Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Runners: Save the Date! 4-13-2013

I still remember the first time I saw it on the back of a shirt. It was just after mile 2 during my first half marathon. The race was in Little Rock in 2010 and it was the longest race I'd ever started. I still wasn't sure I could finish. Five weeks earlier I'd injured my foot and hadn't been able to train since. But I'd worked to hard preparing for this race and refused to not try.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -- Philippians 4:13

I didn't know if I could run 13.1 miles that day, but seeing that verse on the shirt in front of me gave me hope, inspired me, and may well have been the difference that helped me finish the race. When I saw it I immediately told myself, "I have to have a shirt with that verse to run in." Now I run every race with that verse on my back and next year, on 4-13-2013, we'll be running the first ever race sponsored by and benefitting TEAM 413 Gracerunner Ministries.

In that first half I knew nothing of TEAM 413. I had only seen the verse on the back of the shirt, not the TEAM logo on the front. It would be about a year later before I got a shirt with the inspirational verse, one I designed after my daughter died for our (then) new ministry here at Running with Amanda. I still knew nothing of TEAM 413.

Then my friend Jesse bought and wore one of their shirts when we ran the Marine Corps Marathon. Afterwards, I got online and looked up the organization and joined their Facebook group. It wasn't long before TEAM 413 founder Chris Gillespie read our story and sent me a complimentary shirt.

I still race in our Running with Amanda shirts, but am proud to call myself a member of TEAM 413. I can't begin to count the number of people who have passed me or whom I have passed in races that told me the encouraging verse was just what they needed at that instant. A few times it has led to in depth discussions of faith and the love of Christ.

With thousands of members around the world racing with the word of God on their backs, TEAM 413's impact for Christ can't be measured. But those of us who run as proud TEAM members know that impact is huge.

Gillespie started this ministry in 2003 after a terrible accident that led doctors to predict he would never run again. But just as the apostle Paul said in his letter to the church at Philippi, his faith in Christ not only got him back into racing, but running to spread the Good News of all that can be overcome through that faith.

On April 13, 2013, the first ever TEAM 413 race will be held in St. Louis, Missouri. Proceeds from the half marathon and 4.13K races will help fund the ministry to Get There and Share at races across the country.

TEAM 413 needs you to help spread the love of Christ throughout the distance running community. Please make it a point to join us in St. Louis next spring! If you're in, please go to the Facebook event page and let the world know you're supporting this great ministry.

This will be a great race for a great cause! We'll be there and hope you will join us!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thanks Again to New Balance!

Once again we want to express our gratitude to New Balance, Inc., an American company who still makes some of its running shoes in the US, and who generously keeps our feet covered with high quality running shoes so we can stay on the road.

We were blessed to have the company sponsor us with shoes after an executive heard of our ministry. New Balance's generosity saves us about $1000 we'd have to spend on shoes every year. That's $1000 we can put toward more races to get our message out to more people.

Last year the company sent me three pair of their 1260 model to try and they carried me through training and racing from November until this month. Through the hottest and coldest months of the year, through numerous races including one full and two half marathons, they served me well.

The 1260 was a little heavier than the 890 New Balance had provided me with before and it took a little getting used to. But after a couple of weeks, I really grew to like them.

It's a good, sturdy shoe that lasted longer and wore well under the stress of my 225 pounds and long distance runs. Those three pair carried me almost 1500 miles without injury. Several times after 20 mile training runs I felt good enough to get out and cut grass. After one long run last December, I even climbed on the roof and put up Christmas lights.

When my last pair of 1260s was nearing the end of its run, I told the folks at New Balance how much I liked them, but also said I'd be happy to test another model for them.

So now I'm running in a lighter weight model 1080. Once again, it's taking a little while to get used to the change in weight. After about three and a half weeks in the new shoes, they've carried me through a little over 120 miles.

So far so good. Still no injuries and I've already done a 20 mile, a 15 mile, and a 10 mile run in them. I'd bet they'll be another great shoe as they run their course too. I'm looking forward to hundreds of more miles in them and many more races.

