 13.6 miles as it is in 100 kilometers.

Advertisements

Dawg Gone Long Run 50K Race Report

I have often stated on this blog that the more difficult the obstacle, the greater the me4achievement. By this standard, Dawg Gone Long Run 50K is my greatest running achievement to date.

I signed up for this run after seeing a Facebook post advertising a few open slots, knowing that the rest of my family would be out of town. Registering for a race in the middle of July was an act of ignoring an often-learned lesson that heat is my kryptonite. Something happens when the thermostat passes 90 that drains my will.

Caesar_Creek_Lake_from_spillwayNonetheless, I naively ran into the woods of Cesar Creek State Park with 150 of my newest friends. The race started by crossing over the dam and 10 miles on the east side of the lake. I ran this trail a year and a half ago at the Frosty 14. My memory of this trail was of it being much more difficult. This memory was shaped by the trail being a snowy, muddy mess on my previous attempt. I was pleasantly surprised to find the hard-packed trail easy to run.

The first rule of running is that if you haven’t made a new friend you are doing it wrong. I spent the first five miles running with a cool group of people from Kentucky who had also ran the Big Turtle that I ran in April. This group was led by a librarian named Bob who was bleeding from his forehead from a fall at the beginning of the run. Thestepsre is no better way to start a long run than by following someone bleeding from the forehead. Unfortunately, they were on the 50 mile version of the race and our paths diverged, but starting the run making four new friends was an early win.

After finishing the east side loop, we crossed the dam again and ran two out-and-backs on the west side. This trail was more technical, with steep climbs, steps, and rocks. Switch back trails brought us to the banks of the lake with spectacular views. Fortunately, I had planned on making this a fun run and not worrying about the time.

me2For the first 18 or 19 miles I felt great. I knew the day was getting warmer but still felt good. I began to wonder if I had overcome my weakness in the heat. Then, the afternoon sun hit. At mile 22 I stopped at the main rest area and changed my sweat drenched clothes, wet socks, and muddy shoes. Feeling refreshed, I went back out, but by the time I got to the aid station at 24.5 I was ready to stop. The inside of my right thigh had been cramping to the point of seizing up and I was done. I came in to the aid station ready to call it a day, but my fellow Possum runner Jennie was not hearing it. She said, “what kind of Possum would I be if I let you quit,” wrapped a buff of ice around my neck, and sent me back out against my will.

Three miles later I showed up at the next aid station. I was greeted by the crew saying “you got here just in time”. I responded by asking if I was being pulled off the course for a time cutoff. No, but Jennie showed up again to make sure I didn’t quit. I was handed some type of iced coffee drink that I was told would be the magic to get me moving again. I don’t know what was in that drink, but it worked. I was in a dark place from miles 22-27, but got my mojo back from 27-33. (Yes, I know a 50K is supposed to be 31 bridgemiles, but in the trail world distances are often estimates and according to my Garmin I ran 33.1). The second rule of running is that it doesn’t always get worse. On the way back to the finish I overcame three or four more leg cramps, but in between that I could move again. Trails seemed less technical, food more tolerable, and I “sprinted” through the finish cones with my arms held high and the greatest sense of accomplishment I have ever had while running. This finish took almost twice as long as my 50K PR, but in the 80-some races I have run I have never overcome more than I did in this one.

me3There is no way I would have finished this race on my own. Throughout the day, fellow Possums and my new Kentucky friends encouraged me. People I didn’t know told me I looked great when I didn’t feel great. And, Jennie receives the award for aid station hero of the century.

Overcoming the greatest obstacles results in the greatest achievements. But, nothing significant we do is on our own. Achievements only happen with a little help from our friends.

 

Team Hope 5K Race Report

This has never happened before.

My approach to running this year has simply been to find joy. When I want to run fast I run fast, when I want to run long I run long. I have not been training to race, simply running for fun.

This morning I showed up at the Team Hope 5K, which raises money for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. One of our neighbors has a family member afflicted with Huntington’s and this race was organized to help end this disease.I did not show up expecting to race. I have not done speed work in over a year. I had already run 30 miles this week and planned on getting more miles in after the 5K. But when we got to the starting line I uncharacteristically found myself standing in the front. The race was very low-key, which I love. There were self-printed bibs and suddenly someone just said go.

