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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

What's in a name?

A little girl turned one year old today. Her name is Britlee Marie. She and her parents are very, very special to me. At her birthday party today, the idea for this poem came to me in the hopes that one day she'll read it and understand just how much she and her parents mean to me.


Beautiful little Britlee,
You turned one year old today.
When we first saw you in the hospital,
Doesn't seem that far away.

Words are insufficient,
To describe what you mean to me.
But I'll try my very best,
So when you're older you can read.

The middle name you carry
Isn't what it should have been.
A couple months before your birth
It was to be another then.

But your mother changed it on the spot
When she got the news that day,
That her friend, my oldest daughter,
Amanda Marie Allison had passed away.

Your middle name was changed
The instant that she heard,
That's why it's now Marie,
After my dear sweet oldest girl.

Right from the very start,
When I heard that night,
My biggest fear has been
That her memory too will die.

But your very special parents
Made sure that's not to be,
Because they made your middle name
The same as hers, Marie.

I am so very thankful
To see you laugh and play.
For though my girl's in heaven,
She lives on through your name.

I thank God that I am so blessed to teach in such a wonderful community with students like Britlee's mom and dad. I have no doubt that Jesus led me here.

Thank you Courtney, Dalton, and Britlee. There are no words adequate to tell you how much it means for me to see this beautiful little girl carry Amanda's middle name. May God always bless you all.



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, March 25, 2012

The Heat is On!

That's what it felt like today anyway!

Yesterday was the Cabot Country Cruisers' annual race here in town, the Spring Fling 5K. We didn't run it, instead serving as "chip clippers" at the finish line. Janice, Courtney, her cousin, and I were the ones sitting on buckets at the finish line cutting the timing chips off everyone's shoes. It was really a pretty neat experience, getting to congratulate and talk to all the runners as they finished. It was my first time ever to see the winners come across the finish line, because I wasn't running.

Since I wasn't running it, I ran the 3 miles from home to the starting line to get there. Another Cruiser friend, Brenda, had told me she was running 10-12 after the race and invited me to join. I figured the 3 to get there, that 10-12, and 3 to get home would make 16-18 for my long run Saturday this week.

But the heat was a killer! We did 10 after the race, but it was anything but easy. Temps were somewhere in the 70s I would imagine, with the scorching sun bearing down on us every second we weren't protected from a shady spot. The time of day minimized the shade, so were were being beat down by the sun quite a lot!

For most of the second five miles, I was trailing the others anywhere from 10-50 yards behind. Drenched in sweat, carrying my water pack, it felt like one of those really tough, long runs last summer leading up to the Marine Corps Marathon. God graced us with a stiff breeze to cool us a little, but I'm a long way from being acclimated to running in 70+ degree temps.

By the time we finished that 10 miles, I decided to walk the remaining 3 miles home. That was probably a good idea. My left leg began to cramp a little more than a mile from home, but I really felt pretty good when I arrived. The wind had gone a long way to drying the sweat and I was feeling pretty much cooled down by the time I walked in the door.

Though I'm not looking forward to the summer heat, it's coming. In a few short weeks, even my pre-dawn runs will be in temps like that. Yesterday was a step to getting ready for those long, hot runs.

And like always, God carried me through it. Even when the going was tough, I knew He was there and wouldn't let me fall. Thank you Jesus for being there to carry me when the going gets tough!



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, March 16, 2012

Spring Break is Here!

It's that time again, when school lets out for a week as the weather warms and the trees bloom. Only a few weeks are left before that annual big break for summer!

We're going to be out-of-pocket for a few days while we take some time to spend with friends and family, away from the internet and the worries of the world. I'll still run when I can and I'll update everything when we make it back to the world of cyberspace.

But before I sign off for a few days, I want to remind all those teens, especially those soon-to-be-18 teens, who will have lots of free time this week to use their heads. DON'T BE STUPID!

Every year at this time kids pack up and head out on road trips. Some stay at home and kill the extra time by living it up, partying with drugs and alcohol. Every year there are kids who go too far. Every year kids die.

PLEASE remember that you are mortal! PLEASE remember that bad things can happen! PLEASE remember that my daughter died only four days before her 18th birthday because someone under the influence of drugs and alcohol lost control. Avoid these situations at all costs. Don't even hang around people being stupid. Even if you think you can control yourself, you CANNOT control the idiots around you!

