Friday, September 30

St. Louie

I love St. Louis. What a great town. The weather is perfect today. So, while Karen studied this morning, I went out to Queeny Park again for a glorious eight-mile run. Then off to the seminary for an intense session of book buying. Then up to the Hill for way, way too much authentic Italian food. And then to Ted Drewes for that irresistable frozen custard he calls "concrete." People ask me why I run. Days like today provide the perfect answer: so that I can eat like this and then settle into a long, wonderful evening of indolent reading on the back porch!

Thursday, September 29

Running in St. Louis

Karen and I ran a fabulous five-mile loop here in St. Louis this morning at Queeny Park. Crisp fall weather, turning leaves, gentle rolling hills, well-groomed gravel roads: it was just about perfect. I am going to enjoy running here for the next couple of days--and I am really going to need to run with all this great Italian and German food around!

Tuesday, September 27

Hill Day

I didn't want to do it. I had to drag myself out there. And then drag myself up and down my "Hill of Difficulty" over and over and over again. I had to wonder why on earth I was going through all that pain! But then, I came to the end of my three miles of intervals and somehow, I felt so much better. All the pent up stress from the past several days was gone. And lo and behold, I was smiling! Running is magic!

Monday, September 26

No Achy-Breaky

Having spurned a treadmill run yesterday for a slog in the rain, I found myself today at the Y for some long overdue weight training. I hadn't planned on running--I did my cardio on a bike instead. But, it had been since last winter that I'd actually run on a treadmill and I thought I'd give it a quick spin. Three miles later I was still zinging along. I'd fogotten how gentle those soft footpaths can be on old knees and ankles (and IT bands and quads and hammys and all the rest of me). Great workout. No achy-breaky. I am now resolved to make treadmill running a regular part of my workout plan as I prepare for a string of fall and winter marathons.

Sunday, September 25

Come Rain or Shine

The remnants of Hurricane Rita threatened to cancel my long run today (just as a long, long elders' meeting had put all thoughts of running on hold yesterday). After church and after a terribly close Titan's loss, I decided that I could either go to the Y and run on a treadmill or slosh and slog my way through the rain. Being an adventurous sort, I opted for the rain. And it was great. I thought I might cut things a bit short, but after five miles I still had some oomph. After seven though, I was so soggy that I just had to pack it in. But now I can actually say, "come rain or shine."

Friday, September 23

Cair Paravel

As I was nearing the end of my long run tonight I was simultaneously coming to the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Loaded onto my iPod were the sound files from the BBC production of that C.S. Lewis classic. I listened as I ran all this week. But then tonight, just as the sky in front of me began to glow with a magnificent magenta sunset, I came to the part of the story where the Stone Table was shattered, Lucy and Susan looked out over Cair Paravel, the red in the heavens turned gold along the line where the sea and the sky met, and Aslan roared to life again. The girls began to run with the great lion--but they were not sure "whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten." I noticed my pace picking up. My spirits soared. It was one of those seredipitous moments that only rarely come. It was most glorious--and most welcome.

When Life Goes Flat

A couple of my dear friends recently had a remarkable experience that I just feel compelled to share. Kurt Beasley is a gifted attorney and Bible teacher here in Middle Tennessee--and as you'll soon see, a pretty good writer too. David Mahand is a craftsman extraordinaire (I marvel at his handiwork every time I take a book down from the shelves in my library). A couple of weeks ago they shipped their bikes to New York City, borrowed an apartment for a few days, and proceeded to have the adventure of a lifetime. Or was it? I'll let Kurt tell it:

We all know the story in the book of Ruth where Ruth pledges allegiance to her mother-in-law, her country and her God. How with resolute determination Ruth said no to Naomi's urgings to find a new life on her own. Finally Naomi gave in and suggested that Ruth choose a particular field to glean in order to provide them sustenance. Ruth obediently followed the directions of her mother-in-law and found herself working day and night gleaning in the field. You know the rest of the story; the Bible says that "as it turned out," the field where Ruth was hard at work was owned by an honorable and wealthy man named Boaz. Boaz took a liking to Ruth, they were married, and they all lived happily ever after. Don't you just love Bible stories; how good always conquers evil and God's followers always get what they need? Well look closer, do you think Ruth was singing the praises of the Lord (who she had just met) during the heat of the Judean day? I doubt it. Why did Ruth have an "as it turned out experience?"