"A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." -- Proverbs 11:25

We are extremely blessed to have a relationship with a great US company, a company that refuses to ship all its manufacturing overseas like so many of its competitors, that keeps American workers employed making great shoes. It's nice to know that large, international companies exist that are willing to work with even small causes such as ours.

Once again, we want to express our deepest gratitude for New Balance taking an interest and providing us with running shoes. We couldn't afford to run as far or race as often without their generosity.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Weekly Journal 8/6 to 8/12 & 8/13 to 8/19

This journal entry will cover two weeks and will be quite short on details. Last week kept us quite busy and distracted with the trial for Amanda's killer and getting ready for the first day of school this week.

I apologize for the brevity and lack of interesting reading, but suffice it to say I've been blessed by my running friends. Both weeks have been much higher mileage than I'm accustomed to. I believe trying to work off the anxiety that came with the approaching trial led me to get out and put in lots more miles.

Training Week: August 6 - August 12

Monday11 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday7 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday11 miles
Saturday20 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total61 miles

Training Week: August 13 - August 19

Monday5 miles
Tuesday14 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday7 miles
Saturday15 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total53 miles

"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -- Isaiah 40:31

We survived the trial, even though we were disappointed the law didn't allow for a longer sentence. I've also hit a pretty major milestone with mileage this year. I went over 1200 miles for this year last week. That puts me on track to break 1800 this year.

I could not have made it this far without our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His promise that we will one day see Amanda again is what gives me the hope to keep going even in the face of horrible tragedy. Christ is the source of my strength and desire to run. Without Him, His mercy and grace, I would not be able to finish a 5K, let alone log over 1200 miles in the first 8 months of the year.

Even with all we've suffered, I know that I am blessed.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cody Gorecke Sentenced to 16 Years

"30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing( to fall into the hands of the living God." -- Hebrews 10:30-31
It was only hours shy of exactly 19 months since the day he shot and killed Amanda Marie Allison, my beautiful, loving daughter. After two long days in the Cleburne County Courthouse, Judge John Kemp handed down the maximum sentence allowed by law to Cody Lynn Gorecke.

The day before, following hours and hours of selecting a jury, Gorecke pleaded guilty to manslaughter, criminal use of a prohibited weapon, and three misdemeanors. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Holly Meyer and Prosecuting Attorney Don McSpadden sought and gained our consent to accept the plea after the 12 jurors and 2 alternates were selected.

It was an extremely difficult pill to swallow to accept the plea to manslaughter, because we believed and still believe Gorecke was guilty of the original charge of 2nd degree murder. But a conviction on that charge seemed most unlikely once we saw the composition of the empaneled jury.

The entire selection process was difficult to watch. This was Cleburne County, Arkansas, a place we had lived and our girls had spent a large part of their lives. When we left six years ago, I still viewed it as a great place to live, a place where citizens believed in law, order, and justice for those who commit crimes.

The Sheriff's Department and the Prosecuting Attorney's office met or exceeded my expectations. But the citizens that were called to be interviewed from the jury pool were a huge disappointment. Old, young, and middle-aged, male and female, the vast majority seemed weak, indecisive, uncertain, and uncommitted to principles of honor and character I previously believed inherent in the vast majority of the county's population.

Men and women, young and old and in-between, decried the injustice of sending anyone to prison on charges involving marijuana. Neither age nor gender appeared to influence most prospective jurors to demand accountability for individual actions. One man who appeared to be in his 60s said numerous times, "I'm not sure I could send anybody to prison." Another middle-aged woman looked at Amanda's killer and explained her inability to sentence him to prison with the words, "He's just so young. I don't believe I could ruin his life."

These two were perhaps the most extreme cases that shattered my expectations, but several others admitted they would not be able to sentence someone to do time for possession of marijuana, even if it was a contributing factor to a murder because the marijuana possession is a "nonviolent crime."

It was pathetic to watch as so many of the potential jurors in my daughter's murder case seemed to place no value on personal responsibility and accountability for one's actions. When it was over, and the twelve jurors and two alternates had been selected, Meyer told me, "We didn't have one strong male to choose from, and every strong female was struck."

It appeared we had a jury that would sympathize more for the murderer, Cody Gorecke, than for the victim, Amanda Allison. And several others who were struck would have made much worse jurors than these.