I hope and pray that all of you make smart choices and sound decisions this spring break, that you all come through safe and sound.



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, March 13, 2012

Jesus Carried Me Through 16 Miles Today!

Usually my long runs are reserved for weekends, but not today.

This Saturday we'll be gone with the church youth group so there won't be an opportunity for a long run. Then next week is spring break and I'm planning to spend as much time as possible with Janice and Courtney so I'm not sure how much time I'll have available to run. Add to that I didn't have to be at work until noon today because we're having parent-teacher conferences and it all added up to the perfect formula for a mid-week long run.

Only problem is, it's only been 9 days since the Little Rock Marathon. One of the friends I run with said today that she read it's supposed to take 26 days to recover from running a marathon, one day for every mile of the race. I'm not sure if what she read is 100% accurate, but today's 16 was no walk in the park.


It got me thinking, as I struggled through the last four miles, of a video my friend Jesse posted on Facebook only a couple of days before his 62 mile race this weekend, Carry Me to the Cross by Kutless. The lyrics start with, "When the path is daunting, and every step exhausting, I'm not alone. I'm not alone."

Well, in those last 4 miles today, the path was daunting, and every step was exhausting, and I was not alone! Several times I wanted to quit. I wanted to stop and walk, but I never did. That's because Jesus carried me those last few miles. It wasn't me. It wasn't my ability, my strength, or my fortitude. It was Him!

There is no doubt He strengthens me when I'm weak. He picks me up when I'm down. He carries me when I think I just can't go on. I am so thankful He's there to carry me when I'm ready to quit!

Thank you Jesus!



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, March 11, 2012

Training Week: 3/5--3/11

The week after the marathon...rest and wonder what to do now.

Not really though. I did take this week to rest up a little, but I haven't really been wondering what to do next. One goal I set for myself right after my first marathon was to never lose what I've gained. It wouldn't take long of sitting around to do just that.

So I decided I always need to have a race I'm training for, even if it's months out, I have to have something to train for. So after a little nap on Sunday, I arose and registered myself for the Joplin Memorial Half Marathon on May 19. The weather's warming up enough to make it easy to throw out the idea of running a full marathon any time soon, but half marathons are a different story.

Besides, I love a good race for a good cause and this race benefits the victims of last year's devastating tornadoes in the Southwest Missouri town. So that gives me a reason to keep myself in shape through May. After that, St. Jude will be only a little more than six months away so it will be time to pick up training for that one.

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

This week, though, I did pretty much take as a rest week, logging only 14 miles since last Sunday.

Training Week: Mar 5 - Mar 11

Monday0 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday0 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday0 miles
Saturday2 miles
Sunday0 miles
Total14 miles

This morning my good friend and USMC brother, Jesse Hardy (that's him in the pic on this post), completed his first Ultra (any race longer than 26.2 miles), a 100K (~62 miles) race on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Jesse and I ran the Marine Corps Marathon together last October, the first full marathon for both of us. We started together and finished together. Until MCM, the most he had ever run was 15 miles at one time. He gives all the glory and honor to Christ for his running accomplishments. Yesterday he told me, "Just for the record, I can't run 62 miles. If the Lord doesn't show up, it's going to be a short race." But the Lord did show up and it wasn't a short race. He finished in just over 16 hours.

I've sworn off the idea of doing Ultras (Janice would probably have me committed if I registered for one) but for the past several days have felt drawn to take on a new challenge. I'm praying about it now, and still have to run the idea by Janice when she comes back, but I'm really feeling pulled to try something big this fall. Look for news of this in the next couple of weeks.

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

God blessed me with a quick bounce back this week after Sunday's marathon. Yesterday I PR'd the 2 mile distance at the Chase Race in Conway, Arkansas. My previous best at this distance was 16:49 on the same course last year. Saturday I finished in 14:56.41, beating the old time by 1:53. Six days after a marathon, only God can be responsible for that much improvement. It certainly wasn't me. There is no doubt He strengthens me, and that anything is possible through Christ!

