Monday, October 31

Getting Back to It

I've got a half marathon coming up this next weekend--and I've been very slack in my training the last couple of weeks. I'll probably crash and burn, big time. But, that's OK, I guess. I'd really just intended this Team Nashville Half as a training race anyway. And my real target is still five weeks away: the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis.

Even so, a run of 13.1 miles is nothing to sneeze at. So, I thought that I would ease back into my regular routine with a good short pacing 5K run today. Tomorrow I'll do some hill work. That should get me back into the swing of things.

Part of the reason I've been so slack in training is that my schedule has really been over-the-top madcap of late. As a result, it has been next to impossible to get in any significant running time. And then, even when I have gotten snatches of time--like this morning--my mind is still racing from all the things left undone on my to-do list; the gongs that herald the tyranny of the urgent keep clanging in my ears; and that's not a good thing especially since I'm prone to be distracted by one strange and consuming passion or another even when things are not so hectic.

For instance, this morning before I hit the pavement, I was preparing a lecture on Medieval Troubadours, Trouveres, and Jongleurs and I came across an internet listing of appelations from the region of the Hapsburg Lowlands--all of them commonly used names for Dutch peasant girls prior to the year 1100:


Now really. Once you see the name Crapahildis it sort of sticks with you, doesn't it? And the thought of a father or mother deciding that the perfect name for their newborn daughter might really be Clodauuiua isn't easily shaken. As you can well imagine, notions like these are hardly conducive to serious running--and therein lies my training dilemma.

New England Running

It has been more than a week since I've returned from my quick trip to New England. I'm still relishing my experience there: spending time with dear friends, fellowshiping with one of my favorite churches anywhere, eating fabulous lobster rolls and clam chowder, visiting an amazing handcrafted pewter factory, and of course, running. I got a chance to run in a 10K race through the beautiful town of Portsmouth, NH. Founded seven years before Boston, the town sits right on the coast and is stunning this time of year. Three of the young men from the church I was visiting in Somersworth ran with me--and we all had a blast.

While I was there I also got a chance to make a quick visit to a really great running store, Runner's Alley. I was surprised that such a small store in such a small town could have such a huge selection of just about everything that a runner could ever want--from a wide range of shoes and clothes to a well-stocked bookshelf and loads of high-tech toys and low-tech gew-gaws everywhere I looked (runners just love the lure of all that kitschy stuff). I was like the proverbial kid in a candy shop. Thankfully, I was broke so the damage was minimal.

Now that I think about it, I probably should not have been surprised by the rich running culture I encountered in New England. The legacy of the Boston Marathon has had a tremendous impact on the whole region. And it shows. I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, October 25

The Easy Way Out

Though it is not nearly as cool out as it was yesterday, the gusting winds and the short window in my schedule helped me to settle for a quick 3-mile run on the treadmill and a few circuits around the weight room at the Y. My, oh my, treadmill running is significantly easier on the knees, back, and ankles. I need to remember to take the easy way out more often this winter.

Monday, October 24


We've gotten our first little cold blast. So, I dutifully bundled up and headed out the door for my Monday morning long run. Brrrr. I was frigid for the first three miles. After a particularly nasty bluster nearly knocked me off course, I decided that I really like being a runner a lot more than I actually like running. I love having just run. I love running gear, running stuff, and running events. But, the running itself is sometimes just a bit more uncomfortable than I'd like.

Still, I persisted. I have a really big meeting tonight that could give shape to my calling for the next season, so I want to be altogether there and stress free. Only one way I know to get there: keep on going, mile after mile. So, I did. And having done it, I'm glad. I love having run!

Tomorrow though, I think I'll just go to the Y.

Saturday, October 22

Getting Over It

I've had a pretty nasty cold ever since I returned from New England, so I've been unable to run all week. Besides, my work schedule has kept me busy 16-18 hours a day every day so I might not have been able to squeeze in a run anyway. But today, between study sessions for my sermon and Sunday School lesson, I snuck in a nice, slow, easy three-miler. I still sniffly and congested, but it felt so good to hit the pavement again.

