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

Monday, February 27, 2012

Training Week: 2/20--2/26

Only 6 days now until the Little Rock Marathon!

This past week began my two-week taper for the upcoming race. I cut back from 40 miles per week to 35 and this week I'll only run 20 before race day on Sunday. It's kind of hard cutting back on the mileage. Your body gets accustomed to pushing itself and begins to crave it after a while. I almost feel guilty for not keeping up the higher mileage.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."--Matthew 11:28

But the point of the taper is to rest up for the big day, to allow the body to heal itself of the damage done over months of harder training. It's supposed to put me in the best possible position to have a good race next Sunday. We'll soon find out I guess.

Training Week: Feb 20 - Feb 26

Monday4 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday5 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday4 miles
Saturday10 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total35 miles

As the last days tick off before my second marathon, I'd like to offer up a big thank you to our shoe sponsor, New Balance, Inc. NB began providing us shoes not long after we began this ministry and has been a faithful sponsor since. Their willingness to provide us shoes saves us over $1000 per year and makes it possible for us to enter more races and reach more people with our message. We are so very grateful that New Balance, a large multi-national corporation, is willing to assist a small and young ministry such as ours.

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

I give credit for getting this far to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When I don't feel like getting out of bed in the morning to train, it's Christ that motivates me. It's Him that reminds me this ministry isn't about me or my comfort. He tasked me with this ministry to help me survive the loss of Amanda.

Now, when I feel like it or when I don't, it's my responsibility to Him and to all those who follow us to get out there and run, to keep going regardless how I feel or what the weather's like or how late I stayed up the night before. He saved me from eternal damnation and from a certain living Hell on earth after Amanda died.

I hope and pray each day that I can stay focused on doing His will, striving to glorify Him, and working to show others there is hope through Christ in even the most hopeless-seeming situations. I can most certainly do all things through Him!

"I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."--John 11:42

When we first began this ministry, I made a picture of me running the 2010 Soaring Wings Half Marathon embedded in a larger picture of Amanda. The other day, someone pointed out my bib number in that picture was 413. I had never noticed it until they pointed it out, and I couldn't help but wonder if God had arranged it that way, knowing the day would come when I would post that picture as the profile picture for this ministry.

It seemed too difficult to believe it was simply coincidence, that my bib in that picture bore the number of our ministry's signature Bible verse, Philippians 4:13. It made me wonder if there would be any significance to my bib number in the upcoming marathon.

According to my registration confirmation, my bib number at Little Rock will be 1142. Also, at Little Rock your first name is placed on the bib. So my race bib will read John 1142. So I looked up the verse, John 11:42. Lo and behold, the verse above is what awaited me.

Some may call it coincidence, but I believe it's more. I believe Christ has tasked me with spreading the story of the Good News promised us through His grace and mercy. I believe He wants to use me to show others that He offers hope to the hopeless, love to the hated, healing to those who are sick, and rest to the weary.

I hope and pray that God will use me to reach those who are lost and to encourage those who want to quit. All things really are possible through Him. All things.



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, February 26, 2012

One Week 'til Marathon #2

"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

That's when I'll be running the Little Rock Marathon.

It was just about a year ago that I committed to running the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon, my first 26.2 mile race. I was still young in the throes of grief after Amanda's death the previous month. It was a challenge by my friend Jesse, who came to help out the week after Amanda was killed, that motivated me to register for the MCM.

Until that time, I had repeatedly said I would never run a full marathon. I'd run two half marathons in 2010 and they seemed to give me all the challenge I wanted. After both those 13.1 mile races, I hurt and cramped so bad that I rolled around in the grass for an hour or so before I could even think about driving home. I'd finished them, but at the end I was feeling bad enough that a full marathon seemed out of the question.

But when Amanda was murdered, a lot of people came to help us through the first few days. Two of my old friends, Jesse and Pat, from the Marine Corps dropped everything and crossed the country to help us through the first week. Jesse had started to get back into running and challenged me to run the MCM in the fall.

"If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up."--Ecclesiastes 4:10

I'm pretty certain now that God led him to issue that challenge because I eventually accepted it, and it became a huge part of what got me through the first year after we lost Amanda. The training, the sweat, the pain, and finally the sense of accomplishment that was all a part of preparing for and completing that first marathon, all of that helped me survive the pain of losing my daughter.

Once I crossed the finish line at MCM, actually starting about mile 21 of the race, I told myself never again. Never again would I run a full marathon. Someone asked me what it was like and I told them it was a huge sense of accomplishment accompanied by severe pain and discomfort. Immediately after the race I was certain I'd never run another.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."--Romans 12:2

But I made it back to the hotel, took a hot shower, and slept for about 3 hours. When I awoke, my wife and Courtney were gone and I had an irresistible urge to find another marathon. I moved from the bed to the computer and was registered for Little Rock in just a few minutes.

