I often have deep and random thoughts while I run. Here are a few things that went through my head while I ran in April:
1. How much pollen do plants hold?
2. Everything is so green.
3. I need more plants in my yard.
4. There is no way to sneeze gracefully while running.
5. My trail is blocked.
6. I hate detours.
7. That guy in the hard hat looks mean.
8. I love new running routes.
9. Ohh. Taco Bell.
10. Yum. Sour cream.
11. That squirrel is going to move out of my way.
12. That squirrel is NOT going to move out of my way.
13. OH GOD! IT’S ON MY LEG!!
14. There is no way to gracefully shake a squirrel off of you while running.
15. Do squirrels like tacos?
What do you thing about while running?
I’m not looking forward to the day when I have to sit my grandkids down and explain to them the bad things that happened last week.
It will be hard to tell them that we used to live in a world where we hurt and killed each other because of anger or protest or because our religion dictated it.
It will be hard to tell them that the sport of running lost it’s innocence on a special day in Boston. A day when people gathered together to celebrate hard work and dedication. A day when we watched men and women demonstrate the triumph of the human spirit.
After I admit to them that I don’t know why people did that or what that sort of act accomplishes, I’ll share with them the beauty of how we responded as Americans, runners, Christians and as a community.
I’ll tell them that there were heroes who rushed people to safety and assisted the wounded and consoled the frightened and confused. There were runners who kept running to hospitals to give blood and how local Bostonians opened up their homes to those who were displaced.
I’ll tell them that there were millions who prayed for healing and safety and justice. And even though we didn’t understand why God allowed these things to happen, we believed none the less.
I’ll tell them how our nation gathered around Boston. How rivals became allies and how we became a single community. I’ll explain to them how we were glued to news outlets all week as authorities hunted the ones who did this and how we and Boston and the nation celebrated when it was all over.
I’ll be proud to tell them that attacks like these never stopped us. We may have been afraid but we didn’t let fear cripple us. We may bend and bleed but you can’t break the spirits of Americans, runners and Christians.
Finally, I’ll tell them that nobody is perfect. People do bad things. We do bad things. And neither us nor them are never to far gone to receive grace and mercy.
So this is my last weekend in my thirties. My fortieth looms ominously just three days ahead and I’m not sure what to expect. Will there be a dramatic change? Will things suddenly stop working? Will I start moving slower and all hunched over? I wonder.
Will I get a letter in the mail on Monday from the AARP? Will I pay closer attention to those TV commercials with the old lady on the floor who can’t get up? Should I learn the intricate strategies of bingo? Not likely.
It’s just forty. It’s no big deal. Turning twenty didn’t bother me. Neither did turning thirty. So why should forty? I don’t fear it… I welcome it.
As I crest this hill, the one thing I look forward to is this new character type that I’m supposed to become. The wise old sage. To put it in Star Wars terms, I’m past the days of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Now I’m Obi Wan.
And in this day and age, don’t we need more Obi wan’s?
I’ve reached the age in life where I can refer to those younger than me as “Sport”, “Punk” and “Junior”. And I now have the freedom to scream at them to get off my lawn.
I’ve reached the age where I can own the silver in my hair and the wrinkles around my eyes. I don’t need a product to cover them up. They distinguish me. They let people know that I have a story to tell.
I’m thankful for my first thirty nine years. I thank God for making me who I am today, the lessons He taught me, the people He put around me and the future He has in store for me.
So as I crest the hill, I remember that I am a wily old veteran of life while still living it. I’ve been there and done that and am still doing it. There are new lessons to learn and more work to be done.
Forty is not the end.
It’s a new beginning.
The last time I checked, my right shoe was a mirror image of my left shoe. It’s made of the same amount of fabric and rubber as the left. It has the same red, orange and black color scheme as the left shoe and it has the same length and width.
My right shoe is just as roomy and comfortable as the left. It has a little more wear on the sole than the left but that’s just because I’m right footed. If there is such a thing as being right footed.
To any other person my right shoe would seem insignificant compared to my left shoe. But my right shoe has special meaning to me. It’s more than a ride. It represents something bigger. Because my right shoe is where I begin.
Running is rewarding and fun but it can also be hard and intimidating. Starting is the most difficult part and that degree of difficulty varies from person to person. Where do we begin?
We begin by getting off the couch.
We begin by getting out of bed.
We begin by stepping out the door.
We begin by lacing up.
I begin with my right shoe.
