Wednesday, November 30

Marathon Countdown: 3

Today was another day of meetings. I was able to do some core exercises but that was about it. I stayed off of my feet as much as possible, hoping that my IT band would start to heal up. So far, no go. I'm still taking anti-inflammatories. Hopefully, it will be better before I have to hit the road on Saturday.

The weather report for the weekend in Memphis does not look too promising at this juncture. The Weather Channel keeps revising its predictions--warmer and warmer, wetter and wetter. I was really hoping that we might have cool dry conditions. Oh well. After the first couple of miles, I don't suppose any of it will matter any more.

After my lecture in the morning, I will drive to Memphis, pick up my race number and chip, and begin the pre-race ritual of obsessing over the little details, hydrating madly, and eating lots and lots of carbs. I can hardly wait!

And as for my fundraising efforts: thanks to Len and Ben (as well as all the dear encouragers who donated in previous days), I am now over 100% of my goal. Thank you. Thank you all.

Tuesday, November 29

Marathon Countdown: 4

Ready or not, here I come. I took a good rest day today--not from activity, but from running. Tuesdays are busy for me--filled with meetings, lectures, meetings, administrative tasks, and of course, meetings.

My IT band is still inflamed. But, I am dosing it with anti-inflammatories and will rest it most of tomorrow--which promises, among other things, lots of meetings!

After a late evening meeting tonight (what else?) I've been poring over the marathon race course map and all the materials in my travel packet. I think everything is in order. Now, it is just a matter of getting out there and doing it.

Even my fundraising efforts are drawing close to the end--I crossed the 98% threshold thanks to David, Bob, Nancy, and Jessica!

Monday, November 28

Marathon Countdown: 5

It is a stormy, blustery day here in Middle Tennessee, so I decided I'd best do my maintenance run early this morning indoors at the YMCA. I did a slow, easy 5K. Then I lazily worked my way around the weight circuit once. I finished up with another slow, easy 5K.

My IT band is still pretty inflamed--which could begin to be worrying if it doesn't get better soon. But, I will do almost nothing physical tomorrow, a single 5K pacing run on Wednesday, and nothing more than a good long walk on Thursday. On Friday, I'll go into full-tilt rest and hydration mode in preparation for the marathon the next morning. Hopefully that will be sufficient to heal up whatever it is that is ailing me.

My plan right now is to attempt to come in at just under 5:00.00 in the Memphis--if at all possible. I know I am not in nearly the shape I was in last spring for the Country Music Marathon. My schedule simply has not allowed it. Nevertheless, I am going to make the most of this opportunity.

St. Jude Fundraising

I have now crossed over the 95% mark in my fundraising effort. On Saturday, I will run in the St. Jude Marathon with the support of lots and lots of dear friends cheering me on--if not in person, certainly in spirit.

You too can join this noble throng. Just go to my st. jude sponsor site and help me raise funds necessary for the vital life-saving work of St. Jude Children's Hospital.

Sunday, November 27

Marathon Countdown: 6

It is a great day to rest--it is the Lord's Day, it is cool and rainy, and it is less than a week to go before the marathon. As if all that weren't good enough, the Titans actually won! A providential sign from the heavenlies, maybe?

Saturday, November 26

Marathon Countdown: 7

Karen's home, so we had our family Saturday ritual to uphold--Judge Bean's BBQ for lunch. So, that meant I had to get my first taper run in early. Alas, I got a late start. I was procrastinating in the hopes that the temperatures would warm up. They did finally, and I got out on the road at about 9 AM. I used a nifty pacing function on my Garmin 201 for my first 10K or so. It worked great and my legs were in much better shape than yesterday--everything but the IT band inflamation cleared up overnight. I had to cut the run a few miles short to get ready for lunch, but all in all, I was pleased. I'm still not convinced I am in shape to go 26.2. But at this stage, that's just tough.