Now here we are, four months later, one week from marathon #2. God has blessed me with a four month training period unmarred by injury. Throughout these four months He has convinced me this is His will for me, to run and grow this ministry. I won't be setting any records or winning any prizes at Sunday's race, but that's not what I'm there for.

"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 hope and pray that others see God working through me on Sunday. He is the only reason I can train and run. He is the only reason I can keep going after losing Amanda. He is the source of everything good in my life and I hope and pray that He is glorified through my effort on Sunday.

One week until the Little Rock Marathon. I feel blessed and ready. Thank you Jesus for bringing me to this point. I know You will carry me the rest of the way.



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, February 21, 2012

Training Week: 2/13--2/19

Only 12 days now until the Little Rock Marathon!

On Saturday I ran my last 20 mile long run and have now begun the taper, the phase of marathon training where you drastically reduce the intensity of training to give your body time to heal and rest before the big day.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."--Matthew 11:28

I started this week out with a four mile run. Other than a 5K race, I can't even remember the last time I did just a four mile run! The minimum for my daily training runs has been five miles for as long as I can remember.

For the last several weeks I've been averaging 40 miles per week. This week I'm planning to cut that back to 35. I'll have 25 miles in by the time the weekend arrives and will pick up the other 10 on Saturday. Then it's into the final week before March 4th.

Training Week: Feb 13 - Feb 19

Monday5 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday5 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday5 miles
Saturday20 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total47 miles

Now that the hardest part of the training is done, it's time to set goals for the race. A friend asked the other day what goals I had for Little Rock. I told him, "Under 5 hours I'll be satisfied. Under 4:45 I'll be happy."

Both of those are a long way from the 5:22 I ran in October, but I don't think I'm being too confident. My training has gone extremely well since then and I've learned a lot. I've run five training runs of 20+ miles over the past four months, including almost all of the actual race course.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. "--Romans 12:2

So I've decided to start with the 4:40 pace group. That's about a 10:41 minute mile pace and I think it's achievable. The last half marathon I ran in a 9:10 pace and the 15K earlier this month was a 9:12 pace. So I'm thinking I should still be feeling really good at the halfway point if I maintain the 10:41 pace. When I get there, I'll have a decision to make.

My plan is to evaluate how I'm feeling at the halfway point. That's when I'll decide whether to stay with the pace group, speed up, or slow down. If things are going really well, I may pick up the pace once past the State Capitol to try and shave a few minutes off the finish time. If it feels like I can't push any harder and still finish the race, I'll choose to stick with the pace group to the end. And if things are looking bleak, I'll let the pace group go on and try to find a pace I can finish with.

Whatever God's will is for me in this race, He will reveal it to me. Of that, I am certain. If a 4:40 finish is His will, it will happen. If He needs me to run it faster or slower, He will reveal that. I just need to be patient to find His "good, pleasing, and perfect will."

"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

It's my fervent hope that regardless what the clock says when I cross that finish line, God will be glorified. I pray that He will use me to reach others, that some might come to know Him who wouldn't otherwise. I am so grateful that Jesus Christ has continued to strengthen me and to motivate me over these past four months. There is no way I'd be where I am now without 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.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Two Weeks 'til Little Rock Marathon!

That's all. Just two weeks before I run my second marathon and Janice runs her first 10K!

When I crossed the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon, running another was the farthest thing from my mind. I was tired, stiff, sore, and completely and totally drained. I went back to the hotel, showered and climbed into the bed. After about a three hour nap, I was still tired and sore, but the next marathon was dominating my thoughts. What I did right, what I did wrong, what I would do different, and which would be my next one were the thoughts racing through my mind. I moved from the bed to the computer and it didn't take long before I was entering my credit card information to enter the 2012 Little Rock Marathon.

"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

Now here I am, almost four months later. I've pretty much been training ever since MCM. I've logged 462 miles since then, and will log another 70 or so by the time I cross the finish line in Little Rock. Included in all those miles are five runs of 20 miles or more.

I had only done two 20 mile training runs before MCM, and learned the hard way that wasn't enough when I crashed hard after mile 20 in that first marathon. So I decided to do at least one 20 miler per month when I trained for Little Rock. The first came at a charity event only two weeks after MCM. It was 20 miles on a high school track, and the hardest of all my long runs by far. Something about running around that little loop makes 20 seem much longer than it really is.

