Intentions and Invitations

When people ask when I started running, I make a distinction in my answer. The distinction occurred in 2007 at age 39.

The fifteen years prior I ran, but there was no structure to it. I wasn’t following a plan, didn’t set any goals, had no purpose outside random decisions to go for a run. At best, I ran three times a week for less than 10 miles; I didn’t track it and wasn’t concerned about it. The thought of registering for a race never crossed my mind.

Around 2004 I began running more frequently. Still not tracking or challenging myself to add miles or distance. Just random jogs around the neighborhood. I don’t recall how I started getting considered a runner, but apparently folks around me got that impression. At that point, I wouldn’t have told people, “I’m a runner.”

Two things happened in 2007 that shifted everything. The first one was that I finished my masters degree, which I had started in 2003. While working fulltime, I had kept an average of 11 hours of classes each semester for four years. I had been going at a pretty intense pace. I distinctly remember sitting in my hotel room in New Orleans the week I was completing my last class and saying to myself, “I’m about to have a void in my life. I need to find something to fill it.” When I got home, I created intention to my running. No more randomness.

The second thing really propelled my running forward. And I didn’t see it coming. Two of my work colleagues entered triathlons. They decided they wanted to do a relay and invited me to be the runner. I remember pretty vividly the emotions of waiting at the stage exchange for the swim and bike legs to finish before I took off on the 5k. At that time, a 3.1 mile race seemed long. I had no idea about pacing, even if I could run that far without stopping. And God knows, I wasn’t going to be one of those walk/runners. I had so much to learn.

When I crossed the finish line of that 5k, I had become an intentional runner. My instincts to grow and challenge myself took over, and the rest is a history still unfolding. Another fifteen years have passed. I’ve ran dozens of races, raced in 26 states on the goal to run them all, and have averaged over 1,000 miles per year. These results reveal the power of intentions and invitations.

On this first day of 2023, what intentions would move your life forward? In your career, your family, your relationships, your finances, your spirit, your hobbies, your passions. What invitations you accept or extend would give those intentions a pathway taking you and others toward new heights and depths? A year from today, how would you like to reflect on your 2023 intentions and invitations?

Advertisement

“But” Problem #2

(A series on lessons learned from running this year)

The second first-time experience this summer was less concerning but equally worth learning.

Two weeks after the shower incident, I let another “but” lead me to another result even more frustrating on a personal level.

I wanted to get in a 12-miler with two friends. The challenge was, they wanted to run early. Really early. Like 4AM early. They do this all the time; me, never.

So not only was I going to get up and run 12 miles in Florida humidity with my crazy friends, I was also going to pretend to be a morning person.

Unfortunately for me, not only that night but also the night before I got less than six hours of sleep. One night might be okay; two, not a recipe for a successful 12-mile run.

The alarm sounded at 3. And I said to myself, “Why am I doing this? But I want to get in 12 miles. Just have fun with it.”

True to our form, we actually started at 3:40AM. We were up; might as well hit the pavement.

I knew I was in trouble after the first mile. I learned several summers ago that my first mile on a long run needed to be easy. Something like a 10:30 pace. There was no doubt we were running faster than that. When I looked at my watch, we’d ran mile 1 in 9:26.

So not only was I pretending to be a morning person, I was also pretending this pace was doable. I told myself, “Just relax. Back off when you can. Stay with it.” And I did, as every mile got even faster.

In December, that’s fine. This wasn’t December. It was 75 degrees, hours before the sun decided to wake up.

At the mile 6 stop, I knew I had to tap out. Pretending gave way to reality. Twelve wasn’t going to happen. Too fast…too tired…too humid…too early. They went on to get in six more while I did two slower miles to get back to my car. Eight miles done; four miles short of the target.

On the drive home, it hit me. I hadn’t been pretending. I had been lying to myself. All the “buts” of why this was a good idea and that I could get in 12 miles hid the truth. I don’t run at 4AM. I don’t run long runs in humidity at a 9:15 pace. I missed my target because I lied to myself about who I am.

