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

Friday, February 28, 2014

It's Here! It's Here! Little Rock Marathon Weekend is Here!

Finally! It seems like forever since my last marathon -- Mississippi River Marathon three weeks ago. But it's Friday afternoon, I'm off work, and the weekend has begun! Little Rock Marathon weekend that is. But crazy as it seems, there's a lot of tension and fear and trepidation and nerves and sadness and worry because it might just rain on us Sunday. Last week I tried to convince everyone not to worry, but that post didn't seem to stop folks. So I'm trying again.

The other day I read what might have been the best advice ever for running in the rain. It was on the Conway Running Club's Facebook page when a runner asked for tips on surviving a rainy race day. The best I saw was from a long time runner who said, "Remember when you were a little kid who loved running in the rain, whose parents had to tell to get in out of the rain? Be that little kid!" Best advice ever. Heed it if we're wet on Sunday!

But just in case you don't find that as easy to do as I find it to tell you, here's another tip that came to mind. After checking the weather forecast when I got home and finding it unimproved from when I last checked it an hour ago, an old song came to mind, a song I remembered singing from my childhood. It seems to me this will be the perfect song to sing for 26.2 wet miles on Sunday if the forecasters actually do have it right. Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, by BJ Thomas, with lyrics.

Listen to the words of the song..."There's one thing I know. The blues they send to greet me won't defeat me," and take them to heart! Keep them in your heart and pass them through your lips on Sunday if it rains on us. Regardless of the weather, this is going to be a great race. We're going to have a great time.

If you're going to run marathons, you're going to face all sorts of challenges. The weather is one of those, and it's one we can't control. But we don't have to let it control us either. We sign up for these races many months in advance, sometimes plan them for even longer than that. We train forever just to be ready on race day. There's no way we can predict the weather that far out.

So we choose the race. We pay our money. And we train. Always hoping for the best weather, the perfect conditions to run in. But there's just no way to guarantee we'll have even decent weather to run in. No guarantee at all. But we don't have to be miserable about it. Embrace it. Become that little kid again, if only for the few hours it takes to finish.

And remember the source of true happiness, the source of the strength it takes to get through tough situations...
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. ~ Philippians 4:12-13

We'll get through Sunday's Little Rock Marathon, rain or shine. We'll get through it because Jesus brought us to it, and He will bring us through it. It might not be your best finish time, but if you choose to make it so, it can be a fun time, regardless of the weather.

See you Sunday, with a smile on my face. And I just might be singing, "Raindrops are falling on my head..."

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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Don't worry. Be HAPPY! One week 'til Little Rock Marathon

One week from today we'll toe the line at the Little Rock Marathon, the starting line that is. Really we'll be loaded into corrals and shuffling toward the starting line, but you get the idea. It's only a week away. Today I've noticed numerous posts on Facebook talking about how nervous people are. I don't know if it will do any good, but I decided to take the opportunity to offer a little unsolicited advice to all the folks getting the jitters with seven days to go.


If you've come this far and are still planning to join us at the starting line, you've done the hardest part. You've spent months putting in 100's of miles. You've done the long runs, in my opinion the most important part of the marathon training regimen. You are physically ready! That's the hardest part. Now, all you have left are whatever miles you plan to run this week and then a 26.2 mile long run on Sunday.

Now that you're physically prepared, there are two classes of things that can go wrong enough to keep you from crossing the finish line -- those you can control and those you can't. Because the things you can control are 100% up to you, I can't see any reason to worry about them. Because you can't control the others, worrying over them does you absolutely no good. So I can't see why you'd waste time and energy worrying about them.

Let's talk about those things you can control first. This week's training. This week's eating. Logistics. Race day -- pace and nutrition.

First, how you train this week can impact your race day performance. My advice here is to just follow your training plan! You've spent months using this plan, but this last week can sometimes seem so light that it makes you feel like you're not doing enough. But more than likely, whoever developed your plan knows more about this than you do. If they didn't, you wouldn't have trusted them to start with. If it's worked for you this far, trust it to get you to the end.

The next thing you can control is how you eat this week. Just like the training plan, if you've been following a marathon nutrition plan, stick with it. If you haven't been following a strict plan, you have been experimenting throughout your training. You've likely had good long runs and bad long runs and part of what made them good or bad could have been your eating habits during the week before. Think back to what you did before those good long runs and have faith that if it worked then, it will work now. It's common to get nervous this week and start searching the internet for magic tips and pointers. They all sound good if they promise good results, especially for the first time marathoner. The last thing you need to do at this point is to make major changes to your diet, especially untested and untried changes. Just do what worked for you during training!