My next 20 miler came on December the 17th, my late grandmother's birthday, and a fitting tribute I think to honor her memory. She desperately loved Amanda and I can imagine they were sitting together on a cloud watching me make the miles.

I did my January 20 miler on the 14th. That morning when I woke, I had a text that a dear friend from high school, a teammate on the football team, had passed away in the night. That long run I dedicated to my good friend and teammate, Vance "Pig" Dotson. The last time I had seen him was in my living room after Amanda's funeral, almost a year earlier. He was a really great guy and God got a great angel that day.

Two weeks later, on January 28, a friend and member of the Cabot Country Cruisers had a 22 mile run planned, on the Little Rock Marathon course. Several Cruisers were going, including many that I run with regularly. That was really awesome, to actually run the biggest part of the actual course. More than all the others, I feel like this was the most important run of the entire training period. After it, I feel that nothing can surprise me about the course, and that makes me feel prepared.

Finally, yesterday, I ran my last really long run before the race, 20 miles in Cabot. I started at 5 AM and ran the first 10 alone. I was doing 5 mile loops from the parking lot of a local elementary school. After the first two loops, other Cruisers showed up to join me. Together, we got through the next 10 miles and I finally had my last long run in the bank.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." -- Matthew 11:28

Now it's time to taper! Two relatively easy running weeks to prepare the body to endure the strain of 26.2 miles in a 4 to 5 hour (hopefully) stretch. I'd have never reached this point alone. I have many to thank for helping me get here.

The fact that I can run at all, let along 20+ miles at one time, is nothing less than a blessing from God. It's Jesus Christ I thank for giving me the ability, motivation, dedication, and direction to accept the challenge of marathon running.

I couldn't meet the time demands to train for a marathon without a loving, supportive family. I am so grateful to my wife and daughter, Janice and Courtney, for being patient and understanding of the time and effort I have devoted to achieve this goal. They are the best family any man could ever hope for.

"If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." -- Ecclesiastes 4:10

My friends in the Cabot Country Cruisers have helped me more than I could have imagined. It was these ladies and gentlemen who helped to push me and motivate me to make it through the long runs last summer, when 15 miles seemed impossible in the searing heat and suffocating humidity. They got me to the MCM and they have continued to be there through these past four months. There's little doubt that I would have probably quit before finishing some of those long runs mentioned above if it hadn't been for these friends pushing and encouraging me. I'm proud and grateful to be a member of the Cabot Country Cruisers!

I'm grateful too for all those who read this blog, who follow us on Facebook, and who donate to the charities we support in Amanda's name. I can't tell you how much of a motivating factor it is to know there are people from across the country, and even the world, who are standing behind us on this journey. Your support and your donations are an invaluable part of our ministry. We couldn't do it without you and I want to thank every single one of you!

At Little Rock, and every time I race from now on, I'll be wearing pictures of young people whose deaths were in some way a result of teen substance abuse. So far, I have 8 pictures other than Amanda's. It's my hope that people will see them and ask about them, giving me the opportunity to tell them how important it is that our kids avoid drugs and alcohol.

"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

God has blessed me with the ability to run and honor Amanda's memory, but with it comes a responsibility. Without His grace, without the knowledge that I will one day be reunited with Amanda in Heaven, I couldn't run marathons, or run at all. I honestly don't believe I could have gone on after her murder. It's my responsibility to tell our story so that others can find that saving grace that makes all things possible through Jesus Christ.

"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." -- 1 Peter 5:8

It's also my responsibility to try to prevent other senseless deaths due to teen substance abuse. Amanda died at the hands of a man who was so stoned and drunk that he pointed a gun at her and fired! I believe with everything in me she would still be alive if that 19-year-old man would have been sober. Some of the pictures I'll wear are of kids who died in drunk driving accidents, one was shot like Amanda at a party, and several overdosed on drugs.

Teen drinking and drug abuse isn't just a phase to grow out of or to pass through. It's dangerous, and too often deadly. Please talk to your kids and everyone else to warn them of the dangers.

At the Little Rock Marathon, we'll be racing to raise awareness of the dangers of teen substance abuse, to tell people how the saving grace of Jesus Christ saves us and strengthens us and keeps us going, to raise money for charities that save kids' lives, and to honor the memory of Amanda Marie Allison! Look for us in our new blue long sleeve Running with Amanda shirts.

Hope to see you there!



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, February 13, 2012

Real Dangers of Synthetic Weed

All of a sudden, seemingly from out of nowhere, there's a brand new drug epidemic sweeping through our schools. Kids who don't use drugs have told me that up to 70% of students are now using what they call "legal" marijuana.

