Sunday, June 26, 2011

Another Freedom

Today, for the first time in a while, I felt the joy of just playing music at church. It feel so freeing it was amazing.

What do I mean by this? Well, in the five (?) years that the worship band at my church has been playing, I was the regular bass payer for all but the last year and a half. I was overwhelmed in a number of ways just before I got my final promotion early in 2010, and decided to cut back on activities for a while. Being the regular bass player was one of the things I cut back on.

For a while, I didn't do anything with the group--other than make sure that my son, the keyboard player, showed up. Then, slowly, I realized how much I missed playing music.

I tried joining an adult pick-up band at the music store where my son takes piano. That worked for a few months and then I realized I couldn't make a commitment to do that every week.

I have occasionally played bluegrass with a few other faculty. That is fun when we do it, but it does not occur often enough to really satisfy my music interests.

Then, I got asked to play as the substitute bass player on occasion. And, I run the sound board on occasion. For a while, it was enough to satisfy my desire to play. But it wasn't often enough to get me to be very comfortable with playing again.

Recently, I have substituted frequently. Today, I had a great time. I felt like I have not felt in more than a year of playing. I felt at ease. I felt like I knew what I was doing (at least as well as I ever did). I didn't have to look at the music all the time. I just knew what to do.

I have not been asked to sing so much since coming back as a substitute, so I have been able to focus on just playing the bass, and that also helps me to feel better about playing bass. However, the other thing that I did today was to sing--without a microphone. It was okay. It didn't matter whether any of the other members of the worship band or anyone else in the congregation could hear me. My singing and playing worked together to give glory to God. And, when I am free to do that, in any aspect of my life, all the rest tends to work itself out.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Freedom while Running

Running with a watch on but not looking at it--that is freedom.
Running with a friend stride for stride and not caring who is leading--that is freedom
Running at a pace that just "feels right"--that is freedom
Just running for joy--that is freedom.
Yes, I looked at how fast we ran when we were done.
Yes, I am definitely still in training mode.
Yes, I care about how I run and whether I will hit a very specific time in October.
But, sometimes it is nice to to run without a care or fear and to celebrate the gift of life that God has given me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bib numbers and Bible verses for a friend

OK. My interpretation of my bib number though God's word began last year when my number for the marathon came up as 1313 and I was looking for something other than a double unlucky interpretation.

Since then, I have posted interpretations of several bib numbers and even a 2-mile time based on God's word. It is mostly an exercise in reading the Bible with a purpose and thinking of applying the Bible to my day-to-day life--which is how we should be able to apply it anyway. This just makes it a bit more fyn.

Tonight, a friend asked how to interpret her bib number: 2162. A friend already posted on my Facebook page one interpretation. A good one at that--2 John 1:6,2.

However, I'll offer something a little different. If my knowledge of Baltimore's running culture serves me well, my friend is running the Baltimore Women's Classic. So, I will offer an interpretation that reflects on the power of women of faith.

I don't know my friend's denomination. I'll quote from the King James Version that you can find online. My wanderings through the Word and pondering of the Word led me to quote from Genesis starting at 21:6 and reading for 2 verses.

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

This celebrates life. This celebrates bringing life into the world. This celebrates doing amazing things as we age. This celebrates the amazing things that we can do when we place our faith in God. This celebrates how our lives can have an amazing impact on others as we live our lives in faith. This celebrates celebrating with others.

Many of these themes would be just right for any race or even any training. Starting with the last item--celebrating a celebrating with others. Every team practice does this. We all enjoy being together and we all gain strength from each other.

Second, amazing things that we can do as we place our faith in God despite our aging bodies. This illustrates the difference between aging and growing old. It illustrates how we can do things we never thought when we place our faith in God. And just finishing a race is an amazing thing.

Third, our lives having impact on others. When we run we relate to and challenge others in all sorts of ways. I am blessed to challenge others by setting a pace. Every teammate can challenge another to do his or her best. To be all that he or she is meant to be. To show a happy face. To cheer teammates on.

Fourth, the celebration of life. Running is live giving. Running is life enhancing. Running makes those who do it feel SO alive!

