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.

Light the Way 5K Race Report

Are you on ten yet? Are you on ten yet? I live on ten.” -X from Black Panther

Yesterday at annual conference i did something i never did before. I picked up a race bib for a 5K. I felt like a kid at Christmas, excited to run with my fellow West Ohio United Methodists, next to Lake Erie, in beautiful weather.

The 5K itself started unlike any other race i have participated in. Bishop Gregory Palmer prayed for the hundreds gathered and then the runners and walkers sang the doxology:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heav’nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

As the chorus of the crowd said amen, the voice of Kendrick Lamar came alive in my ears. “Martin had a dream, Martin had a dream, Kendrick have a dream.”

Every time i lace up my shoes for a run, I have a dream of running faster or stronger than ever before. Before this race, that dream really seemed nothing more than just a dream. I haven’t run a 5K in a couple of years and haven’t done the speed work or tapering one would do in preparation for a 5K. Most problematic, i only slept two or three hours last night, in an unfamiliar bed.

Nonetheless, I planned on going out and seeing what my body would give me and dreamed of a strong race.

As we ran around the Lakeside community, my dream was fulfilled. I started out fast (for me) and was able to maintain that pace for 3.1 miles. With a tired body and undertrained legs, the run wasn’t always easy. Around two miles in I saw a teenager in front of me skipping faster than i was running. That motivated me to pick up the pace and at least run fast enough to pass him.

As we came down the final stretch, i could see the finish clock and gave it my best. Getting closer, i could see the first numbers of the clock showing 24 minutes. I was surprised to see that i was within range of my fastest 5K. I finished within 11 seconds of my fastest ever 5K and 26th out of 350 some runners and walkers.

Credit to Noah who made a kicking playlist for me and to the organizers of the Light the Way 5K that raised over $10,000 for new church starts.

Are we on 10 yet? We live on ten!


Playin’ Possum Race Report


Playlist, 100 Most Influential Songs of All Time, according to me:

“Dance to the beat of the livin dead, lose sleep, baby, and stay away from bed. Raw power is sure to come a-runnin’ to you.” –Raw Power, The Stooges

The words of Iggy Pop appropriately echoed in my ears as we took the first steps of the Playin’ Possum 50K.

For an ultramarathon, something more is needed than raw power. Raw power can get you through the hectic sprint of a 5K, but where does the power come from to run distances longer than a marathon? It comes from a place deeper than one’s physical ability.

It has often been said that ultra-running is 90 percent mental; and, I recently heard someone say that the other 10 percent is mental too.

This race proved that saying true.

I woke up the morning of the race feeling dejected. With Jennifer out of town to attend the college graduation of our nephew, I had not slept at all in two nights. Sleeplessness raised my insecurities. Less than a month ago I was rear-ended in a car accident and got whiplash that took away my peak training. My longest training run had been six weeks ago and my back and neck were still stiff from the accident.

For a moment, I considered not going to the race. But, I had used this race as a fundraiser for Community Development for All People’s Forward Together campaign and broadcast to the whole world that I was doing this. If I had not advertised this race, I might not have gone. I felt no power within myself and hoped that in going out there I would find it somewhere on the trail.

Every possum race begins with a special Olympics member leading us in the oath, “”Let image2me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” I did not know how my body would respond, but I could at least be brave in the attempt.

At Mark’s characteristically unceremonious instruction, we were off.

It was interesting to be back in the same woods where we ran the Seamus 30K two months ago. The sparse winter landscape had quickly blossomed in to a lush landscape, almost beyond recognition.

Knowing this part of the course, I began comfortably and strong. Four miles to the first fuel stop and then four miles back.image3

My “A” goal was to complete the race in under 6 hours. Over the first 8 miles, I was clicking off miles under pace. However, the heat (in the 70s) and the humidity (98 percent at the start) were making themselves known. As we ran back through the start line, I ditched my sweat-soaked shirt at the car and felt relieved to be a little less weighted.

The next few miles were equally familiar with a run through Delaware State Park, the crossing of an uncharacteristically low stream, and the run across the dam levee.