There were some whom I would have loved to be on the jury, whom I'm certain were struck by the defense attorney, John Russo, but they were very few. One lady told the attorneys during questioning that she believed the justice system had been too easy on her father-in-law, releasing him at least three times after serving far too little of his sentence. According to her, the lack of severity in his punishment encouraged him to continue breaking the law. Another woman who admitted being a friend of one of the deputies, said she leaned "far the other way" on her ideas regarding punishment for marijuana possession, referring to the several who had admitted they didn't believe it a crime to be punished.

Still, the vast majority of the jury pool, at least those pulled to be interviewed, was made up of a weak sort of people who most likely would have viewed the murderer Gorecke as much a victim as my daughter Amanda.

That's why we agreed to the plea to the manslaughter charge. Meyer told us they were very worried this jury could come back with a negligent homicide conviction, a misdemeanor. McSpadden said if that happened, Gorecke would walk out of the courtroom a free man. We couldn't take that chance. At least with a plea, we had a chance the judge would give him the maximum punishment.

By this time it was nearly 5:00 pm and Judge Kemp ordered the court to recess and return the next day for the sentencing hearing.

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." -- Matthew 5:37

Now it was time to testify. Meyer asked us to give her a list of all who wanted to speak at Gorecke's sentencing. The hearing began with the prosecution presenting its case, followed by the defense presenting its side after lunch.

At the close of the previous day, Meyer told the judge she expected 2 hours of testimony for our side. Russo predicted his side would need an hour and a half. Both went well beyond that.

The prosecutor began by calling Detective Phil Burnham, lead detective on the case with the Cleburne County Sheriff's office, to the stand to explain the facts of the case as revealed by the investigation. Burnham ended up on the stand for more than 2 hours as Gorecke's attorney tried everything he could to keep his client from paying for the murder of Amanda.

Russo's line of questioning indicated he was hoping Detective Burnham would convince the judge that the sawed-off shotgun Gorecke used to kill our daughter was practically capable of firing itself because of a loose firing pin. He rotated the weapon in his hand to demonstrate the movement of the pin, insinuating said movement could cause the pin to strike the primer and discharge the round.

This was essentially the substance of his argument that Amanda's death was an accident. The defense argued that poor, innocent Cody Gorecke was only showing his new gun to his friends, casually playing with one of the hammers (not the one on the barrel that held the round that killed Amanda) when it "accidentally" fired. Perhaps the most incredulous part of the argument was his claim that the recoil from the first "accidental" firing of (what he claimed to be the first shot) combined with the play in the firing pin to "inadvertently" discharge the other round that killed my daughter.

Anyone with any knowledge of firearms and how they function could recognize the utter senselessness in this argument. The weapon was old, and it did not function correctly. The triggers didn't function at all and the hammers would not lock back in the cocked position. The only way to fire the weapon was to pull the hammers back and turn them loose.

Two rounds were fired that night. One round of birdshot fired into a wall in a bedroom of the house. The other was the slug that took Amanda's life. Cody Gorecke had to have pulled the hammers back on each of the barrels that contained those shells. Neither would have discharged unless their respective hammers were intentionally pulled back. Whether or not loosing either one or both was intentional makes no difference. This could not be categorized as an accident.

Cody Gorecke had to make a series of conscious choices that night, choices that led to the end of Amanda's life. He chose to invite others to a party at his home. He chose to get drunk and high that night. He chose to bring that gun out at the party. He chose to pull the hammers back and he chose to point that weapon at my daughter. Whether or not he intended to kill her when he made each of these choices makes no difference, he is responsible for the consequences that followed.

Some might think, "Well, he was drunk or stoned. He may not have recognized the danger." Here's the problem...intoxication or being under the influence of drugs is no defense under the law. Meyer did an excellent job of explaining why it can't be if we hope to have a functional legal system. To potential jurors she said, "If I get angry at my husband and decide to kill him, I could just go get drunk then shoot him. If intoxication were a defense, I could simply say I was drunk and get off." Therefore, Gorecke's inebriated state (which he denies by the way) could not absolve him from the consequences of his actions.