This stuff isn't legal because it's safe. It's legal because the authorities can't keep up with the low-life manufacturers of this garbage to poison our kids! Every time a chemical used to make the drug is outlawed, these scumbags tweak the formula by using a different chemical to produce the toxic high.

Sold as "incense" in gas stations, grocery, and tobacco stores, the product is sometimes labeled "not for human consumption." But that's exactly what it's intended for, and exactly what it's used for.

Often touted as safe by unwary teens who think it must be since it's legal, it's anything but. A 13-year-old Pennsylvania boy died after smoking this toxin. The chemicals he inhaled so damaged his lungs he had to have a double lung transplant. The transplant failed and he died, a victim of "legal" pot. In the summer of 2010, an 18-year-old Iowa resident suffered a panic attack and killed himself after smoking this stuff. Last summer, an Illinois teen crashed his car into a house and died only minutes after a panicked call to his brother to tell him he smoked the "legal" pot.

THIS "LEGAL" MARIJUANA KILLS!

Smoking this crap puts who knows what into your system. It's made by drying plants and herbs then spraying them "with a potent psychotropic drug and likely contaminated with an unknown toxic substance that is causing many adverse effects,"1 according to Anthony Scalzo, M.D., professor of toxicology at Saint Louis University and director at the Missouri Regional Poison Control Center.

Several states have tried to make this poison illegal, but manufacturers have figured out how to outmaneuver them at every turn thus far. Not listed on the package are the chemical ingredients used to produce the high kids are seeking. "This is a very dangerous product. It’s totally uncontrolled. We don’t know what they’re putting in, in what concentrations,"2 says Chip Walls, a forensic toxicologist at the University of Miami. Walls ran tests on a synthetic weed product purchased by a Miami television station and found powerful, but legal, chemicals. Legal doesn't imply safe though. "These chemicals are dangerous. They’re leading to hospitalizations. There have been deaths. People have committed suicide after the use of this drug," he said.

Think because your kid recently passed a drug test that you're safe? Not so fast. Synthetic weed doesn't show up on an ordinary urinalysis. In fact, the test to detect the chemicals in the poison is extremely expensive.3 The high cost to detect the substance would bust the budget of many organizations who routinely conduct drug tests, so they test a smaller sample of their population or simply stick with the less affordable, now-ineffective test.

This stuff is out there, readily available to our kids, and people are selling it to them like it's as harmless as candy. But it's not harmless at all! Do the following side effects4 look harmless?

  • Hyperventilation
  • Heart attack
  • Hallucinations
  • Tics- involuntary movements
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • High rates of addiction similar to meth, cocaine, and opiates
  • Prolonged headaches/migraines lasting for days after consumption
  • Severe paranoia leading to brash or malicious acts
  • Increased heart rate
  • Physical addiction, heroin-like withdraw symptoms
  • Bloody nose
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Death

If you're a kid, don't fall prey to the vultures trying to sway you to use this garbage! Don't be the next victim of this plague!

The danger of this stuff is real folks! It's out there, it's available, and it's right under our noses. Talk to your kids now, before it's too late. Look for the symptoms and warning signs. INTERVENE if you suspect they're using this garbage!

Don't sit back and wait to see if your son or daughter will be synthetic, "legal" weed's next victim!



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, February 12, 2012

Training Week: 2/6--2/12

The Little Rock Marathon is now only 21 days away! 3 weeks!

I had a great week training, but fell a little short on my mileage. That's because we ran the Valentine's Day 5K in Russellville, Arkansas yesterday. my plan was to run it in the morning, then do another seven miles in the afternoon. The planned seven never materialized though, but it's okay.

I was a little ahead of my planned average already because of a 42 mile week not long ago. I gave it everything I had at the race, making a new PR and beating my previous best by a minute and four seconds. The cold and wind (it was 220 with 10-15 mph winds at the race) took its toll on my too. By the time we made the hour and a half drive home, I was worn out.

The thought even crossed my head to run the lost seven miles this morning, but I thought better of that too. It might have been the cold that convinced me not to bundle up and run. It's 210 outside this morning. But I don't think so. What worried me more was the thought of not taking my day of rest.

"13 'If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14 then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.' For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."--Isaiah 58:13-14

I haven't run on Sunday in a very long time, except for races. I just feel like that's something God wants me to steer clear of, to focus on Him and my family on Sunday. He taught me two hard lessons a couple of years ago with injuries when I wasn't following His will with my running. I don't think it would be a good idea to abandon His will again.