For the first quarter mile I found myself leading the 5K. That has never happened before. It seemed strange. It was a hot morning with a relatively small number of runners so I wasn’t running all that fast. Soon, someone passed me. That seemed right. And yet, I was able to keep him within sight. About a mile later another person passed me, but I was able to keep both of them close. I wasn’t running full speed but was purposely letting them set the pace and waiting for the opportunity to pass.

Soon, the gentleman in first place started walking, taking a break from the heat. Maybe a quarter-mile later the other person walked, another victim of the heat. About a mile and a half in I found myself back in the lead. This had definitely never happened before.

As my watch beeped at the two mile mark I could feel someone behind me. He was doing to me what I had done to the others, running comfortably and biding his time until he would pass.

A quarter-mile later, he easily strode by. I greeted him with a hello and tried to engage him in conversation, hoping that would keep him close. He didn’t take the bait. As he was passing me, I started to formulate plans for when I would make a move in return. However, he passed me so effortlessly that I knew he would win. If I had rested before this race, done some speed work, or not have run 100 km three weeks ago, I may have been able to make a move, but he had me.

And yet, what unexpected joy coming in second. Not bad at all for an old man with tired legs. More importantly, I met some really cool people and spent time with some of our neighbors. After all, if you don’t make a new friend at a race you are doing it wrong. More important than all of that, this little raise raised $14,000 to end Huntington’s disease. And that is where joy is found.

Eagle Up Ultra

We are capable of so much more than we ever imagine. Yesterday, 650 runners and their crews descended on the quaint town of Canal Fulton, Ohio, to push beyond once perceived limits.

In only its fourth year, the Eagle Up Ultra has become so popular that by 12:30pm on Friday afternoon the parking lot was full. A tent city was created and the nervous energy of anticipation was palpable. Old friends embraced and new friendships were made as community gathered.

At 4:30am the next morning the hive stirred as people dressed, stretched, and fueled. Soon we gathered around the start, honored the service of veterans, and we were off.

The Eagle Up course is a five mile loop that paralleled a canal, crossed an overpass, and came back up next to the Tuscarawas River. The first 3-4 laps were perfect. My body felt great and the crowds of people at the start meant that I got to meet and run with all kinds of cool people. I felt so good that I began to think that if things continued at this pace I could maybe run 100 miles.

And then the heat hit.

The forecast called for overcast skies, and while that happened in Columbus, the clouds never came to Canal Fulton. With a relentless sun bearing down, the crowds thinned, goals adjusted, and the medical tent filled. I joined the ranks of the broken after 35 miles. Tightness in my quad caused pain in my knee that took the on-site physical therapist (thanks, Amy) about a half hour to work out.

After the long delay, I headed back out and the next lap was good, but the following lap defeated me. I came in after 45 miles feeling spent. My friend Jon showed up right as i was finishing the lap with a full Wendy’s dinner and large frosty, but it was all too heavy to eat.

After an extended dinner break and change of socks I went back out again knowing I had to at least get to 50 miles. Accompanied by my patient friend Cynthia, I felt like I had my legs back under me and dedicated myself to 100 kilometers. Jon got me to 55 miles and I ran the last full lap by myself, embracing the darkness of night. I loved running in the night and look forward to doing that again.

I came back by our “Secret Running Peeps” headquarters tent (thanks, Stan and Amy) and got Jon and Mike to do the last 2.1 with me. The out-and-back segment was marked by congratulating other people on the way out and receiving congratulations on the final mile in.

Eagle Up Ultra did not go as planned. The heat and humidity took many casualties and I had to temper my own expectations. But I set a personal record for longest distance run and time on feet. I faced dark moments with strength and proved the maxim that “it doesn’t always get worse.” Most importantly, I received the gift of being part of the running community where strangers pop each other’s blisters, joys and struggles are shared, and master race directors like Eric offer never-ending support.

