Posted in Stories

I’m going for another run.

Lots of folks enjoyed reading a previous post “I’m going for a run,” so here’s a little more of the story.

By the end of 1981, I had only been running for about two years. The Jersey shore running community really encouraged and inspired me. But I got a job offer in Austin, TX, and headed south.

The duplex I rented was just uphill from the Colorado River on the south side of Austin, which was lined with running trails on both sides. Each night after work, I would take my yellow Labrador Retriever, Gabriel, out for a run. After being inside all day while I was at work, he was more than happy to join me for up to eight miles runs along the river. Once we got off the sidewalks, I would let him off the leash, and he would run up the path ahead of me and then back, so his runs were probably a couple of miles longer than mine. He would also jump in and out of the water, so the summer heat was never a problem for him. And he would intercept any frisbees being thrown at the park, leaving a tooth mark on more than a few. The toughest part of the run was the final half-mile home, a steep uphill to the house. But we always made it.

I left Gabriel at my dad’s house in Philadelphia when I moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana and began my seminary studies. I still got out and ran thirty or forty miles a week, but only ever ran one real race there. It was the Run Preacher Run 5k around the campus. There were six entries, and I won. The course was short, because I finished in a little over 16 minutes, and there’s no way I was in that kind of shape. But I won my one and only running trophy!

It was a little harder to run in Baltimore during my vicarage year. We lived in an all Black neighborhood in the inner city, and I usually didn’t go anywhere without wearing my clerical collar. But early in the mornings, hardly anyone was up and around. So Gabriel, who was back with us, and I would go up to a park that had some nice running paths. These paths circled around baseball fields. We would be just trotting along when Gabriel would suddenly veer off the path and into the tall weeds, pulling out a baseball, which he carried all the way back home.

The first church I was called to was in Coventry, Connecticut, out in the eastern hills. There I ran up and down lots and lots and lots of hills. Since there weren’t any sidewalks, I didn’t take any dogs out with me. They got plenty of exercise running around the church’s eight acres were we lived and nearby fields and horse farms.

We next lived in West Des Moines, Iowa, and there were a few hills there, too. A lot of my runs would take me up the mile long hill of Grand Avenue towards Des Moines or downhill through Valley Junction. We lived across the street from the old Valley High School stadium, and I would hop the fence to run intervals on the track.

Then we moved to the northeast coast of Florida, where it is flat. The only hills are the bridges over the intracoastal waterway. When we arrived, there were no sidewalks and just a few stoplights in Palm Coast. I did some running with Michael and Blondie, successor labs to Gabriel and Rachel. But I did much more running with Samson, a shepherd lab mix who had limitless energy. About ten years into our life in Florida, my Morton’s neuralgia in each foot began to limit my running to no more than three or four miles a couple of times a week. My hips and knees held up over forty years of running, but my feet starting pleading for mercy. I can do OK with a very cushioned neutral shoe like Hoka One One. But most of my exercise now is non-impact, another story for another day.

Posted in Stories

I’m going for a run

I started running in the fall of 1978. I was a junior at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. Jim Fixx had just published The Complete Book of Running and it seemed like everyone was jogging. So I started jogging, too.

A complete loop around campus was 1-1/2 miles. So I jogged 1-1/2 miles. My running shoes, dark blue Pumas were heavy and not really designed for running, but that’s what I had. It’s a distant memory, but I am sure I didn’t completely run the whole loop without a few walking breaks. But it was the most running I had ever done in one stretch.

That summer I ran a few out and back courses around Ridley Park. I also stumbled upon a copy of Runner’s World at the library. It was filled with articles about how to get started, how to train, and what kind of shoes you should be running in. There were’t a whole lot to choose from, but I bought my first pair of Nike running shoes before classes started in the fall. They were feather light and so much nicer to run in.

Through that fall, I began going out for a run more regularly, branching out on other loops that once around the campus. I had enough credits after the fall semester to graduate, and got my first job in West Long Branch, NJ early in 1979.

By that time, the running boom was in full swing, especially at the Jersey Shore. Five miles was the standard distance for a road race back then, and there was a race in a different beach town every Saturday and Sunday.

My goal was to run one of those five mile races. In my mind, to finish a race like that, I needed to be able to run five miles every day for a week. When begin running consistently five, six or even seven days a week, I rapidly improved. I carefully logged all my runs and within a few months, I had a thirty-five mile week.

I entered a five mile race in Belmar, NJ early in the summer. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I had never even seen a road race before and didn’t know anyone who had run one. But I sent in my $5 registration fee and wrote the race in on my calendar. I did know from my reading that you didn’t want to go out too fast. After all, you had to keep going for five miles!

I finished that first race in about 37 minutes, about halfway back in the pack. Not too bad for a first time out. I got a t-shirt, too, the first of many. The winner of the race finished in about 25 minutes. I doubted I’d ever be up front, but I could certainly improve.

I ran a couple of races a month that summer, in towns like Ocean Grove, Asbury Park, Monmouth, Red Bank and Spring Lake. Entry fees were cheap and I got a t-shirt each and every time. I learned how to run different distances, take a day off each week, and found a nearby high school track where I could work on speed by doing 200 or 400 yard intervals.

And I got another pair of running shoes. New Balance because they were the only maker with wider widths and I had fat feet. They had much better cushioning and I could run much further much more often with them.

By the fall, I had my five mile race time down to 32:30, about a 6:30 pace. I ran a 10k in a little over 40 minutes that fall, my first attempt at a longer race.

When it got colder, I adapted my wardrobe. Remember, this is 1979, and few stores sold winter running gear. I word a long sleeve turtle neck when the temperatures got below 50, and added a hat and gloves in the 40’s. The gloves I wore were painter’s gloves from the hardware store. They were warm enough but not bulky. Temps in the 30’s? That when I added a pair of navy long underwear under my running shorts. I generated plenty of heat while running, so I had to make sure I didn’t wear too much if it was above freezing.