And then He always makes a way to get things back on track. Remember, my goal is to average 40 miles per week. Right now, for the past three weeks, I'm about 5 miles behind that goal. But next week is my last planned 20 mile run before it will be time to taper. With five good five mile runs during the week and a 20 miler on Saturday, I'll be right back on track!

God really is great and He definitely watches over me!

Training Week: Feb 6 - Feb 12

Monday6 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday6 miles
Saturday3.1 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total33.1 miles

God gave me the strength to make a PR at the race yesterday too! I have so much to be grateful for. I finished the 5K in 24:24.86, a minute and four seconds faster than my previous best! His blessings are abundant and amazing!

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

I continue to feel great in the final weeks as the Little Rock Marathon approaches. God has kept me on track and injury free for these past several months. Since the Marine Corps Marathon in October, He has given me PRs in the 10K, the Half Marathon, the 15K, and now the 5K. I'm looking forward to next month because it should yield two more, in the marathon and the 2 mile distance.

"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

Only God can make all that possible. I tried for two years to improve my running without Him, without running for Him. Every race was a struggle then and injuries nagged over and over, interrupting my training and wreaking havoc on my performance. It's amazing the difference it makes to hand over even something like running to Jesus Christ, to let Him guide you through the races and the training, and to run in His name, for His glory.

There's a role for everyone in His story, a role for you and all you impact. If you haven't found that role, especially if you don't have the peace of knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, keep reading and follow the link below. He waits for you with open arms, hoping you will come and take His gift of grace and mercy. He'll reveal His will for you and you'll know real peace.

I'm so grateful that Jesus gave me direction, that I have Him to follow. I hope and pray that everyone reading this has that peace or will have it soon.

God bless you all. Happy training until 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.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Valentine's Day 5K Race Recap

God is so great!

A couple of years ago, Janice and I were getting ready to run a race in Little Rock. My mother asked me what time I was shooting for. I told her I hoped to run it in less than 25 minutes. Well, I didn't come close. In fact, I hadn't come close to breaking 25 in all the 5Ks I've done since then. Until today!

That's right. Today God blessed me with a great run and my best 5K time ever. I finished the 3.1 miles in 24:24.86!

The course was on the paved trails of the Bona Dea Wildlife Sanctuary in Russellville, Arkansas. To ease crowding on the course, the start was broken into four separate divisions that began 30 minutes apart. Male masters (men 40 and over) began at 9:00 am, female masters at 9:30, female open (39 and under) at 10:00 and male open at 10:30.

We arrived about an hour and a half early because I can't stand to push things to the last minute. Especially when we're racing a good distance from home, I like to leave early enough so that if something goes wrong, we have time to deal with it.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."--John 16:33

The temperature was hovering at a miserable 220 when we pulled into the parking lot and a stiff wind made that feel even worse. I left Janice in the Blazer and went to pick up our chip and t-shirts. I was freezing by the time I climbed back into the vehicle to get ready.

The finish line was only a few yards from the trailhead and close to the parking lot. But the starting line was out of sight down the trail. As 9:00 am approached, I fell in with others heading down the trail toward the start. I'm not sure exactly how far it was, but somewhere around a quarter of a mile is my guess.

By the time I reached the starting line, I was questioning my sanity as the cold chilled me to the bone. I hopped, stretched, and moved just about every way I could to try to warm up a little while waiting for the official start. Nothing worked. It was just too cold!

When the horn sounded, we were off on the narrow trail. It was only then that I fully understood the need for the staggered start. There were only 80 or so of us older men in this first wave of runners, but the trail would definitely have been overcrowded at the start if we'd taken off with the other runners.

Thankfully, there was plenty of room and little congestion. I can't tell you exactly how fast I took off because my Garmin just came back this afternoon (after the race!) But I can tell you I poured it on at the start, not wanting to get caught up in traffic. There were still plenty ahead of me, but also plenty behind.

After a quarter mile or so I backed down a bit. I paced myself with with a guy that kept a few steps ahead of me through the first mile. Not sure how fast we were running, but it was a pace that was difficult but manageable to maintain. Just past the one mile mark I passed him for a little while, but that didn't last long.

It was only 100 yards or so after I passed him that he came by me again and I trailed a few yards behind him again until about mile 2. By then, the pace was wearing on me. Several times I thought about stopping for a few seconds to walk and catch my breath. Actually, I was longing for a water stop so I could walk a few steps to drink.

"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

But there really wasn't a need for a water stop on such a cold, short race. I never got my excuse to stop and walk, so I just kept running. After mile two, though, my pace began to fall. The man I'd been using for a pacer began to pull slowly away. By the time I reached the three mile mark, I was only catching glimpses of him on the twisting trails.

