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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So Long 2013...

Today is it, the final day of the year of our Lord, 2013. There are no more miles to run or races to enter in this year that's coming to a close. Jesus Christ has blessed me this year, including the 6.2 mile run that I entered this morning into the last blank on my 2013 mileage log. Not everything went as planned or as hoped, in my running and in some other aspects of our ministry, but there's no doubt that God's will was accomplished and He had his hand on us throughout 2013.

"The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace." ~ Psalm 29:11


To say I was blessed in my running is really an understatement. It was an absolutely awesome year for running. When today's run was entered in the mileage log, 2013 total mileage came to 1859! It was a year without injury too, and the mileage would have been significantly higher except that I didn't run much for 60 days while I went through the Insanity workout program. Even with that lull in running, it comes to an average 35.75 miles per week, not too far from the 40 miles per week I try to average.

Jesus got me through to the finish of 13 races, including three full marathons, three half marathons, a 15K, two 10K's, an 8K, a 4-miler, and two 5K's. There would have been 14 races with four half marathons, but St. Jude was canceled this month due to an ice storm. And I would have added another race to the total except that I managed my first DNF at the Full mOOn 50K in July.

Even those setbacks presented opportunities. I knew at the time I was running Full mOOn for the wrong reasons, more for my own glory than for God's. When I dropped out at mile 23, I wasn't sure I'd ever try it again. But as I've looked back and prayed about it, I've come to the realization that I have to go back. This time though, it has to be for the right reason, for God's glory and not mine. It was around 7 PM the night before St. Jude when we got word the race was canceled. I had already driven to Memphis, picked up my packet, and was eating with friends when we all received the text we hoped would never come. But again, the disappointment turned to opportunity. The next day I met at the start line with about 50 others for what I thought would be a 5 - 6 mile run to the hospital. We ended up running the half course. Again, it was opportunity to run when you weren't supposed to be able to run, to show that all things are possible with God.

I'm really grateful for this gift of running and the opportunities God gives me serve him with this gift.


We fell short of our goals here this year, goals we set a little lofty in retrospect. We started the year hoping to raise $2500 each for St. Jude, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Ranch. As of today, our donors gave $1447.98 to St. Jude, $1810 to ACH, and $1060 to Soaring Wings. Still significant, but not what we hoped. We have to give a big thank you to Dylan and Delaina Whitehead who gave a lot and tried to generate traction for our fundraising efforts. After much praying on the matter, searching for God's will, I'm about convinced that it's time for us to scale back our efforts in this part of the ministry. We'll still raise funds, but will be cutting back to only one charity to support in 2014. We'll continue to pray about it as we move through the New Year and adjust again next year if that's what God tells us to do.

Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ

We didn't get in as many long races this year as we did in 2012 and that gave us fewer opportunities to share at races. Still, we continue to wear Running with Amanda shirts to the races with Bible verses on the back. We had new long sleeve shirts made this year with Isaiah 40:31 on the back. All our other shirts have Philippians 4:13 emblazoned across the back. We also continue to share the blessings we receive from God online, here on this blog, on Facebook, and some on Twitter. Right now I'm praying about a new idea to improve this part of our ministry in 2014. One thing's for sure, without the hope that comes from the promises of eternal life with Jesus Christ when our time here is done, there is no way we could have made it this far.

Remembering Amanda Marie Allison

From the time Amanda was killed, one of my biggest fears has been that she will be forgotten. I am so blessed God has led us to this ministry that keeps her memory alive. Every race reminds me why I do this and who led to our ministry. I still see old friends posting on her Facebook page. From time to time, her friends still send me messages, always reminding me that Amanda is remembered, that her life counted for something, and that her death was not in vain.

I hope that everyone had a great 2013, and I'm looking forward to all that Jesus Christ has planned for us in 2014. I pray that God will continue to use us to accomplish His will and that our actions will bring Him glory. May God bless each and every one of you and may you have a safe and happy New Year.

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, December 28, 2013

Don't Drink and Drive this Holiday Season!

Here we are again, ushering out the calendar year that's nearly over and ushering in the New Year. 2013 is nearly expired and 2014 is about to begin. But this week, between Christmas and New Years, brings lots of time off for many folks and lots of parties too.

I've written over and over again that I believe if Amanda's killer would have been sober, she would still be alive. Instead, he was drunk and stoned. Now she's dead and he's in prison. Too often, partying seems fun until the party ends in tragedy. So this is your annual year-end warning from me to teenagers everywhere, STAY SOBER!

This year, I'm posting a drinking and driving video from the UK that I believe does about as good a job as anything I've seen to illustrate the death and destruction caused by substance abuse. It's very, very graphic, but it certainly communicates the message I want to convey here.

"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

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, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to All!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! Please remember the reason for this holiday. It's not to boost retail sales so numbers look good at the end of the year. It's not to get or even give presents. It's not even about getting together with family. It's to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world, our Savior.

2013 years ago, the One and Only God in Heaven sent His Only Son to live, teach, suffer, die, and be resurrected, so that our sins can be forgiven and we can spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Light, the one and only path to an eternal life in Heaven, and the one and only path to avoid an eternity in hell.

Whatever you do today, however you choose to celebrate, remember what it is you're celebrating. Jesus Christ, Immanuel, Son of God, our Savior.

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, December 22, 2013

Another Gone Too Young: RIP Abrah Morris (1994 -- 2013)

NOTE: This post has been edited. My goal here was to honor Abrah's memory, not to offend or hurt anyone. Because some have let me know that parts of this post upset them, I have deleted those parts. Again, the intent here was to honor and remember Abrah, not to hurt anyone.

Seems like this story is repeating itself way too often these days. Another young lady I knew, a Vilonia High School graduate from the class of 2012, passed away last week. She was the fifth young person I've known to be taken from this earth way too young in the past 3 years.

Too many. Too young. Too soon.

The saddest thing to me is that if you didn't know Abrah, and you weren't connected to her or her friends on social media, you'd never even know she passed. You wouldn't even know she lived. So very, very sad that a beautiful young lady like her can be taken from us and so many people never even notice.

There's been no newspaper article, no story from any online news service, and no TV story. Nothing. A Google search of her name reveals little more than her social media accounts. Not one mention anywhere that her life was taken when she was struck by a car last week.

Though I don't know all the details of the accident that ended her life, I want to remember Abrah here, because I want her remembered, and because she should be remembered.
" 25 I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;" ~ Job 19:25-26

I didn't know Abrah until her junior year of high school. That was the year Amanda was killed. Amanda's death opened doors for me to talk with and get to know lots of students in ways never before possible. I got to know a lot of kids who came to me to discuss things.

I can't remember if she first approached me, or if I first approached her. There were many times that year when I saw kids who were obviously upset walking down the hall and stopped them to talk. There were also many times kids who were upset came to me and initiated a conversation. Whichever way I first met Abrah isn't so important, but we began to talk regularly at school and that's how I came to know her.

By the end of that year, it didn't look like Abrah would graduate. But over the summer things changed and she returned in the fall and thrived! At the end of the first 9 weeks in her senior year, she brought me her report card. Straight A's! I asked her if I could make a copy of it, and hung it on my bulletin board. When the semester ended, she made all A's again, and again she let me copy it and hang it on my board. This beautiful, troubled young lady who I had so recently thought would never graduate started out her senior year with perfect grades!