After the next aid station, the run included new ground for me, as we ran across and on the other side of the Delaware Lake Dam. Following a failed attempt of a pun with the word dam, the footing transitioned from a grass trail to a metal grate that stretched across the dam. With all the grace of a giraffe trying to jump rope, I tripped in the transition of the footing and found myself sprawled out on the grate. The Gatorade in my freshly filled water bottle spilled out in to the lake. The sound of my fall echoed and caught the attention of everyone around me.

I landed hard on my left knee, but did not want to acknowledge what that could mean. I got up as quickly as I could, gathered my bottle, and took off running. After we were off the dam, I looked down and was surprised I wasn’t bleeding from my knee. I got away with this one, and kept going.

For awhile, I ran with a pack of runners, with a man named Kevin holding court and sharing stores from his 108 ultramarathons. While this was a lot of fun, they were running about 30 seconds per mile faster than I wanted, so I started to hold back as the effects of the weather were becoming more apparent.

“Tryna rain, tryna rain on the thunder, Tell the storm I’m new.”–Beyonce, Freedom

As the opening beats of “Freedom” started pounding, welcomed sprinkles fell on my skin.

By the time the song hit its pace, the skies opened and it rained hard.

It was glorious and refreshing and the most exciting part of the race.

But as soon as Kendrick Lamar asked, “Is it truth that you seek?” the rain was gone, with only humidity left in its wake.

However, the next few miles went well as I ran with a construction worker from Cincinnati and we talked community development and our shared interest in building mixed income communities.

As I approached the aid station at 18 miles, the heat was having its effect on me and I asked if we could make this a 30K instead of a 50K. I was able to relatively keep my pace for the next four miles. However, around mile 22, I had to let go of the A goal, like a bully grabbing your wrist and ordering you to let go.

The next four miles were tough. I had gone from running for the length of songs and walking between songs, to walking more than running.

But one of the ironic truths of ultra running is that things don’t always get worse.


Remnant of the page

Around the marathon point of mile 26 I could feel my mojo return. The shaded path in the woods that led to a book we tore a page out of gave a break from the sun. While my “raw power” returned, by this point my calves were cramping. I had taken some electrolyte tabs on the run with me, but when I looked for them in my pockets they were gone. (Note to self, I need to get some kind of running belt. On this run I lost my gels, electrolyte tabs, and who knows what else fell out of my pockets).

When I got to the next aid station, a saint gave me a couple of electrolyte tabs that helped. Even better, a kid gave me two popsicles. As I walked away from the aid station I thought to myself, “How awesome is this? I am eating the most delicious popsicles I have ever had, on a beautiful trail in the woods, with cool people. I am a lucky man.”

As soon as I had that thought, a fellow runner came up next to me and said, “let’s finish this thing.” That was all I needed and I ran most of the next two miles. Not as fast as the first miles, but I was moving well.

Until I realized I had farther to go than my GPS watch led me to believe.

I moved with the idea that when we hit 31 miles we would be done. But I knew this trail well enough that when my watch said we were at 30 miles that we were more than a mile from the finish line. For some reason, this really bothered me, more than it should’ve. I don’t know if I ran an extra mile somewhere or if my GPS was off, but it demoralized me to know I was going to have to run farther than planned. An ultra brain is not necessarily a logical brain.

I finally came out in to a clearing. In my frustrated thinking I asked a volunteer where I was and she pointed to the familiar curve before the finish line.

32968586_1963600673649950_5114476425063170048_n“Hey ho, let’s go” –Blitzkrieg Bop, The Ramones

I “sprinted” the last quarter mile or so to the finish line. The dozens of people gathered roared like a stadium crowd. The race director congratulated me at the finish and I asked him if he was going to charge me for the extra mile.

We did it.

The raw power I needed did not come from myself or from the trail, but from “the communion of saints” that carried me.

The one instruction given before any possum race is that if you don’t make a new friend on the course, you are doing it wrong. I made about four or five new friends and found inspiration from many more. A woman named Shelly ran up on me around mile 27 looking like she just started with boundless energy. When I asked her what training plan she used, she said “what feels good.” I was awed by a man whose shoes literally fell apart and he went on and ran barefoot on a trail of roots and rocks. The generosity of volunteers and excitement of kids lifted me.