The last tenth of a mile came a little easier, especially when I got close enough to see the clock hadn't yet reached 24 minutes. I knew then I was going to break 25 and found a little wind. Holding a good pace through the chute and across the finish line, I crossed at 24:24.86, a 7:52 pace per mile!

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

There is no doubt in my mind, not even one little bit, that God gave me the strength to push through and improve my time. I tried too many times, for far too long, to do it on my own and failed to get the results I sought. He is showing me daily that I really can do anything if I do His will to glorify Him. Jesus will give you the strength you never thought you had and carry you through more than you ever thought you could endure!

Thank you Jesus for everything you've done for me today, and every day!



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, February 10, 2012

If Drugs and Alcohol Would Speak the Truth

When Amanda was killed last year, I learned first hand just how dangerous teen substance abuse really is. Before that, I accepted it as a phase kids go through. I never really put much effort into trying to convince kids to stay away from drugs and alcohol because I didn't believe I could make a difference.

Now I realize I have to try! Even if I don't make a difference, or even if the impact is minimal, I have to try. Too many others don't recognize the dangers, to many don't believe it could happen to them.

Today I heard some awful news that really got me down. It started me thinking about how different lives would be for so many people if they never took that first drink as a kid, if they never smoked that first joint, or popped that first pill.

I come in many forms,
As solids, liquids, gas.
I give momentary pleasure
That never, ever lasts.

It's escape I offer,
From the pain you know today.
I promise you I'll take it
So very far away.

That's why people fall
For my promises and charm.
That is why so often
They don't foresee the harm.

The momentary bliss obscures
What so obvious should be.
With all the pain I've caused
Still they cannot see.

For the temporary high
That all my victims sought,
Their very hearts and souls
Are what my trading bought.

It was pleasure that I promised,
And that's what they got at first.
But their bubble of illusions
Took not so long to burst.

Everything I could I took--
Their husbands and their wives.
In many cases I took all,
In some their very lives.

Still, with all the harm I've done,
All the damage that I've caused,
They stand in line to have me,
Regardless what I'll cost.

I'm the drink, the plant, the pill,
That offers brief respite.
I'll take away your pain today,
And tomorrow I'll take your life.

The real problem with drugs and alcohol is they don't fix anything. When the high wears off, when you sober up, everything you were trying to escape from is still there. In fact, drinking and using drugs is more likely to create MORE problems. So when you come back to reality from your chemically-induced stupor, you'll have even more to escape from!

Parents, please talk to your kids about the dangers of teen substance abuse! Kids, please talk to your friends about the dangers! Don't make the mistake of standing back until it's too late. Intervene now and save a life!



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, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Day 5K This Weekend

I said before we'll be making up for not racing in January, and here goes! Last weekend I ran the River Trail 15K in North Little Rock. This weekend, Janice and I will be running the Valentine's Day 5K in Russellville, AR.

This race is run on the trails of the Bona Dea Wildlife Sanctuary. The trails are paved and the race is included in the Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix Series. To avoid overcrowding on the course, organizers have arranged a staggered start with Male Masters starting at 9:00 AM, Female Masters at 9:30, Females under 40 at 10:00, and Males under 40 at 10:30.

Another difference in this and the other races we usually do is the "Sweetheart Competition." Times of couples who registered as sweethearts will be added together to compete against other couples in two divisions, married and unmarried. Placement and awards for the sweetheart division do not affect those who also place in the overall and individual age groups.

"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 12:2

So far I have seven pictures of victims of teen substance abuse to wear at the Little Rock Marathon next month. I'm hoping to get many more, but I think I'll go ahead and wear these seven plus Amanda's in Russellville this weekend. The pictures should generate some questions and hopefully will be our first of many, many steps to generate awareness of the dangers drugs and alcohol pose to teens.



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, February 5, 2012

Training Week: 1/30--2/5

The Little Rock Marathon is now only 28 days away! 4 weeks!

This was the first week of six-day-a-week running with a goal to average 40 miles per week. I managed to get in all the runs and all the miles!

Saturday was my first run of the Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix Series, the River Trail 15K in North Little Rock. It was my first ever 15K race and I'm satisfied with the results, even though I didn't make the time goal I'd set for myself.

I ran six miles each day, Monday thru Friday, one morning with temps near 60, another in the low 30s, and one day did the whole six miles in the rain. So it was a very varied week as far as weather went.

That left me 10 miles short of my weekly goal on Saturday with a 9.3 mile race on the schedule. So, before the race, I warmed up with an easy run that more than covered the 7/10 I would be short. (Of course I'm estimating the mileage because I sent my Garmin off to be replaced this week.)