After Meyer finished with Detective Burnham on the stand, it was our turn to testify. Janice, my mother, my stepmother, and I all took the stand to answer Meyer's questions and describe the impact on our family for the court. After we finished, the court recessed for lunch before the defense presented its arguments to the judge.

Nobody who was there that night took the stand, not for the prosecution and not for the defense. Russo presented character witnesses for Gorecke, and Meyer relentlessly pressed most of them on cross examination. At times I actually felt sympathy for them as she challenged their descriptions of the man who murdered my daughter as a "gentle" man, as a "good" boy, as someone who always wanted to be held accountable for his actions. But she had done her homework, and each of her challenges was based on what she knew of Gorecke's past.

Her strategy and justification for those tactics became clear after Gorecke took the stand, especially once she began to cross examine him. In an interview with the state psychiatrist, Amanda's murderer had made many claims that undermined the testimony of most of his own character witnesses. By the time she finished with him, it would have been difficult for anyone to lend them the slightest bit of credibility. But the most damning part of Gorecke was the way Meyer destroyed HIS credibility.

It had been obvious from day one that this murderer had been coached to appear contrite, confused, and harmless by his attorneys. As the jury was selected and throughout the sentencing hearing, his frown and sad eyes communicated remorse and disbelief as the prosecutor presented the case and witnesses for Amanda's side gave their statements. Even when he first walked into the courtroom I thought he was another attorney. He wasn't even recognizable from the photos I'd seen prior. His clean white shirt and fresh clean shave with a neat trim gave more of a choir boy look than that of someone who'd spent the past 19 months in the county jail. But Meyer would shatter that image before all was said and done too.

Gorecke's lowest moment came when Meyer asked him to show the court how he was holding the weapon when Amanda was killed, to demonstrate how he was playing with the hammer the way he claimed when the gun "accidentally" discharged. Russo objected vehemently and approached the bench while Gorecke backed up and his contrite demeanor was instantly replaced with one of utter fear. Meyer held her ground in front of the witness stand and made her arguments with the weapon in her hand, refusing to retreat from in front of the murderer. She countered Russo's arguments without moving an inch, allowing the entire court to hear and understand what was going on.

First the defense attorney argued Gorecke had a right to not incriminate himself. Meyer countered that once he took the stand and swore to answer truthfully, he abdicated his 5th Amendment rights. Then Russo's most absurd argument of the entire proceeding came when he declared his client's 8th Amendment right. He claimed putting the murder weapon "in that boy's hand" was cruel and unusual punishment. This brought a sneer from Meyer and obviously didn't sway Judge Kemp either, because he sent Russo back to the defense table and told Meyer to proceed.

Gorecke had claimed to be holding a beer in one hand, the gun in the other. He said he was subconsciously thumbing the left hammer (not the one for the barrel that held the shell that killed Amanda) when the gun fired a round into the bedroom. He said he didn't remember the other shot that killed Amanda, nor how it happened. But all this fell apart when that weapon was put in his hand. He was unable to do what he'd claimed to be doing. He could barely get his thumb on the hammer, much less play with it subconsciously to cause the gun to fire. With conscious effort he had to work hard to bring the hammer back even a little. He now had no credibility left with anyone who had the least bit of objectivity.

A few minutes later, the coached actor we'd observed since the trial began disappeared for just a second or two. When told by Meyer that he was unable to show the court what he claimed to be doing with the gun to cause the "accident," Gorecke replied, "Ma'am, that gun is dangerous and I don't want to touch it. If I wanted I could flip that gun around in my hand. I could make it do about anything I want." Yes, no sign of contrition in that instant.

Instead, Meyer had brought out the Cody Gorecke who killed Amanda. She shattered the carefully constructed image of the murderer created by the defense counsel and showed the judge and everyone else the real Cody Gorecke. The cocky, vain, and narcissistic braggart who had to show everyone his illegal weapon that night had suddenly appeared on the stand.

His attorney tried to redirect, but little could be done to reestablish the choir boy image at this point. Closing arguments followed Gorecke's testimony.