For some time I have been an avid bicycle rider and just love Manhattan. I have dreamed of riding down the streets of Manhattan, seeing the lights of the city and experiencing the NY experience. I along with my friend David finally decided to combine our two passions and set out to ride Manhattan.

At midnight (to avoid the traffic) Friday night September 9th, we left our borrowed apartment, above the Lamb's Church at Times Square, and set out to conquer the island. We traveled east toward the East River and began navigating the still busy streets. About three blocks from the apartment, 20 minutes into our ride of a lifetime, my back tire went flat. No problem; when I ride I always rely on David to carry a spare tube just for me. Around 12:45 AM we were back in the saddle and off to finish our experience. We continued east and it was not long until I was in front of the United Nations Building. Wow, what an experience, on my bike in front of the most influential place of power on Earth. As I was taking in the experience, yes, what I heard was the sound of my newly repaired back tire losing air once again. Flat tire number two and this time my friend David could not save me.

At about 1:30 Saturday morning we began our walk back to our apartment. Yes walk, we had no money and the nice taxi drivers did not seem to eager to allow us to tie down our bikes to the top of their cabs. For you avid and experienced bike riders, you know that we could not walk in our bike shoes, which have those fancy special clips. Thus, we journeyed back to the apartment, pushing my flat bike, barefooted and in our tight little shorts.

As we walked, I decided to talk with God. I asked him "Why did I travel all of the way to NY to find myself pushing my bike barefooted across Manhattan?" Since I had no choice, I began to praise Him for the experience. I thanked Him for saving me from some unknown disaster that surely would have befallen me if it were not for the flats. I silently thanked Him for His goodness (with my fingers crossed). Around 3:30 AM we finally arrived back to our apartment, tired and embarrassed. Another casualty of the city.

Not to be defeated, when the sun rose on Saturday morning David and I decided to find a bike shop in hopes of repairing my two flats. After searching the city we finally found a shop down in the Village, made our way by subway and by mid-day found some friendly faces who sympathized with our plight. As the young man repaired my tire I explained that we were on a journey and asked him for any suggestions as to where a fellow would ride if he wanted to see the city and avoid the potholes. With bewilderment he turned and said to me, "You have ridden the West Side Greenway (the bike path that runs along the west side of Manhattan) haven't you?" What path, where is the West Side?

It goes without saying that when 4 AM Sunday morning came, we could hardly wait to test out this young man's truth and veracity. We pulled out of the Lamb's Church and this time turned left (west) not east and made our way several blocks wondering what we would find and holding my breath that my back tire would hold up. We turned up 47th, crossed Broadway and almost fell off of our bikes when yes; we found it; stretching for miles running parallel to the Hudson River the most magnificent bike path we had ever seen. We turned north and pointed toward the George Washington Bridge, which was spectacularly adorned in its lights and splendor. The temperature was perfect; the path was perfect; the city was beautiful. As we screamed at speeds of 25 MPH (this is kind of fast on a bike) I screamed to God "Thank you. Thank you for the two flats. Thank you for your personal blessings. Thank you for the 'as it turned out' moments of life, where with our temporal eyes we often see only disappointment and sorrow but when we use the eternal eyes of the Holy Spirit we can see hope and blessings to come."

Well, we continued our journey and eventually left the bike path at around 110th street, biked through Harlem, into Spanish Harlem, and then made our way toward Central Park. All the time, I just kept thanking God, believing that we were nearing the end of a great ride, and riding with confidence that God really does care about the "little things." I remember saying at about 112th street, "God how could this trip have been any better? Going from disappointment to elation?"