Those report cards continue to hang on my board to this day, have ever since I first placed them there. When I learned she was gone, I pulled them down and all our talks, all her excitement, and all her success from those happier days came to mind. All were gone now, history.

One of the first things I thought when I learned she was gone was, "I don't even know if she was saved." In all our talks, I often mentioned God and tried to explain to her how faith in Jesus Christ kept me going, but I never just straight up asked her, "Are you saved? Do you know where you'll spend eternity?" That worried me a lot. I wanted to KNOW that when I die, I'll see her again. I learned later that Abrah had told others she was saved, and that gave me comfort.

But before I heard that, I asked a friend who had been a youth minister if he ever had to preach a funeral for someone who wasn't sure if they were saved. In the discussion that followed, he said something that struck me. "One thing everyone knows the instant they pass, whether they're saved or not saved, is that there is a Heaven and there is a Hell, and the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ." I believe, too, that anyone who passes from this earth, even the unsaved when they are confronted with that undeniable truth, is they would want everyone on earth to know that Heaven, Hell, God, and Jesus Christ are all real, so that everyone they knew, those they loved and those they didn't, would never have to suffer the fires of Hell.

We like to think we can tell who around us will ascend to Heaven when they die, and who will descend to Hell. But Jesus even addressed this to let us know we don't and won't know.
"Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, " ~ Matthew 7:21a

The truth is, only me and God can know for sure if I'm going to Heaven when I die. Only He and I can know without a doubt if I truly believe, if I've truly trusted Him, and if I am truly saved. Only He and I. This verse tells me there are many the world believes will enter the kingdom of Heaven who will be turned away at the seat of judgment. So to me it seems plausible there are those who most think won't be in Heaven who actually will.
"...For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest." ~ Luke 9:48b

I still can't be sure about anybody really. There's not one on this earth who I can say with certainty whether they'll spend eternity in Heaven or Hell, not one except myself. And there's not one on this earth who can with certainty say that I'll go to Heaven or to Hell. As much as we'd like to think we know, as much as we'd like to be sure, it's impossible. But when Jesus says the least is the greatest, to me that means there are those we aren't sure about who have trusted Him and will see the glory of Heaven.

I take comfort knowing that Abrah told others she was saved. And I think she wants everyone, everyone she knew and even those she didn't, to join her when it's their time to leave this earth.

So how do we go on from here?

That's a question I asked myself when Amanda was killed too. It's a question that comes when we realize that death can come so unexpectedly, with no warning whatsoever. It's a question that comes with the reality that we cannot truly protect those we love and those we care about. We can't keep them safe 100% of the time. So how can we keep going?

The answer I found was Jesus Christ. His promise that we will see those we love, those who died in Christ, when it's our time to go, that promise, is enough to keep me going. And while we have no way to bring Abrah back, back so she can reach her dreams, back so she can achieve her goals, we do have Jesus Christ and He gives us a way to fulfill her hope that she will be remembered, that her life will mean something to others now that she's gone.

You see, I believe we all have that hope, the hope that we made a difference while we were here. We all, each and every one of us have an opportunity to help make sure Abrah lives on. We have an opportunity to make sure her life counts for something more, that much good is accomplished because she lived. Jesus Christ gives us that opportunity. Jesus Christ is that opportunity.

Like I said before, I never point blank asked Abrah if she knew Jesus Christ as her Savior. That's something I regret now, and something I don't want to regret ever again in the future for another person I know. I want to remember Abrah every time I meet someone and have the opportunity to ask. I want to share the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ with everyone I meet who hasn't heard it. If you know Christ as your Savior, please share. Tell others and think of Abrah when you do it. If even one person is saved from eternal damnation and the fires of Hell because Abrah's story motivated somebody to tell someone about Jesus Christ, then her life counted for more...more than so many others who lived longer.

If you don't already know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can help make sure Abrah lives on and is not forgotten. Let her story, her short life, motivate you to surrender your life to the Lord today! None of us is promised tomorrow. If we knew the hour of our death, or the hour of the death of those we care about, we'd make sure to get things right with God before we go. But we don't know when, and there's no guarantee we'll get another chance. So let Abrah's story convince you that now is the time to step up and hand your life over to Jesus. All you have to do is admit you're a sinner, accept and believe that Jesus Christ is who He says He is and came to live, teach, suffer, and die for all of our sins, acknowledge your sins, confess them to the Lord, and repent, and ask Jesus to come into your heart and be Lord of your life.

None of us are perfect. Romans 3:23 tells us ALL have sinned and fallen short of what God expects. Not one of us is good enough to earn our way into Heaven. Salvation isn't something we can earn. It's a gift from God, made possible by His sacrifice of His perfect, only Son for our sakes. In John 14:6, Jesus told us He is the only way to Heaven under the new covenant. The only way to Heaven is to believe He is who He said He is, and that He is the only way to eternal life. You don't have to stand before an assembly of men and list your sins one by one. But you do have to acknowledge them, confess them, and repent. That word, repent, is often misunderstood. It means to feel genuine remorse for wrongdoing. If you don't feel guilty when you do wrong, in other words if you're not honestly trying to turn from sin, you haven't gotten this part of the equation down. You've got to repent! In Luke 13:3, Jesus told His followers if they don't repent, they will perish! And finally, call on the name of Jesus, ask Him to be your Savior and Lord. Romans 10:13 says ALL who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

"I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." ~ Luke 15:7

That's how you can help make sure Abrah's life means more, more than it otherwise would have. Let this tragedy motivate you to step up and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. I believe with everything in me that Abrah wants you to. If you need help, there's a link to a prayer you can say at the end of this post. If you pray that prayer, and really mean every single word. If you truly follow the steps Jesus Christ laid out to receive salvation, and honestly believe in your heart that He is who He said and can do what He said, then you will be saved.

And, if Abrah's untimely passing is what motivates you to follow Christ, she will live on, and her legacy will be one all should seek to imitate. I hope and I pray that Abrah Morris will rest in peace, that she's safe in the arms of our Lord and Savior, and that others will come to know Jesus Christ because of her.

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, December 9, 2013

With God, All Things Are Possible: St. Jude Weekend Recap

It started with winter storm Cleon (When did they start naming winter storms?). Ice and ridiculously cold temperatures caused traffic problems in the air and on the ground. On Facebook there was post after post after post of runners canceling their plans to make the trip to Memphis this weekend, but St. Jude was clinging to the hope that conditions wouldn't be so bad to have to cancel the race.

Before the recap, I want to address the way St. Jude handled the cancellation.

Anyone who has ever directed a race, or had a big part in its organization, has an idea what it takes to pull off an event like this. Most others don't. I've only directed one little 5K and it shocked me to learn how much time, effort, and energy it took to make it go...and I run these races all the time. So let me just say, for anyone still criticizing St. Jude for the way they handled everything, ST. JUDE COULD NOT HAVE DONE IT BETTER. They did end up canceling the race about 7 PM the night before, but in doing so, they did everything possible to accommodate runners and treat us with the utmost respect. To the organizers and race director, my sincere thanks and respect for the way you handled this, from start to finish. Janice and I will choose to donate our registration fees to the hospital, and we'll definitely be taking advantage of the opportunity to register for next year's races early. :)

Now for the recap!