I'm looking forward to more miles this week. I'm going back to my four day/30 miles per week regimen for a while since the marathon is out of the way. This week and next week may be a little off though because of spring break coming up, but we'll keep on running.

Have a blessed 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, March 10, 2012

Another PR at the Chase Race Today

By the grace of God! Only by the grace of God. Six days after running my 2nd marathon, I set a new PR in the 2 mile distance.

By all rights, I should be stiff, sore, and not feeling the least bit like running less than a week after the marathon. Instead, I was feeling fantastic this morning. Last year on this same course I ran my previous best, a 16:49.6. In 2009, I ran a 17:24 on the same course. Today's 14:56.41 blew those away by a mile! A PR by a minute and 53 seconds on a two-mile course.

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

Only God can make that happen for a 43-year-old fat man!

According to the Garmin, the first mile clipped by at a 7:16 pace, the second at 7:39. That's probably the fastest I've run since I got out of the Marine Corps in 1995. When I started running again three years ago, my first 5K was somewhere around 29 minutes. I can promise you that improvement didn't come from this old fat man.

In fact, until last year I was trying to improve using only my strength and my ability. I was running and training the best I knew how. And, yes, I was improving, but so slowly the improvement was hardly noticeable. Just like the times above indicate, 35 seconds over two years on a two-mile course.

It wasn't until after Amanda died that I started leaning on God and handing over control of my running to Jesus Christ, letting Him take the reigns and have the glory. That was when I really started seeing improvement. Since running my first marathon in October last year, I've set personal records for every distance--the marathon, half marathon, 15K, 10K, 5K, and now the 2 mile.

And not just eeking out PRs either, but beating previous bests by significant amounts of time. I don't believe it's a coincidence that this streak of improvement follows my decision to devote my running to God's work and this ministry.

You see, I was feeling a calling to use my running to glorify God for months before Amanda died. Stubbornly, I tried to ignore that calling. Struggles with my running went beyond less-than-impressive improvement on times. Twice before half marathons (my biggest races at that point) I was stricken with injuries that greatly impeded my performance. After the second injury, I knew God was trying to tell me to wake up and answer His call.

I stumbled around here and there trying to figure something out for a few months, but it wasn't until two months or so after Amanda's death that this ministry began to take shape. And ever since then, the improvement in my running has come in great strides.

"14'Because he loves me,' says the LORD, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.'"--Psalm 91:14-15

There's no way I could make that improvement on my own. God has truly blessed me. So, thank you Jesus for another great race and another great day and another PR!



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, March 9, 2012

Chase Race Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning Courtney and I will be at the Chase Race & Paws in Conway, Arkansas with our four dogs! The event combines a 2 mile foot race with a one mile leashed dog walk/race.

We've done this race twice before, including last year after Amanda died. Two years before that, all four of us participated. It's become one of our favorites and one we'll likely do every year. Amanda wasn't much on running, but she certainly loved dogs and this event was something she really loved.

Tomorrow I'll again be wearing the pictures of fallen young people who were killed in some way by teen substance abuse. Last month at the Valentine's Day 5K was the first time I wore these pics, and I wore them again at the Little Rock Marathon to raise awareness of the dangers of underage drinking and drug use.

If you or anyone you know has lost someone as a result of teen substance abuse, and would like me to wear their picture when I run, please send it to me at runwithamanda@hotmail.com or post it on our Running with Amanda Facebook wall.



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, March 7, 2012

Little Rock Marathon in the Books!

The Race

Marathon #2 is in the books! By the grace of God I finished the Little Rock Marathon on Sunday in 5:08:17, 14 minutes faster than I finished the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

It wasn't as fast as I'd hoped, but I was blessed in ways other than meeting my time goal. I started the race with two friends from the Cabot Country Cruisers, our local running club, with whom I had trained extensively. Most Saturdays we had all run together at least for part of our long runs leading up to this marathon.

"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."--Ecclesiastes 4:12

We started with the 4:40 pace group, planning to stick with them through the biggest hill on the course. At mile 16 we planned to evaluate how things were going and decide whether to speed up, slow down, or keep with the pace group.

Between miles 11 and 12 though, one of my friends began to have trouble. This was her first full marathon and we decided to stick with her. No hesitation, no doubts. We just decided on-the-spot that was how it was going to be. We started together. We'd finish together.

