Friday, April 29, 2011

Fifteen Miles and God

Last year, the first time I ran a continuous fifteen miles was a big deal. Now that I am in the process of training for my second full marathon running fifteen miles doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Obviously, it takes a long time. Obviously, I sweat a lot; I need a lot of liquid; and I get very hungry afterwards. But it just did not strike me as anything out of the ordinary when I started.

What I planned was 7.5 miles to the north, turn around, and then run home. What happened was a bit different and really illustrated why running that far alone can be a challenge sometimes.

When I reached mile 4-4.5, I saw lightning to the north. It seemed far enough to the north, that I just kept going. Before I got to 5.5, the lightning was close enough that I decided to turn back. There was a very brief very hard rain on the way back. But it was still not raining enough to make me stop early. As I returned, I took enough turns off the straight course to accumulate my entire fifteen miles.

When I reached the end, it turned out that I had run a sub-1:50 half-marathon distance and the total distance at a 8:23 average pace. Neither of those is bad, but my legs felt incredibly heavy when I was done. A day later, I’m feeling fine.

Running it alone—there was no one to chat with in the rain. There was no one to chat with when the tiredness began to set in. Every step of the way—through the rain, figuring out where to get to accumulate fifteen miles, up and down every hill—was by myself. And it started to take a toll on me by the time I was done.

Part of this is a message to me about how hard I ran the Tuesday night workout in combination with how far I was trying to go less than 48 hours later. (And I ran the long distance on Thursday rather than Saturday because I have a 5K on Saturday). Part of this is a reminder about how important running with a buddy can be. Part of this is just a time to reflect on who is there when I need to know I’m not alone.

God—always there.

Fifteen miles provides time to connect with God, time to ponder the relationship with God, time to reflect on God, and time to realize just how powerful it can be to know that there is always hope—even when the distance ahead sometimes seems hopelessly far under unfavorable conditions.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


There are multiple things that I can concentrate on in any given run. I can concentrate on getting the times "right" as per the workout specifications or I can concentrate on getting the fastest time I can. Tonight, I had intended to run the "right times". Of the seven half miles, I did one "just right". That was the half mile that was supposed to be at the half marathon pace. I ran that very deliberately at just the right pace the whole way through.

The other six half miles were all run fast. In workouts with repeated half miles or miles, I like to make it a habit of running each one faster than the last. I started fast and things only got faster. The workout was actually three at 5K pace, the one at race pace for the half marathon, and three more at 5K pace. On the first half mile after the race pace half, the coach ran pace for pace with me and pushed me toward the end. We went sub-3:00. On the remaining two, I kept that up by myself and then ran my fastest half in a very long time.

They all felt comfortable. Obviously, some I was really pushing on. When I began to concentrate on going as fast as I could (rather than trying to run anything that vaguely resembled the 5K pace), I felt like I had a nice, fluid form and everything was just right. It is amazing how serenity can accompany concentration and it is possible to achieve a feeling of ease and peace. It would be great if I could achieve that in the rest of life. Never hurts to keep trying.

Father Sam, Bon Jovi, My Running, and My Career

As a member of the Catholic church for 41+ years (i.e., my entire life) I have heard a lot of homilies over the years. Most of them--until I met Father Sam-had been delivered in a pretty bland way. Father Sam is not a bland person. I don't know that he has ever given a bland homily. His Easter Sunday homily in 2011 was certainly not bland. He was "on fire". If there isn't a Holy Spirit, then he definitely had something burning within him. Even with a somewhat hoarse voice after a busy weekend of services. His call to action was incredible. His main message--to those who attended every week just as much as to those who tend to attend only at Christmas and Easter--what next? So you have proclaimed that you believe that God sent Jesus who died in sacrifice and was raised to conquer death. So what? What next? How will it change what you do with the rest of your life?

That is an apt question for us all. As I stood with my bass as part of the worship band (much to the surprise of two former students who happened to be visiting my parish that day!) I wondered how I'd answer the question. The answer was actually somewhat obvious--continue to follow the path of living my life and sharing aspects of my life with others to improve everyone's life. Be willing to sacrifice. Be willing to make a difference. I've written about "living a prayer". It is so different from "Living on a Prayer" that Bon Jovi sang about so many years ago and most kids in listening to the radio 25+ year ago could have sung along with every word. Life is not about "hanging onto a prayer" but "living it out". LIving out every action. Living out every thought. Living out every shared experience in the name of making the world a better place for everyone on it.