Finally, and an incredible tie in for the Baltimore Women's Classic, this celebrates bringing life into the world. What an appropriate verse for a race that celebrates women's health and women's accomplishments.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Inspiration

So, I now have a series of entries about bib numbers and Bible verses. Tonight we had our first time trial in preparation for the rest of the marathon training season. I ran a 12:31. Just one second of the time I had suggested to a fellow runner as we stood at the start. It was another four seconds faster than the last one I ran. There was no one right on my tail. And I occasionally had to yell track or run around a person. Hopefully next time I'll break 12:30.

With the blessing of my fastest time yet (on a hot and humid evening), I decided to look for more inspiration in a Bible verse or two. Tonight, I turned to Romans 12: 3 and 1. Here are the two verses:

12:3 For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned.

12:1 I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.

Why did these two strike me as interesting for this evening.

First, 12:3--it is a reminder that I ran the fastest time tonight but that that doesn't make me any better than anyone else in any other way. I am just another person trying to do my best. All my fellow runners in the Charm City Run training group are trying to do their best. What each of us can achieve varies with our natural talent, years of training, motivation, and so many other things. All my faster time shows is that I'm faster. That is an important thing to remember.

Second, 12:1--I am not urging my bothers. I am being urged by Paul. My body is a living sacrifice. Hopefully pleasing to God. Being used in a way that God approves of and that God appreciates. That God sees as a way to inspire others. To get others to take themselves, their capacities, their abilities, and their faith seriously so that they can move ahead. I've never really thought of myself as inspiring others, but when you happen to be the first one around, you suddenly become the person to whom others look as a benchmark and as someone to try to catch. I simply hope that others see what I do and see their opportunity to do the same.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

More Bible Verses and Bib Numbers

So, today I ran my second race of the weekend. I call this weekend the "Split Half Marathon"--the 10 miler yesterday and a 5K (or an additional 3.1 miles) today. Today's run was 21:22--making the combination of runs (1:13:09 plus 21:22) 1:34:31. I wish I could run that in an actual race. Perhaps someday.

In any case, the past two days emphasize the lesson discussed in my last Bib Number and Bible Verses Entry: physical isn't everything and following Jesus's teachings is important. Today, my race number was 201. For this, I turn to John 20:1, "On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb."

Why is this relevant, particularly after the run rather than before? Well, Mary was taking care of details and was extremely surprised and wondered at what she had found. Running is very much about taking care of details. Taking care of making sure that everything gets done. Taking care of careful exercises. Taking care of stretching. Taking care of cross training. Taking care of all the details to make sure I run a healthy race. And, I do sometimes get surprised and wonder at the results I get. Life is full of wonder.

The wonder of this weekend came from the just running and feeling God's presence. God's presence with me as I was on the courses. God's presence in my efforts to set an example. God's presence in my efforts to share with others. Running is still a goal driven activity for me. But running is also a joyful activity. And I hope to continue to be able to describe it that way.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Again and again

I have talked about consistency before. Once I find something that works I tend to stick with it. This applies all throughout my life. I occasionally will make a decision about mixing things up a little that surprises friends and family but it does not happen all that often. And, more often than not, even if give consideration to a big change, I tend to stick with what I know when all is said and done.

Consistency in running is about benefitting from doing the same thing over and over again to get a feel for what it means. For many training for a marathon mile repeats are either the most hated or most loved workout. This can even change from day to day for a given runner. THey are a tough track workout. But they give a person a feel for running a consistency pace.

Yesterday, I did my best mile repeat workout ever. Five 1 mile runs, alone, on the Towson high track. When rounded to the nearest second and taking the times to go around four laps (sometimes avoiding other runners) the times were


That is what I call consistency. It brought me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction and the feeling that I can do what I set my mind to and keep doing it. Tee later ones felt a little harder, but they all added up. I hope to continue to achieve consistency and use it to build mental toughness. Sometimes just knowing that you have proven your ability to do something repeatedly is more than half the battle to actually doing it--again, and again, and again.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bib numbers and Bible verses