Lesson #2: “Buts” lead to lies. Lies lead to unrealized potential and missed targets.

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

“But” Problem #1

(A series on lessons learned from running this year)

I’m sure I’ve made it clear before, but I’m okay repeating myself.

Running in the Florida summer is dreadful. This summer, however, I did much better than any summer prior. But that doesn’t mean all went well. Looking back, two particular days stand out…and they’ve got clear takeaways, both having to do with self talk where a “but” led to a problem.

Both happened on Saturdays. Both happened when I drove to run with friends in a running club. Both involved first-time experiences.

The first Saturday experience happened actually back at home after the run. That morning I decided to add a few miles for my long run of the week. And, surprisingly, I managed the run quite well. In fact, I was feeling pretty good about myself. So good, in fact, that I veered away from my normal recovery routine.

My Saturday long run routine is pretty well set.

  • Hit the pavement by 6
  • Minimum 8 miles
  • Recovery starts with a banana and water
  • Stretching while running an Epsom salt bath
  • More water and half a bagel while letting the salt do its thing
  • Shower
  • More fluid and food
  • Nap usually follows within an hour or two, if possible

On this Saturday, I broke routine. I was feeling so good, so surprisingly good, that I let a “but” lead me to break routine. And it led to a personal violation.

“I can’t believe how well I feel. I killed that run. Normally I drink more water while in the bath, but I’m feeling quite good. No water today. I’m mean, it’s only like 8-10 ounces. What’s that matter?”

Did I mention the bath is as hot as I can make it? Which means even more sweating. Which I don’t mind at all…until it’s time to stand up to shower. And this time, my body had something to say.

My body decided it had had enough. And the first-time experience was finding myself waking up on the shower floor not long after wondering, “What is the deal with my head?”

The problem with this scene was I ignored what I knew was wise, common sense, and established. I allowed my mind to accept a problematic “but.”

Lesson #1: “Buts” lead to violations. Violations lead to fetal positions in the shower.

Photo by Karim Ghantous on Unsplash

Running Blind

The other morning I woke up before the alarm and decided I might as well get up and run. Out the door before 6, it was still dark. Roughly 3/4 of a mile out, running in the bike lane through my neighborhood, I approached a clump of something in the lane. As I got closer and a passing car’s lights lit up the lane, I figured out it was a dead possum. Roughly 20 yards later I stepped over a dead armadillo. Then within just yards I had to maneuver around two huge palm branches crossing the lane. Within that same patch, cars timely passed so I could see and not do something stupid.

Thinking about it later, I remembered this verse I’d read and journaled about recently from I John 2:11.

“Those who hate a fellow believer are in the darkness and walk around in the darkness; they do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”

Ever noticed how hate makes you do stupid things. Even while you’re doing them your mind is saying, “What is going on? I don’t want to do this. Where is this coming from?” Sometimes it’s not until much later, after you’ve totally blown it, that you figure it all out. Then you have to humble yourself, or at least you have the choice, and admit what was driving your outrageous actions.

Thank God for the light of love. It reveals the dead stuff, guides you to a better path, and helps you avoid roadkill and debris.

Choose it. Run in it. The alternative – running blind – can be quite costly.

(FB post from 8/27/2011)

Photo by Kouji Tsuru on Unsplash

Discovery Run

I did myself a favor. I stuck around another night in Jacksonville after the wedding last Saturday.

What do I have to show for it? For starters, Peterbrooke (well, I did…it didn’t last long), a good movie, and a great dinner.

But the best was my Sunday morning run. I got in 3.8 Saturday morning before meeting friends for breakfast before the wedding. But Sunday morning was what weekend running is all about. No time limits. No expectations. Just exploration. A chance to discover.

The little running I did when I lived in Jacksonville (’90-’02) was all neighborhood (Arlington, Mandarin). I never ran downtown. So I was excited to run around the AirBnB in Springfield and, since it was only a few miles south, Downtown.

