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.
I often have deep thoughts while running. Here are a few that I had while running in March:
1. I should have wore sun screen.
2. The clouds are beautiful.
3. How fast do clouds move?
4. Where is that plane heading?
5. Could I leave a vapor trail on a humid day?
6. The skin on my head is burning.
7. My legs are burning.
8. How much do these shoes weigh?
10. This wind is ferocious.
11. I’m not very aerodynamic.
12. Hopefully the wind will be at my back soon.
13. Maybe it will be easier if I spread my arms out.
14. I might take flight.
15. Where was that plane heading?
What do you think about while running?
“How do I make this pain in my legs go away?”
Part one of my answer is that I am not a doctor and if the pain is serious and persistent, you should see a doctor.
Part two of my answer is that if your a runner, pain comes with the territory. When your legs hurt in the morning, when you are sore in at least one part of your body on a daily basis, when you accept the pain as part of the package… then you know you’re a runner.
Along with being sore a lot, there are other dead give aways that identify you as a runner.
You know you’re a runner when:
- You find yourself stretching subconsciously in random places like a grocery store, at work, during a face to face conversation or at church.
- You bring up tempo runs in two out of three conversations.
- You think sweat is a fragrance.
- You don’t feel silly saying “fartlek“.
- People gasp when you tell them you went for a short and easy 10 miler.
- You run in your dreams.
- You put in extensive research before buying shoes.
- 90% of your clothing includes sweat wicking technology.
- If you’re not gasping for air at the end of a workout, you think it’s a failure.
- You own three or more water belts.
- You love the taste of Gel’s. (blech!)
- You have one or more playlists on your ipod titled “RUNNING”.
- You put bandaids in strategic places.
- You’re chafed… somewhere.
- No one wants to run with you on long run days.
- You’re a human garbage disposal.
- You have killer calves.
- You feel like you can conquer the world after a good run.
- You wish they sold endorphins over the counter.
- You feel alive!
And the list goes on and on.
What are some other things that identify you as a runner?
I often have deep and random thoughts while I run. Here are a few things that I thought about while running last month:
1. I need to paint my walls.
2. Is there a name for the color that is currently on my wall?
4. Fruit. Yum!
5. I’m sweating profusely.
6. Is sweat slippery?
7. I should have turned the heat down.
8. I feel like a glazed donut.
10. This treadmill spins around like a donut.
12. This room needs more light.
13. I need to see the sun.
14. The sun is round like a donut.
What do you think about while running?
My treadmill sits right next to the dusty Bowflex machine in that unused space in my house. I named my treadmill Reed because it’s a Reebok treadmill and that name just seemed to fit. And if your name is Reed, I’d like to apologize up front because Reed and I are not friends.
I leave Reed in the corner of the little room because I really don’t want to see him. I really don’t like Reed. In fact, I have a love/hate relationship with Reed. Reed doesn’t like me either. He doesn’t want to start up some times and I have to unplug his power cord and smack his side to wake him up.
But sometimes Reed and I must coexist. He comes in handy on really cold days and rainy days and days that I get behind and need a quick workout. And although Reed is loud and ornery and smelly, he’s not completely useless.
I’ve learned that there are things that the treadmill can do that will make me a better runner and even though we don’t see eye to eye… Reed is often my ally.
Here are some positive benefits of a treadmill workout:
Focus on form – Even though the treadmill doesn’t allow you to propel yourself forward, the motion is all the same. The key to efficient running is good form, the way your body moves, the mechanics. The treadmill is a great place to focus on where your feet are landing, how your arms are swaying and what your posture looks like.
Speed – Quick leg turnover means faster speeds. And to have quick leg turnover we have to perform intervals. Performing intervals requires that we speed up and slow down within a certain time period. And there is no easier way to change our speed than with the touch of a button. Fortunately, the treadmill has easy access to a wide range of speeds.
Maintaining heart rate – The treadmill keeps you moving and simply moving keeps the heart rate up. And when the heart rate is up, we gain and maintain fitness and burn calories.
The treadmill is not my favorite thing and Reed and I don’t always get along but we make it work and make the most of it.
What do you think of the treadmill? Love it or hate it?
I often have random thoughts while I run. Here are a few I had while running this winter:
1. I love this treadmill.
2. I hate this treadmill.
3. Are these cold weather running pants made for men.
4. These cold weather running pants are hard to get on.
5. My lungs burn.
6. My legs burn.
7. New years resolution: Run more.
8. New years resolution: Run farther.
9. Maybe I could run an ultra marathon.
10. No chance (ultra)
11. Maybe (ultra)
12. No way (ultra)
13. I’ll think about it (ultra)
14. I’m eating cake after this run.
15. I’m still hungry.
What do you think about while running?
