Saturday, January 31, 2009

Running...In Memoriam

Tomorrow, I will toe the line with a few thousand fellow runners at the Surf City Marathon. Many of us will be there for different reasons but with one goal of finishing 26.2 miles. As we struggle along the Pacific Coast Highway at Huntington Beach, we will each make the journey in our own ways. Yes, each one of us will be placing one foot in front of the others, but some will be in wheelchairs, and some will run on artificial leg or legs. But the distance is the same. The test is not only physical…but more so a test of our mental and spiritual abilities.

For most first time marathon runners and many non-runners, they see the marathon as only a physical task. But those of us who have accomplished the task before know that in the final measure of the race, is it’s the spiritual side of the equation that tips the scale from not finishing to finishing the distance.

In October 1977, I ran my first marathon. At mile 23, I was beaten. I was on the verge of quitting. Snow flurries swirled around me. As I broke the crest of the hill walking, there before me were a handful of people clapping and yelling encouragement…still I wanted to stop…but one elderly man setting in a wheelchair on the side of the road caught my attention. He was clapping and yelling for us to finish. On his lap was a list from the local newspaper with the name and number of each runner. He looked at the paper then at me. I was walking at the time. And I heard him call my name. “Don…you can finish this.”

With tears in my eyes, my body tired beyond belief, I found myself running. In those final three miles, every time I wanted to quite and walk…I remembered that man in the wheelchair…and I kept going…for him. That connection for just a quick moment on that cold October morning got me to the finish line.

This marathon tomorrow will be my first since my father died. My dad saw a few of my High School races, but he never saw me run a marathon. But I think, as I run tomorrow…he will be there by my side. As I make each stride, as my body fatigues from the distance and effort, and as I fight back the desire to quit, I will remember him. And that will give me the toughness to carry me to the finish line. So this race tomorrow is for my father…my mentor and friend.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Keep a health perspective on life

With everything going on in my life, it seems the last thing I want to do this weekend is run another marathon. My training has been awful for the past two months. So why bother? Because it is there and I love the challenge.

To be truthful, this run is not about time. My goals are simply to enjoy the day, the fellowship of other runners and complete the distance. A final reason is that this will be the last marathon I run for a while. My work requires me to put on hold my goal to run a sub 4 hour marathon until next year. In fact my updating this blog site over the next several months will be difficult.

What I would like you to take away from this rambling today is that life needs to be lived. Do the things that you can...but don't get upset if your plans have to be placed on hold. As it says in Ecclesiastes, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven, a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."’s an old passage that you might have heard before like in the 1960's when it was a hit song. But...the truth remains. There are seasons in our lives, just like there are seasons in the year. So this Sunday, I'll be there in Huntington Beach to run the Surf City Marathon...and the weeks following...I'll be off to the other side of the world to take care of our wonderful sailors, soldiers and airmen serving in the Middle East.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gulf Island National Park

I'm still visiting with my mother and family in Mississippi following my father's funeral last week. I have found the time healing and at time I've headed off for some runs over old courses I ran in high school. One of my favorite runs was through the Gulf Island National Park that is near my home. Back when I ran through the park it was a state run facility and the roads were shell covered black top surfaces. Still there was something fun and relaxing in seeing the Gulf at dusk. The cool temperatures also helped remind me that I really like living in Southern California now. Still it was good to be home.

I know many of you have offered up prayers for my family and me...thank-you. Your words and thoughts have meant a lot to me. I'll be headed home this weekend to prepare for the Surf City Marathon on the first. So keep running.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Out of thoughts

Sorry, this hasn't been updated. My hero...father passed away this week and to be honest it is just hard to even think. But I would like to share just a quick story about how much this man meant to me.

Back in November 1975 while I was a senior in high school, I ran with a club because we had no cross-country teams in Mississippi at the time. All long distance running was sponsored by clubs and local many of the races I ran I had to get myself to. Lucky for me, Coach D who lived down the street always made sure I got to the races.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, my mother was taken to the hospital in serious condition. Our family life was turned upside down with all our attention focused on her. But on Wednesday, she was able to come home from the hospital. My father who was also a minister did an awesome job of taking care of us that week and was still able to preach at the community Thanksgiving service on Wednesday night. So everyone including my father was exhausted.

At 5 in the morning on Thanksgiving Day, Coach D came by the house to pick me up to take me to a 5 mile race in New Orleans. With all the stuff going on, I had forgotten about the race...and his knocking on the door was the first reminder that I even had the race. My father came to wake me, but it was too late for me to get my stuff together and leave with Coach D. I was still hurrying around the room getting my things together when my dad came back and told me that Coach D had left. There was a long silent pause...then my dad told me to finish and he would drive me to the race.

We made it to the race and I ran one of my best times. For years, I had always thought it was because I was so grateful that my mother survived her illness and it was that which inspired me. But the other night it really hit me. It wasn't my mother's inspiration that got me to do so well in that race. It was my father's quiet presence. That week was hard on him. He was afraid of losing his wife, taking care of five children, and continuing his work as a pastor in a community celebrating Thanksgiving. He was tired, but when it came to taking me to New Orleans, he didn't hesitate.

I gave the trophy I won to my mother that Thanksgiving morning so many years ago. But tonight as I prepare to say one last good-bye to my father...I realize it was he who has inspired my life…winning my heart and respect.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year Day Run

Several years ago I heard that what you do on the first day of the year is the thing you do all year long. Since then I always get out first thing in the morning on New Year Day, after the Rose Bowl Parade and head out for a run. So...get out there and run...and enjoy the day. Have a Happy New Year and may this be your best year of running ever.