There’s a vibe when you run downtown in any city. It’s not the isolation of the country or the ease of a neighborhood. There’s an energy. Even in the absence of traffic, there’s a sense of life unlike anywhere else. And I like it. Especially in the early morning hours.

From running the Main Street bridge, to hearing church bells ring, to discovering Henry J. Klutho Park, it was one of the most pleasant runs in recent memory.

Thank you, Jacksonville! You put a smile on my face every time.

You Have Options

Three Saturdays ago I was sleeping the day away, pretty sure I had COVID. Test came back the next day affirming my suspicion.

I test my health often by running. Can I? How did it go? Do I need a nap soon after? Yadda yadda.

Thankfully my case was mild. I “ran a test” with a decent 5k the following Wednesday, but not every run since has been an indicator that all is well.

Earlier this week I set a plan to run each day this weekend-a progressive schedule of six miles on Friday, seven on Saturday, and eight on Sunday. Nothing new. This was a routine schedule this past Fall.

Not sure what it is, but Friday runs since the Summer have occasionally been rough. Yesterday was one of them. I cut it short, ending up with 4.15 miles. I haven’t let my mind look at Fridays any differently…well, until yesterday.

So last night and this morning I debated how far I should run this morning. Not running wasn’t an option I considered. I landed on simply running the same route as yesterday and see how the six went. Around mile two my legs felt pretty much like yesterday, not quite as sluggish. I decided it didn’t matter what pace I had to adjust to, how much walk/running I had to do, six miles was happening today.

A little over three miles I stopped for a quick water break in the park. I didn’t stop long. I didn’t want my body to tell my mind what to do. Somewhere in mile four my legs perked up. I told myself, “Go with it.” I adjusted my course and ran past my next turn taking the next road instead.

I ended up taking four more such turns and completed just under seven miles…with more in the tank.

Here’s my takeaway. We all have days when things don’t go according to plan. We all have to deal with letdowns, apparent failures, missed goals. At the end of those days when we assess the next one, we have options. They range from shutting down to overcompensating. Usually, somewhere in the middle is the best option.

How your next day goes is entirely up to you. You have options.

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

I’m Here To…

Around mile 2 of my run this morning, I passed a runner who was struggling. And I might add, it’s December 31st and 70F at sunrise, so understandable. I feel you.

But what really caught my eye was his shirt. I hadn’t seen one, but maybe you have. Here’s an example:

Gave me a chuckle. And gave me something to think about the rest of my run.

Was that guy actually making a statement about his running? Or was it “just” the first shirt he grabbed?

Was his apparent struggle to be running supported by his shirt? Or was it a declaration a day early of 2022?

Whatever the case, this statement aligns with how we often show up. And it mostly has to do with that second word. That four-letter word says quite a bit. And it often says, much like a familiar bumper sticker, “I’d rather be somewhere else.” So maybe in that runner’s case, “I’d rather be sitting on my lanai, drinking another cup of coffee, watching College Game Day!”

In the spirit of improving how we show up, let me throw out a couple of suggestions.

One, drop the word “just” anytime you’re making a statement about why you’re anywhere. Whatever amount of tongue biting is involved (been there), stay silent until you can state why you’re there without sounding like you don’t want to be.

Second, on a deeper level in the spirit of New Year’s Eve, how about editing this statement to declare how you desire to show up? “I’m here to __________.” How do you fill in the blank this coming Monday at 8AM? What best completes that sentence for your hopes for the first month of 2022? The first quarter? The entire year?

Declare to yourself, to God, and to whoever else that would benefit, “I’m here to __________.”

Here’s to showing up with purpose in 2022!

Tucson Reflection #3

Running in the Holualoa Tucson Half Marathon had more than one first in store for me.

Yes, it was my first, and most likely only, race in Arizona.

One first I didn’t know was going to happen was sitting on a shuttle bus for over an hour to stay warm before waiting another 30 minutes before the start. It would be nice if that didn’t happen again.