Every time a new song came on during this run, I prayed for someone. I prayed for those who donated to the run and for many more. I learned that as I think about someone else and the struggles they have overcome in their lives, it takes the focus off “me” and the inconveniences of being warm or having muscle cramps. It moved my focus off myself and reminded me that even in this most individual of sports, it is not all about me.

Forward Together

Yesterday was not a great run. 31773083_10214175923285975_6732702587595784192_n

Maybe I pushed too hard and too soon after getting rear ended in a car accident. Running against a 20 mph wind didn’t help. And certainly, unexpected 80+ degree temps melted me.

It was a tough day.

And yet, I was back at it this morning, running amongst the blossoms of spring. This is what being a “perseverance runner” is all about.

Everyday I spend time with people who have a perseverance much greater than my own. As I lead worship several times a week, I am struck by the faithfulness of people who live through the stress, uncertainty, and violence of poverty, but continue moving forward anyway.


Join us as we move forward together

At Church and Community Development for All People, we are working to offer the gifts of abundant health to a community of people often disenfranchised. Since the opening of our new market, participation has grown to over 300 people a day. We are transforming the health of people and place.

As we grow to our next level, I want to invite you to support us in our Forward Together campaign that is raising $1 million for property acquisition and program development. On May 19, I will be running in the Playin’ Possum 50K. You can sponsor me by clicking here and together we will accompany people to be practitioners of their own health as together we build perseverance.



Hangry Race Report

Over the last few months, I have been on a spiritual journey seeking to hold things lightly: not to grasp disappointments I can’t control, but to follow the opportunities that open in front of me. I am learning to carry life lightly and to live in awe of the giftedness of the moment.

In the last few months, running has affirmed and challenged this journey.

This year marks my 10th running anniversary and I have been training harder than ever. That is, until i sprained my ankle trying to stay stretched out doing pilates on Thursday night. Yesterday afternoon i was in the doctor’s office and worried that a weeks long break would jeopardize training for the Playin’ Possum 50K in May. After leaving the doctor’s office, I texted Hangry Race Director Jonathan Flores and told him I was out for Saturday’s race and deferred to being a volunteer.

Why run on a sprained ankle? Darlene said I could.

This morning I woke up and the ankle didn’t feel horrible. I went to the race and volunteered, checking people in for the 10K and 15K and didn’t have any pain. I jogged a bit to test it out. The doc had said if I tried to run and felt pain to stop. My co-worker Darlene encouraged me to go, so I gave it a shot.

These shoes were white a couple of days ago.

Quickly I found myself on the familiar trails of Highbanks Metro Park, having run there on Wednesday. I was accustomed to the hills and mud. While my legs were a bit heavy from having run 20 miles three days ago, I clicked off nine-minute-something miles fairly easily and playfully climbed hills and splashed through puddles.

With an uncertain ankle, I wasn’t sure what distance I would run. I registered for the 15K, but about four or five miles in I thought six miles would be enough and that there would be no need to overly test the sprain. However, when I came off the coyote run trail I got directed to the right, my race number indicating my distance. Within a short time I realized that I was on the 15K path, but was feeling okay, held it lightly, and continued on. However, unbeknownst to me I missed a right turn and soon found myself climbing up the dreaded stairs that I thought we would be running down. At the top of the hill a volunteer asked me where I came from and how I got there. All I knew was that I followed the trail, but not well.

Where is that right turn?

I turned around and headed back down the stairs and toward the start/finish area. At this time, I didn’t know where I had missed a turn and with an uncertain ankle didn’t think it was wise to add miles to the run. So, I made my way back to the start/finish in the shortest distance I knew. I intentionally came in from the wrong direction and when I was greeted by the puzzled faces of Flores and Johnny I playfully offered my best Gary Robbins impersonation, “I got disoriented and lost in the fog.” (click here to see Gary’s infamous finish)

In the end, I ran more than a 10K at a decent pace. When I went to bed last night, I did not expect to be able to run at all. I feared the ankle would keep me out for weeks. But, I held it lightly, stepped in to the opportunity, and received the unexpected gift of a glorious race on a beautiful day with great people.