Tonight, I will go out for a couple miles of walking, just to keep my muscles from tightening up. Tomorrow is the Lord's Day. So, after church we'll enjoy a great Sabbath rest as a family--and my body will relish the recovery time. By Monday, I'll be in full taper. I'm really getting close!

Thanks to the generosity of Wes, Bill and Robin, Scott, David, and Robbie, I have crossed over the 90% threshold for my fundraising goal. I'm getting so close on that front too! It is not too late to sponsor me. Just go to my st. jude sponsor site and help me raise funds necessary for the vital life-saving work of St. Jude Children's Hospital.

Friday, November 25

Marathon Countdown: 8

This afternoon I did a little 5K assessment run. Since I was going so slow I was able to fiddle with different timing options on my watch. My plan is to try to run the marathon next weekend using the Galloway method--run for 9:30 and then walk for 30 seconds through each water stop. That means that I will have to pace myself at just under ten minutes a mile. If I am able to maintain that fairly consistently throughout, I will do about a 2:10 half marathon and a 4:30 marathon. My ultimate goal of course, is simply to finish the 26.2 mile distance. And anything under 5:00.00 will be just fine by me. We'll see.

The problem is that my assessment run turned up several potential problems: my right ankle is showing the strain of over-training, my left knee is achy as per usual, and most ominously, my right IT band is badly inflamed. I am hoping that the taper this week will enable me to recover fully.

Regardless, I am going for it. I have gone over the 85% mark for my fundraising goal. I want to make every mile and every cent really count. So, please do pray for me. Or sponsor me at my st. jude sponsor site! Or better yet, pray for me and sponsor me!

Thursday, November 24

Habitrot 5K

Some might want to accuse me of running on Thanksgiving morning only as a cover for otherwise gluttonous behavior for the rest of the day. It is not true. I promise. It just sort of looks like that. OK. Well, it really, really looks like that. But, I promise, that's not the only reason. I've got proof.

First, there is the cause. I run on Thanksgiving morning because the Habitrot 5K is a benefit for the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a great community development organization.

Second, there is the fellowship. I got a chance to visit with all kinds of folks at the race. And that is one of the things I love most about running: the incredibly encouraging running community that overlaps with the wonderfully gracious covenant community. I paced with my good friend John every step of the way--until he broke free of my lamentably slow pace in the final two-tenths of a mile. His daughter-in-law, Kelly, a former student of mine, finished just behind us. His son Eric (Kelly's husband), yet another of my former students, finished way, way, way ahead of us (and like the Marine that he is, he had the gall to complain about going so slow). Grant and Maresa were there with their beautiful daughter Taylor. Todd, Mark, Lesley, Tom, Mike, Susan, and a host of others were there too. So, it was almost like a Sunday School picnic--only with a lot more huffing, puffing, and sweating. I looked everywhere for my running conscience, barometer, and provocateur, Dave, but I think he may have run the bigger Boulevard Bolt across town (his race attracted about 7,000 intrepid souls while ours had around 1,000).

Finally, there is the sheer joy of running (or jogging, or trotting, or limping, or whatever it was that I was doing) on a beautiful sun-shiny day--even if it was a bit cool and blustery at times.

So see, I didn't just run so that I could have two helpings of fried turkey, three helpings of dressing and gravy, two of homemade cranberry sauce, and obscene piles of all the other fixings--to say nothing of the two slices of pie (one of pecan and one of pumpkin). No, really.

Wednesday, November 23

Easy Day

Today, I'm going to take it a little easier. My plan is to do a little 3-miler later this morning, just to continue acclimatizing to cold-weather running and to keep practicing a really slow running rhythm (I am going to attempt to negative split the marathon next week by going much slower at the beginning than I think I need to). Then this afternoon, I'll go pick up my Habitrot 5K packet for the race tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, November 22

Long Run

I got in my final long run--finally! It was another blustery day, though not nearly as cold as I thought it might be when I set out at 6 AM. I ran my "hill route" for about 5 miles and then retreated to the Y to finish out with another 15 miles on a treadmill (I listened to the Narnia tale A Horse and His Boy on my iPod).