She protested and told us to go on, but we refused. It took me back to the Marine Corps Marathon when I told my friend Jesse to leave me sometime after mile 22. He didn't leave and kept me going to the finish line. I honestly don't know if I would have been able to keep going that last 4 miles if he left me. So this was kind of a chance to pay-it-forward.

We crossed the halfway point at 2:18, but the struggle became tougher and tougher as the course wore on. The 4:40 pace group passed us around mile 14 and just kept going. By that time though, any time goal had been erased from my mind and the one goal I wanted to accomplish was to help my friend get across the finish line.

So the three of us plodded on, ticking off the miles.

We hit the River Trail portion of the course, the dreaded long out and back. Six miles of straight, flat, boring road to conquer. By now it was a run-walk we were doing as we passed mile 18. But we were still moving forward. The turnaround at about 20 3/4 miles seemed to take forever to reach, but we finally made it. By now we were walking more and running less.

On and on we went, finally leaving the trail and stepping back onto the street. After another mile and change, we reached the 24 mile marker. We ran from there to the bottom of the railroad overpass in front of Cajun's Wharf, then walked to the top. Then we ran from there to the bottom of Dillard's Hill. As we walked past the 25 mile marker, more friends from our running club cheered us on and gave high fives as we passed.

We walked on to the top of that dreaded hill, then began to run again. Something about the last mile in a long race, we didn't have to stop to walk again. The crowd cheered as we reached the finish line, all four of us crossing.

Nobody had dropped out. Helping someone else, a friend and training buddy, cross the finish line for their first marathon was worth more than any time goal could ever be. There will always be more races to reach that goal, but there would never be another chance to help our friend succeed in her first marathon.

Though the time wasn't what we hoped for when the gun went off, it was still a great day and I was blessed to be a part of it.

Training Week: Feb 27 - Mar 4

Monday4 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday0 miles
Thursday0 miles
Friday4 miles
Saturday0 miles
Sunday26.2 miles
Total40.2 miles

The Wall

During the Marine Corps Marathon in October, my first full, things began to go bad by mile 17. The dreaded Wall. Then things went really bad by mile 21, and I don't even know how to describe how bad they were by mile 23. This time wasn't so bad. I never even really felt bad until mile 22, and then it was only because my legs began to cramp. I really couldn't even call it a wall.

After MCM my whole body ached and I honestly wondered if I could make it back to the hotel. I even laid down in the street when Jesse and I made it to the family link up area to wait for our wives and kids. Agony is the best word I can think of to describe how I felt after that 26.2 miles.

This time? Not so much. I was tired and my legs were sore, but I walked around, sat down, ate a little and never really felt just awful. There were a few cramps in my legs for the next couple of hours, but not the seizing kind that contort your body into the shape of a deformed pretzel.

Not sure if it was because I was better trained or if my body is starting to learn that no matter how much it doth protest, I'm going to torture it with 26.2 miles anyway. Whatever it was, this marathon didn't result in anywhere near the discomfort and pain that I experienced after my first.

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

That verse is always on my back during races and always draws comments from people passing me or runners whom I pass, especially late in the race. Little Rock was no exception.

This was also the first marathon I ran with pictures of victims of teen substance abuse pinned to my shirt. Several commented on them and a couple asked me about them or about Amanda when they spotted the "Running with Amanda" stenciled on the front. Two women even came up to me in the starting corral and introduced themselves as followers on Facebook. Word is getting out, but not yet spreading as much as I'd like.

I saw a young couple running with a picture pinned to their backs and asked about the lady they were carrying. She was a 21-year-old friend of theirs who had planned to run the half Sunday, but took her own life recently. They were running to raise awareness of suicide.

We passed another young man in front of Mt. Saint Mary's at the top of Kavanaugh who had a name printed on the back of his shirt. He told me it was his aunt that passed last year and he ran to remember her.

I wish none of us had a need to run in memory of a loved one, but was glad to see several out there running for something more important than pride and vain glory.

"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

I had never given any real thought to my bib number in races before the other day. That was when someone on Facebook pointed out my bib in the first picture I posted as the Running with Amanda profile on Facebook was number 413, as in Philippians 4:13! I had never even made the connection.