Meyer summarized the case pretty quickly, then the defense counsel again shocked us with his absolute brazen insensitivity. Earlier he had Gorecke tell the judge he did not want probation, that he wasn't asking for probation. He sat on the stand and told us, the judge, and everyone in the court he wanted to be held accountable for Amanda's death. But in closing arguments, Russo called on Judge Kemp to give Gorecke a suspended sentence. In other words, they didn't want probation, but they didn't want prison either! He went further off the deep end claiming the maximum sentence would be the easy way out for the court, and that society would be better served by forcing Gorecke to speak with youth groups about the dangers of drinking, drug use, and guns instead of serving time.

I didn't have a high opinion of defense lawyers before this trial, and this one caused my opinion to sink even lower.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." -- 2 Corinthians 5:10

But apparently the judge wasn't too impressed by Russo's attempts to make his client out to be a victim either.

Once Gorecke pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the other charges, the maximum sentence he could receive was 16 years, 10 years for manslaughter and 6 for use of a prohibited weapon. Judge Kemp took about an hour to deliberate before coming back and handing down the maximum sentence on all counts, and ordering the 10 and 6 year sentences be served consecutively. He also issued the maximum sentence for each of the misdemeanor counts, but those must be served concurrently with the felonies by law. In short though, we received everything the judge had in his power to give us as far as justice in this case.

It's not enough and I told the judge that while I was on the stand. He could do no more, but my little girl was 17 years old, with her whole life ahead of her. Her future was stolen, as was a future that all of us in her family so looked forward to. She didn't get to graduate high school, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, or a thousand other things.

Instead of watching our child walk across the stage and receive her diploma, we got to decorate an empty chair and stare at it throughout the ceremony. Instead of packing her up and moving her to college, we get to throw away mail from colleges and credit card companies that come to the house for her to this day. Instead of helping her plan her wedding, we planned her funeral. Instead of grandkids, we have Amanda's pictures to stare at for the rest of our lives, but no pictures beyond her 17th year.

Nothing could bring her back. Nothing can replace those things we'll never have again. So there can be no justice for Amanda's murder here on earth. But the Bible promises us there will be justice. Not here, but one day justice will be served to Cody Gorecke. And even though we know that, even though that's what we cling to, anything less than the maximum sentence would be an injustice, to Amanda, to us, and to society at large.

I made this argument to the judge from the witness stand also. This trial to determine punishment for Gorecke wasn't about revenge, and the most important thing was not to get back at him. God will handle that in His own time. We know that.

But punishment of crimes here on earth serves for more than simple retribution. Punishment of criminals is essential to protect society from those who victimize the innocent. As long as Gorecke is behind bars, he won't kill anyone else's daughter or son. It's also important to punish crimes for the deterrent effect on other would-be criminals. On my way to the trial I chose not to drive 70 miles per hour on 55 mile per hour highways, not because the speed limit was 55, but because I was unwilling to risk being caught and having to pay the consequences of driving 70. There is a deterrent to those who would kill when they know their punishment will be more than a slap on the wrist, or a suspended sentence. We must punish crimes, especially violent crimes, here on earth if we hope to have any semblance of law and order in our society.

So I guess the question now is, do I think justice was served? My answer to that is, "No." But I don't think it was possible to really get justice here on earth for this case. I do think the Cleburne County Sheriff's Office, the Prosecutor's Office (Holly Meyer, Don McSpadden, Stephanie, and all the rest who worked on this case), and Judge Kemp did everything they could to see that we got as close as possible. I am happy and satisfied with all their efforts. For justice though, real justice, that will come in God's time, when He is ready.

I haven't really laid out what happened that night. In the past because I was asked not to by the prosecutor's office. This post was written more to explain the punishment than the crime. But I will soon sit down and lay out in another post my theories on the case and the evidence that shaped them.

This part of this tragedy is finished for now. In about two and a half years we'll face the ordeal of testifying at parole hearings, but for now we can focus on honoring God and the memory of our beautiful daughter.

I really hope that others hear Amanda's story and recognize the dangers of teen substance abuse. I will always believe that if then-19-year-old Gorecke had not been drunk and high, my beautiful daughter would still be alive. If she had chosen not to go there because there was alcohol and drugs, she would still be alive. It's dangerous and it's illegal for a reason. The death of my daughter is proof. I hope and pray that her story will spare someone else the pain and suffering we'll endure the rest of our lives.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tomorrow the Trial Begins

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life." -- Psalm 143:8
One day shy of 19 months after my daughter was gunned down in his home, Cody Gorecke will stand trial for the murder of Amanda. Regardless of the verdict, the low-life killer of my little girl will not get what he deserves, not in this life anyway.