Like I said, it started with the storm. Most sane people decided to stay home. I was not among them. Janice was. She tried for at least an hour to talk me out of making the trip. I mean, the weathermen and other media were making it sound like the next Ice Age was descending upon us. But I just promised to take it slow and easy. As I was loading the vehicle, she posted on Facebook, "Would someone please tell John Allison he's an idiot? He won't believe me." Needless to say, she got several people to agree, but I wouldn't be swayed. I decided, if God didn't want me to run this race, He would stop me before I got to Memphis.
"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' " ~ Matthew 19:26

So off I went!

I'd originally planned to head north to Bald Knob, AR and cross over to Memphis on highway 64, but a friend had texted me to say they tried that way and turned around. So I headed south out of Cabot toward I 40. Here's a picture showing what the 15 miles of roads looked like from Cabot to the interstate. Mostly slush in the ruts. Never slid a bit, but took it slow, about 30 - 35 mph on this part of the journey.

When I got to the interstate, I was pleasantly surprised. Traffic wasn't bad and the lanes on the road were just wet with slush in the middle of the lanes. It was 45 - 50 mph, only because the slush tried to grab you when you were changing lanes, for the first 20 miles or so, then things got progressively better as we headed east. The construction at Forrest City that originally made me want to take 64 was no issue at all. We breezed through it. After Forrest City, it was 65 mph all the way to Memphis. Here's a pic of the interstate when I got on at Lonoke, and it only got better as we worked our way east.

I made it to Memphis and checked into the hotel. I was a little late making reservations and ended up booking a room at the Quality Inn on Camilla St. With taxes and all, I paid around $82 for a comfortable room about 2 miles from the finish line. I enjoyed it and will probably stay there next year too.

I headed to the Expo with plans to pick up my packet and several others, then meet my Loco friends (not an insult, but the name of a running club) for a pre-race dinner. Compared to other races of this size, the Expo was abandoned. I was picking up 10 packets and breezed through in a few minutes. So I headed back to the hotel before dinner.

The plan was to meet at Olive Garden at 5, but I was a little late. The crazy intersection at 240 and Poplar and the directions from Google Maps (If you're wondering, no, I don't own a GPS.) didn't seem to go together and it took me several minutes to wander around and eventually stumble on the restaurant. But I did and finally joined them around 5:20.

We had a great meal and some great fellowship. Some of these folks I see and train with from time to time, but most I only get to see at races. They're a great, fun bunch though, and I always enjoy spending time with them. Dinner ended on a let down though, when another friend called to say he was at the Expo and they just announced the race was canceled. :( At first, we all thought he was joking, but seconds later, we all started receiving texts with the same news. There would be no race on Saturday.

[I thought there was a picture of our pre-race dinner, but can't seem to find it anywhere. If I find it later, I'll post it here.]

Back at the hotel, I took advantage of the time I would have spent preparing for the race to grade some tests. I was also keeping an eye on the St. Jude Heroes Facebook page. Not exactly sure why, but it just seemed like something to do. That was when I read someone's post saying a group would be meeting at the start line Saturday morning at 8 AM to run to the St. Jude campus and back, about 5 or 6 miles. I looked at the course map and judged they'd be running straight there and back if that was the distance they planned to cover, but also spotted a way to stretch it out a little. I figured, if I get there a little early and get a couple of miles in before, then run with them, I could maybe get in 10 miles before heading back to Cabot.

So the next morning I dressed for the cold and headed for the start. When I arrived, there were already a couple of people running the streets. One had a St. Jude bib on. I headed out and managed about a mile and quarter before returning and a larger group was gathering. By 8 o'clock, there were probably 50 or so gathered and we stepped off. Here's a pic of a few of them.

We headed out, but not straight toward St. Jude. Instead, they headed out on the actual St. Jude course. So I followed. I ran the first couple of miles with a too fast group and fell back. For most of the rest of the way, I was in that sort of no man's land between the faster and the slower runners. The cold wasn't bad until we came alongside the river headed north. Then, that north wind was blowing straight into our faces and it got cold! I was glad to see Beale St. when we got there and head east again. Here's a pic from Riverside Dr, before we got to the river (it was too cold to get the phone out then).

We finally made it to Beale St. When we turned north again, we began to see other runners out and about. There were hundreds of us out there, running for St. Jude, even though the race had been canceled.

Continuing to follow the course, we crossed under I 40 and passed the pyramid. Not sure if you can tell from this pic, but its sides were covered in ice. I thought that was pretty cool. We were almost to St. Jude.

After the pyramid, it was a right turn and straight toward St. Jude. This is what we raised money for. This is what we traveled for. This is what we were running for. This fantastic organization that helps so many kids, every single day!

The marathon route goes through the campus, in through one entrance and out another on the back side. We headed in the entrance, but found the gates locked where we usually go out. So we had to backtrack and go out the way we came in. Here, I heard a couple of people say they were headed back, but most went on around the campus to continue the course. I figured I'd follow them and return the way I'd originally planned.

Manassas St. That was where I'd planned to turn right and head back. But when I got there, dozens of people were continuing on the race course ahead of me. I looked at my watch, the distance, pace, and time, and decided to press on. We were keeping a good pace and I didn't have to check out of the hotel until 11.

I was still in that no man's land, with groups of runners in front of me and behind me, but nobody seeming to run my pace. From here on, I didn't know the course very well, so I worked to keep someone in sight. That worked well for a while because we were on a long, straight stretch. But just across from the Rhodes College campus, we turned right onto a paved trail on the back side of the zoo, a maze of trails really, and the St. Jude course wasn't marked on them.

Just past a downed tree across the trail was a fork, and I had no idea which way to go. That was when God blessed me with two local runners who were doing the full course. As they passed me, at a much faster pace than I was running, they told me which way to go. Now I sped up a bit to keep them in sight until we reached more familiar territory. Through the trails, through a park, and through the University of Memphis campus and we emerged on Poplar St. I knew from the maps, we'd follow this back to downtown.

All this way, and for the rest of the course, motorists laid on their horns and waved as they passed us. They knew what we were there for, and they showed their appreciation however they could. In that park I mentioned above, a man walking his dogs asked if I was running the marathon. When I told him I was doing the half, he said, "Good for you." Then, just before we left the UM campus, an older couple was standing beside the road cheering us on. The people of Memphis are very appreciative of runners who come to support St. Jude, and it was nice that several of them braved the freezing temps to show that gratitude.

Poplar St. carried us past miles 10 and 11 of the course, before we turned to head for the final approach on Union St. On this stretch, we passed the St. Jude Target House pictured below. Also pictured below is the 10 mile marker for the course.

Just past the 12 mile marker was another surprise. Understand, when I started this run, I thought I was going to do 5 - 7 miles and be done. So I made none of my usual long run preparations. No Body Glide, no water to carry, no gels for fuel. The race was canceled, so none of that stuff was available on the course either. Add in the extra that I'd done because I wasn't planning to run the half course, and I had logged 14 miles by this point. Granted, we started with single digit wind chill, but still, 14 miles is a long way to go with no water and no fuel. But here, just past the 12 mile marker on the course stood a man, who looked to be homeless, with only one arm and a case of bottled water by his feet. His outstretched arm held one bottle he was offering to me. A miracle from God? I think so.