Logistics covers quite a lot, but nothing you can't handle. The key here is to get everything ready in advance. You know what gear you need, so don't leave it scattered around the house until marathon morning. Make a checklist and get it together now, in one bag, contained so you don't have to hunt for it last minute. Include clothes for any kind of weather so you'll be ready for whatever mother nature throws at you. Watch, water bottles, nutrition belts, sunscreen, chapstick, gels, or anything else that's worked for you during training should be in this bag, long before race day. If you do this, even if your schedule is disrupted the day before the race, you'll be ready with time to spare. Get ready now, and you'll be ready on race day!

The last thing you can control is your race, specifically your pace and nutrition. I'm nowhere near as experienced as a lot of marathon runners, but Little Rock this year will be my 12th marathon since I started in 2011, and I've made costly mistakes in more of them than I've run well. The easiest mistake to make, in my opinion, is to start too fast or to get overconfident early in the race and push the pace. Unless you're an elite runner, or good enough to win an award, (neither of which am I) your primary goal should be to finish. I'm not going to get too cliche and say you shouldn't even set a time goal. I've always had a finish time in mind at the start of every race, even though I've missed it more than I've met it. But your primary goal should be to finish! Unless you're one of those elites or award-winners mentioned above, your medal is going to look exactly like those who finish before you and those who finish after you. So wrap your mind around the fact that finishing is the primary goal, and do it now!

With that said, you're more than likely going to feel good at the start of the race. You WILL be tempted to pick up the pace, to get ahead of your target pace, and you might even reach a point where you're convinced you can finish significantly faster than your goal. Even though I know better, I still fall prey to these same temptations often. But I can promise you, more often than not, veering from your goal pace and pushing to finish faster will come back to haunt you late in the race. Discipline is the key to finishing well, and maybe to finishing at all. No matter how great you feel in the first few miles, stick with your target pace. If you do that, you're less likely to crash and burn and a lot more likely to finish and finish well.

Nutrition during the race. This is another thing you should have experimented with during your training. Think back to those good long runs and how you managed your nutrition before and during those runs. Stick with what worked during training! A lot of people may be offering you advice, usually what works best for them, that sounds really tempting to try. But this is not the time to try something new! Just because it worked well for a friend, doesn't mean it will work the same for you. I don't know anyone who manages nutrition intake like I do, but it works for me. Use what works for you and don't listen to all the news about great stuff that works for everyone else. If you want to experiment with something you here this week, wait until after the marathon.

That's it for my advice on the things you can control. Now let's move to the things you can't. And I'll go ahead and say it now, why are you worried about things you can't do anything about? Is your worrying now going to change anything? Is it going to change anything on race day? There is absolutely no good for your race that can come from worrying about things beyond your control. So just stop!

The weather is something I've seen several people worrying over. Why? I'm not sure. This has been the hardest winter training I've experienced since I started running, and especially since I started running marathons. I've run cold ones and hot ones and in between ones, but I've never been able to bend the weather to my will. Not one time. Especially not by worrying about it. Whatever weather God throws at us next Sunday, we'll deal with it and run. If it's cold or hot, raining or sunshine, snow or sleet or even hail, as long as they don't cancel the race, we're going to run. So stop worrying about it.

There are other things you might not be able to control that could arise as well. Illness is the main one that comes to mind. But again, if you can't control it, why worry over it. In fact, I'd hypothesize that you could actually INCREASE the chances of making yourself sick by worrying. If something happens and you do take ill on race day, this race isn't worth killing yourself over. If you get sick and can't run the race, or can't finish the race, they will hold it again in a year, and there will be lots of other marathons between now and then if you don't want to wait that long.

Anything else that could happen that's beyond your control isn't worth worrying over either, because worrying isn't going to stop it or help it or make it better. And even if something did happen, just getting to this point is an amazing accomplishment! You've already done more than most people ever will. You've run more miles, endured more pain and discomfort, pushed yourself harder and farther than maybe even you believed was possible. You are an athlete, and an amazing one at that.

Now, you didn't think you were going to get through one of my posts without a little preaching did you? Well, here it comes. Instead of worrying, pray. Pray for strength. Pray for peace. Pray for comfort. But most of all, pray that God will be glorified by all of our efforts next Sunday!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~ Philippians 4:6

That's what the Bible tells us and I have to tell you it works for me. While every race hasn't been what I'd consider a good one, and I even DNF'd one, I honestly believe that God has been glorified in each and every one. And that's really what we should be pursuing in every aspect of our lives, even our running.