How does that relate to my running? I believe that God gave me the gift of loving to run for a reason. Yes, my speed in high school was enough to win one or two races and otherwise do well. Yes, my speed now is enough to run nearer the front of the pack than the back of the pack in almost every race I run. But what will my running mean five, ten, or twenty years from now? I hope to continue to run with Back on My Feet--that will mean something. I hope to continue to run with my sons for a while o come--that will mean something. And, I hope to have the opportunity to be a mentor to others--younger or older--as well as occasionally to be mentored by others sharing life's lessons as we run. Using running to make the world a better place. A way to protect what God has given me as well as to help make others' lives better.

And finally, my career. I have discussed with at least one other person relatively recently promoted to full professor the concept of "what next"? We've had our final promotions. What do we do now. The answer, "How do you really want to make a difference?" My answer is through teaching. I have realized that in two big ways in the past four months--my Dean's lecher and the announcement that I will receive two Golden Apples this year (apparently the first time anyone has been chosen twice by students in the same year). Yes, I still have to do research and fulfill other aspects of my position. But, the teaching and mentoring is a big aspect and I will use that to make the world a better place for a small number who, I hope, will go out and help to make the world a better place by, as the school slogan says, saving lives millions at a time.

What's next? In some ways, it is just more of the same. In other ways, I can only imagine. But I do feel blessed to be able to answer the call with (to quote what used to be considered a modern song) "Here I am, Lord" and to move forward confident that I am doing God's bidding to help others in this world. Not always confident that I am doing what is absolutely right. But confident that I am aware of what the call is and that it needs to be taken seriously.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Two quick thoughts

Quick thought #1--another Haiku

Footsteps behind me
Whether real or imagined
Make me run faster

Quick thought #2:

Today's 13.7 mile run was pretty intense. Averaged 8:24's with some faster and some slower. First time I've been out running in the pouring rain in ages. The best thing I could think of to say on Facebook was "A warm shower never feels as good as after a run in the pouring rain." But that was not all that today was about. It was only drizzling a little at the start, but it was one of those cold and dreary days on which you could just roll over stay in bed and watch TV all day (well, maybe except for having kids...) In any case, that is one of the primary values of running in a group. We all knew other people were going to be there and might even be hoping to run with us. So, we all showed up and had a great run. Despite the persistent (but not constant) rain. Despite the rain shower at one point not long after the middle of the run. Despite the standing water which made it impossible to run without splashing in some places. (I even apologized for splashing but my running partner said, "I think we are beyond that.") Despite being entirely soaked when we were done. The fellowship that comes with a few 8+ mile runs together with chit-chat makes it pretty easy to overcome a few weather obstacles and still have a great, rewarding, and enjoyable run.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Today was an intense day in several ways.

First, withint the two types of workouts that I do, I have high intensity and low intensity workouts. Even among the high intensity workouts, I have varying levels of intensity. The past three higher intensity workouts have been very intense. A twelve mile run that averaged under eight minute miles. My fastest two mile time trial on a track in more than 20 years with a follow-up mile, half, and quarter at good speeds. Then, this morning, my first five mile tempo run averaging under 7:09. That is about the same time as my four mile tempo run last week. It is much faster than any tempo run I did last year in training for the marathon. I have done slightly faster runs on the treadmill, but this was so cool to be able to do outside. Perhaps a good sign for the half marathon to come. I imagined running with my Charm City Run training group teammates for the last couple miles and it definitely helped me to keep going. As our coach emailed me last night--just visualize what I intend to do on race day. One enjoyable intensity.

Second, a day with more time focused on one project than in a long time. A second type of enjoyable intensity.

Third, I found out I was getting two Golden Apples this year. That is an incredible honor and recognition. This reflects a third type of enjoyable intensity that I've experienced over the entire past year of teaching.

I don't need quite so much intensity every day. But today was a good day. And I look forward to enjoying the right mix of intensity and relaxation moving ahead.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jitters, Meaning, and Fellowship

This morning, I wrote a Haiku in which I mentioned fellowship and meaning. If I had to write the Haiku over again, I’d probably switch the order. The first line of the Haiku was about a fast track run at night. The second line was about a relaxing morning run. I wrote “Fellowship. Meaning.” as the last line but it probably should have been “Meaning. Fellowship.”