I gladly took the bottle and took a couple of big swigs as I continued on toward the finish. Just ahead was the turn onto Union and I could see other runners disappear as they made it. It was nearly a mile to Autozone Park, and the end of this 15 mile journey. That last mile slipped by and, 2 hours and 17 minutes after I'd started, I arrived at Autozone Park. The gates were locked, so we couldn't cross the actual finish line, but my Garmin beeped 15 miles as I was running by the side entrance.

What had seemed so improbable to so many on Friday when I left, had come to pass. Officials couldn't guarantee us a safe race, so they had to cancel, but we managed to run the course. In what may have been the coldest run I've ever done, with sweat freezing in my beard and hair, my shirt and shorts freezing too, I went 15 miles at an average 9:11 pace, without fuel and water. To most sane people, it seemed impossible. And, in fact, with man it was.

But with God all things are possible, and I have no doubt it was Jesus Christ, the strength He breathed into us on Saturday, that made what was impossible to man, possible through Him. So thank You, Jesus! For getting me there. For getting me to the start line. And for getting me through to the finish.

One more thing before I close. Remember how I said how great St. Jude and the people of Memphis were? Well, I was on the way home when a friend tagged me in a photo on Facebook. The picture was originally posted on Memphis Runners Track Club page, then shared on the Arkansas RRCA page, then a friend tagged me so it showed up on my page. This is the photo that makes clear just how important this race is to the people touched by the great work done at St. Jude, year after year, month after month, week after week, and day after day.

It's kind of hard to read, but oh so worth the effort. I pray that God continues to bless the doctors, nurses, and especially the patients at St. Jude. And I pray that runners continue to descend upon Memphis the first Saturday in December every year until the end of time!

PS: You can still donate to St. Jude through our fundraising page by clicking HERE!

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, November 29, 2013

Saying Goodbye to November with a 22 Mile Run

No more November runs in 2013! I did my last one today. 22 miles on dirt roads on Camp Lejeune, NC. Others might have enjoyed their day fighting for "deals" on Black Friday. As for me, I'd rather chew my right arm off than be in the stores today. The roads though...that's completely different.

It was a great run to close a great month of running. Tomorrow and Sunday will be days off as we embark on the 1000 mile trip back home. I ended November with 179 logged miles and 1679 miles for 2013. The Good Lord has kept me injury free all year, and I am so grateful. Every step, every mile, every run is only by His grace. Today was another in a year of many wonderful runs.

I normally don't run longer than 20 miles in training runs, but the unchanging elevation here on the east coast of North Carolina made me feel the need to go a little longer today, in the hopes of getting a workout similar in intensity to what I'd be getting back home. The pace shows a little slower than I hoped for, but I never stopped the Garmin, even when I stopped to refuel, restock on water, and for occasional calls of nature.

I parked at an intersection with three dirt roads going different directions and did the run in three legs. To start, I headed south for 3.5 miles and turned around to make a 7 mile leg. After a few minutes at the vehicle to get water and take in a few calories, I took off toward the west for another 7 mile leg. Again, 3.5 out, 3.5 back. Another stop for water and fuel, then off again for the final 8 mile leg. At the turnaround I had 18 miles in, and 4 to go back to the Blazer. I thought about a walk break, but decided against it.

At 19 miles, I decided to try to make it to 20 before I walked. Somewhere in that mile, I realized I had forgotten to apply Body Glide this morning. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. All the places that had previously revealed the need for the anti-chafe product were now screaming at me, "Are you an idiot?!?!?" As much as I run, you'd think I'd know better than to forget it, but not today. Still, I pressed on. (Probably because I was still 2 miles from the vehicle.)

At mile 20 I decided to walk for a tenth of a mile. If you've ever dealt with chafing, especially on a long run, you know how uncomfortable it gets. It just makes you want to quit. In that tenth, a lot of things crossed my mind. Walking on in. Even some really crazy ideas on how to relieve the pain. I only had two more miles, and thought about how much longer it would take to finish if I stated walking. So I prayed for strength and decided to suck it up and run on in.
"The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace." ~ Psalm 29:11

I picked up the pace and was pleasantly surprised when the pain actually subsided. God certainly gave me the strength to speed up and relief from the pain that was plaguing me to bring me peace. While the pain didn't disappear, it most certainly lessened. I was reminded there are a lot of times we try to tough things out, to get through rough spots on our own, never calling on God for help. But He's always there, waiting for and wanting us to call out and ask for just that. To give us strength and peace.

After that tenth of a mile walk, I ran in the rest of the way to finish that 22 miles. That 22nd mile went by in 10:03, my fastest of the entire run! I am so blessed that God not only allows me to run, but uses running demonstrate to me His power, His will, and His control.

Thank you Jesus, for getting me through this run today, and for giving me strength and peace, today and everyday!

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, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

We at Running with Amanda wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. May God bless you this day and every day!

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." ~ Psalm 107:1

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, November 27, 2013

Strength and Peace

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a US national holiday set aside to give thanks to God in Heaven for the many blessings bestowed upon us. Recently, I've seen, heard, or read that many don't believe they have anything to be thankful for.

Last year, our local Marine recruiter was addressing my class when the discussion turned to living conditions in 3rd world countries. He and I were explaining to the students that people in this country often have no idea just how blessed they are. That's when one student in the class piped up, "Some of us here have it just as bad." Now, I've often said that all it would take to get Americans to appreciate life in these United States is a little time spent in poverty stricken 3rd world countries. But never had I heard anyone here claim to have it just as bad. I was struck, stunned really.

I'm a member of several online grief groups for grieving parents. You might imagine that many members struggle to find a reason to go on. Most of you, at least most parents, can empathize with those who've lost a child believing life has no meaning. I certainly can. No pain -- physical, emotional, or psychological -- that I've ever experienced hurt like losing Amanda. There were times when the pain dragged me to a dark place, feeling hopeless.

My point is, regardless whether we can agree, empathize, sympathize, or not, there are people hurting, people suffering at a time when most are celebrating. These are people blinded to their blessings by trauma, tragedies, and trials that leave them hopeless. Hopeless...
"The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace." ~ Psalm 29:11

This verse was K-LOVE's "encouraging word of the day" sent to my inbox this morning. When I read it, I immediately felt the call to post. Then, as happens every holiday, I began to read the many posts of hopelessness and grief by parents who've lost children. I remembered that student who believed she had nothing to be thankful for. And I realized that many, many more from whom I'll never hear are marching toward this Thanksgiving feeling little to be thankful for.

If you've read here long, you know this will be our third Thanksgiving without Amanda. You'll also know that, though grief still resides in us, even takes over from time to time, we are not hopeless, no longer feeling the despair that will weigh down so many through this holiday season. And many of you already know why.

The verse above, Psalm 29:11, gives the secret to making it through any trial, any hardship, any tragedy. The Lord. As simple as it sounds, the Lord God Jehovah, Jesus Christ, is the source of peace and strength that you and everyone else needs to survive the troubles promised us in this life. (John 16:33)

Every time I comment on another grieving parent's post, I always pray the Lord gives them peace and strength in time. I firmly believe that without faith in Jesus Christ, and subsequently faith in His promise of eternal life, there is no hope on which to hold. On the contrary, with said faith any of us can weather any storm, survive whatever Satan may throw at us in his effort to separate us and others from Christ. That peace and strength, if you have nothing else on Earth to be thankful for, gives us reason to be grateful.