Much more difficult than getting over my cold has been getting over the incompetence, negligence, and utter bureaucratic intransigence of the Middle Tennessee Electric Corporation. Every year, they send out "internationally certified arborists" to butcher trees in the neighborhood. They hack, deface, slash, despoil, mutilate, and vandalize every beautiful tree they can lay their chainsaws on--especially if it is anywhere within sight of a power line.

While I was in New England a "work crew" showed up at our home (for the third time in a month) and told my father-in-law that they needed to "trim" a tree in our front yard (one that they had already hacked at twice in as many weeks despite the fact that it is set well behind the power lines). Then they proceeded to cut the tree completely down--a beautiful fifty-year old, forty-foot tall cedar. They just chopped it down. To the ground.

Then they said, "oops." It seems they were at the wrong address and had cut down the wrong tree! Their supervisor (who apprently doesn't supervise much) called to say they would be happy to compensate me by replacing that magnificent old tree--along with the sweet gum sapling that they unceremoniously cut down at the same time--with a single cheap, scrawny three-foot tall Crepe Myrtle bush. Oh boy! That's sure to be a nice attraction for our once-abundant hawks, herons, and other indigenous big-fowl. And its sure to satisfy my ire as well. Yeah, right.

Of course, there really is little or nothing I can do about this terrible travesty because the Middle Tennessee Electric Corporation is a part of the vast government boondoggle FDR created when he foisted the TVA on generations of American taxpayers like me. Not only do I have to endure such persistent abuses but I actually have to pay for the privilege as well. It is just another one of those "petty tyrannies" our government bureaucracy has gotten so good at after years and years of practice.

Anyway, every time I drive up my driveway now--and more to the point, every time I go out for a run--I have to look at the gaping hole in my yard where once a beautiful evergreen stood.

And that is a lot harder to get over than my pesky autumn cold.

Thursday, October 20

How Running Saved My Life

This just in: a new study in the Scandanavian Journal of Science and Medicine found that regular runners "reported 70% less stress and dissatisfaction with life than did their sedentary peers."

Meanwhile, an Australian study published in The Pacifica Review found that 72% of men who sat for 6 hours or more each work day were over-weight, even if they dieted and exercised. Only runners, swimmers, and cyclists broke the pattern.

And a new study in the British Medical Journal found that un-fit, over-weight, middle-aged men have a 74% greater risk of developing dementia later in life than their slimmer, fitter peers do.

I have often commented that my schedule and sundry duties would probably have killed me by now if I had not taken up running. I used to chuckle when I said that, thinking that I was just kidding. But, even before I saw these studies, I really knew better.

Monday, October 17

All Fifty

Having run in New England this past weekend, I think I may now be afflicted with a new bug. It really was a pretty remarkable experience. New England runners are a breed apart. Almost all of the more than 300 people in the race were very serious runners--Boston Marathon-type runners. It got me to thinking of all the places I have run during the past two years. Besides my home state of Tennessee, where I have run in Franklin, Nashville, Chattanooga, Bell Buckle, Memphis, and at Peacock Hill, I have run in:

- Virginia, a couple of times I was speaking in Bristol and Norfolk.
- Washington, in Seattle as well as in the shadow of the Cascades.
- California, in both San Diego and Santa Cruz beside the Pacific.
- Georgia, whilst speaking in Atlanta and again in Rome.
- Idaho, once during a history conference.
- Alabama, for the Mercedes Marathon.
- Missouri, in a really wonderful park near St. Louis.
- Iowa, during a pro-life conference.
- Illinois, in Chicago during the last election.
- North Carolina, outside my hotel one blustery February morning.
- Kentucky, one morning while traveling by car.
- Texas, in the running Mecca of Austin and in San Antonio.
- Florida, along the beaches of Ft. Lauderdale and Destin.
- Mississippi, in Jackson not far from Reformed Seminary.
- New York, as Sara has reminded me, before a wedding.
- New Hampshire, in beautiful Portsmouth.