Everything in life is linked to a lesson from God--even the bib numbers I get in the races I run. The main example I have of that is 1313 from last year's Baltimore marathon. For races that I have run since then, I have not necessarily gone to the Bible to look for some inspiration. However, today I received my race number for the Baltimore 10 Miler this Saturday--1486. This one was actually a bit of a challenge to interpret as a Bible verse. There are a number of books that don't have 14 chapters. There are very few that have 148 chapters--just Psalms. I could actually have taken Psalms 148 and 6--happy and a powerful lamentation. I could have taken Psalm 148 and then Chapter 6 from the Gospel of St. Luke--that includes the Beatitudes and some other stuff that I could relate to. However, I ended up with an interesting interpretation:

1 Tim 4: 8 and 6

OK. So the two verses are backwards, but I don't see that as a big problem. What do these two verses say in the New American Bible, Revised Edition (leave it to those witty American Bishops to think of something like Love your NABRE...):

8: for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future.

6: If you will give these instructions to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching you have followed

So, what lessons do I take from these. Verse 8 seems particularly appropriate to take with me in preparation for a race--I actually think that physical training helps me to focus my spiritual training and devotion, but I'll be the first to admit that it doesn't matter how fast I run if I don't use my running as a gift from God to share with others. I've talked about that before, but it is a pretty cool thing to find as related to my bib number.

What do I take from verse 6? Well, I don't necessarily plan to evangelize my fellow runners (although I do share my view on running, sharing, and service with anyone who will read my blog) but it is a reminder that I have to read the words, have faith, and then follow the teaching. Actions speak way louder than words.

So, to have two key messages--focus on devotion and let my actions speak for themselves--provide me with a great guide to take into my final training for a race in which I will celebrate several running friendships and running with Back on My Feet.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A sense of overall well-being

Two weekends in a row, I've run two ten mile runs. Both weekends I ran with someone (or someones) else on Saturday and alone on Sunday. The Saturday runs were at 7:54 and 8:02. The Sunday runs were in 7:56 and 7:52. All the runs were important. This weekend's runs brought me more of a sense of overall well-being than last weekend's.

That is not to say that I did not enjoy or gain from the runs last week. Running with a friend on Saturday and to see how I could do in ten by myself on Sunday was great. This weekend was even better as I previewed the race course for next weekend on Saturday with two friends (each of whom will play an important role in my summer training) and then ran another hilly north Baltimore course on Sunday. The latter was most excellent as I felt comfortable and ran it in the fastest pace of the four runs.

What does that get me besides a fast time? Well, first it gets me some of the mental readiness that I need. Part of the mental readiness is dealing with hills, and I feel one step closer to being ready for that after taking all the hills pretty strongly this morning--and following through after each one. Second, it lets me know that I can run a pretty good pace with my adjusted stride. Still working on perfecting the new stride but I am getting there. Third, it gives me the hope that I can do pretty well without making any small injuries and worse--that goes along with the new stride, too. Fourth, and finally, I have gotten better at determining what I need to eat after a run to get myself back to normal.

It is all good. I look forward to continuing to use my running to bring myself to a sense of overall well-being. I hope that others who exercise can also find that point at which this is what they feel.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bringing Pieces of My Life Together

This morning, for the first time, I connected last year's marathon training (my friend Joselyn who ran a sub 3:30 last year and who had not trained with the Charm City Run group in the winter) with this year's winter/spring training (my friend Erik with whom I've now run twice between training seasons), with my love for baking (I made homemade bagels before going to Druid Hill Park to meet up with Joselyn and Erik) all in one. That was pretty cool.

My two running friends helped to tie together all my training over the past 12 months. My goal for the next four months is to be able to keep up with Joselyn (and bring along a couple other runners along the way). I would not say that Erik's goal is to keep up with me, but I think he has the potential and just has to get used to (a) pushing himself a little harder and (b) the heat and humidity. Joselyn and I made a pact on how to help each other improve this year. Our last pact was right after the marathon last year to both aim for 3:20 this year. I think she has it in her; it is still a bit of a longshot for me but I have my eye on it. Our new pact--she will push me on hills and I will push her on the track. Each of us has something mental that we have to overcome to improve on a part of our running. In the meantime, I just try to encourage Erik and be there to push him as much as he wants to be pushed. I get some and I give some. It all comes around.