So when I learned my bib number for Little Rock this year, I immediately began looking for a biblical connection. And this is where the Lord led me, John 11:42. The connection leaped out at me.

You see, I know full well that I would be nothing without Jesus Christ. I know I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today if not for the hope and peace that comes through knowing Him as my Lord and Savior. Jesus is the only reason I can keep going after losing Amanda. There is no earthly explanation. He's it!

I know that, without a doubt. I know that He heard my cries and answered my prayers and gave me this mission so that I can continue the work He has for me until it's time for me to join Amanda in Heaven.

But I also know that part of the reason He gives me the strength to keep going is so that others may see Him working through me. I hope and pray that I can fulfill the mission He has given me, to spread the Good News of salvation through the living Son of God. That's why He gave me this mission, and that's why He gives me this voice.

So I see some significance in the bib number for this race, and I hope it helps others see that my ability to run a marathon is not really my ability at all, but His grace. Without the blessing and grace of Jesus Christ, I can't put one foot in front of the other, not even to walk a short distance, let alone 26.2 miles.

Next week-->Chase Race and Paws in Conway, Arkansas



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, March 3, 2012

'Twas the Night Before the Marathon

Twas the night before the marathon, when all through the house
The runner was scurrying, within and without.
The training was over, finished and done.
All that remained was a race to be run.

That is, except for the plan, the food and the gear,
To forget something now is all he had to fear.
All the sweat and the miles that brought him to this night,
Could all be for naught if he didn't get something right.

So he laid out his race clothes and checked them again,
Shoes, shorts, shirt and socks--be sure he had them.
In his bag a change of clothes, for after the race,
And a clean towel for the salt and the sweat on his face.

Next to his packet, was all there and complete?
His timing chip and his race bib, all in place and neat.
Did he have safety pins? And ties for his chip?
Any one of these missing could cause him to slip.

And what about food he'd need for this run?
Leave it behind and he'd certain be done.
Did he have all his crackers, bars, and his gels?
Without these he knew his race couldn't go well.

Going over his plan, to the course map he went back,
It had to be perfect, his plan of attack.
He studied the plot, where everything went.
Water stops, porta-potties, hills, and medical tents.

Then again he went to his bag for a check,
To look for again anything he dare not forget.
Not just his clothes, but some other supplies,
Band-aids, deodorant, powder, and Body Glide.

One last check to make before he's off to bed,
To sleep through the night with race dreams in his head.
His phone and his Garmin on charge for the night,
So he can take pictures and keep his pace just right.

With all checks done, and everything right,
One more thing before going to sleep for the night.
He knelt by his bed thanking Jesus, his Lord,
For getting him here and what He'll do tomorrow.



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, March 2, 2012

Pray with TEAM 413 before the Little Rock Marathon

Members of TEAM 413 will gather to pray before the early start and again before the regular start. We'll gather about 5:40 AM near the entrance to the pavilion to pray for all those stepping off at 6, then we'll gather there again about 7:15 for runners taking the regular start at 8.

TEAM 413 is the largest and best known ministry associated with endurance events and is dedicated to sharing the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ with those we encounter along the way.

You've probably seen the shirts before, the shirts with TEAM 413 emblazoned across the front and a Bible verse on the back. Not just any Bible verse though, but Philippians 4:13.

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

It was two years ago at Little Rock, when I was running my first half marathon, that I first noticed one of the shirts. It was just past mile 2 when I passed a girl with the now-so-familiar verse on the back of her shirt. I didn't say anything to her then, but I thought to myself, "I want a shirt with that verse on it."

And now I have several. For the past year or so, I've worn that verse on the back of my shirt in every race. I can't tell you how many people have commented on it. Most say something to the effect of "That's just what I needed right now." Some haven't spoken at all, but pat the back of my shirt as they go by.

How many there are like me, like I was that first time I saw one, who are inspired but never give any indication, I don't know. I would imagine there are quite a few. It's certain, though, that TEAM 413 makes an impact!

So join us on Sunday, before the early start or before the regular start, as we pray for God's grace to cover the runners, volunteers, and staff at the Little Rock Marathon.

If you'd like to join TEAM 413, just visit their website and order your shirt. It's that easy! Once you have the shirt, you're a member of TEAM 413!



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.