In addition, I have run in a number of overseas locations as wildly varied as London and Lima, Amsterdam and Jakarta, Vienna and St. Andrews.

Not bad. Especially considering the fact that I have cut back virtually all my heavy travel during the past two or three years (I now accept about one out of every ten or fifteen requests that I get).

So, this got me to thinking: what if I were to try to run in all fifty states in the Union? That would be a worthy, fun goal--and it would surely keep me busy.

Thursday, October 13

Museum Bluff

My Chattanooga run yesterday morning was all I had hoped for--a good 6 mile jaunt through the park and museum district with 10 intense intervals up the First Street steps along the Museum Bluffs between the Aquarium and the Hunter Museum. I capped it all with a great breakfast at Greyfriars. Now, I am off to the airport for my trip to rainy New England.

Tuesday, October 11

Running on the Road

I will be on the road the next several days which always presents a bit of a challenge to getting in my requisite runs. But with a little creativity travel can also open up great opportunities for new run routes and experiences--I've loved my runs in Seattle, London, Austin, Amsterdam, Charlotte, Jakarta, and Santa Cruz.

Today and tomorrow, I will be in beautiful Chattanooga where I have a favorite run across the Tennessee River pedestrian bridge near the Hunter Art Museum, through the Coolidge Park, through the artsy Frazier Street district, and then back into downtown past the Aquarium and Bell South Ball Park. It is a great place to run and every time I am there I jump at the chance to lace 'em up and get out the door.

On Thursday morning, I fly on to Boston. I probably won't get a chance to run during my visit to Harvard, but I will be heading up to New Hampshire that evening and I discovered a really interesting 10K road race in Portsmouth for Saturday morning. My friends who are hosting me there have assured me that the Bridges-4-Friendship Run will be an authentic taste of New England. The course runs a picturesque seaside loop with harbor views through Portsmouth's historic south end, across four different bridges, and past the grand Wentworth Hotel. Sounds wonderful.

On Sunday, I'll return to Chattanooga to overnight, so I may be able to get in another run across the bridge and through the park before I have to load up the truck for the three hour drive home on Monday morning.

Monday, October 10

Semi-Long Run

"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired." George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

A light mist, temperatures in the low fifties, and a restful weekend all made for an brisk semi-long Monday morning run. And with that Patton quote constantly reminding me that I must press forward, I was actually able to negative split the 9-miles I tackled.

Chicago Marathon

Yesterday 40,000 runners representing all 50 states and 125 countries competed in the 28th Annual LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon as an estimated one million spectators lined the streets to cheer them along. The vast majority of the runners completed the 26.2 mile route. But it sure wasn't easy!

Deena Kastor suffered terribly on her way to a rare victory by an American. First, her feet started to act up around mile 18. Then, it was her hamstrings, glutes and lower back at about mile 20. She started limping as she reached the 21st mile. By mile 24, her goal changed from setting a record to just hanging on. As she headed into the final mile she said, "I thought this was going to be the ugliest mile of my life. By the time Kastor crossed the finish line, she confessed, she was a total wreck. "There's nothing I can think of that parallels what that feels like," she said about the pain she felt the last few miles. "These marathons can be unkind. And when they're unkind, they're extraordinarily harsh. And this was a harsh one."

Of course, elite runners like Kastor were only on the course for a couple of hours. She finished in 2 hours, 21 minutes, 25 seconds, just 5 seconds ahead of Tomescu-Dita of Romania and five minutes ahead of third place finisher Masako Chiba of Japan. On the men's side Kenyans occupied the top ten spots, with Felix Limo leading the way at 2:07:02, with all the others finishing under 2:10.