Training Week: Jan 23 - Jan 29

Monday6 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday6 miles
Saturday10 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total40 miles

I've often seen a lot of people out running before races to warm up, but I don't really think the practice is for me. Usually, Janice and I walk a bit to get loose, but I've never run before a race until Saturday. Most likely, I won't be doing it again.

I always stretch before a race, but that doesn't get the legs really good and loose. It usually takes the first mile or two in a race to get really warmed up. But, because I was already loose at the start Saturday, I stepped off way too fast. At the two mile mark I heard a guy tell another they were averaging an 8:03 pace per mile, way faster than my target of 9:00!

So I burned out way too early. After four miles my pace dropped precipitously. I even stopped to walk for a few seconds at the 9 mile mark, with just 3/10 of a mile to go!

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

Jesus kept me going, even after I had exhausted myself. He's the only reason I was able to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It really is true, "I can do ALL things through Christ" because He gives me strength when there's no reason to be strong, when all I want to do is quit, when it seems like going on is impossible.

"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've started collecting pictures of victims of teen substance abuse this week. Already, seven people have sent me photos of their kids who were killed in various ways due to substance abuse. My plan is to laminate these photos and wear them pinned to my shirt when I run the LR Marathon next month. This plague on our society is costing us too much in human life and lost potential.

Several people have sent me pictures of their children who died as late as their late 20s due to addictions that started in their teen years. This was a dimension of teen substance abuse that I hadn't previously tied to our efforts here. These are deaths that many see, but nobody ties them to the addictions that began when they were still kids.

There's so much work to do. If you know anyone who lost a loved one to teen substance abuse, whose death was in ANY way tied to teen substance abuse, please let them know what we're doing here. If they are willing to let me, I'll wear a picture of their loved one to help raise awareness of the dangers. Hopefully, we can save someone's life down the road.



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, February 4, 2012

River Trail 15K Race Recap

Last night when I went to bed, I was wondering what the weather would be like for the race this morning. Rain and storms when my head hit the pillow threatened to last into the day today. Facebook posts from many last night proved that many were wondering if we'd even run the race.

"He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm."--Mark 4:39

But God took care of us this morning. I first checked the weather about 6 am, three hours before the start of the race. The hourly forecast on The Weather Channel website predicted the rain would be long gone by then. TWC even predicted clear skies for the race start.

The clear skies never materialized, but the rain did stay away. I like to be early, so I arrived at the event around 7:30. After picking up my packet and fastening my timing chip in place, a steady drizzle had set in and it felt a little chilly. This in spite of the temperature hovering in the mid-50s. I decided to warm up a little.

After a bit of stretching, I took off and jogged easy for a mile or so to get the legs warm and loose. Several friends had arrived by then and we were able to socialize for a while before the 9 AM start.

By the time the race started, the drizzle had ceased and I was feeling really good.

You might recall that my Garmin quit working last month and I just sent it in to be replaced this week. So I was Garmin-less today. That and the fact that I was a little overconfident after my sub-two hour performance in December's Fayetteville Half Marathon pushed me out of the gate a little too fast.

Or, maybe, a lot too fast!

I was hoping to average 9:00 minutes per mile when I headed to North Little Rock this morning. In Fayetteville I'd averaged 9:10 for 13 miles, so I didn't think dropping 10 seconds per mile for 9.3 would be too hard. And it probably wouldn't have if I'd have started at the 9:00 minute pace.

Since I didn't have a watch to keep track of my pace, I decided to go with what felt good. It turned out, what felt good at first wasn't going to feel good very long. At about the two mile mark I was running close to to guys who were obviously together. One of them told the other they were averaging an 8:03 pace.

That's a long way from 9:00 and it was way too fast for me on a 9.3 mile race. Between miles 3 and 4 I had to make a pit stop and, when I got back on the course, things were no longer the same. That was when I realized I'd been pushing way too hard. My legs resisted when I tried to bring them back to my previous pace.

It seemed like a very long time before I reached the 4 mile mark and I stopped and walked a couple of times before reaching mile 5. I had pushed too hard, too fast, too early and was now paying the price.

After the water stop at mile 6, I never could get things going well again. I was pretty much spent and it became a run-walk deal after that, with an increasing number of walk periods as the course wore on.

I don't know what kind of pace I was holding by the final mile, but it had to be slow. I was worried I might not even finish at a 10 minute pace by then. But, when I came in sight of the finish line I was relieved. Before I could clearly read the clock, I could make out that it hadn't yet ticked to 1:30!

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."--John 16:33

I made it across the line at 1:25:44.3, averaging a 9:12 pace for the 9.3 miles. It wasn't what I'd hoped for, but on reflection I was pretty happy with it.