We've been told that even in the best of circumstances we can expect him to be out of prison in two or three years. Worst case scenario, he could be out immediately after the trial. He will most likely serve no more than 5 years, possibly less than 2, for killing our beautiful daughter.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." -- 2 Corinthians 5:10

Regardless whether he receives justice here on earth, through man's law, he will eventually face the judgment of God and pay for the wicked he has done.

I don't know how things will turn out this week. I don't know how I'll react when I see him, or how I'll react during the trial. The closer it gets, the more I dread it.

Please pray for us this week.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Weekly Journal 7/30 to 8/5

This week turned out to be a pretty high mileage week, in spite of the continued burning heat scorching our part of the country. That's because I doubled up on runs Wednesday, when I ran with a group here in Cabot before I traveled to Vilonia to run with the cross country team.

Monday began with a 6.5 mile run through the hills of the Greystone neighborhood with the cross country team. The team traveled by bus to Cabot where I met them for our morning run. Lots of hills, but I took it pretty slow. Plus, the humidity was down so it really didn't feel so bad.

On Tuesday I joined our regular Tuesday/Thursday group for our regular Tuesday 6 mile route. Started out fast (for me in this heat) averaging about a 9:30 pace for the first 4 miles. I finally had to back out and finished the 6 miles with a 9:47 average.

It was speed work Wednesday with the cross country team at Vilonia. I ran 6 miles with friends in Cabot before practice, then went to practice and stayed back with the slower runners for a warm up mile then 3 of their mile repeats. The running day ended with a total of 10 more miles put on my New Balance 1260s.

I rolled out of bed Thursday morning to be greeted by thunder, lightening, and pouring rain. Decided to crawl back in bed and wait until the weather cleared. It was 7:30 when I finally hit the road. Too hot and WAY too humid! Ran the first 3 miles at a decent 9:40 pace then crashed. Finished the 6 miles with average 11:34 pace, partly because I walked the entire last mile. It's runs like these that REALLY make me appreciate winter.

Friday I decided not to run before practice. Driving to Vilonia the sky was dark, threatening rain. I arrived though without even a sprinkling and we set out on our run. The head coach began turning kids around when she spotted lightening, but I went ahead and pushed on through the entire course. I finished the 6 miles with a 10:34 pace and without being rained on.

The weekend arrived and I started out with an 11 mile run with the Cabot Country Cruisers. We met at 5 AM and set out on a 5 mile loop. When we returned to our vehicles, a couple other runners joined us and we set out again. Most of the group went on and made another 10 miles, but a couple of us headed back in earlier. We reached the cars and my Garmin read 11 miles with an 11:53 pace. I intentionally took it slow Saturday morning because I was registered for the Ranch Run 5K that evening. The temperature was around 1030 at the start of the race, but we made it through. My watch had my time at 27:22 but I haven't yet seen official results. So Saturday the Good Lord helped me finish 14 miles to finish a pretty good running week.

Training Week: July 30 - August 5

Monday6.5 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday10 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday6 miles
Saturday14.1 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total48.6 miles

"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord." -- Romans 12:19

This has been a pretty tough week in a lot of ways and I'm a little stressed as I'm working to complete this post. So I'm going to skip the little devotional I usually place here.

I can say that today Janice and I met with the prosecutor who will try Amanda's murderer. I can't give details before the case is settled, but it's not looking good for our side. I wish we had better news, but right now all I can say is please pray her killer receives as much time as possible.

The case should be closed next week sometime, then I'll finally be able to tell the whole story. It's been 19 months since my beautiful daughter was gunned down, and I've never been able to tell all of what we know. That will change next week.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hot but Great 2012 Ranch Run

"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -- Isaiah 40:31
Yesterday's Ranch Run may well have been the hottest race I've ever run. On the way to the race, the thermometer in the car was showing 1090. Just before the start, Soaring Wings Christian Home and Ranch director Andrew Watson announced the temperature was 1030 30 minutes earlier. The sun was still up and it was just plain hot for the 7 PM start.