Nearly three years after my beautiful daughter was killed, three years that haven't been easy by any stretch of the imagination, and three years filled with many other trials and troubles, I can stand up and say I am thankful for my blessings. My grief at losing my daughter is not enough to keep me from seeing the blessings I still have. And, Jesus' promise that I will see Amanda again, and spend eternity with her in Heaven, is all I need to have the peace and strength to continue on until He calls me home.

So, if you're struggling to find something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, turn to Jesus. He can, and He will, give you the peace and strength you need to keep going, and to be grateful.

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, November 26, 2013

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Address...150 Years Ago

On October 3, 1963, with the country in the throes of civil war, President Abraham Lincoln officially set aside the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving. In the midst of perhaps the biggest, darkest blot on the history of these United States, Lincoln was grateful, counting his blessings...our blessings...and enumerating them for the rest of the nation. This is a true testament to the greatness of our country, that in its darkest hour, our President stood up and thanked the Almighty God of the universe, the One and Only True God, Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for blessings bestowed upon us.
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." ~ Psalm 107:1

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

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, November 25, 2013

Don't Worry...Be Happy

Worry. Who hasn't been worried? How many of us are worrying over something right now?

This time of year is especially worrisome for many. People without a job. People without a good enough job. People with a job, but too much debt. People with health problems. People with family members with health problems. People whose car is in bad shape. People whose marriages are in bad shape. People with troubled kids. People without kids. People with all kinds of problems are worrying themselves to death, right now in what is supposed to be the "most beautiful time of the year."

But why? And what good does all that worry do?

"Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" ~ Matthew 5:27

Not a bit. Worry doesn't do one bit of good to the worrier, and that's according to Jesus Christ himself! That's right, straight from the Savior's mouth.

Whether you're worried about health, wealth, yourself, others, the state of your marriage or the state of the union, it doesn't help anything, doesn't heal anything, doesn't fix anything. But still, we worry...over practically everything. How can we stop?

Though I can't say I've completely conquered worry, I can say that I'm blessed to not worry much these days. But for all except the last few years, I was in a state of constant worry. Mostly I worried about money, having enough money. Enough for what? That didn't matter, I just worried that I didn't have enough. And, as Jesus alluded to above, it never did a bit of good.

I make less now than I did then, but I don't worry, and things always seem to work out. It's not that I'm rolling in dough, but we always seem to have enough to get what we need. We don't have enough for lots of extras. We both drive older vehicles with lots of miles. We don't fly to big cities to go shopping. But we always seem to have enough. Enough to eat, enough to clothe ourselves, enough to stay warm and dry, and enough to tithe. We always manage to have enough to meet our needs.

The crazy thing is, we never felt like we had enough when I worried all the time. That's crazy because we actually had MORE than we have now. We had more money, newer and nicer things. We just had more, but it was never enough. How that works I can't explain, other than it's just the way God works. You see, in all those early years of worry, I never sought God's will for my life.

Back then, I was bound and determined to follow my own path, my own will, and rely on my own abilities to make it work. I wanted wealth, not too flaunt, but because I believed wealth would yield comfort, contentment. When I finally gave in and submitted to God's will for my life, quit trying to force things to work my way, a sense of peace came over me for which there is no other explanation but God.

It's not that I'm doing what God wants so He is bestowing upon me all my wants. On the contrary, we have a smaller balance in our bank than we've had in 20 years. We lost our daughter almost three years ago. I do not want to leave the impression that submission to God results in worldly rewards. That's not at all what I'm saying. John 16:33 promises us we'll ALL suffer trials and tribulation on this Earth. Paul tells us numerous times that we will suffer as Christians. And that's the most amazing part of all this...

It's not peace in the way the world defines peace that takes away our worry, and it's not a worldly peace that will lift your worries from your shoulders either. The freedom from worry comes only from faith in Jesus Christ. It's not a promise of health and wealth here on Earth that gives us peace. It's the promise of eternal life through the salvation we receive through faith in Christ.

I'm convinced that without the peace that comes from accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, freedom from worry can't exist. There's not enough money in the world to give us peace. Just look at the number of rich people who commit suicide. There's no man or woman who can love you enough to free you from worry. Just look at the divorce rate in our society today. There's nothing in this world that can offer you peace enough to free you from worry.

That freedom, that peace, only comes from faith in the Son who God sent to pay the price for our sins. We're promised throughout the New Testament that if we believe in Jesus Christ, we'll be saved. We'll pass from this Earth when it's our time and join all other believers in Heaven for eternity. That's what gives us peace. That's what gives us freedom from worry.

Worry can't save you. Worry can't fix you. Worry can't help you. But Jesus can...and He will. So don't worry, be happy. :)

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, November 20, 2013

November Drawing for $200 Walmart Gift Card -- Only 10 Days Left to Enter!

It's been a busy month, but it's winding down now. Friday is our last day of school, then Thanksgiving break! When we get back to school, we'll be in the last month of the year, and with only three weeks before we're out for Christmas. It's crazy how fast time flies, but here we are, near the end of November and near the end of 2013.

I've been a little remiss about fundraising this month...okay, maybe more than a little...okay, definitely more than a little. I haven't mentioned it at all, and there are only 10 days left in the month! But, better late than never. Right?

So I need to let you all know, we ARE having another drawing for a $200 Walmart gift card this month! All you have to do to enter is donate to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch through one of our fundraising sites. For each dollar you donate, you'll receive one entry into the drawing. Donate before November 30th (I know that's not much time!) to get in on this month's drawing! We'll draw the winner the first or second of next month, announce the winner here, on Facebook, and on Twitter, and get the gift card in your hands in time for Christmas shopping!

What a chance to donate to a worthy cause with an opportunity to get some extra Christmas cash!
" 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." ~ James 2:14-17

Remember, a $10 donation earns you 10 entries into the drawing, a $20 donation 20 entries, $50 donation earns 50 entries, and so on! For as little as $10 you can make a big difference in the lives of kids at any one of these great charities. We don't ever touch a dime of your money, never even see it. So you get more bang for your charitable buck through our fundraising pages. More of your money goes straight to your intended beneficiary!

So give today. Help us reach our 2013 fundraising goal. Help us honor the memory of our beautiful daughter, Amanda Marie Allison (1993 -- 2011). Help us spread the Good News that eternal salvation is available to all through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And help the kids at these fine charities! All while earning yourself chances to win a $200 Walmart gift card.

Click the link below to choose the charity you wish to support. Make your donation and we'll put your entries in for the drawing tomorrow. Tomorrow evening, we'll announce the winner. So get in while you can!

Give to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital now!

Give to Arkansas Children's Hospital now!

Give to Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch now!

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, November 19, 2013 so many ways!

Thanksgiving is next week, a day set aside to count our blessings. My problem is, I have way too many to count. God has blessed me in so many ways, I don't have enough time to list them all. But I have a few I want to be sure to mention.

First, I am blessed to have such a fantastic wife. Janice has put up with me for more than 19 years now. I have no doubt she's the only woman in the world with enough patience to do that! For many of those years, I wasn't easy to live with. Heck, I'm not easy to live with now. But still, she joins me in races near and far, and let's me indulge this obsession to run. She's been with me through the good times and bad, the lean times and fat, traveled the land of want and the land of plenty. Through it all, she stood by me, and still does. I am definitely blessed to be married to the love of my life.