It was 20 degrees cooler with practically no humidity when we ran in Fayetteville a couple of months ago. I was also only running 30 miles per week in December. This month, the last before my next marathon, I had already run 30 miles this week through yesterday. So taking those factors into consideration, I'd say today was a pretty good run.

Also had the pleasure of meeting a woman who follows us on Facebook. A couple of other people asked me about Running with Amanda, giving me the opportunity to spread our message of faith, hope, and the dangers of teen substance abuse.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."--Romans 8:28

All-in-all it was a great day, and a great way to start the 2012 racing season. We're looking forward to a great season as God continues to work in 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.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

If you lost a loved one to teen substance abuse...

...please help me raise awareness of the dangers of kids abusing alcohol and drugs.

We're just barely over a month away from our next big race--the Little Rock Marathon--and things are looking great. God has blessed me with a fantastic, injury-free training period so far. I'm really looking forward to the race.

"So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:6

Most of you know that part of our mission is to raise awareness of the dangers of teen substance abuse. I believe that Jesus has planted an idea in my head that will help me do a lot better job of that when I race. At Little Rock, I'm going to wear a laminated photo of Amanda pinned to my race shirt.

You might be thinking, "One photo of Amanda may catch a few eyes, but won't draw a lot of attention." I'm thinking the same thing. That's why I'd like to have more pictures, more pictures of more victims of teen substance abuse, to wear pinned to my shirt when I run on March 4th.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship." -- Romans 12:1

If you have lost a child or any family member to teen alcohol or drug abuse, and want to help warn others of the danger, I'm asking for your help. If you send me their pictures, I'll print them, have them laminated, and pin them to my shirt on race day. One picture of my beautiful daughter may catch an eye or two, might even make someone stop and ask about her, but if I had dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of pictures of victims hanging off my shirt at the race, people will notice!

Please help us raise awareness of the dangers of teen alcohol and drug abuse. If your child or family member died at the hands of a drunken or stoned underage individual like Amanda did, I'd like to wear their picture when I race. If your young son, daughter, brother, or sister committed suicide because of alcohol or drug abuse, I'd like to wear their picture. If your friend or family member was killed, intentionally or accidentally, by a kid under the influence of drugs or alcohol, I'd like to wear their picture.

Before Amanda was killed, I was completely unaware that more than 5000 young people die each year as a result of underage drinking. That's just from kids abusing alcohol! It doesn't include those who die as a result of other drug use. Too many others are also unaware, and will remain unaware, unless we do something about it!

So please, if you've lost someone to teen substance abuse, directly or indirectly, please consider letting me wear their picture when I race. God gave me a mission after Amanda was killed, a mission that includes working to save others from falling prey to this dreaded plague of teen alcohol and drug abuse.

When you send your pictures, please include their name, date of birth, and date of death. If you would like your story shared on this site, please include details you would like others to hear. Many continue to believe that teen drinking and drug abuse is a rite of passage, a phase they will grow out of. Too many of us know that, for some, they never get the opportunity to grow out of it.

Please help me spread the word. Help me warn others. Help save lives of future victims of teen substance abuse. Share a picture of your family member who died because of teen drug or alcohol abuse. I'll laminate and wear that picture when I race and together we will help save others!

You can send your pictures as an attachment in email to runwithamanda@hotmail.com or you can post them to our Facebook page and I will download them from there.

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

We can't bring our kids back, but we can see to it they don't die in vain. May God grant you all peace and strength in your journey of grief.



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, February 1, 2012

RWA Races in February

You might have noticed that we didn't run any races in January this year, but we're going to make up for that. The simple fact is, there just aren't a lot of races in this area to choose from during the first month of the year. Last year we ran in Danville, but that race was in the morning and Amanda was killed that night. I don't think we'll be running that one again. It wasn't a bad race, just one that brings back some really tough emotions.

So we're running two races in February to make up for not running in January. This Saturday, I'll be running the River Trail 15K in North Little Rock. This race is part of the Arkansas Road Runners Clubs of America's Grand Prix Series. It's also going to be my first 15K race so I'm guaranteed a PR (personal record) for the distance!

The following weekend, February 11th, Janice and I will both be running the Valentine's Day 5K in Russellville, AR. This race will take place on the trails of the Bona Dea Wildlife Sanctuary and is also part of the ARRCA Grand Prix Series.

We might not have run any races in January, but our racing season begins in earnest this weekend. Two races this month, then another two scheduled for next month, then we'll see what the future holds after that.

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

God is so great! It's only by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ that we're able to keep running and racing.



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.