Putting my right shoe on first is less of a ritual or quirk. It’s more of a battle cry.
It’s a warning to the asphalt that lies ahead of me. It’s an ultimatum to the clock that I’m determined to beat. It’s an angry glare into the eyes of doubt and fear.
But most importantly, my right shoe is simply where I begin. It’s that start of something good.
We all begin somewhere. How will you begin today?
(photo by: woodleywonderworks, creative commons)
The big, black dog barked at me from the other side of the fence. It wasn’t one of those deep, howling barks that says “Hey. Here I am. Look at me.” It was a snarling bark. That shrieking bark that says “I will rip you to shreds dude!”
I was running on a lonely stretch of road. A road where few people travel by foot. It was a narrow and hilly road that was lined with horse farms and vast private estates. I’m sure this dog wasn’t used to seeing anyone run by his place. I was an alien in his land. Un-welcomed.
It was as if he owned this plot of land and that I wasn’t allowed to run by it. He kept his head low and his hackles were up. I could clearly see his yellow teeth. His buddy, a smaller dog but just as loud, joined in when he heard the other one barking. I was outnumbered. Thankfully the fence separated me from them.
I didn’t slow down. They ran with me from the other side of the fence and when I was passed their property, they disappeared into the woods and the barking stopped. Out of the corner of my eye I could see them shuffling around were the fence turned away from the street. There was a spot where the rain had created a dog sized hole around a fence pole.
Without looking back I knew what was about to happen. And then I heard the tapping of claws on asphalt. They were tapping in rapid succession. The dogs were free. I was being chased. Release the hounds!
I knew I wouldn’t be able to outrun them. I was running up a steep hill and there was nowhere to hide. I looked around for anything I could use to defend myself. A rock. A stick. Anything. But there was nothing but leaves and rotten apples that fell from an overhanging tree. My only hope was that they were hungry for fruit.
With no weapons and no plan, I instinctually stopped and turned to face them. The big dog was running toward me and barking. His buddy trailed behind. I thought briefly about how good my round house kick would be. Would I be able to make contact? Should I go for the eyes? Maybe a judo chop to the throat.
I knew if I tried to run away that they would see me as prey – so I stood my ground. I raised my arms and made myself as big as possible. I remembered something from a television show about dogs.
No talk. No touch. No eye contact. So I stood there quietly with my gaze just over their heads.
At that moment I realized what I was really afraid of. The clock on my running app was still ticking as the dogs and I were facing off. I had a goal in mind for this run. A pace to keep. And this altercation was helping none to much. These dogs were holding me up and at that moment my fear of being mauled was trumped by my fear of being slow.
In that instant I was motivated by fear. The fear that I wouldn’t meet my goal. The fear that my average minutes per mile would grow higher. I couldn’t let that happen so I walked away from the stand off and continued up the hill, unconcerned about teeth sinking into my heels.
When I reached the top I looked back over my shoulder and the dogs were still there. The big one stared at me from afar. He stood there proud and tall – “Don’t come around here no more!” The smaller dog stood behind him with his tongue hanging out to the side – “Yeah, you better run!”
So I used that fear of not finishing strong to my advantage. It turned it into fuel. I fed off of it. The fear of chasing dogs slowed me down but the fear of being slow kept me going.
Are you motivated by fear?
In these parts, summer slaps you across the face with a sweaty palm when you walk out the door each morning. It often comes across as a bully and makes you fearful of going outside. The air is soupy and thick and you sweat while standing still. In these parts, summer is grueling.
So there is no doubt that people in these parts welcome autumn with open arms. Because summer is long and it beats us down. Autumn is our saving grace.
In late August we receive hints of autumn. It pokes its head out from behind the curtain and teases us. But for a fleeting moment, the humid air becomes crisp and we flip back and forth as to whether or not we should wear a long sleeve shirt.
So on some of those late summer nights we wear our hoodies and sweat shirts as if to encourage autumn:
“Come on in. Make yourself at home. We missed you.”
Autumn brings a new color scheme and our senses are reintroduced to nostalgic sounds and smells. Orange, brown and gray. Leaves burning. Wind whistling. The roar of a football stadium. This is a season of change. In these parts, autumn is exciting.
Even though it’s exciting and refreshing, autumn doesn’t last long. In these parts it’s less of a full season and more of a buffer between summer and winter. It enters slowly and leaves quickly. But we relish in it and make the most of it.