"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies." ~ Proverbs 31:10

Second, I am blessed to run. When Amanda was killed, I found myself in a state of despair like I didn't know existed. Never before had I believed I could sink so low, into such a pit that I didn't want to climb out. When my friend Jesse challenged me to run the Marine Corps Marathon that year, it turned out to be a life saver. It gave me a goal, a mission, a focus on something productive that would allow me to honor my daughter and continue to live for my surviving family. God has given me the desire, the motivation, and the strength to continue to run, to continue to honor Him, and Amanda, and to draw attention to the dangers of teen substance abuse. I don't know where I'd be or what I'd have done if He hadn't. But I do know, I am extremely blessed to run.
"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

Third, I'm blessed to teach. Like running, teaching gave me something productive to do after Amanda's death. It gave me kids to influence, not just to teach math, but to witness to and really influence them. The opportunity to teach these students them what they think they can't learn, to encourage them to try what they believe is impossible, and to inspire them to believe that anything is possible, keeps me excited and alive, filled with energy to continue on this race marked out for me. The kids, the parents, the colleagues, and everyone else I've come in contact with through teaching have blessed me more than words can say. I'm certainly blessed to teach!
"Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. ~ James 3:1

Finally, I am blessed because God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die so that I might live. Because my sin earned me an eternity spent in the flames of Hell, Jesus came to suffer the horrendous death on the cross, a death that I deserve, but He didn't. He died so that I can live, eternally in Heaven with Him. It's because of Jesus' sacrifice that I know I'll see Amanda again. When my time on this earth is over, I'll ascend to Heaven and be reunited with my beautiful daugther, forever. Eternal life is possible, eternity in a place without pain, without suffering, and without death, only because God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. So I am blessed beyond measure that God loves me so much, He sent His Son as a sacrifice, as my Savior, so that I might live.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing ~ John 15:5

So as Thanksgiving approaches, I'm grateful for so much, thankful that God has blessed me so.

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, November 13, 2013

Hello Winter! You Can't Stop Me!


That's what the temperature was when I stepped outside for this morning's run, the first sub-freezing run of the season for me. When people hear that I ran this morning, the typical response is, "You're crazy!" or something along those lines. Most of them probably think that about me on nice days for running anyway, but some only believe running is insane when the weather is too hot, or too cold, or too wet, or too windy, or too [fill in the blank here].

The reality is, it's easy to find an excuse not to run. Just like every other thing we know we should do in life, we can always come up with a reason not to. But in life, the chores don't stop piling up, they don't get finished either, unless we jump in and get them done. This winter, I have several upcoming races, and it doesn't matter what the weather is on race day, we'll be running. Looking at it from that perspective, holing up inside on cold, wet, windy, or any other adverse weather days doesn't make much sense.

"Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, ~ 2 Peter 1:10

God has a plan for each and every one of us. For me, that plan is to teach and to run. More specifically, to spread His Good News through my teaching and running. If I make excuses not to run, I jeopardize my effectiveness at fulfilling His calling. But I'm "to make every effort" to follow through on God's plan for me. Every effort.

If I let a little cold or rain stop me from running, it's like telling God, "I'll do what You want me to do, but on my terms. Not Yours." While that might avoid me a little discomfort today, it might leave me squirming and looking away on judgment day, when I have to account for my actions here on Earth. I'd much rather face a little temporary discomfort down here, than to explain to God why I refused to do what I was called to do here.

So, come on winter! Bring on the cold and whatever else you have to throw at us. Just know that whatever weather we're dealt, God willing, I'll be out there running. Every step, every mile, every run and every race is by His mercy and for His glory!

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, November 3, 2013

Bass Pro Marathon Race Recap

"It was fun, in a sick kind of way," said my friend Cindy in a text this afternoon. She and I ran the Bass Pro Marathon together today, and I can honestly say, the only reason I got my PR was because she stayed with me and practically dragged me to the finish when things went bad at mile 23. I've heard it said there are two halves to a marathon, the first 20 miles, then the last 6.2. I can attest to the truth of that statement, as can most who've survived a 26.2 mile race. So here comes the recap.

Before the Race

The 4 hour drive from Cabot to Springfield was absolutely beautiful! The leaves were changing in the Ozark Mountains and highway 65 was spectacular. Here's are a couple of pictures I took on the way up, and it only captures a little of the beauty.

God gave us a great trip up, no traffic issues and beautiful scenery.

We arrived at the expo around 4:00 PM to pick up our packets. It closed at 7, but already a few of the vendors had packed up and gone. Picking up our packets was easy enough. Many of the vendors were local, not really beneficial or offering anything of interest to out-of-town runners. But TEAM 413 was there and I learned they would be hosting a worship service at 6:15 the morning of the race. That was pretty cool, especially when I saw the race post about the service on its Facebook page the night before. It's really nice that decent sized events like this exist that aren't so afraid of offending someone, they're still willing to stand up and honor God.

We headed out and checked into our hotel before returning for the 6:00 PM pasta dinner. This was the first time I've ever signed us up for the pre-race dinner, because they're usually so expensive. But, when I registered for this race, the cost to register for the pasta dinner was only $10 a head. I didn't figure we'd find a decent meal for that price anywhere else, so what the heck. I'm really glad I did, because we got to sit with some really nice folks and hear two legendary marathoners speak -- Dick Beardsley and Frank Shorter. Our TEAM 413 friends, Faye and Lester, joined us, along with Steve and Paula Boone. Steve and Paula directed the End of the World/Day After the End of the World double we did last year. It was a great meal at a great price with great speakers and friends. Here's a picture of Frank Shorter speaking to the crowd at dinner.

This morning I rose at 4:00 AM, gaining an hour of sleep thanks to Daylight Savings Time. I got ready, then at a couple of granola bars and downed some coffee. We headed out just before 6:00 AM to get there in time for the worship service by TEAM 413. It was an awesome way to start race morning. We did miss the Marathon Maniacs/Half Fanatics photo, but I figured God wouldn't look too favorably on us if we got up and left a worship service to go get a picture made at 6:30. Priorities, and I'm glad we made this choice. Here's a photo of the service.

Now, it was time for a pre-race bathroom stop, then to the start line.

The Race

We started right in front of Bass Pro Shops. It was a little different than most decent sized marathons as there were no barricades separating runners and spectators. As a result, we were mingled for quite a while before the start, although most of the spectators cleared out before the race actually started. My friend, Cindy, who works with me at school and one of the few my wife thinks is just as fanatical about running as I am, was with us. She and I planned to run the race together.Here's a pic of the starting line, waiting for the 7 AM start.

Then the clock rolled over to 7 AM and we were off. We were packed in pretty good from the start, but I knew from the course map we'd be separating with runners of the half at mile one. Still, even in the crowd, we managed a 9:58 first mile. When we did split, there was a man with a bullhorn yelling, "Full to the right, half to the left." I remember thinking he should have been saying, "Fools to the right, half to the left," even though I was feeling really great at that point.

The course was absolutely gorgeous, running through residential areas and a biking/jogging trail, decorated with the splendor of fall colors in the trees. Around mile 2, we caught up with the 4:30 pacer and another pace group quickly caught up with us, and passed us. This latter group wasn't an official group, but carried a handwritten sign identifying themselves as the "4:00 -- 5:00 pace group." They were decked out in colorful garb. Cindy wanted a picture with them, so we caught up temporarily and I captured this shot.