Why? And how does this all relate to jitters? And how would I answer a friend on FB who asked how I could relax while running?

I’ll answer those three questions in order. I find meaning and fellowship both in the fast track runs that I do with the crew from Charm City Run and with the Christopher’s Place team in the Back on My Feet Baltimore Chapter. However, if I had to rank which leads to more meaning and which leads to more fellowship, I’d say I’m still getting a little more meaning from fast running and attempts to bring myself to my fastest time ever. That is the focus of running with the Charm City Run training group. Over time, I have had great conversations and felt some fellowship with several of the runners in the group. I spent a lot of time running with Craig and Jeff last summer. I enjoy running with Carolina and Mike. And Caroline has helped me to push myself very hard around the track and on the long courses as we approach the end of this spring’s half marathon training. In the Back on My Feet group, I find a completely different type of meaning—the meaning of team. The meaning of support. The meaning of people who are there to help improve each other’s lives. People who pray together. People who do mostly easy paces. People who are out there for enjoyment. And people with whom I feel fellowship from the time I arrive, to each hug give to a fellow member, to each mile of run, to each stretch at the end. Lots of meaning. Different meaning. Mostly fellowship. Over time, I may find that I can work with Back on My Feet to get just as much out of it for speed and meaning in my running as I do for meaning in my service to others. I don't need to mention individual names with Back on My Feet as the opportunity for fellowship is there with everyone.

Second, what does jitters have to do with this. Well, last June 20—my anniversary and Father’s Day last year when I ran a 5K with my middle son—I posed the question on my FB wall “I wonder why I still get race day jitters just like at UD when now running is all for fun?” For reference, UD was my high school when I ran on teams. One friend asked whether it really wasn’t competition any more. I think that even my choice of words in my post suggests that I didn’t see what I was doing as just for fun. I chose to refer to what I was doing as running rather than jogging. As I think about it, running implies a different type of commitment, focus, and effort that jogging. Maybe that is all in my own mind, but I do think it is important to notice. Now, ten months later, I can say, after running two competitive workouts with the Charm City Run group that I have not lost my entire sense of competitiveness. It is mostly with myself. Trying to prove something to myself about my ability to still do the runs. However, it is sometimes with others. It is healthy and fun competition, but I have to admit it is not all for fun. Again, for the time being I get a very important type of meaning from this. Not to exclude the meaning of service to others. Just to note—I get a lot of meaning from fast running still. I don’t get jitters for morning runs that focus on fellowship. And the fellowship even extends beyond the CP team. This morning, we crossed paths with another team from the Baltimore chapter of Back on My Feet at the Inner Harbor and there was much joy shared between the two groups.

Third, I really do see myself as doing two different types of running. And the type of running I have been doing with Back on My Feet to date has been relaxing. I’d say more “jogging” than running. Is that a problem? No. I figure as long as I do three hard workouts with the Charm City Run group, I can do several less intense workouts with the Back on My Feet group. Those workouts are as much about fellowship, sharing, socializing, and social capital that is being built as they are about muscles being built. They are more about just letting my muscles stretch and get warmed and used a bit rather than pushing myself to the limit. I once referred to yoga as purposeful relaxation. I could say the same about the slow, easy runs that we do for 1-4 miles each day I run with Back on My Feet. It is just a time to get the heart rate up some—but not too much. Get the muscles warmed—but not overworked. It can be relaxing to get going a bit—without going too hard. Perhaps not everyone considers that relaxing but it is to me.

So, jitters, meaning, and fellowship all go together as I continue to run.

Mixed Running

One evening-fast track.
The next morning-easy jaunt.
Fellowship. Meaning.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

More Running Haiku

Great twelve mile trail run
Averaged sub-eights together
Talked most of the way

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Alone, Somewhat Lonely but Focused

Ran a tempo workout
In the dark
By myself

First time I'd run under those conditions
In a while

I used to write about solitude
Now I think more of loneliness than solitude

Being alone
Still allows
For a different level of concentration
Than running in a group

With a group
The burden of carrying myself for miles
Is lighter

Running alone
The burden is heavier
But I can concentrate on each step
As I try to learn to pace myself
And guide my running
A faster future

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One, Three, Five

One stretch of road on a warm Baltimore spring day.
Tree different ways of traveling on that stretch of road.
Five things central to my life.