The hills just about did me in and almost immediately I started having IT band problems. But, I pressed on and got it done. I am really, really sore, but very satisfied. I am not nearly in the shape I was in for the Country Music Marathon this past April. But, all I really care about is getting to the finish line in a semi-upright position. Pray for me! Or sponsor me at my st. jude sponsor site! Or better yet, pray for me and sponsor me!

Over 80%

Yahoo! I have just passed the 80% threshold for my St. Jude Children's Hospital fundraising goal! I am so grateful to all of you who have already donated: Ken and Bonnie, Phil and Sally, Dave and Sue, Dave and Lisa, John and Linda, Doug and Lynn, Fred and Sharon, Ray and Sue, Keith and Leslie, Jeff and Karla, David and Diane, Jim, Susan, Ed, Jack, Leesa, and all my students. Thank you. This means so much to me.

Anyone else who may want to support my marathon run can visit the st. jude sponsor site where you can donate right online.

Monday, November 21

Best of Intentions

I tried. First, it was the wind and the rain. Then, it was the wind, the rain, and the cold. Then, it was all the appointments I had to keep through the middle of the day. Then, it was the dark. I tried to get in a long run all day today. But, all these rude intrustions kept me from it. Tomorrow, more cold, wind, rain (and maybe even snow) are forecast. So, my long run may actually have to be run on a treadmill at the Y. I'll have to be sure to load a book onto my iPod tonight!

I did get in a halting 5K run in--but if I am going to be ready for the marathon in ten days, that is hardly sufficient.

Marathon Countdown

Just 11 more days until the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis. I'm starting to get excited. I've got all my gear--with all the necessary contingency gloves, shells, hats, and layers just in case race day turns out to be really cold. And I've poured over the race route. I just need one more really good long run to convince me that I'm ready.

You still have time to sponsor the run. Visit my st. jude sponsor site and pledge right online.

Sunday, November 20

Great Day

It was just 28 degrees yesterday morning when the fourth annual Gingerbread Run began in Nashville's Centennial Park. But, the sun was shining brightly, the event was well-organized, and I was ready for a PR. I probably saved way, way, way too much--knowing that in the afternoon I was going to attempt to do a mid-range long run. I had tons left at the finish. But I got the PR. I had to do some serious calculating since it turned out this was a three-mile race rather than a 5K--but, I smashed my previous PR, so there was no room for doubt.

So far, so good.

After a luxurious hour reading the New York Times at Starbucks, I stopped by Team Nashville's West End store to pick up some PowerStep inserts and Mizuno gloves before heading over to my regular Saturday lunch haunt, Judge Bean's. Then it was back to Franklin to do a bit of grocery shopping.

Things were looking awesome.

Finally, I got home and caught a little football (how 'bout those Vandy 'Dores beating UT) before I hit the road for another ten miles of slow steady pacing.

I was starting to feel pretty wonderful

And then, to top it all off, my parents stopped in for the evening--on their way from their home in St. Louis to Florida for a Thanksgiving holiday family gathering. After some quick catching up we had a delightful dinner at my son's restaurant. The food was fabulous, the company was better, and we got home at a decent hour.

What a great day.

Friday, November 18

Gingerbread 5K

It is cold. Tomorrow morning at 7:30 it is going to be even colder. Nevertheless, I am running in Nashville's Gingerbread 5K, a fundraiser for the American Stroke Association and the Vanderbilt Hospital Rehabilitation Center. On Thanksgiving morning, I'll also run in the Habitrot 5K, a benefit for our local Habitat for Humanity. In both cases, I am really just trying to do a little speed work to supplement my final few long runs in preparation for the St. Jude Marathon two weekends from now. Good causes and good training runs.

If you've not yet had the chance, you can still lend support to my running efforts. Visit my st. jude sponsor site and pledge right online. I'm getting close to my goal of $2,500 for cancer research and patient care at the remarkable St. Jude Children's Hospital.