So this week, stop worrying and pray. You've done the hardest part. Keep your head, focus on remaining disciplined, and do what's worked through your training. And most importantly, do it for the glory of God. If you do that, whatever happens, however you run, however you finish, you're already amazing!

So good luck and God bless all running the Little Rock Marathon next week!

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sweaty shoes and frozen hands

Our weather this week has ranged from warm and humid to freezing temps, but God has blessed me and kept me out on the roads. Yesterday it was 640 and humid at 5 AM when we ran. It was the first run of 2014 that made me sweat so much my shoes were soaked when I finished. This morning, same time and town, it was 320. For the first mile and change, my hands were freezing. With only 8 days left before the Little Rock Marathon, it really doesn't matter what the weather does, because who knows what it will be like on race day.

I just checked the extended weather forecast on Weatherbug,, and all three local TV stations. It seems like every one of them have a different forecast for the latter part of next week. So my conclusion is that nobody really knows what weather we'll face for this year's race. That's why, regardless whether it's hot or cold, raining for clear, windy or still, I'm going to hit the road for every planned training run.

It's often tempting to skip a run when the weather promises to make it uncomfortable. Some say it's too cold to run, or too hot, or too windy, or too humid, or too [fill in the blank here]. But if you're going to run road races, you've got to be willing to run in pretty much any conditions, because any of those could show up on race day. And if you run marathons, it's never good to have to deal with something you never faced before.

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~ James 1:2-4

The same way that harsh (or sometimes just uncomfortable) conditions affect runners, tough times and bad things tend to discourage many in other aspects of life. So many people just fold when faced with bad situations. It's like they just quit trying in life.

But the same way running through those tough times makes us stronger and better prepared for race day, the trials of life strengthen us and prepare us to face uncertainties and unknown conditions ahead. So for much the same reasons we keep running when most others don't, keep going through the tough times.

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

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Race Recap: Mississippi River Marathon 2014

It was back in Greenville, MS for the 2nd annual Mississippi River Marathon yesterday. This year the race seemed a little tougher, but for reasons beyond control of the organizers. After all was said and done, having done this one two years in a row, I plan to return for year 3 in 2015.

The adventure started on the drive down Friday night. One reason this race is hard to pass up is it's only 3 hours from home. That means I can work all day Friday, drive to Greenville, and get to the expo before packet pickup closes. That still leaves me time to eat a good pre-race meal and get to the hotel in time for a good night's rest before a Saturday race. This time though, about halfway to Greenville, it started to snow. The closer we got, the harder it seemed to fall. Luckily, the temperatures had been in the mid to high 30s so it wasn't sticking on the roads. Still, I never said anything that night, but I was starting to worry the race might end up canceled. This picture is from our hotel window, just before we went to bed.

One awesome surprise was the proximity of our hotel to the race finish line and the departure point for the buses to the start line. For years, I've booked rooms with Choice Hotels, because they're usually reasonably priced with clean, comfortable rooms. When I made reservations for Greenville, I ended up at the Rodeway Inn. I never thought to check the location, just figured I'd find it when I got to town. So after we picked up our packets, while we were eating, I looked it up on my phone. When I saw it was right downtown, I told Janice, "This is really close to the finish line and the buses." Last year, I slept in my Blazer on the street in that same area. (Janice wasn't with me last year, so I didn't mind roughing it.) But when we got there, it was even closer than I realized. The finish line was adjacent to the hotel parking lot, and the bus departure point was a block away! This pic is from the hotel window of the finish line. Not bad for 60-something dollars a night.

Race Day

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books ~ Revelation 20:12

My bib number for the race was 2012, so I started looking for a Bible verse that corresponds to that number. I didn't have my computer on this trip, so I was fumbling through my Bible app on my phone before finding Revelation 20:12. So getting ready, heading out, and running the race, I thought about how grateful I am that my name is written in that book of life, and hoping and praying that others who are lost find their way to have their names written in that book as well.

I had several opportunities to share Amanda's story as well, starting before the race at our hotel. The regular breakfast hours began at 6:00 AM, but the staff got it out and ready for runners at 5. I took advantage and found biscuits with peanut butter and jelly pretty appealing for a pre-marathon breakfast. Also enjoying the pre-race fare were several women from Little Rock wearing TEAM 413 race shirts. They recognized me from last week's River Trail 15K and asked about the sign pinned on my back. So even before the buses loaded, I was able to share.