We finished mile 2 in 9:45 and moved past the 4:30 official pace group to finish mile 3 in 9:21. The next few miles passed through beautiful neighborhoods with some pretty tough hills. Again, I expected these and was still feeling great. We were averaging around a 9:30 pace through mile 10. The pictures below are a lake we passed around mile 8 and my favorite sign we saw on the course a little while later. Even though I wasn't their teacher, it was nice to know other teachers were out on the course and their students were out supporting them.

After the picture of that sign, I didn't take anymore until after the race. I was starting to feel the pace and the miles, still feeling good, still unworried, and actually visualizing a BIG PR. My goal going in was a 4:30 finish, and by mile 10 we were 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Now I was starting to visualize a 4:20 finish. My previous PR was 4:43:15 and we were on pace to shatter that! But it would take a few more miles before I remembered a lesson I've learned many times before, but seem to forget with regularity. There are 26.2 miles in a marathon, and just because you feel good in the first 10, doesn't mean you're going to feel good the entire distance.

The hills didn't quit at mile 10, and we did finally slow a little. Miles 11 -- 14 averaged around a 9:40 pace. Then we slowed to around a 10 minute pace in miles 15 -- 20. The course was still beautiful, but we were talking less and the miles and the hills were starting to take their toll. We finished mile 21 in 10:29, and that's when the first signs of what was to come appeared. The little twitch in my right hamstring, not a pain and not a pull, but a twitch that I've come to know means get ready, because cramps are coming. That little twitch was my first warning, but we pressed on.

Mile 22 we covered in 10:24, but just before we arrived at the 23 mile marker, those promised cramps, foretold by that little twitch, struck with a vengeance. My right hamstring completely locked up. I couldn't even walk. When I pulled up, cried out, and bent over to stretch, a volunteer blocking a cross street yelled, "Do you want me to get someone for you?" Without hesitation, I replied, "No! I'll finish this race if I have to crawl." It took me a few minutes, but I finally stood there long enough to get it unlocked where I could walk.

We walked a quarter of a mile or more, finishing mile 23 in 11:46. But when I finally felt comfortable to run again, it was at a much slower pace than we'd been running before. It was during this walk the 4:30 pacer passed us. I told Cindy to go on, but she insisted on staying with me. A little over a 5K to go, and it became more of a shuffle than a run, but God kept me going. I decided to walk the hills from this point, even though I might have been able to run that slow, slow pace. I just didn't want to take a chance on challenging those cramp-prone muscles.

We were able to pick up the pace as we progressed toward the finish line, but never approached our previous pace. We covered mile 24 in 14:33, mile 25 in 13:02, and mile 26 in 12:02. Then it was downhill to the finish, and we managed that last little bit at a 10:04 pace. Then, finally, the finish line!

I didn't make my goal time of 4:30, but I did manage a PR of 2:34:50. That would not have happened had it not been for Cindy sticking with me through those last 3 miles. She encouraged me, practically dragging me through until we reached that beautiful line!
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

So thank you Cindy! For running a pretty tough course with me and sticking with me to the finish.

Below are a few cool pics of some birds of prey they had at the conference center when we finished. (And a big bunny rabbit a young lady had too.)

Thank you Jesus Christ for giving me the friends, the strength, and the will to persevere, to continue running. I hope and pray that our run brought you glory on this beautiful 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.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A marathon, a Bible verse, and a worship service!

Everything's ready for tomorrow. We made it to Springfield, MO before 4:00 PM and breezed through packet pick up pretty quickly. Some pretty hard core salespeople tried to turn me into a health food nut, do some voodoo on my back, and get me to buy a trip to Branson, but we managed to get away without being corrupted, adjusted, or tricked into listening to a three hour time share sales pitch. But that's the job those folks have, to try and convince us all that we NEED whatever it is they're selling.

Fortunately, I'm blessed to know what I need to get through this race, through this year, and through this life. What I need, and all I need, is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And from all I've seen and done today, there's no doubt that He is here and working in Springfield, MO through this event.

The TEAM 413 booth was the first vendor I noticed when I walked into the expo today. This is an awesome ministry run by Chris Gillespie, whose story you need to read about if you don't know. Chris bills TEAM 413 as the largest ministry in the world that targets the endurance racing community. At the pasta dinner tonight, we were blessed to see and eat with a TEAM 413 friend, Faye Hires and her husband Lester. She asked if I'd be attending the prayer at 6:15 in the expo building. When I said I would, I thought we were talking about a few TEAM 413 members getting together to say a prayer, but it looks to be much more than that even. Just saw a post on the Bass Pro Marathon Weekend's Facebook page that there will be a worship service at 6:15 tomorrow morning in the Sportsman's Lodge. Not just a few friends joining together for a small prayer, but a worship service! How awesome is that?!? A big event like this unafraid and unashamed to honor our Lord and Savior! Looking forward to this even more now! My bib number for tomorrow's race is 10. It's been a while, but I used to try to match Bible verses to my bib number in marathons and half marathons. So tonight, I thought I'd try to start that tradition back up. Looking to match that to a Bible verse to focus on tomorrow and this is what I found...
"that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth," ~ Philippians 2:10

If the Lord is willing, tomorrow I'll finish marathon #8. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that somehow this will be my accomplishment, that I somehow got here by my power. I need to remember that I can only run by God's grace and because of His mercy. If I make it to the finish line tomorrow, it will only be because it's His will. It won't be because of me, but because of His grace and mercy. I have to remember that, and remember to give Jesus Christ the credit for every step, every mile, and every finish.

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.

Problem solved: We run tomorrow at Bass Pro!

Thank you to the race director of Bass Pro Marathon!

Yesterday I posted that Janice wasn't listed as a participant in the half at Bass Pro tomorrow. I registered for the race back in July, received my receipt, and felt completely confident all was good...until yesterday. We never received an email for her this week, an email that's supposed to make everything quicker at packet pick up today. So I started to investigate why.

I started by clicking the "Search Participants" link on the race website, and that's when I started to get worried. Her name didn't come up on the list, no matter how I searched. First name, last name, first and last name, it didn't matter. She wasn't showing up. We're driving up today, and she's not listed as a participant in the now sold out half marathon at Bass Pro!
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." ~ -- Philippians 4:6

Instead of panic, I turned to prayer, asking the Lord to help. I tried to call the number, but got a voice mail the race director would be out of the office for the weekend. I sent an email with a copy of my receipt for both registrations and quickly got an automated response that she would be out of the office. It was hard not to worry at this point, but I just kept praying and working. I got on their Facebook page and explained the situation.

I'd done everything I knew to try, and now just prayed it could be resolved at the expo.

Not much later, though, I received an email telling me all is good. Janice is registered and we're a go for tomorrow. Evidently, it's a glitch in's system that registering two participants with the same email address means we only receive one email, for only one participant. So all is good, and we run tomorrow.

Thank you Jesus and thanks to the Bass Pro race director for getting this fixed!

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, November 1, 2013

Bass Pro Marathon Weekend

I've been pumped all week for this weekend, my first marathon of the season. Tomorrow morning we'll hit the road for Springfield, MO to run. I'm registered for the Bass Pro Marathon, and I thought Janice was registered for the half. But she never got her final instructions email this week.