Tuesday, November 15


Just this week two dear friends and a distance-learning student have been diagnosed with cancer. Another dear friend has biopsy results pending. I confess, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. Cancer is a dread disease. At the same time, these turns of events, these hard providences reinforce my determination to make my St. Jude Marathon run in two weeks really count for something.

Since it was founded in the sixties, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis has increased the survival rate of the most common forms of childhood cancer from less than twenty percent to more than eighty percent! The discoveries and breakthroughs made at St. Jude are immediately and freely shared with the international medical community. Thus, the few dollars I can raise for their vital work can literally have an impact all around the world.

Won't you help me stand with my dear friends and with the good folks at St. Jude in finding more and better treatments, more and better therapies, more and better certainties for men, women, and children everywhere? Please support my run on December 3, 2005. Visit my st. jude sponsor site and pledge right online. Thank you so much.

Monday, November 14

Lots of Fun

It was cool and misty as I tried to get in another semi-long run first this morning. Maybe it's the little boy in me, but I just love running in the rain. I was able to get almost 10 miles under my belt--so, I am starting to believe that with a little more work, I will be able to finish the St. Jude in Memphis two weeks from now. My pace is still awful and my IT band is giving me trouble. But, I think I can do it.

Between here and there though I have a few warm-up 5K fun runs: this weekend I'm going to attempt to do either the Gingerbread 5K or the Hoover Run for Hope 5K. Then on Thanksgiving Day, I'll do the Habitrot 5K as well. Fun, fun, fun.

Saturday, November 12


OK. It is officially cold now. At least in the mornings. Yesterday, I went for a long run--or at least what I had hoped might be a long run. It wasn't really all that long and one might be tempted to call it something other than an actual run--a staggering lope, maybe. I went eight miles and tried to tackle some of the hills just to the west and north of where I normally run. At any rate, when I started it was just below freezing. This morning, I am going to try to match that eight, but I am going to stick to my flat course. I'll bundle up again despite the fact that it has warmed up considerably--it is still just 39 degrees out there and that's cold to a Southern boy!

Tuesday, November 8

St. Jude Marathon

I have just three more weeks to get ready. Spur me on by supporting my effort to raise funds for the vital cancer research and treatment programs at St. Jude Children's Hospital. Won't you? Donate online today and come back to visit my st. jude sponsor site often. And then, please do tell others about what I'm trying to do!

Monday, November 7

Got Rhythm

This morning I finally felt as if I had gotten back into a good running rhythm. Taking my little four-mile jaunt nice and easy--and very, very, very slowly--I just decided to really enjoy the brisk fall morning, the brilliant foliage, and the quiet rustlings of wind in the un-raked maple leaves scattered across the pastures. It was marvelous. It invigorated me for the rest of the day.

I have meetings most of the day tomorrow, so the next time I will be able to run looks to be early Wednesday morning. I can hardly wait.

Sunday, November 6

Fall Running

Fall is my favorite season. Spring is always delightful--the flowers, the budding trees, the fresh smells. But really, I just love everything about autumn. The brilliant, primary colors of the foliage, the crystaline, filtered light, and the crisp, cool temperatures of fall are all just so spectacular here in Tennessee. So tonight after church, I got out late and ran until after dark. I got in seven miles--and every step along the way was a delight.

New York Finishers

Although at this writing there are still thousands of runners still out on the course, the winners are already back in their hotel rooms icing down and enjoying their spoils. And enjoy them, they should. It was after all a great race with a great finish--the closest in history. The winner, the world record holder, edged the defending champion by less than a third of a second.

Kenya's Paul Tergat held off Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa and American Meb Keflezighi in a final burst of speed to win the ING New York City Marathon. The final mile was an all-guts-out sprint. Yep. A sprint. That really tells you everything, doesn't it? A sprint? After running twenty-six five-minute miles! Oy veh! That's insane. After this last spring's Country Music Marathon, I was happy just to limp pitifully in the final mile. The thought of sprinting hurts even as I type these words, safe and comfortable as I am in my library.