After breakfast, it was a short walk to the buses, only a block. So we left the hotel just minutes before 6 AM. I climbed aboard the first bus and saw my friend Rick in the first seat. I sat with him until the bus filled up and a race organizer boarded who needed the seat. Then I made my way to an open seat toward the back. I sat next to a man from Houston and we got to know each other a little for the next hour. The buses were supposed to begin leaving at 6, but we sat in place on the bus until 6:30, when the final bus was supposed to depart. This had a few people grumbling, but I don't think they realized just how much of a blessing this was. I knew, because I ran it last year, that when we arrived at the start area we would clear the bus and be left standing in the cold until the race started at 8. I was perfectly content to wait on the bus and minimize our time spent with almost 400 people trying to huddle around a fire for an hour to wait for the starting gun to fire. So, to the organizers who decided to postpone the departure of the buses I say, "Thank you! Great decision."

They had three fires going behind a long row of port-a-potties. Between the fires and the start line was a tent where drop bags were collected. An added amenity that I don't remember last year was a table with folks serving coffee. It might have been there last year and I just forgot, but this year, in the sub-freezing temperatures, standing on the snow covered ground, it was sure a welcome sight that I won't forget!

After the last buses unloaded, the obligatory Marathon Maniac photo was taken. I know several Maniacs didn't make it because they were waiting to use the bathroom, but we still had a pretty good group for the picture. Here's the Maniac photo and a 3600 video I shot to show the staging area for the start.

At 7:50, the call was made to head for the starting line, about 200 yards from the staging area. We migrated that way as a herd and lined up behind the start. I love this part of the event because you get to see so many people that you run into at races all over. Lots of well-wishing, luck-wishing, handshakes and hugs. The Star Spangled Banner played over the portable sound system, and a couple minutes later we embarked on our 26.2 mile journey.

From the start we headed sort of northwest, across Lake Chicot and into a wind that had assured me for days would not be present. It wasn't far to the left turn that would start us heading south around the biggest part of the lake, but it was plenty cold until we reached it and put the wind at our backs. At this point, we had a little more than 12 miles to go around North America's largest oxbow lake.

Those first few miles we ran on pretty much a southerly course, with the lake to our east and mostly homes to our west. There were a few residents out to ring cowbells and cheer us on, but most of the people we saw on this part of the journey were city and county police, fire, and medical personnel who served to control the traffic and keep us safe. There were lots of side streets connecting to the route, and these folks blocked them all to protect us.

Before I reached the first mile marker, my friend Rick had caught up to me and we stuck together for the majority of the race. We passed a couple of folks at one time on this part of the course who asked about my sign, giving me another chance to share Amanda's story. At mile 5, I took the picture below. The wind was still at our back and it didn't feel bad at all at this point.

At mile 6, we left the residential area and turned left onto highway 82. We were still on the shore of the lake, but now heading east with about 7 more miles before we reached the river for which this race is named. Though there were plenty of lake shore homes between us and the water, the four lane highway made this stretch a lot less scenic and made for a lot less crowd support than the first 6 miles. Through here, I was glad to have someone to run with. We reached mile 10 and I tried to post the pic below to Facebook, but had no service.

It was right at the mile 10 marker the highway was under construction and down to two lanes. Here again, the fantastic law enforcement folks kept us safe, allowing traffic to use one lane and us to use the other. We only had 3 miles left before we'd reach the bridge.

We got to the 13 mile marker and began the only ascent on the marathon course, the trek to the peak of the span across the Mississippi River. The bridge seemed longer than I remembered from last year. I was thinking it was right at 2 miles across, but I learned it was really closer to 3. The first mile and a little more was the climb, then it seemed to flatten out for a mile or so, then the descent on the Mississippi side was about a half to three quarters of a mile. At mile 15, I took another picture to update my Facebook friends, but again I had no service. This would be the last picture I'd take on the course because my battery was bad low.

When we finally reached the end of the span, we were a short distance from the mile 16 marker and aid station. The four or five miles from the foot of the bridge to mile 20 are really the least scenic of the entire course. But the good folks from Mississippi do a good job of breaking the would-be monotony with enthusiastic crowds at several cheering stations. There was a Mississippi State University cheering station, an Ole Miss cheering station, a group from the YMCA, and a couple of cheering stations from local churches that kept this stretch from being a killer that it might have otherwise been.

At mile 18, we passed a young lady who mentioned my sign. She told me she'd read my race recap from last year when she researched this race. Turns out she is a preacher's wife from New Orleans and this was her second marathon. Her second was supposed to be St. Jude, but she became a Memphis Marathon refugee when it was canceled last December and used this race as its replacement. She ran along with us and we talked about our Running with Amanda ministry and her running history.