But the average time spent out on the course was nowhere close to that fast. Thousands of middle-packers were only about half way through the race when the elite runners crossed the finish line. Most would still be running two and a half or three hours after Kastor and Limo had already returned to their hotels for a long soak in the tub. Indeed, some of the tail-enders would be on the course another four hours or more. Extraordinary. What an amazing accomplishment of will, endurance, courage, and tenacity! Congratulations to all finishers--but especially to all those middle-packers and tail-enders. Every one was a winner yesterday.

I was originally signed up to run in this race, but because of my schedule I was unable to make the trip. But, I am planning on it next year. I want to be out there with all my fellow middle-packers and tail-enders--long after the elites have zipped up and gone home. And I will be, Lord willing.

Saturday, October 8

Running Oktoberfest

The race is billed as "one of the most exciting 5K routes in the country"--starting beneath the Tennessee State Capitol in the Bicentennial Mall, crossing into beautiful and historic Germantown, through the Nashville Farmers Market, and then finishing in the middle of the Germantown Oktoberfest street festival. And as if all that were not enough, every finisher of the 26th annual Oktoberfest 5K is promised a free mug of Paulaner Bier (not that a mug of Munich's best is exactly what I usually have a hankering for at 8:00 in the morning--and especially not after running just over 3 miles).

The weather has just turned fall-like here in Tennessee. So with temperatures in the fifties and a brisk autumn wind cutting across our path, several hundred runners set out this morning. It was not as flat a course as the organizers had promised--and that combined with the wind meant that times were just a tad slower than usual. Nevertheless, the beauty and uniqueness of the course more than made up for the extra effort needed to trudge up the hills. There were even good crowds loudly cheering all along the route (very unusual for an early morning 5K).

I've had really slow and difficult races ever since the Country Music Marathon last April. So, my strategy was to start near the back of the pack, pace myself slower than usual for the first mile, and then try to bring it home strong. What with the cool temperature and the festive atmosphere, I actually had a hard time holding myself back. But, I'm glad I did. I maintained a good even pace throughout the race, and finished at my goal time--with plenty of energy left to spare. And sure enough, there were the good folks from Paulaner at the finish line, handing out mugs of a wonderful Oktoberfest amber (of which, alas, I was actually able to get down only one swallow--it was, after all, still awfully early in the morning).

I hopped in the truck and was able to make it home in time for the first cup of coffee out of the pot and a long, leisurely talk with Karen in the library.

What a great way to start a Saturday!

I am going to be traveling this next week so I won't be able to do the Cricket Zoo 5K this year. I will be speaking at the King's Meadow Film Conference on the last weekend in October so I won't be able to do the Jackolantern Jog 5-Miler either. So, it looks as if my next race is going to be the Team Nashville Half Marathon, on November 5.

Friday, October 7

Iliad, Book XXII

Fear fell upon Hector as he beheld Achilles. Thus, Hector dared not stay longer where he was but fled in dismay from before the gates, while Achilles darted after him at his utmost speed. As a mountain falcon, swiftest of all birds, swoops down upon some cowering dove--the dove flies before him but the falcon with a shrill scream follows close after, resolved to have her--even so did Achilles make straight for Hector with all his might, while Hector fled under the Trojan wall as fast as his limbs could take him.

On they flew along the wagon-road that ran hard by under the wall, past the lookout station, and past the weather-beaten wild fig-tree, till they came to two fair springs which feed the river Scamander. One of these two springs is warm, and steam rises from it as smoke from a burning fire, but the other even in summer is as cold as hail or snow, or the ice that forms on water. Here, hard by the springs, are the goodly washing-troughs of stone, where in the time of peace before the coming of the Achaeans the wives and fair daughters of the Trojans used to wash their clothes. Past these did they fly, the one in front and the other giving haste behind him: good was the man that fled, but better far was he that followed after, and swiftly indeed did they run, for the prize was no mere beast for sacrifice or bullock's hide, as it might be for a common foot-race, but they ran for their Lives. As horses in a chariot race speed round the turning-posts when they are running for some great prize--a tripod or woman--at the games in honor of some dead hero, so did these two run full speed three times round the city of Priam....