And then it got better as we rounded a side street we turned into Central Park. It was still dark and we were alone. That's when it was as if God said to me "open your eyes." To an avid bike rider, it is impossible for me to describe what we saw at that moment. We made the turn and before our eyes were 10,000 bikers suited up and ready to go, lined up as far as you could see. We were smack dab in the front of the line of the NYC Century Ride. Yep, 10,000 fanatical bike riders setting out on a 100 mile ride from Manhattan and throughout the Burroughs. Tad, a friendly Wall Street stock broker, told us that guys talk all year about this ride, bets are placed, and challenges are issued. As we explained to the most experienced bike riders who were at the front of the line, where we had so innocently cut in, that we just happened down a side street and fell into heaven, the laughs that rang out almost caused irreparable injury.

Well yes, you got it, we joined (we did not even have to pay the $65 registration fee) the pack and within two hours we were zooming down Fifth Avenue and crossing the East River on the Brooklyn Bridge in the midst of one of the most gorgeous days that God has ever created.

It has been a few weeks since the monumental ride. The experience has almost worn off but the lesson hasn't. I thank my Lord for the two flats which led me to an experience that I could have never planned for or could have ever orchestrated.

Our lives are full of flats aren't they? I, like Ruth chose to praise Him even during the flats, because I serve an "as it turned out God." The next time the air goes out of your tires, praise Him, because you just never know, He may just be leading you to a path that He has chosen especially for you.

Tuesday, September 20

A Night Cap

I thought I was doing really badly during my hill intervals today--until I looked down at my GPS watch and realized that I'd already done four miles. Narnia makes the miles fly by--and the pain almost tolerable. And amazingly, by the end of the day I found I still had a little left so, I capped the evening with a nice, easy after-dinner one-miler--just to warm-down.

Monday, September 19

Running in Narnia

Before I ran this morning, I loaded the BBC audio productions of the Narnia novels onto my new Nano iPod. Even though it has been a couple of years since I last read the books, I have read them so many times that I actually wondered if I would really enjoy them on the run. No need to worry. Lewis had me from the first chapter. I was not disappointed in the least. Of course, I started with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (the first book by Jack's reckoning) rather than The Magician's Nephew (the first book in the newer editions thanks to some pusillanimous publishing fiat). I didn't have time today for the full-length long run I had planned. But the 8 miles I did get in were made all the more fruitful by Jack's virtuosity. I am looking forward to running in Narnia for the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, September 18

Post-Victory Glow

It was a glorious Lord's Day. And then the Titans won an improbable victory over the despicable Ravens. To celebrate, Karen and I had way, way too much barbeque. We tried walking it off afterward. And while the sunset was glorious, two miles is not likely to put much of a dent in the damage our gorging has done! Tomorrow I'll be paying for it on my long run.

Saturday, September 17

Running Buddy

Running with someone else can make all the difference. The pace is faster. The time and the miles fly by. And the encouragement bolsters the resolve. Karen and I ran together for the first five miles of the run this morning--then she left me to finish up while she got ready for our regular Saturday "date." It was wonderful.

Friday, September 16

Rest Day

According to everything I have read, rest is as important a part of marathon training as the weekly "long run" and the intense interval workouts. I don't rest very often or very well. I have become dependent upon the stress-busting qualities of my daily runs--so much so that I can hardly stand to not get in at least three miles every single day of the week except, of course, on the Lord's Day. Nevertheless, I am planning a pretty rugged 12 mile hill course for tomorrow morning's run, so today I am "forcing myself" to lay low, catch up on some reading and research, and garner some much-needed rest.

Thursday, September 15

Hot and Heavy

Still sore from yesterday's seven-miler, I launched into my interval hill work today knowing that I might be a little less energetic than usual. Sure enough, the hot weather and my heavy legs conspired together to make it a very long and very intense three mile workout. Hot and heavy is not exactly what I was hoping for--but then again, you reap what you sow.