I'm not sure exactly how many ran the race, but I'd estimate 125 or so. More than a hundred for sure. It wasn't a big race, but still a pretty good turnout for the temps and to be only the second year it's been run.

We brought about 20 kids from the Vilonia cross country team who ran. For many this was their first race. All of them finished and several had pretty impressive times, especially considering the weather. I am extremely proud of these kids. Their hard work all summer has really paid off.

Two other friends were there to compete for the first time as well. To get out in that kind of heat for your first race takes guts that very few have. I'm really proud of these two ladies for all they've accomplished these past several months as they've trained and improved.

The course was two loops around the main road on the Soaring Wings campus. The gravel road passed through open fields and heavy woods that offered runners pleasant shade about half the time. The course passed by the main buildings on the ranch, including the boys' and girls' homes.

The folks in charge were well-equipped to handle the heat with two water stops on the loop. Both were stocked with ample volunteers, water, and Gatorade. At one stop they even offered runners a wash rag soaked in ice water. I refused the rag on my first pass, but was glad to get it on the second round.

Official results aren't posted yet, but my Garmin said I finished with a 9:02 pace. Not my best in a 5K by far, but considering the conditions I'll take it.

At the finish line was a table stocked with water, Gatorade, watermelon, snacks, and Fun Pops. This was the first race I've ever seen offer the frozen flavored treats, and I have to say they may just be the best treats I've ever had after a hard run.

Soaring Wings uses this event to kick off their free 12-week training program for the upcoming Soaring Wings Half Marathon. Therefore, the t-shirt that came with entry in the Ranch Run is a high quality Brooks tech training shirt emblazoned with the Soaring Wings Half logo. Of course, you can still register for the October 27th Soaring Wings Half Marathon even if you didn't compete in the Ranch Run.

If you have never run this half, I highly recommend it. I ran it in 2010 for my second half marathon and absolutely loved it. If I hadn't been in Washington, DC last year for the Marine Corps Marathon, I'd have done it again. I registered for the 2012 SW Half months ago, and will more than likely run it every year from now on. It's a great course with fantastic crowd support and an awesome after party. If you're looking for a half to do this fall, check out the Soaring Wings Half Marathon.
"Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." -- Matthew 7:20

All in all, a great race for a great cause. Even in the hottest part of summer, I'll do this one again. Praise God for places like Soaring Wings Christian Home and Ranch and the wonderful people who staff them and offer hope to children in need.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Join Us at the Ranch Run Tomorrow!

"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -- Isaiah 40:31
Tomorrow's the Ranch Run, a 5K held on the campus of Soaring Wings Christian Home and Ranch. At 7 PM runners will cross the start line to run 3.1 miles to help support the ranch in its mission to offer a safe, Christian home to children in need.

This is the second annual Ranch Run and the official kickoff for the Soaring Wings Half Marathon training program. The SW Half will be on 10/27/2012 in Conway, AR. If you've never run this race, and are looking for a half to run this fall, I highly recommend it. I ran it in 2010 and absolutely loved it. A challenging course with great support and a great after party, all for a great cause.

So if at all possible, come out and join us. Whether you're training for the half marathon or just like the idea of coming out to support a great cause, we'd love to see you there.

Directions to SWR

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Weekly Journal 7/23 to 7/29

Praise the Lord for giving me the head, heart, and legs to keep running another week!

On Monday I ran for the first time with a different group. Well, a group with a couple of different people anyway. We did 6 miles at a significantly slower pace than our Tuesday/Thursday groups on a hot and muggy day. I actually had to be at work early so had to leave them after the first 3 miles. Still, it was a nice change and especially nice to be able to slow down a little in this oppressive heat and humidity.

Tuesday brought another tough 6 mile run. I've started falling back on these runs and finish behind the rest of the group in this weather. That's okay though, still making the distance and finished this run in right at a 10 minute pace.