Achilles was still in full pursuit of Hector, as a hound chasing a fawn which he has started from its covert on the mountains, and hunts through glade and thicket. The fawn may try to elude him by crouching under cover of a bush, but he will scent her out and follow her up until he gets her--even so there was no escape for Hector from the fleet son of Peleus. Whenever he made a set to get near the Dardanian gates and under the walls, that his people might help him by showering down weapons from above, Achilles would gain on him and head him back towards the plain, keeping himself always on the city side. As a man in a dream who fails to lay hands upon another whom he is pursuing--the one cannot escape nor the other overtake--even so neither could Achilles come up with Hector, nor Hector break away from Achilles; nevertheless he might even yet have escaped death had not the time come when Apollo, who thus far had sustained his strength and nerved his running, was now no longer to stay by him.

Run Prep

I'm getting ready for the Oktoberfest 5K tomorrow, so I did not do my regular long run today. Instead, I just did a few sprints and recovery intervals--just over 3 miles worth. The chilly breeze and the overcast sky made it feel as if fall may have finally arrived.

Wednesday, October 5

Too Little, Too Late

I got out on the road too late this morning to get in a full run--so, I had to content myself with a quick two miles. Even with cutting things short, I was late to my regular 7 AM prayer meeting. Too little, too late. Story of my life.

Tuesday, October 4

One of Those Days

It was just one of those days. First, I had to cancel my regular hill workout because of a series of meetings and minor crises that needed my attention. Then, I had to go to a host of back-to-back-to-back stressful meetings--and anyone who knows me can tell you that I just love meetings, especially stressful ones. Lunch consisted of a smoothie chugged down during one of the aforementioned meetings. So, even though I got home a little late, I was determined to get at least a little run in.

Not surprisingly, my legs felt like lead and I had no wind endurance at all. Huffing and puffing, slow and achy, and as you might guess, more than a little miserable, I was almost quit several times. But then, quite inexplicably, at about mile three I started to get into a good rhythm. It was getting dark, but I just kept going. Finally, after seven miles I just had to call it quits. Even the dogs were begging to go in by then. But I was actually feeling better at the end of mile seven than I did at the end of mile one.

When I first started running two years ago I was thrilled just to make it a mile. Now, it takes me three miles just to warm up! Or maybe it takes me three miles to work all the stress toxins out of my system. Whatever the case, after a day like today, I'm just glad to still be out there.

Monday, October 3

Oktoberfest 5K

One of my favorite fun runs is coming up this Saturday morning. It's the annual Oktoberfest 5K here in Nashville's old Germantown neighborhood in the shadow of the old state capitol. Besides all the beer and brat and oomp-pah-pah at the finish line, my favorite part of the race is the quick dash right through the middle of the downtown Farmer's Market.

Night Flight

After the six-hour drive back from St. Louis I did not feel much like a run. Besides, it would be dark soon. And I ran plenty this weekend. And, and, and, and. Still, I knew I really needed the stress release--to say nothing of the occupied moments at the dimming of the day. So, I forced myself out the door and onto the street.

I made the hours of my drive zip along by listening to Prince Caspian as read by the incomparable Lynn Redgrave. I made the miles of my run zip along by listening to Aimee Mann, Wilco, Springsteen, and Over the Rhine.

In the former case, I got home. In the latter, I got in five miles. In both cases, I was able to do it with a smile--all contrarian circumstances aside.

Saturday, October 1

Lewis and Clark

Well, the plan was to go on a refreshing little three-mile hike along the bluffs overlooking the Merrimac River. Alas, the trails were not very well marked--OK, that's an understatement! The trails weren't marked at all! So, after three and a half hours, some seriously steep climbs, and a lot of trudging along the river bottoms, we felt a bit like Lewis and Clark finally making our way back to civilization. Twelve miles make for a pretty nice--if altogether unexpected--workout!