Wednesday, September 14

Junk Miles

I went out with the intention of just trying to get in a few junk miles. I was really short on time so I figured that if I could log three, I'd be doing great. I'm doing my hard hill interval work every Tuesday and Thursday anyway, so my Wednesday run is just intended to keep me in a good, solid daily rhythm.

But, my legs felt fresh. A really nice, cool breeze was blowing. My nano was amped up with Beethoven, Barry Phillips, and U2. So, I took off flying. I was able to put in a couple of miles at a seven-minute pace without a problem. I felt like the Engergizer Bunny. I just kept going and going. After a couple more miles I decided I'd better try Gallowaying every half mile for a hundred yards--I was starting to think about that hill work tomorrow morning. Even so, I was able to keep the pace nice and brisk. When I finally ran out of time and steam I'd gotten seven quick miles under my belt. And that's sure not junk! At least, not for me!

Fantasy Run

OK. I've had a flurry of e-mails from folks volunteering to either run with me or just go with me if I ever actually attempt the Edinburgh Marathon. So, I thought I'd throw out another fantasy: the London Marathon.

Running through history in the shadow of Big Ben along the Thames.

Typical of London: cold, rainy, and marvelously bracing.

Seriously, can you imagine a better aid station?

I am training right now for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon in early December and the Freescale Austin Marathon in February. I am thinking of possibly slipping in the Chevron Houston Half Marathon in January and the Little Rock Half Marathon in March--all this in preparation for the Country Music Marathon here in Nashville in April. Now, if all those go well and I am still standing at the end of it all, I might actually begin to set my sights further afield--to London, Edinburgh, and perhaps Prague or Vienna.

Lots to work for!

Tuesday, September 13

Quick Kicks

Once again, I attempted hill intervals. Once again, my efforts came quick on the heels of a short night (I was in meetings until midnight and then was up at five in order to get ready for my lecture). Needless to say, I was not at my best or my most energetic. But, I got in the three miles and six repeats. Afterwards, I was so wobbly that I barely made it around the weight circuit at the Y. This is the sort of thing that is supposed to give a runner what Runner's World calls "quick kicks." But these kicks were anything but quick.

Monday, September 12


I made the great mistake of spending the early part of the morning calendar planning and reading rather than getting right out for my workout. When I finally hit the road, I could only slog through 5 sloppy miles--I had intended to do 7-10 depending on how I felt. With a long week of meetings and appointments, it is not likely that I will be able to make up the shortfall. Oh well, slogging is far better than slouching. I'll take what I can get.

Dream Run

There are a host of runs I'd like to be able to do in the next few years including the Chicago Marathon, the New York Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, and of course, the Boston Marathon--if I am ever able to qualify. But, this weekend I found a run that immediately went to the very top of my fantasy list: the Edinburgh Marathon.

The 2005 Edinburgh Marathon at the foot of the Castle Mound along Princess Street.

At the start near Arthur's Seat behind Holyrood Palace.

Along Princess Street in front of the Sir Walter Scott Memorial.

Saturday, September 10

Plan B

I had a perfect plan for a perfect day. But I ran afoul of the plan almost from the start.

I was going to head out for a long run right after breakfast and my quiet time--but, I was so enthralled by my study in Acts that I was chasing down cross-references almost until 10. Then, I was going to finish some of the background reading I've been doing for the book I'm writing on America's founding era--but, I wound up at a Starbucks talking with a friend for more than an hour and a half. I was going to have a smoothie for lunch and then buckle down for an afternoon of writing--but, I called my son and we decided to have some Chinese and then spend the afternoon together. I was going to have a salad for dinner and then head on over to Belmont for an evening 5K run--but, I decided to catch a little football on the tube instead. Just as it was about to get dark, I thought I'd go out for a nice slow walk--but, I got the bug to run; I changed into my running gear and took off for a nice 5 mile run. With my new nanoPod loaded with some David Wilcox tunes, a gorgeous sunset shimmering on the horizon, and a cool breeze blowing through the trees, I hit a quick stride at about 9 minutes a mile. I finished in the pitch dark, exhilarated.

