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

I-35 Lesson #1

This past weekend included many firsts. Seven of them were…

  • Flying Southwest out of Sarasota
  • Visiting Kansas City, St. Joseph, and Des Moines
  • Renting a Truck
  • Buying a Garmin watch
  • Touring the Glore Psychiatric Museum
  • Running a full marathon one day and running a half marathon the following day
  • Driving I-35

These firsts were part of attempting the I-35 Challenge: Run in Kansas City on Saturday then run in Des Moines on Sunday. Looking back on this trip, I have takeaways that I wasn’t even looking for, not expecting, didn’t know was coming. I’m calling these the 1-35 Lessons.

I-35 LESSON #1: Inspiration comes in many forms.

If you’ve never ran a race or had the chance to be a spectator, I encourage you to make it a goal. Whether it’s in person or virtually, you’ll see things that make you turn your head, raise your eyebrow, clap your hands, maybe even shed a tear. If you look long enough, pretty good chance you’ll find inspiration. For example…

In Des Moines, there was a team of runners who stood out because they were wearing red. But the real reason they stood out was because they were all pushing a wheelchair carrying a disabled person. That’s no joke. They are called My Team Triumph. Check out their mission from their website.

Then there’s this guy. I passed him during the race, but didn’t know his story until hearing him talk about his hobby of running when we happened to be on the same flight the next day. Take a guess how many marathons he’s ran. If you guessed 10…nope. 100…not even close. Try over 700.

These images and others will be in my mind for a long time. These runners showed up. They didn’t settle. And if they had supporters like mine following them virtually and freaking out from home, they didn’t disappoint.

Lesson: Inspiration is around us every day. Take time to reflect, acknowledge, and follow. It may lead you to many firsts of your own.

Crossing the start line in Des Moines…26.2 down, 13.1 to go

3 Adjustments to Complete an Overcommitment

I did it again. About halfway through I realized a familiar feeling and thought, “Good grief. Here I go again.”

It was this morning around 7:10AM. Mile 7.5 of a committed 15-mile run. The feeling was more physical than mental. Well, I guess it was equally both. And it was the feeling brought on by overcommitment.

The commitment to 15 miles, at least in my world, is not a bad thing. But what I failed to acknowledge was that my body was questioning the commitment before I made it lace up my Brooks. My quads were saying, “Hey! I told you yesterday I needed a break. You might regret this.”

Between mile 7.5 and 11 it became apparent running all 15 was going to be unnecessary, self-inflicted torture (overcommitment defined). Sound familiar? Maybe your torture isn’t from running, but if you’re prone to overcommitment you know exactly what mile 11 feels like. 

Your mile 11 may be hosting Thanksgiving dinner, holding a drink at a reception wondering why you’re there, or looking up from your laptop and seeing it’s an hour past quitting time. You’re in. Too late. It’s got to be done. You’d rather call uber to pick you up, but then…

At this point it’s adjustment time. At mile 11.24, I took step one of adjusting, because I had no choice if I didn’t want to be found sprawled out on Manatee Avenue. Here were my three adjustments to my overcommitment this morning.

REGROUP

I started walking. I said, “I’m not looking forward to walking 3.76 miles back home, but neither do I want to be drained for the rest of the day. Been there done that.” My regrouping was to keep moving but at a sustainable pace, not torturous. Why do that? What would I be proving to these unknowing drivers passing me? 

Our regrouping could have various looks. It could be completely hitting the pause button. When we’ve not listened closely enough and we’ve fully drained ourselves, this is unavoidable. It could be simply slowing down and managing ourselves better. This will require honesty and maybe eating some humble pie. “Boss, I overcommitted.” “Honey, I did it again.” Maybe even, “I need help to get this done.” The basic principle of regrouping is acknowledging a better plan is needed now and putting it in place.

RECOVER

My recovery lasted for two miles, roughly 35 minutes. I finished the snack I had, then stopped to refill my water bottle and immediately drank half of it. It was pretty astonishing what that little attention did for my body and my mind. I kept moving and unknowingly prepared myself to resume-not what I was thinking two miles earlier.

So recovery could mean just taking a break to refuel. Leave the office for a half hour to take a walk or get some coffee. Make a phone call to just chat. Do something, anything that will refresh you so you can come back ready to complete the task. The basic principle of recovery is to get ready to finish. Think of it as a pitstop.

RESUME

Surprisingly with less than two miles to the front door, my legs spoke up again. “Ok. Let’s start back up. Smartly.” The first ten steps were rough, but soon I was back in the groove. A slower pace, of course, but moving forward. I made it all the way back home without collapsing. Successful Resumption.

Resuming will have different looks, again, based on how drained you are. It may have to wait 24 hours. It may have to be shelved until you can give it proper focus. But a commitment should not be completely abandoned. Figure out how to complete it rather than letting the overcommitment result in failure or regret.

When it’s completed, you might look back and see something worthwhile. I looked back and realized that my body was trying to tell me that I’ve ran more miles in the last eight days than I ever recall doing. That was a nice realization. I was grateful for following these steps. Now to work on listening to my quads.