We are capable of so much more than we think, not only because of the untapped potential within ourselves, but because of the generosity of people that surround us.

I ran this race supported by almost 50 people who donated to the leukemia and lymphoma society, raising over $3,000. As I ran, I thought about what I was grateful for each person and prayed for them. If you would like to make a donation, go to: https://pages.teamintraining.org/coh/yourway19/curecml

Light the Way 5K

Everyone has an inherent need to give back. Nothing makes us come alive more than helping others.

This morning 300-plus people from the West Ohio Annual Conference ran the Light the Way 5K. The race raised thousands of dollars to start new churches in the North Katanga Conference.

I knew going in to the 5K that I would not be running full effort. In three days I’ll be running the Eagle Up 24 hour ultra. I wasn’t going to expend a lot of effort just before my “A” race of the year. Instead, I planned on treating this like a pre-race stretch out run.

About a quarter mile in I ran in to my friend and Church and Community Worker missionary, Soraya Montano. Soraya does not often run, so I spent the next couple of miles helping her.

We soon found ourselves running in a torrential downpour and thunderstorm. Before the race started, the director said if we heard thunder or saw lightning that the run would stop and to come to the finish. However, I didn’t see anyone stop or take a shortcut to the finish. Instead, we laughed as we ran through flooded paths and embraced the joy in the journey.

I did make a detour to The Patio and left my phone with strangers, not wanting to fry it in the rain. In the last mile, i ran with two more people, helping another person get across the finish line.

In the last decade, I’ve crossed many finish lines with the help of others. Today, i discovered tie beauty of running without watch or music but seeking to give back in the way that so many others have given to me. In doing so, nothing made me come more alive than running with others.

Why run 24 hours?

Why?

In three weeks I will be running the Eagle Up 24 hour ultramarathon. When I share this news with my running friends it is met with encouragement, excitement, and support. When I share this news with my non-running friends it is met with shock, curiosity, and bewilderment.

The question many people ask me is, why?

The answers to that are multiple.

First, running with the beloved community is my happy place. Just as some people find joy in golf or drawing or shopping, mine is found on the trail.

Second, is a basic desire to discover what I am capable of. I have twice run 50 miles and at the end of each I felt like I had more in the tank. We are capable of more than we tell ourselves. This run will be another step forward in to undiscovered territory.

The desire to discover what I am capable of is not only a matter of achieving a new distance, but also to experience what it is like to practice “relentless forward progress” for 24 hours. What is it like to physically and mentally push beyond 12 hours? How will I embrace the darkness of the night and the dark moments within myself? What will it be like to run toward the first glimpse of sunlight? “More than those who watch for the morning! More than those who watch for the morning! (Psalm 130:6)

Third, is a desire to be part of something bigger than myself. The running community is an unexpectedly wonderful place where support is generously given and achievements are commonly shared. In past runs, I have found great strength in running for a cause. This time I’ll be running for the most personally significant cause I’ve ever run for, the work to end leukemia. I will carry the names of each donor with me and that person will accompany me for one mile. During that mile, I think of that person and pray for that person, they are literally with me.

Running for something greater than myself is the strongest motivation. My legs might cramp, my skin might be covered in sweat, but when I lift my eyes up off myself, I find the strength to persevere.

Join me on this journey by making a donation to: https://pages.teamintraining.org/coh/yourway19/curecml

 

Playin Possum Preview

A preview of next week’s race, from a run at DSP today:

– guess what, it has rained a lot in Ohio this year. The Lakeview Trail might be a little bit wet. Enjoy it. How many times as an adult do you get to splash in puddles?

– The grass on top of the damn levee has not been mowed. It is thick to run through. This is a great opportunity to do some ankle strengthening exercises.

– There is a lot of poison ivy out there. Dress and take precaution appropriately

– The creek crossing is deeper than previous years, but very easy to do. Plus, this could wash off any poison ivy.

– I made four wrong turns today and i am helping to mark the course next week. I don’t see how that could go wrong

– DSP is one of the most beautiful places in Ohio. You are going to have a blast. Forget about your watch or how long it takes, embrace the wonderful community and the beautiful nature. Have fun out there!