Plan A was shot all to pieces. But, at every step along the way Plan B was better anyway!

Friday, September 9

Just a Little

There is nothing quite like an early run on a cool morning to get a day started off right. I had a very full schedule from first thing in the morning to just after lunch--one meeting after another; several of them sure to be more than a little intense. So, even though I knew I was going to be time crunched, I hit the pavement for about 20 minutes. Boy, am I ever glad I did. Running is a great stress buster. It buoys my spirit. It settles my nerves. And it helps me put so much of the worrying circumstances of life into proper perspective. So, even though I only got in a few stretches, some walking, and about two miles at a gentle pace, those twenty minutes were the best investment I could have made this morning (excluding my quiet time in the Word and a brimming cup of Peet's).

Thursday, September 8

No Need for Speed

I have never been too terribly concerned about speed. I've always been happy just to be able to run. When I first started running (just about 26 months ago--not that I'm counting), I was barely able to make it from one mailbox to the next. The thought of making it from one mile to the next hardly even crossed my mind. So, when I began to run 5K races and then half marathons and finally marathons, I was thrilled just to have made it from start to finish in an upright position.

But a few weeks ago, I realized that I'd really gotten myself into a rut. I was wanting to improve--and in order to do that, I was going to have to start doing some speed drills. Well, today I did. I started. Ouch!

I got in my regular 5K training run, but instead of a nice slow jog, I ran intervals up a particularly nasty hill just around the corner from my Tuesday and Thursday route. Wow! I only did five half mile climbs and downhill recoveries--but, boy oh boy were they ever tough. Afterward, I went to the Y to attempt a few circuits around the gym--my efforts were admittedly feeble. But, hey, it's a start! I'm quite certain that I'll never be fast--but, even a little improvement will be gratifying.

Wednesday, September 7

Morning Run

Fall in Tennessee is wonderful. It is gorgeous and the weather is great. Although fall is still several weeks away, we're starting to get a few delightful hints that it is indeed, just around the corner. So, this morning as I got out early to run before a very full day of meetings and committees and more meetings, I was happy to be met with cool temperatures, drifting fog, rising mist, and a fabulous sunrise. It didn't really help my run a great deal--I was only able to get in five very slow miles. Nevertheless, I was out there! And that is half the battle. It may even be more than half!

Tuesday, September 6

Post-Race Lethargy

The day after a race I always have a difficult time getting back into training mode. My legs feel heavy. My energy seems sapped. And my mind is too easily distracted. Despite this, I forced myself toward the YMCA immediately following my lecture this morning for my regular Tuesday run route. It is a rather hilly 3.5 loop course through the property of the First Baptist Church. I didn't expect much out of this run--and my expectations were met! Nevertheless, I trudged through the junk miles, returned to the Y for a few quick circuits around the gym, and then headed toward Smoothie King for my regular fruit lunch before hunkering down for a very full afternoon of meetings, meetings, and more meetings.

Tonight, I'll get in a good two mile post-dinner walk with the dogs and then pour over the new Runner's World before I get some much needed rest.

Monday, September 5

Franklin Classic

The annual Franklin Classic is a wonderful Labor Day 5K and 10 K race in downtown Franklin, Tennessee benefiting the ministry of Mercy Children's Clinic. It was the first race I ever ran--three years ago. Today, it was the first race Karen ever ran. What a blast! We decided to enjoy the atmosphere--and there was plenty of atmosphere with nearly 3000 runners of all shapes, sizes, and abilities participating. So, we just settled into a very comfortable, easy pace and took it all in.

It would have been nice to start the 5K a little earlier! The 10K runners started at 7AM so the 5K didn't get off the mark until 8:30. Nevertheless, the weather was unseasonably cool even at that late hour. Thus, we were able to enjoy the run from start to finish in relative comfort.

It was such a huge accomplishment for both of us to actually be able to cross a finish line together.

Next up: September 10, Together We Can 5K at Belmont University in Nashville. A rare evening run--to benefit the Feed America First foodbank.