I believe runners are gifted athletes. We may not be able to throw a ball 100 mph, tackle a 200 lb. running back or perform a double windmill slam dunk but runners are gifted. As gifted or more so than a professional athlete. Why? Because we are consistent.
As runners, our season never ends. There is always another race. Ours is a year round sport. There is a 5k every weekend and a half marathon every month. We are constantly running and this is what makes us pro’s. We’re consistent. We always show up. But should we have an offseason?
In my mind, there is an unofficial running season. It ranges from mid march to late November, occasionally stretching into December. Just like seasons in a professional sport, there has to be a time to slow down and to take our foot off of the proverbial pedal.
Here are three benefits of a running offseason:
Healing - Running is grueling and the pavement and trails show no mercy. Our joints take a beating when we are in training mode. And just like the pro’s, we sacrifice and play hurt. The offseason gives us a chance to lower the mileage and dial down the intensity. It gives our bodies a chance to heal and strengthen.
Longevity - Though we love our sport, it’s easy to burn out. Running year round can get old fast and the enthusiasm that we usually have can be hard to conjure up at times. As much as running is a physical sport, it’s also a mental and emotional sport. The offseason is our chance to get our hearts and minds right and to make the joy of running last longer.
It’s flexible - I hate running in the cold so my offseason is during the winter months. But your offseason can be anytime. Every other month? Every two months? The beauty of a running off season is that it doesn’t come with rules or timeframes. You can take it when you want.
You are a runner. A gifted and committed athlete. You love your sport and you pour everything into it. But it’s a good idea to ease off the accelerator from time to time. Enjoy your offseason.
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?
The hills of Atlanta started taking their toll on me at about mile eighteen of my first marathon. Each step forward was a monumental task. Every footfall was a small victory. There were only eight miles to go, but the finish line seemed like a world away.
It became clear to me that the person who designed the streets of Atlanta didn’t have runners in mind. Instead of winding, flat, asphalt roads, I pictured the streets of Atlanta as a long, steep staircase that led to a summit. The kind of staircase you see in old kung fu movies. The ones that are made of stone and zig-zag along the side of a mountain that leads to an ancient temple at the peak. Success and enlightenment wait at the top for those who can make the climb.
It’s no mystery that the mind starts playing tricks on you at that stage of the marathon. During those last few miles I was passed by a gangly older man, wearing all black. His skin was olive and we shared the same hair line. I noticed our similarities.
He mumbled to himself while he ran, like I sometimes do. He ran with his head slightly down, like I sometimes do. His arms and shoulders were relaxed and his cadence was steady – like mine sometimes is.
In the distress that I was feeling in those final few miles, I saw that man as the future version of me. My thoughts began to race as I watched him pull away and disappear over the next hill. The marathon is emotionally draining and when my future passed me by, I began to think that my life was flashing before my eyes right there amongst the hills of Atlanta.
I wondered where the old man in black had been. Where did he come from? What got him to this point?He never gave up on running. He was lucky to have not sustained any injuries that would keep him off the street. His legs were strong and quick. His passion and determination are what got him here. Two things you need in a marathon and in life.
I wondered where the old man was now. Maybe he had a family waiting for him at the finish line. A wife, children, grandchildren ready to welcome him with open arms and a cool bottle of Gatorade.
Did he know God? Was he praying that he would make it over that next hill? Not to puke? To reach the finish line? I had to believe he was asking for help from above because that’s what I was doing at that point. I had to rely on God at mile eighteen because my own strength wasn’t enough.
When I crested the next hill, I saw my future far in the distance. He was climbing the next hill. One of the many endless hills that stood between us and the finish line. But he wasn’t intimidated. He never slowed down. He was strong and fast.
I liked how my future was shaping up. It was bright and exciting – but it wasn’t necessarily true.
When the hills flattened out during the last stretch of the race, my foray into the future came to an end. I could see Centennial Olympic Park just down the road. The finish line was near. At this point the future didn’t matter and neither did the past. At this point during the race all that mattered was the here and now. This stretch of road.
I have an idea and a vision of my future but it isn’t guaranteed. Because His ways aren’t my ways and even though I’ve learned from the past, all that matters is where I am now.
My future may not be a gangly old man in black who runs like the wind. I can’t say with certainty that I’ll even be running when I’m his age. I can only hope.
But I believe that there will be hills to climb and that the road will sometimes be flat and smooth. There will be mountains to traverse and the view from the top will be spectacular. And I believe that my strength alone is not enough to make it.
All that matters is where we are now and that the only way ahead is forward. One monumental step at a time. One small victory at a time.
Here are five things that I learned or was reminded of this week:
1. I’m craving to run another marathon.
2. I’m proud of my God.
3. Store brand allergy medicine works.
4. Autumn is exciting.
5. I will sacrifice sleep to get an iPhone.
What did you learn this week?