One stretch of road,
traveled three ways,
for five things in my life.

I never would have thought
That one stretch of road
Could yield insight
And illuminate
The meaning of life.

On a warm spring day in Baltimore,
It happened.

In the morning,
I ran the stretch of road.
Up the hill.
From Fallsway
To Cathedral
On Madison.
With a group from Back on My Feet

One central focus in my life--
my running.
Step by step
Still working
To go faster
Still working
To be stronger
Still just enjoying
The thrill
Of making it from here to there
Using all my strength
And all my drive.

The second central focus in my life--
my spiritual well-being.
Helping others.
Being in touch with God.
Turning over my will
To God's
That God's will may be done
And that it may be manifested through
My actions.

Later that morning, I drove the same stretch of road.
Taking my son
To school.

The third focus in my life--
my sons.
Their activities
Their development
Their dreams
Their hopes
Their well-being

Driving it in rush hour
Is not nearly
As fun as running
The road
At 5:30 in the morning.
When running at 5:30
You can ignore
All the pesky traffic lights
On the hill
And just enjoy
The strength
That comes from running
Up the hill.
Day after day.
Building confidence.
Building strength.
Building fortitude.
Building a spirit of teamwork

Finally, that evening,
I walked from my office
Up the road one last time
To meet my wife for dinner
Before seeing my son
Play a piece
He helped develop
At the high school
For the arts.

The fourth focus in my life--
my work.
Day by day
Learning more
Teaching others
Doing the work of an academic
To help improve the lives
Of many through public health

The fifth focus-
my wife.
Not the last point of focus
Not the least point of focus
Dinner together
Attending the concert together
Being together
As we have for more than 20 years
As we approach our 20th anniversary
As we continue to learn
To share new things
Even after
A very
Long time.

The five central points in my life
Brought into clear focus
In three trips
Using three different methods of transportation
On one stretch of road.
All five things are
And amazing
And bring good things
To me.

I don't think
The meaning of my life
Could be any clearer
Than the focus
On those five
Central aspects
Realized over three trips
Up one
Stretch of road
For me

Monday, April 11, 2011

Running Personality

I am not someone who has ever thought of himself as an extrovert. When I took the Myers-Briggs personality test several years ago I was clear an introvert. And, I continue to see myself as someone who is comfortable with the idea of being alone. Alone to think. Alone to run. Alone to cook. Alone to just do things.

I bet my fellow runners in Back on My Feet or with the Charm CIty Run training groups would be surprised to hear that I have always considered myself to be a strong introvert.

It is important to remember that being introverted in a "Myers-Briggs" sense means that a person draws strength from being alone. Likes to "return" to being alone. It is not that the introverted person does not like groups.

But as I continue my process of "running, reflection, and writing," I am quickly realizing that maybe if I took the Myers-Briggs test now, I'd come out much more mixed or perhaps even an extrovert. I am beginning to find, in my 40's, that I draw strength from group settings. Indeed, it is true that I still am most comfortable talking with just a single other runner. And, I doubt I will ever be a strong extrovert/life of the party type. But, I do find myself shifting.

The contrast between my introverted history and my more extroverted future was very evident in two recent runs. On Saturday morning, I was enjoying hanging with the Charm City Run group before we got started. I could have gone with two friend from last fall, but went with the large group--sort of. I say sort of, because I actually went the same direction as the large group but then took off at my own pace so that I'd make a later morning commitment. When I was caught, I enjoyed talking with another runner--and really felt like I drew strength from the presence of and conversation with another runner.

Then, this morning, I made a commitment to go with the Back on My Feet--Christopher's Place team. Nothing new at this point, but I had to be there by 5:30, ran 4 miles, was home by just past 6:30, out the door by 6:35, and had my 15 year old to the dentist in time for his 7 AM appointment. There are many reasons I like running with Back on My Feet, and one is clearly the group aspect of the activity. I enjoy meeting other people. I enjoy talking to and listening to others on our runs. And, while I may only be in conversation with one or two at a time rathe than being part of a grope of 5-7 and in a bigger conversation, on any one day I can talk to a whole bunch of different people. This morning, I had brief conversations with at least a half-dozen different people between the time I arrived, the time of gathering, and the time of running. I'll go back and forth between different runners in the group to have conversations. And, I'll talk about anything ranging from music (particularly as it relates to worship), to cooking, to the Orioles, to how busy everyone is, and just about anything else under the sun. The time of gathering is another good example of where a person an drawn strength from a group. We circle up, have announcements, and join in the Serenity Prayer.