So tonight I check the "Search Participants" link on the race website, and she's not listed. Now I have a copy of the email receipt when I registered us. While it doesn't name us on the receipt, it shows I paid for a marathon and a full marathon registration. This is frustrating to say the least.

But I'm not going to panic. I'm counting on the folks in Springfield to make this right at the expo tomorrow.
"Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." ~ -- Psalm 9:10

I'll post again tomorrow and let you know how this gets resolved. Hopefully, all will be well and good and we'll both be running on Sunday. I'm taking a printed copy of the email receipt and surely that will be enough to get things made right.

For now, good night and God bless.

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, October 29, 2013

Soaring Wings Half Marathon Race Recap

Saturday was Soaring Wings and it was awesome! This was my 3rd time to run this race and it didn't disappoint. Andrew and Marla, who run Soaring Wings Ranch, did a fantastic job once again putting it on.

I was blessed to be able to lead a pace group this year, my first time to lead one. I loved it. I was tasked with getting folks in under 2:15. My finish time was 2:15:05, but everyone who finished ahead of me cleared the line under the 2:15 mark. The next faster finisher before me had an official time of 2:14:59, so I'm pretty happy with the way things fell.

I volunteered to lead the pace group because I have Bass Pro Marathon this coming Sunday. I'm hoping to finish that race in 4:30, so I saw the pacing as an opportunity to practice the pace I'll need to hold for 26.2 this week. So far, that seems to have been a good decision. I finished the 13.1 miles feeling just about as good as I did when I started. That makes me feel pretty confident I can hold the pace for this week's race. I guess we'll see for sure in a few days.

Like most people, I generally start out too fast in a race. When the gun fires at the start, the enthusiasm and the atmosphere just pull me along with the crowd. Saturday, though, I knew I HAD TO slow down and maintain a steady pace. This required me to really concentrate on my watch the whole time, but it wasn't nearly as difficult to accomplish as I feared it would be. According to my Garmin, my mile splits were as follows:


By far, that's the most consistent my splits have ever been in a race. I don't even know if I'm that consistent in a 5K. Early in the race, I had to really concentrate to maintain pace. But as the miles wore on, I settled in and allowed myself to relax a little. For the first three miles, I thought I'd spend the entire race staring at my watch. I was never nervous about being able to finish in 2:15, only nervous about maintaining a consistent pace. Like I said earlier, it wasn't nearly as tough to do that as I feared.

One thing I didn't do as well as I'd hoped for was to encourage and motivate. I had a couple of people come up to me before the race and tell me they were going to stick with me. At the start line, there were a few who said they were trying to finish in 2:15. But when the gun fired, the starting mob was hard to sort out. I decided then I'd wait a mile or so before trying to interact with "my" group, to let the crowd thin out. This turned out to probably be a mistake.

It was around the 3/4 mile mark when I asked who was running in our group. Only one person spoke up. I'm sure there were others, but they were either scattered a little, struggling to get warmed up and into the pace, or maybe just not sure if I was okay to talk to or a psycho killer or something. Looking back, I should have tried to rally them at the start line, before we crossed the mat. Lesson learned.

Coming into the aid stations I barked out which side to get to. When we entered busy roadways I warned anyone who might be running with me to beware of traffic, but still, nobody in the group interacted with me in the first two miles, other than the lone runner who was willing to admit she was running with me when I asked earlier. By now, I knew I should have engaged them earlier, but I couldn't go back and restart.

It was just past the two-mile mark when a runner asked how far we'd gone. When I told him he only had 11 miles left, he didn't seem too excited, but it did draw some input from a runner who was tagging along with me. The first tough hill in mile 4 brought a little interaction. I gave a little motivational spiel about getting up hills and up we went. Nearing the top, one guy asked if he could hold the 2:15 sign. I really don't think he was with our group, but just someone we happened on as we climbed.

At the top, we turned left and were blessed with a nice downhill stretch that carried us back past the start. In our fifth mile, passing by what would also be the turn into the finish line much later in the race, I heard my name called out several times. Several friends, including former students, were lining the course through here and it felt good to have people out there cheering for me.

We kept going. Here and there, other runners and I struck up conversations. One lady was running her first half, motivated by her husband who runs. Another was a teacher from Benton who had run several half marathons and four fulls. She was looking for a PR at 2:15 on Saturday. There were a couple of ladies from the Black Girls Run club of central Arkansas who I went back and forth with, and another man who was working to stay in front of me. Now, I was starting to feel more like the pacer I'd hoped to be, one who encourages and motivates and gets to know the runners in his group.

By mile 10, people were really starting to struggle. I'm sure I'd lost a few, but we were picking up a few others who had dropped back from their starting pace too. This gave me a few more opportunities to encourage and motivate. Some runners just looked at me like I was crazy, others tried to pick it back up and come with us. We kept chugging along.

Finally, we came to the hill at mile 12, the last hill on the course. Here was an opportunity to encourage, lots of opportunity. Up we went. As I passed runners, I reminded them of that glorious downhill that awaited them when they reached the top. We reached it and I held myself back to maintain pace as we descended. Quite a few runners passed me through here. We were less than a mile from the finish, and had a little cushion to make our finish time.

At the 13 mile mark, the entrance to the McGee Center and the finish line, I stopped to shout to runners behind me. They had two minutes to finish in 2:15. I stood there for 30 seconds, calling out how long they had every 5 seconds. Then I ran to the chute opening, 100 meters from the finish. There again, I began shouting out how long they had to cross the mat if they wanted a 2:15 finish. Several sprinted, a few just held their pace.

Finally, I turned into the chute. I crossed the mat 2 hours, 15 minutes, and 5 seconds after I crossed the starting mat. But when I looked at the results a few minutes later, every runner who finished ahead of me made it in under 2:15. The runner immediately faster than me listed on the results had a time of 2:14:59. I was pretty happy with that.

I have to say, I loved the race. I loved running it as a pacer. Never did I feel stressed. Never did I feel pain. Just 13.1 miles of enjoyable running. I'll do things a little differently next time, including working harder to get to know my group before the start, and getting them involved early in the race. But I'm pretty happy with my effort as a first time pacer.
"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

But as always, the highlight of this race for me was after I crossed the finish line. When the young girl, one of the kids of Soaring Wings Christian Home and Ranch, handed me my medal. I'm not an emotional guy, but every time I finish this race, every time one of their kids hands me that medal, I tear up. I could barely utter the words thank you when she placed the medal in my hand and said, "Bless you."

If you're a runner looking for a great half to run, this is it. If you're not a runner, but someone looking to change your lifestyle by getting out and getting active, accept the challenge of running this race. If you're just someone who wants to be a part of something bigger than yourself, to help out a great cause, check out the Soaring Wings Half Marathon. You can walk it if you don't run. But one thing I promise you, if you do this race, you'll have no regrets. It's an awesome experience that I can't wait to experience again next year!

Thank you Marla and Andrew, for the great race you put on, and for the great work you do with the kids at Soaring Wings Christian Home and Ranch.

You can give to Soaring Wings Ranch by clicking the link below. And, if you donate through our fundraising page before 11:59 pm, October 31st, you'll be entered in a drawing to win a $200 Walmart gift card! So donate today to help the kids at Soaring Wings and have a chance to win!

Give to Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch now!

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.