With an increase in training, up to fifty or sixty miles a week, I took on the Ocean City half marathon. Most of that run was on the boardwalk, and I finished in decent time, somewhere around an hour and a half. I felt pretty confident going into 1980, and decided that I should train to run a marathon.

I found a marathon in Virginia Beach, VA in March of 1980, and set my sights on training for that race. I figured I needed to run seventy to eighty miles a week to be ready. I got my mileage up pretty well, but didn’t do any really long runs. I drove down to Virginia the night before, spent the night in a hotel, and ran the next morning. My time was 3 hours 24 minutes. Not too bad for the first time out But I knew I could do better.

I ran a lot of five mile races that summer and collected a lot of t-shirts. I would ride my bike about ten miles to work, run a few miles or do some track work at lunch time, and then run again when I got home at night. When you’re in your twenties, you can really push the envelope. I began to run the 5K races at Lake Takanassee in Long Branch. Four laps around a lake that attracted a lot of really good runners. By the end of that summer, I was running my five mile races close to 31 minutes. Never a front runner, but better and better all the time.

I set my sights on the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC in November. It was a flat course, past all the major monuments. I was pretty sure I could break three hours, a sub seven minute pace for the 26.2 miles. I stayed in a hotel in Arlington, just across the Potomac River. I don’t remember too much about that race, except for the last half mile. The final stretch was uphill to the finish line at the Iwo Jima Memorial. My race certificate put me just over three hours.

I would do a lot of running before my next marathon, the Philadelphia marathon on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 1981. I really upped my mileage, logging quite a few 80 and 90 mile weeks. I had my best race weekend the summer before that marathon. I ran a 30:00 five mile race on a Saturday, a 36:00 at the Asbury Park 10k on Sunday and then I broke 18 minutes at Lake Takanassee. I felt strong and ran a 1:23 half marathon in the fall at Ocean City. I really felt like I had a chance to break 2:50 for a marathon and qualify for the Boston Marathon.

I was ready that race weekend. I had run a few twenty mile workouts at a six minute pace. I had raced, I had tapered and I was confident. My dad drove me outside of the city to the starting line, and would meet me at the finish in center city, Philadelphia. It was a cool clear day, and I made it to Germantown, the ten mile point in 65 minutes. From there it was mostly downhill. I reached the twenty mile point at 2:10. all I had to do was run that last 10k in 40 minutes. That’s when I hit the wall. Those last six miles were a bear. I crossed the finish line in 2:54, four minutes too slow for Boston in my age group. That would be my last real race. A lot would change after that weekend.

Posted in Lent devotions

The naked guy

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Friday, March 12, 2021.

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. (Mark 14:51-52)

I have always loved this unusual scene from the passion. It seems like a totally random cameo in the gospel of Mark. I know who streaked across the stage at my high school’s spring chorus concert, but we don’t know anything about this young man. Everyone else had a reason to be at Gethsemane that night. Everyone but this guy.

Unless, it was Mark.

Continue reading “The naked guy”
Posted in Life

Baby it’s cold outside?

People begin to act really strange when it gets cold in Florida. We are so used to temperate weather that any night below 40 throws us for a loop.

We scramble for coats, blankets, sweaters, whatever to keep us warm. We lament the cold, cold, cold, cold temperatures. The thing is, we all moved here from up north. At least most of us did. Where temps were in the single digits in the winter. Where we went out and shoveled snow in single digit temperatures. Where winter lasted months, not days.

I remember running when it was 20 below zero. I think I did it more to prove that I could. Tights and nylon running pants. T-shirt, turtle neck, and nylon running top. Hat, two pairs of gloves, and a scarf over my face. Plastic two pairs of sock. Four or five miles in Des Moines, IA. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. Once the icicles formed on my mustache and I was under way, it was pretty cool to be out in pretty cool temperatures. Crunch snow, bitter air — I felt alive. A survivor. Not a victim of the weather, but someone who could overcome and survive the worst conditions.

So 30 degrees in FL? Piece of cake.

Posted in Ministry

On the road again

I tried running again today. I had taken a month off since my heel started feeling like it was bruised. I did a lot of bike riding instead. Finally, today, I thought it was better enough for a gentle three-miler. I took some ibuprofin and iced it just in case, and it felt pretty good. In fact, it felt better throughout the day than it has for a long time.

Four weeks is probably the longest I’ve gone without running in the past 30 years. I try to go out 3 times a week now. I need a day of recovery in between workouts. I just run better that way. When I was younger, I could run seven days a week. In fact, when I go back and look at some old running logs, I am shocked to see that I ran 70-100 miles a week sometimes. I would run twice a day several days a week. An easy run was 5 miles. I guess you just can’t do that forever. I enjoy it just as much even though it’s just 3 days and 9-15 miles a week.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am my most creative when I run, and I pray my best when I’m walking. I’m not sure why, but it works.

Posted in Life

5K

Last Saturday, I ran my first race in about 4 or 5 years.  Not my fastest time, but OK for an old guy.  25:49 was good enough for 12th overall (out of 66) and 2nd in my age group (50-59).  We ran 5,000 meters out and back on the beach from the pier in Daytona Beach in a race to raise funds for Parkinson’s Awareness.  Now I’ve got the running bug again and know I can recapture some of my previous speed.  My best 5K ever happend about 30 years ago when I finally broke 18 minutes at a 1981 race around Lake Takanassee on a Monday night in NJ.

Funny, I don’t feel  that much different than I did back then.  I certainly don’t feel 51.  But I ran across my birth certificate the other day and I can’t deny that the years have passed.