I don't want to go out of my way to take a formal Myers-Briggs any time soon again, but it is interesting to ponder how running has affected my personality. I think it is a positive change. Not that there was anything wrong with being an I rather than an E for the past forty-one years. Just interesting to see how shifting toward E in the future will lead to new opportunities, different choices, and new open doors that I might not even have explored in the past.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

To Live a Prayer

Yesterday, I commented on how I felt like I was achieving what a dear old friend (who is no longer with us) once said about my living a prayer.  When she first used that phrase, it took me a while to wrap my brain around.  Some Catholic prayers, e.g. the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed, are mostly statements of fact.  They suggest action only inasmuch as belief involves action.  Some prayers, like the Hail Mary, ask for action from another—in this case asking for intercession on our behalf. 

However, now that I have come to grips with what “living a prayer” might mean in my own life, I have been giving some thought to how standard prayers could be associated with living a prayer.  In other words, how I could have realized this concept long ago.

As I commented yesterday, I’ve been living out a very personal prayer.  My personal daily prayer, almost a mantra to be repeated, to be focused on, and to be mediated on, is “Thank you, God, for all those things with which you have blessed me and help me to continue to realize how your will can be manifested in the way I think and act.”   That involves doing things to show thanks, and making sure that what I understand God to want for me shows up in what I do with my family, with my colleagues, with my students, with my running partners, and with anyone else with whom I associate.

What “standard” prayers suggest actions that can be lived?  As I think about that question, the Lord’s Prayer comes to mind.  “Thy will be done.”  That is not just a random phrase.  Making sure that God’s will is done takes quite a bit of action.  Also “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us,” is a very active phrase.  We have to forgive others if we someday expect the same from God. 

In the Serenity Prayer (which may not fall under the category of standard Christian prayers but is very familiar in today’s culture) the simple phrases “grant me the strength to change what I can change,” “grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change,” and “grant me the wisdom to know the difference” all imply some type of action.  Serenity and wisdom suggest mostly mental or interpersonal action rather than physical action, but it is action nevertheless.

The Ten Commandments are not a prayer per se but are all about how we live out our lives.  The Beatitudes could be put in a similar category.  The “Act of Contrition” involves a resolution, and even the name of the prayer includes “Act” implying action.

I would also consider part of the Prayer of St. Francis to be action oriented.  “Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive.  It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.” Each of those phrases involves doing something—consoling, or perhaps more generally being there, there others.  Understanding others.  Loving and showing our love for others.  Giving.  Pardoning.  And dying—at least have our own desires die and be replaced by those of the Eternally alive God.

So, the idea of the taking the actions suggested by a prayer, in other words living a prayer, is really not such a strange idea.  Living the actions suggested by standard prayers is fine.  Finding the words our own hearts and souls are yearning to fulfill and living those out can be even more powerful.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

When Things are Right with the World

For my friends who don't believe in something higher than us, this is an entry you may not appreciate.

For my friends who think that things just happen and that there when things come together they are simply a coincidence, this is an entry you may not appreciate.

But for my friends who believe that connecting with something that is higher (I think of God, others may have alternative concepts) can help to make life better, this is an entry for you.

All my writing and pondering recently is part of what I call, "Running, Reflecting, and Writing".  Not quite 3 R's (since writing begins with W), but the alliteration works.  In the process of running, reflecting, and writing, I have not been "praying" per se, but to quote an old friend, it is like living the prayer.  Two types of prayer are thanksgiving and intercession, and I consider my search for meaning to be part thanksgiving and part intercession--thanks for showing me the way so far, and God please help me to continue to do what I am supposed to be doing.

So, today, after spending weeks pondering and trying to connect my running, my spirituality, and a bigger picture, I feel like God answered a few prayers.

First, today was the first long run since I twisted my ankle that my ankle felt fine.  My ankle is still not ready to make quick turns in different directions as I would need to running down a basketball court, but for straight running, the ankle is better and almost all my muscles are now feeling good.  A person could say, "It is just the right time."  I think that it is part of a prayer being answered for wellness.