We love the change and the relief that autumn brings and we remember that a change of season doesn’t always have to do with the weather. Our lives are seasonal. Some are longer and some are shorter. Some are exciting and some are tough but thats the way God designs it.
We go through different seasons to learn and grow and to live and celebrate. There is a purpose to every one.
So when your season slaps you in the face, remember that there is a better one right around the corner.
Because in these parts, the tough times don’t last forever. Our saving grace is just a season away.
Here are five things that I learned or was reminded of this week:
1. As I grow older the aches and pains take longer to go away.
2. When you fear God, you should fear nothing else.
3. I missed my church after being away for a month.
4. Road rage is controllable.
5. I enjoy watching hurricane coverage but I feel for those in its path.
What did you learn this week?
If you’ve ever ran a half marathon or a marathon, you’ve heard them. They’re those little whispers of doubt and negativity. They sneak in there when your oxygen levels are low. They are there when your glycogen is gone, when you are depleted.
When ever you want to accomplish something big, you hear the lies that the mind tells. Some people call it resistance. Some call it fear. But rest assured that it’s all fiction. It’s not real. Don’t believe the hype.
During the tenth mile of my first half marathon my mind began to chatter. I was tired and in over my head and that hill on Peachtree street was never ending. It was a blustery November morning. We ran into a biting headwind the whole way. A frozen mist pelted us in the face. Conditions were rough and my mind spewed it’s nonsense:
“You need to stop.”
“You’ll never make it.”
“Save face. There is always another race.”
But with the finish line in sight and my father by my side, I vowed to press on. In those last hundred yards, I found myself in a full sprint to the finish gate. I was convinced that I had what it took to complete the course and the doubt that was in my head turned out to be merely an annoyance.
The bible says that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The only way to beat the lies and doubts that the mind conveys is to bring out the human spirit. That unseen force that’s deep down in all of us. It’s that God given will that we all keep holstered just in case we need it. The human spirit is our get up and go when our bodies and minds have got up and went.
When the spirit takes over, those doubts that used to look like menacing bear traps turn into nothing more than an annoying gnat, something we can swat away and move past. The human spirit turns the light on the lies and reveals them for what they are. Fiction, nonsense, babble.
Despite the doubt that the mind is feeding you, know that we all have what it takes to push past it. Keep churning. Keep climbing and don’t believe the lies.
I’m often ridiculed when I reveal that one of my favorite super hero movies is about an african american vampire that hunts and kills other vampires. My friends and coworkers can’t make sense that I think that this was my favorite.
It’s not the hero that made an impression. I just thought that it was an entertaining film. It was different and exciting and my african american vampire hero had wicked ninja skills which is always a plus.
We love our super heroes because they are an escape. They lead exciting lives. They fly around and drive cool cars. They shoot laser beams out of their eyes and cause s’plosions (that’s southern for explosions). They always win the fight and always get the girl. They live the ideal life.
But it isn’t their super powers that impresses me. I can do without capes and masks. My real life heroes can’t fly. They don’t wear utility belts and cod pieces. My heroes don’t wear disguises to hide their true identities. On the contrary. They’re heroes because they aren’t afraid of who they are.
My heroes are those that don’t give up when the going gets tough. They fight through the pain because they know it’s worth it.
My heroes are those that put others first. Selflessness is a super power.
My heroes don’t hide their beliefs. They unashamedly follow their God with passion and loyalty. Even if that means they’ll face ridicule. At the same time, my heroes don’t always live by the rules. They love God, not religion.
My heroes fight for those less fortunate, building wells in third world countries for people they will never meet. Helping the impoverished in their own communities by giving their time and money. They fight against modern slavery. They’re abolitionists.
My heroes aren’t perfect. They have flaws. They struggle with their own, personal demons. But this is what makes them super. They don’t try to go at it alone. They share the burden. They rely on God and their sidekicks.
My heroes aren’t super because of their good looks, their swagger or the size of their sword. They are super because they transcend. They rise above and take a stand. They lead extraordinary lives because they aren’t afraid to do so.
What makes a hero super to you?
Here are five things that I learned or was reminded of this week:
1. Your worst day with God will be better than your best day without Him.
2. Baked Cheeto’s are the best Cheeto’s.
3. It’s still considered a cold front when the temps drop from the 100′s to the 90′s.
4. Rain turn’s the interior of my car into a swamp. Must find the leak.
5. Even though I had a nightmare about them. Zombies do not exist.
What did you learn this week?