Women's winner Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia had a slightly easier time, pulling away from struggling Kenyan Susan Chepkemei as they re-entered Central Park and winning by 14 seconds to earn a marathon-record prize of $130,000. The top American woman was Marie Davenport--finishing 16th in 2:33:59. Jen Rhines was 18th in 2:37:07.

The New York Marathon is an extraordinary spectacle--as might be expected given the fact that New York is an extraordinary city. To run this race is one of my life goals. Indeed, the thought of running through all five boroughs while pushing myself to the very limit of human endurance along with thousands of others, well, it is just one of those "gotta do this at least once" kind of things.

The New York City Marathon

While most of us are just getting out of bed or trundling off to church this morning, more than a million people will flood onto the streets of New York City for the thirty-sixth running of the ING New York Marathon. About 37,000 of them will actually be participants in this remarkable human drama of sport, will, determination, tragedy, and triumph. It will be the world's largest field on the world's largest stage for one of the world's toughest accomplishments: running 26.2 miles from the Fort Wadsworth staging area on Staten Island, across the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn, up through Queens, across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan, along the East Side into the Bronx, back down the West Side to Central Park, and finally to the finish in front of Tavern on the Green.

Yesterday's New York Times had a great op-ed piece by Alan Zwibel, the former Saturday Night Live writer. His brand new novel, The Other Shulman is about a man who runs the New York Marathon in an effort to save his family, his business, and his life. His observations are worth noting:

"Today, I am sorry to say, I will not be running in the New York City Marathon because I've been out promoting my novel about a man who is running in the New York City Marathon and I didn't have time to train. I didn't run in last year's marathon either because I was busy writing my novel about a man who is running in the New York City Marathon and I didn't have time to train. I did, however, run in the 2003 New York City Marathon. I trained hard for that one. I joined a running group, did stretching exercises, watched my diet and finished in 33,517th place. A half-hour slower than the time of my previous marathon, for which I didn't train as hard.

I harbor not even the slightest embarrassment that while I was running, a person could have gotten a full night's sleep. Or have consecutively boiled 130 three-minute eggs. Or that while I was still hauling my 53-year-old carcass through Brooklyn, the winner had not only crossed the finish line at Tavern on the Green but was probably already on a plane back to Kenya.

None of those things bother me because my goal was modest. All I wanted was to finish. To allow the cheers of the crowds carry me through the five boroughs and allow me to revisit some neighborhoods I hadn't seen since childhood. In effect, a tour. I knew my limitations and had no illusions that by dint of a good night's sleep I would miraculously get a burst of energy and become the new winged symbol for FTD.

So at the start of the race, I lined up toward the back of the pack for pretty much the same reason that cowboys, if given the choice, would prefer to be behind the horses during a stampede. And after the gun sounded, it was thrilling being a part of a 35,000-strong throng moving en masse across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on a beautiful November morning.

I also appreciated the wit displayed by my fellow marathoners who had shunned the traditional running shorts and T-shirt and were dressed, oh, let's call it unconventionally, for the 26.2-mile journey. Among them was a bride, a man wrapped in an American flag bouncing red, white and blue basketballs, a one-legged waiter carrying a bar tray with a mug of beer attached to it, Abraham Lincoln, a surgeon and what I believe was a deli clerk. It supplied added color to an already colorful event, and I didn't even mind when they all passed me--figuring that they were either better runners than me or might eventually drop out of the race when they felt their joke was over.

The polar bear did bother me, however. A lot. Whether it was a thin person wearing 200 pounds of white fur or a very fat person wearing a tight furry sweater, I'm not sure, but I first noticed him when he scampered past me in Williamsburg where he was given high fives by Hasidic families who ignored me when I eventually came upon them. Was it possible that, as they were snubbing me, he turned back in my direction and waved at me before turning around and disappearing into the masses ahead? No, I figured. He was probably waving to an amused child who had called out to him or to another tundra-dwelling mammal that was also running that day. So I proceeded along and figured I had seen the last of him because there was no sighting in all of Queens.