Second, today I was accompanied by another runner on my 8 mile run.  For miles 2-8 we ran an average 8:10.  It was excellent to have the company of another runner at that speed. We conversed as we ran.  I found out that she has run a faster personal best half marathon than I have and that sooner or later I may be working to keep up with her.  I still love running with the other runners I've been running with for weeks, but I am very happy to have a new running partner for the next several weeks and hopefully then into the marathon training season over the summer.  Another prayer answered.  I am still giving (and not just receiving), as our coach commented that he was glad to find someone who could keep up with her and I could share with her what I know about marathon running, as, so far, she has not run a marathon.

Third, I attended a former advisee's wedding today.  He and his wife are both of Nigerian descent.  The wedding was at a Redeemed Christian Church of God. It was a wonderful celebration of the love of my student and his wife for each other, and it was also a wonderful celebration of people wanting to be at a church and people wanting to feel the power of God.  Being at a celebration where everyone seemed like they wanted to be there, wanted to feel the power of God, and wanted to be closer to God was a wonderful experience.  The music (a mixture of modern--including a six string bass, a saxophone, a drum set, an African drum, and a keyboard--and traditional hymns) was wonderful and showed a way in which a non-Catholic congregation related to God.  It was a wonderful example of the many ways that different people relate to the higher power that I believe in. Another prayer answered--reaffirmation of a visible relationship with God.

I hope that my relationship with God can continue to grow in meaningful ways--through prayer, through action, through family, and through running.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Yesterday's blog entry about seeking the meaning of my running is really just a reflection of seeking the meaning of life.  The key is that running provides some context for that meaning and how to seek that meaning at this point in time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Step by step, I have been chasing a dream.  I have not been chasing another person.  I have been chasing one thing--a time.  For quite some time, I have chased the idea of proving that I am faster than I was before.  Obviously, at this point, I'm not faster than I was in high school.  I am faster than I have been any time since then.  I hope to stay this way for a while.  I hope to see just how fast I can run the half marathon and marathon and reach personal bests.  Perhaps the marathon time will qualify me for Boston.  Perhaps not.  I realize there will come a day when all my personal bests will be behind me.  Then, I imagine that as long as I run I will still chase times.  However, at that point, I will just be chasing the last time I ran, trying to get stay at a specific level for the future.

I said I have not been chasing another person.  However, in a strange way, I have been chasing a person--myself.  In a strange way, I have been chasing the person I think I can be.  I should be satisfied with who I am.  I should be satisfied with making the most of the gifts God has given me, as long as I am making the most of them and completing the tasks I have begun.

I also have been chasing another dream.  A dream to find a way to make my running mean something beyond just fitness.  A dream to bring my running to life in new ways.  A dream to make my running fit perfectly with the first line of the Serenity Prayer--my running should reflect my strength to change the things I can.  How do things change?  Giving time to others.  Giving advice to others.  Giving hope to others.  Giving encouragement to others.  Giving friendship to others.  And graciously taking whatever my fellow runners give in return.

The others include my son, my fellow non-resident runners in Back on My Feet, the resident runners in Back on My Feet, and the group from Charm City Run that has become a bit of a band of brothers (and sisters) with my being a part of a wonderful training group for eight months now, and even old friends I ran with years ago who still cheer me on and share stories from afar.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A First Mile

(dedicated to Melvin)

Today could have been like any other day
A little cold
A beautiful morning sky
A group of runners gathered
At Our Daily Bread.
Ready to go.
Ready to welcome another member.
The member ran his first mile.
One might call it a welcome mile.
The welcome mile is not necessarily— 
A welcoming mile.  
It is not for the faint of heart.
It is uphill most of the way to the first turn.
And the new member of our group worked hard to complete it.
He struggled.
He asked for strength.
And he finished—
A marvelous accomplishment!
It is times like this that make me think back,
Back to my first three mile run,
With my team.
Now one score and seven years ago.
It was a long time ago.
I have reflected repeatedly
On the help,
The wonderful help,
The incredible help,
The amazing help,
The selfless help,
I received that day.
I have also reflected repeatedly,
As to how I can pay that back.
I think the message I carry with me now 
Speaks volumes.
To use a cliché, 
I pay it forward.
Forward means so much.
Looking forward.
Looking toward the goal.
Looking toward the finish line.
Looking toward completion.
Looking toward accomplishment.
Looking toward fulfillment—
Physically and spiritually.
Never looking back.
Not turning around.
Not even being tempted to turn around.
Not giving up.
Never turning my back  on others.
Helping others to look forward and reach for their dreams
As much as I do.
Sometimes I reach only for a dream.
Some may think I have my life in order.
But appearances can be deceiving.
And I need to constant reminder,
The constant help,
The constant strength,
The constant wisdom,
And the constant serenity
That was ask for in prayer each morning
We run.
Not back