The other first that I did know about beforehand was this…the course was mostly downhill. See below:

Sounds easy. Maybe looks easy. Here’s the deal: it messed with my head. I didn’t make an amateur move and start out too fast. It actually felt like I managed my pace pretty well. But it was deceiving. Although it felt okay, turned out my first, and most likely only, largely downhill race may have messed with my head in a totally new way.

You know the boiling frog syndrome metaphor?

Failing to act in a situation increasing in severity until reaching catastrophic proportions.

Well, it didn’t get catastrophic. No paramedics were involved. Nothing like that.

What happened was I thought I was fine and was going to be able to keep the pace I started, but my body didn’t agree with my head. The subtle impact of the course won. It gave me a reminder. Being comfortable, being fine, going downhill has its own challenges. Adjust. Keep learning. The course, the journey always has something to teach you.

On behalf of all us frogs, thank you, Tucson! May we never stop learning!

Tucson Reflection #2

Getting to Tucson was no joke. The trip started by a 5AM EST (3AM in Tucson) alarm in St. Augustine followed by a three-hour stop in Orlando before boarding flight #1 in Tampa. After a four-hour layover in Denver, the final leg of the trip landed me in Tucson; after a short ride to the AirBnB, I got in bed at 12AM. If you’re counting, that’s a 21-hour day. Not necessarily the smartest start to a weekend for running a half marathon.

When you arrive in the middle of the night to a place you’ve never been, you pretty much have no idea, nor do you really care, what that city has to offer. I apologize to you, Tucson, but I had no idea what you had in store for me when I walked out the door to go to lunch a few hours later. You slapped me in the face with this view:

I didn’t mind the surprise. In fact, I couldn’t get enough. For the next 48 hours, I kept shaking my head and saying to myself, and I guess to God, “What? This is spectacular.”

Maybe it’s because I’ve been in Florida most of my life. Maybe it’s because different is intoxicating. Or maybe it’s because most surprises just aren’t this good.

Regardless of the maybes, here’s what I do know. I will never get over that the Creator of things that slap me in the face also humbled himself to see me, to know me, to rescue me, to offer me hope, to say, “Just wait ’til you see what I’m making for you.”

On behalf of all who visit you, Tucson, thank you! You remind us there’s a matchless surprise to come!

I-35 Lesson #2

This photo is a description of a marathon training plan devised by the Hanson brothers. I came across it years ago and loved it the first time I followed it. This plan, in many minds, is not conventional. Why? One main reason is that you never run more than 16 miles. Most plans and trainers would include running at least one 20-miler.

This summer, I had to take an even more unconventional approach to preparing for the I-35 challenge. If you count the number of runs in this plan that are at least 10 miles, there are 21 over the 18 weeks of training. Here’s my total of 10+ mile runs in the five months before race weekend: 4. And the longest…11 miles.

I-35 Lesson #2: Convention may not be necessary.

Summer heat kills any conventional sense for my training for a Fall race. In previous years, I’ve curtailed the summer heat by running on gym treadmills. Due to bad habits forming from too much treadmill running, this summer I swore off treadmills forever-dropped the gym membership completely. Big step.

That step led to figuring out how to train in the heat. And unfortunately for me, that meant running more days and less miles. Even less miles than the Hanson brothers designed. So I knew going into a weekend of 39.3 miles, my approach to getting to both finish lines couldn’t be what I’d prefer.

What’s the lesson here? There is a way to get to the finish line. In fact, just like driving from my home to the office, there are dozens of ways. If you are okay with slower, longer, pauses, breaks, you have many choices. In the end of these choices, you get there.

The majority of us are not elite. So does it really matter what we do to get there? Does it not count if we finish 3,009 instead of 309 or 39? Of course not. What counts is that you did what you could to get to the start line…and then you did what had to do to cross the finish line.

Convention is good, but it’s not necessary.

Somewhere in Kansas City. Photo by @sportsphotoscom