Manhattan was another story. For when I came across the Queensboro Bridge, panting and carb-depleted, I turned up First Avenue and spotted him again. Leaning against one of the refreshment tables that are stationed at every mile marker and eating a bagel. The thought that there were still 10 miles to go until the race ended in Central Park was, indeed, a daunting one under normal circumstances. But after a polar bear makes eye contact with you a second time, gestures as if offering you a bite of his sesame bagel, folds his paws in front onto his chest and does an Arctic jig before turning around and heading uptown, you can't help but feel stupid. And unathletic. So I grabbed a bagel of my own and took off. For the sake of accuracy, when I say "took off," I mean that I trudged along in the same direction determined to catch up--which I almost did when he waved to me after he drank some Gatorade in the Bronx, after he had stopped to play the harmonica with a street band in Harlem and after he crossed the finish line about 50 yards ahead of me in Central Park.

To this day it is hard for me to believe that someone dressed as a polar bear actually beat me in the New York City Marathon. Yes, I know I said that just completing the race was victory enough and it was. Still, once this book tour is over, I plan to start training for next year's marathon with another goal in mind--to finish ahead of anyone dressed similarly so my children will stop laughing at me."

My sentiments exactly!

Saturday, November 5


This morning the inaugural Team Nashville Half Marathon was run in unseasonably warm temperatures and under overcast skies. I knew though that I really was unprepared for the race regardless of what the weather might prove to be. I even confided to my good friend Dave Minnigan (who is running through the fall and into the spring to raise support for his family's upcoming summer mission trip to Ecuador) that I was probably just going to run the first half of the race and use it as a training run.

I did go so far as to pick up my bib number. Somehow, I got #2 (very cool). I also picked up the goodie bag which had a great long sleeve tech-tee, a very serviceable water bottle, and assorted other fiddly-bits in a nifty mesh tote bag. But I just left my timing chip in the tray. Why even get a chip if I was sure that I would only go half the distance?

The first three miles wound through a delightful park with a few gently rolling hills along a sandy footpath. I went out very, very conservatively--just under 10 minute miles. I was feeling far better than I'd expected given my dismal training regimen leading up to the race. Even after we left the park and took to surrounding roads, I was surprised that I was still keeping a fairly decent, albeit slow, pace in the middle of the pack. At the five-mile marker, I was beginning to flag but I still thought that I probably had enough in me to shoot for my goal: the halfway point.

But then, I got to the six-mile marker and I was really only hurting a little here and there. And amazingly, I had still only slowed a bit--just over 10 minute pace. So, I decided that I might just press on a little further. It was just after that fateful decision that it all hit me like a load of bricks. My legs just died out on me. I started to have shooting pains from my left knee down to my ankle and from my right hip up into my lower back. It was not a pretty sight.

I started to look for a good place to stop--but then I realized that had no idea where I was in relation to the welcome center where my truck was parked. I wound up limping along to the ten-mile marker at which point I pretty much just fell apart.

Dave on the other hand, did great. He finished with a sizzling 2:03.53 keeping his pace below 9:30 for the entire 13.1 miles. And this was just a training run! He didn't even decide to do it until earlier this week! Awesome! Way to go, Dave!

In the face of his success, my only consolation in my own rather wimpy performance is that I was not the only one who did not finish--and, I wasn't even slowest or last! Besides, there is always tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that.

Friday, November 4

Flagging Faster

As we age, it is astonishing how quickly we can lose conditioning. I just did a very easy 10K and found myself laboring early on. My training has been inconsistent (at best) over the past several months due to the intensity of my schedule. As a result, what should have been a happy, little jaunt, was transformed into a serious workout. According to the sage observer, "the bigger they are the harder they fall," but in my case I think it might be more accurate to say, "the older they are the quicker they flag." Ouch!