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Time, Distance, and Me

Today is Tuesday.
Tuesday is a day for speed-
Going a certain distance,
At a specific time,
To make me,
Or so I hope.
Today I was looking forward to the speed workout.
I had to do my workout in the morning.
As a runner with a life outside running,
Sometimes there are other things.
And, tonight, there was an orchestra concert,
That my son was in.
It was fantastic.
So, I planned to run outside.
Before dawn.
At a local high school track.
But there was lightning,
When I planned to run.
So I went to the Y instead.
Speed workouts are often better
When run with others.
To pace against.
To speak with.
To cheer on and be cheered on.
But speed workouts alone can also be good.
The silence.
The solitude.
The simplicity.
A time.
A distance.
And me.
At the Y
There were others
In the room
With weights
And cardio devices.
But I was still
Essentially alone.
My entire focus was on a list
Of times
And distances
For me.
I ran one-quarter at the planned time.
I ran two-quarters at the planned time.
I ran three-quarters at the planned time.
Then a mile, a half, and one final quarter.
Focusing on nothing but the time and the distance for me.
Every turn on the track as if I were there.
The focus on the time and distance is intense for me.
Can I apply such a focus to my work?
More will get done.
Can I apply such a focus to my spiritual life?
I will be closer to God.
Can I apply such a focus to my family?
I will be a better husband and father.
Focus on a time, a distance, and me
Can be translated to other situations
Can be translated to other people
And will translate into achievement
For the better

Monday, April 4, 2011

Let's go O's! And more...

So, why is the heading about the local baseball team when I am a runner?  Well, today was the opening home game for the Baltimore Orioles (the O's to my non-Baltimore or non-baseball fan readers).  I went for  run with the Back on My Feet--Baltimore, Christopher's Place team this morning.  To celebrate the opening day of the baseball season, we all ran together from Christopher's Place to the stadium to get a picture of the group.  That was fun and I ran with a few team members with whom I had not run before--always working on building camaraderie.

When we got there, one of the members took a picture of the group.  Two local TV stations had camera crews there.  One of the reporters (from ABC 2 News) came over, offered to take our picture including the person with the camera, and then asked us to stand in back to look like a crowd while he and his partner did their spot.  It was fun and Back on My Feet got some good publicity.

It was all the more fun as we were truly excited about the morning.  It is actually starting to feel like spring.  The runners this morning were in a mixture of clothing from shorts, a baseball cap, and a long sleeve shirt (like me) to people still with long pants, gloves, and winter hats. Still, the variation didn't matter.  We're just all in it together.

The excitement also come because spring is so freeing.  It is nice to run and not worry about multiple layers.

Our run this morning also saw an interested new resident of Christopher's Place.   That is also cool.  We'll all run a mile together on Wednesday to celebrate a new member.

Finally, later in the day, I met the local director in person.  She's an incoming part-time MPH student.  We'll be trying to figure out together how to evaluate the organization's good work.  To have the professional and personal and charitable all come together is pretty amazing.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Short and sweet reminder of why running in a group is wonderful

Yesterday, my middle son ran his first 5K in which I did not run the same race.  It was on a trail, he told me it had a lot of uphills, and his time was not as fast as when he was with me the week before, but he finished and he received a nice plant for being one of the first 60 in a relatively small group.  I say, "Good for him." It was a great opportunity for him to run as part of an event with a group, even if he was by himself.

In the meantime, my run yesterday was an 11 mile run with the Charm City Run, Maryland Half Marathon training group.  Three of us went and did the 11 mile run together.  We did it at a nice, easy pace.  I didn't run the last four or five at a much faster pace.  It was just a time to use the legs, work the heart, and enjoy the conversation.  The run started bright and sunny and ended with a sloppy rain, but we all enjoyed the run.  As we approached 9.5 miles, everyone commented something to the effect, "It sure didn't feel that far, yet."

That is the beauty of running in a group.  The shared experience makes the whole thing easier.  That is probably a great reason for me to go with a pace group in each of the Maryland Half Marathon and the Baltimore this year.