I joined the same group from Monday for Wednesday's run and we made 6 miles again. This time we averaged a 12:17 pace per mile. I intentionally planned to get out and run early so I would be able to take it easy at cross country practice. Wednesday is speed work day for the kids and this old, fat man can't keep up. I ran a mile warm up with the team, then stopped and timed them as they ran 400 meter repeats, then I ran a one mile tempo run with them to finish. Altogether, I finished Wednesday with 8 miles running.

Thursday brought me back to my regular biweekly group to run with. We did our normal Thursday 6-mile route that includes about 2.5 miles on a golf course. The pace is a little slower on Thursdays and I finished with a 10:35 pace. Still plenty of heat and humidity.

I made it 6 more miles on Friday with the cross country team. The route was actually 5 miles, but I did quite a bit of doubling back to encourage the slower kids. This has proved to be a good role for me in helping with the team, because I certainly can't keep up with the faster runners. One added advantage to taking on this task is the opportunity to see the vast improvement in these kids who struggle to make the miles. These same kids could barely run when we started this summer. Now they're running farther and faster, surprising even themselves with their performance.

On Saturday I went for broke. After weeks of running no more than 10 miles, I decided to bite off a little more on our weekend group run. We started at 5 AM and made a 5 mile loop to get started. The heat and humidity were bad, but I still felt okay. After downing quite a bit of Gatorade and hitting a Clif gel, I pulled a 20 ounce bottle of ice cold water from the chest and headed out with the 6 AM group. Some of my friends still had 15 to go and I decided to do as much of it as I could with them. We set out on an 8 mile loop and made it to mile 5 when another friend met us with an ice chest filled with cold bottled water. By then the heat and humidity was taking its toll and I decided to walk the 3 miles back to the car. Once it was said and done, I'd made 13.22 miles in just under 3 hours. In this weather, I was glad to get it.

Training Week: July 23 - July 29

Monday6 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday8 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday6 miles
Saturday13 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total45 miles

I'm really pleased to see many friends, relatives, and others taking up running lately. Many have contacted me to let me know they've recently started. Some keep me informed when they reach their goals, and others ask me for advice on how to start.

Often, these new runners seem intimidated because they can't make it 3 or more miles when they first begin. When I decided to start running again 4 years ago, I couldn't run a half mile without stopping. My goal at the time was to make it 3 miles.

But it took me a long time to get to where I could run that 3 miles without stopping. When your goal is so far from your ability, it's easy to get a defeatist attitude. In fact, that's the easiest time to give up, when what you hope to accomplish seems impossible.

And to most people, it becomes impossible because they let that daunting task discourage them. They give up without ever getting close.

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" -- Matthew 19:26

But if you can remember this verse, when Jesus said that nothing is impossible with God, you can persevere. Notice, it doesn't say everything's easy with God. Getting from a half mile to three miles to six miles to ten to 13 to 26 and beyond is never going to be easy. Not for most of us. But neither is it impossible...if you trust Jesus.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." -- Colossians 3:17

I believe this part's important also. Turn your running over to God, do it for the glory and honor of Jesus Christ, and give thanks for every step, every breath, every mile.

When I started running again, I ignored this part. I was running for me and my own vanity. I didn't pray about it. I didn't look for my running to benefit anyone but myself. Plain and simple.

It wasn't long though, before I began to feel a pull, hear a voice, a voice that was telling me I needed to run for a higher purpose. It was the voice of God telling me that if I was going to run, it needed to be for Him and His glory.

I ignored it at first. Or tried to. I thought it was my imagination, and besides, I had no idea how to honor Him through my running. But the voice persisted.

After a long period with little improvement in my running and a couple of injuries not long before big races, I realized God wouldn't be ignored. He was speaking to me and I needed to listen.

I realized it wasn't about me and I couldn't keep running without His blessing.

"But he [Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." -- 2 Corinthians 12:9

Since I truly turned my running over to Him, I've seen improvement that I couldn't imagine earlier. I've run faster and farther than ever seemed possible before. My weakness was His launch pad to use me.

The marathons, the PRs, the training successes, none of them are a result of my efforts, but His grace and mercy. So if you want to run, the best piece of advice I can offer is to do it for the Lord.

It won't make it easy, but He can accomplish great things through you if you let Him.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.