When things don’t suck

Over the last week i heard a chorus of running voices talk about the things that suck in running making for the best stories. This may be true, but yesterday’s Seamus O’Possum 30K didn’t suck, and there is a gift in that too.

A year ago at this time i was having hamstring issues and limped through the Seamus, surprised to even finish. This year i ran without pain. That didn’t suck.

I did come in to this race a bit under-trained. I lost a couple of long training runs to the Great Flu of 2018. At mile 15 i could feel the tiredness in my legs, but by mile 16 i was back and i ran the last mile in under 10 minutes, leaping at the finish and tapping the finish banner. That didn’t suck.

As i drove to the Seamus, freezing rain pelted the car. Running for three hours in rain did not sound fun. But when a sudden “Go” was announced, rain turned to a light snow that made for a beautiful morning. That didn’t suck.

The last two trail runs I’ve done were so muddy that it was sometimes impossible to keep any footing. This resulted in a lot of walking and several falls in to the mud. Yesterday the ground was soft, but very run-able. While i tripped over roots several times, non of them resulted in falls. That didn’t suck.

As always, the proceeds of the race go to the local special Olympics. But this year, one of the athletes not only spoke to us, but ran with us. That didn’t suck.

I was greeted by friends, checked in by Cheryl who i ran with at the Ghost Town in New Mexico, and met new faces on the course. Running may seem like the most individual of sports, but it is the community of volunteers and gracious competitors that make it special. That certainly doesn’t suck.

There were two times (three?) i made wrong turns and probably added a bit to my distance. But, i spent the morning in a beautiful state park, on trails that two weeks ago were underwater from heavy rain. Being out among nature is a gift. That didn’t suck.

Certainly, dark moments of struggle make for great stories. But the gift of the day where things fall in to place doesn’t suck. Yesterday was one of those days.

Race Report: Frosty 14

I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen the sun. This Ohio winter has been cold and wet and gray. Most of the time, weather is a backdrop. Bad weather, little more than an inconvenience. Over the last week it rained everyday, with some heavy downpours on Thursday night. This created the conditions for one muddy race on Saturday morning.

img_9031Nearly 150 masochists runners gathered inside the visitors center at Caesar Creek State Park for the Frosty 14. Fortunately, it wasn’t a frosty morning. The temperature was a comfortable 30 degrees, spirits were high, and the national anthem sung.

The first mile of the race was paved and fast. I ran an 8:44 and was at the back of the pack. We turned off the road and on to a “trail” that was nothing more than a mud field. I knew the conditions would be difficult, but have never experienced anything like this. Out of 14 miles, I would guess we slogged through mud for about 12 of it.

My goal was to finish in 2 hours and 20 minutes. Despite the mud, I was in good shape for about the first 8 miles. The run was not easy, but it was fun. I was able to average 10 minute-ish miles for more than the first half. My playlist was kicking as I had selected punk, rap, and alternative songs related to love on Valentine’s week. Caesar Creek State Park is beautiful, as we circumnavigated the lake. Runners around me were friendly and playful and I was able to pass more than I was passed.

img_9038And then there were the hills.

To be fair, these are Ohio hills. I’ve run mountains in New Mexico. These were only rolling hills. But it is difficult to climb a hill whose side is soft and sloppy. For the most part, I had to walk up the hills with my feet angled apart just to get to the top. The downhills were just as slippery and treacherous and required a lot of careful navigation.

Carefulness is not something I am known for.

After having many runners fall around me over the course of the morning, I joined theimg_9034 fun. I first fell around mile 12, slipping while trying to run downhill. As I went down, my left calf cramped and I dorsiflexed my foot to relieve the cramp as I lay in the mud. A couple of miles later, with probably only a tenth of a mile left on the trail I fell on another downhill attempt. This time my right calf cramped when I went down. I was only able to get out of the mud with the assistance of a runner I had traded positions with throughout the day.

I did not cross the finish line in my expected time, but I had an amazing experience. Despite 14 miles of slugging through the mud, my legs never got tired. Despite falling twice in mud, my spirit never waned. I found a strength I didn’t know I had, in my body and in myself. This is why I run.