The baking is something that is just a part of what I do. I simply hope to find time to bake before more Saturday runs, so that I can share bagels, salty soft pretzels, or other stuff with my fellow runners on other Saturday mornings.

It is a great way to be able to pull together parts of my life. Hope to continue doing that for a long time to come.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Semper Fi--Always Faithful and the Importance of Team

I have never had a vision of serving in the military. Although, I must say that When I was a youngster, I liked the army commercial, "We do more than 8 AM than most people do all day." I thought that would be a cool way to lead my life. Now, I borrow a different military motto--Semper Fi--always faithful. I could also borrow and adapt "Never leave a fallen soldier/comrade behind" and turn it into "Never leave someone from your running team behind." How do these military expressions fit into my daily running experience?

Today, I happened to be with a lead group of five in the larger group with which I run on many mornings. At one point, two went ahead leaving three of us, and one was a bit fatigued from a workout less than 12 hours earlier. I said we (i.e., the one other on-fatigued person left and I) could run with her. She encouraged us to go ahead. I told her that I really didn't like to leave any runners behind. Me and the other guy didn't get very far ahead and we all ended up running the last mile and some together after all. My fellow runner thanked me on Facebook later in the morning.

I hope that my fellow runners would have done the same for me if I were hurting or fatigued. It is not that I feel unsafe on the streets of Baltimore City for an early morning run. It is simply that I am keenly aware of why I run with a group many mornings rather than running on my own. It is to be part of a group, and , more than than, part of a "team".

When I first joined with Back on My Feet, the local program director at the orientation told everyone that the morning runs are not about "coming back first". She told everyone that each runner--either the men in transition from homelessness or the community runner volunteers has a reason for being out there--as part of the team in general and on any given day. She pointed out that everyone there--from whatever background and with whatever brings them there--is part of a team. That emphasis from day one has stuck with me. And being part of a team means doing things for each other that sometimes put the needs of others ahead of your own. Particularly on a day that is somewhere between races when we are all just out there for a good time and a good run. My own need (sometimes to run fast) can be set aside to run with someone instead.

The other group I run with is not described as "team" in the same way on day one. It is a training group. However, after a while, my affinity for certain runners has certainly led to a feeling of "team" with some of the runners in the training group. However, I've said it before and I will probably say it again--there is a big difference between a training group and a team. For my team, I say "always faithful" and "never leave a fellow runner behind" unless they want to be left behind. For a training group, until that feeling of team fully evolves, it was much more about helping myself.

To a certain degree it is all a matter of what is initially presented to participants and what evolves over time. Certainly, I credit Charm City Run with developing a team spirit over time. But it just is not emphasized at first in the same way. This morning, I witnessed in my own behavior, the importance of the initial and continuing emphasis on team.

Recent thoughts on running

The other day I wrote about return on investment in mentoring. I am making an investment in many people. Especially my sons. Sunday just passed, my 11 year old and I ran a 5K to benefit the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training. This was his sixth 5K. A lot of people were asking him if it was his first. He did well. I thought it was pretty cool that he ran part of the Baltimore Running Festival Marathon course. I hope that someday while I can still run that distance he will choose to run that distance with me. It would be a great accomplishment to have a father and son (and perhaps two sons as I also hope that Daniel will join me some day) run the marathon.

Then, on Monday, I ran 7 miles by myself (nothing unusual there) when it was already pretty warm at 6:30 AM. I was drenched in sweat when I was done, but described it as exhilarating--having run it at an average pace of 8:16. I have rarely described running in very high temperatures as exhilarating and have since gotten a haircut so that I will sweat less. However, when all is said and done, I think that it is, in part, due to my overall comfort with running at this point. Having been back into this for over 5 years with three half marathon races, one marathon, and a variety of other raes under my belt, I find the joy that I feel (and the pleasure I feel God takes in my running) to be truly exhilarating. It is a wonderful feeling that I would not trade for anything. Yes, the heat is exhausting in some cases. Yes, I feel incredibly sweaty. But it is awesome!