My buddy Rick decided to pull back at mile 20 and ease it in. His goal race is in three weeks at Little Rock and this was serving as a training run for him. So my new friend and I pushed on. Here's where we turned off highway 82 and headed into a little more scenic part of the course. As we meandered through some really nice neighborhoods, several residents had set up unofficial aid stations. The first offered us small bottles of water. At mile 21, we were offered water and a choice of various other stuff I can't recall.

Here, my new friend told me to go ahead, that she was going to slow down. As I was leaving the nice people at their aid station, they asked about my sign and I again got to tell Amanda's story. We were still going through nice neighborhoods when I reached mile 22. There, another residential aid station offered something I'd never been offered on a marathon course chocolate! It was in a nice insulated cup with a lid you could drink through and everything!

Until now, I'd barely walked at all through the aid stations, just long enough to gulp down the water or powerade that I took. But this hot chocolate, something about it sounded almost heavenly. I decided to take it and walk just as long as it took me to drink it, all of it! And I did. It wasn't too hot to gulp, so I didn't have to walk too long. But it tasted even better than it sounded. It was AWESOME! Honestly, I'd never even imagined or thought about hot chocolate on a marathon, but it was the best thing anyone could have offered me at that point in the race. So, if you had anything to do with giving us hot chocolate on the course, THANK YOU!

I was 4.2 miles from the finish now and it was pretty obvious that I wasn't going to make that so elusive 4:30 goal. However, I still thought a PR might be possible as I again picked up the pace. When I reached the 23 mile marker, a Maniac grabbed the flag and started yelling that a 10 minute mile from here would get a 4:30 finish. I knew though, I didn't have any 10 minute miles left in me. I'd been hovering around an 11 minute pace for the last couple of miles. But like I said before, I'd already abandoned the idea of a 4:30 and still thought a PR might be possible.

At this point, I decided to walk through the rest of the aid stations, but I never had to resort to a run/walk routine. I was picking out short term goals -- a sign just ahead, a mailbox a little bit down the road, the next street, anything I could see that I thought I could reach without having to walk. We were spaced out enough now that I could only see a couple of runners ahead of me and I didn't have the energy to turn and look behind. But by the grace of God, I reached miles 24 and 25. Then, finally, I came around the curve and crossed the railroad tracks to start down the long, straight stretch to the finish line.

As I passed a cop and thanked her for being out there, she said, "Only three or four lights left." While that sounds like just a short distance, I was still far enough from the finish line that I couldn't even make it out. But the Good Lord kept me running. One of the ladies ahead of me stopped to walk or stretch or something. I really can't remember what she was doing. As I passed her, I tried to offer a little encouragement. Her reply was, "I'm so over this." But I kept going.

Finally, as I reached the marker for mile 26, I could make out the finish line. I still couldn't read the time, but I knew I wasn't going to make my PR. I finally crossed the line at 4:36:18, my second best marathon time and just shy of a minute and half from my PR.

They had lots to eat at the finish, but I wasn't really that hungry yet. They had donuts and chips and granola bars and pizza and ice cold water. I took a couple of pieces of pizza, a bag of chips and a bottle of water and headed out to cheer in my friends.

All things considered, I have to say I love this race. It's not too big and not too small. It's only a three hour drive from home. It benefits Teach for America, a charity dedicated to getting young, enthusiastic, and motivated teachers into high need districts to improve education. The organizers do a fantastic job and really take care of runners.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. ~ Psalm 27:14

I didn't get that 4:30 finish time that I've been after since last fall, but I'll keep trying. I've got to keep things in perspective though. And that means stopping or slowing down to share when the opportunity presents itself. When Jesus Christ wants me to get a 4:30 finish, I'll get it. Until then, I'm just going to keep running and enjoy the race!

Next race: Little Rock Marathon in 3 weeks!

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

Saturday, February 1, 2014

River Trail 15K Recap

Another race today, but not a marathon. This was the River Trail 15K, the second race on the Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix Series of 2014, but the first one of the series that I ran. It's the third race weekend in a row for me, and next weekend will be the fourth. But this 9.3 miles was a lot shorter than the marathons on those other three weekends.

Because I'd run a marathon in each of the previous two weekends and have another marathon to run next weekend, I left the house this morning unsure how hard I wanted to run this race. When I met the Cabot Country Cruisers to caravan to the race, I told a friend that I'd make a decision on how hard to run after the first mile of the race.

Since I needed 10 miles today to meet my weekly 40 mile goal, I got in 0.7 miles before the race start. I knew I wouldn't do it if I waited until after the race, so I decided to use it as a warm-up/test to see how my legs were going to feel today. It actually went better than I'd expected. When I finished, my Garmin showed me I'd run that short distance in an average 7:48 pace. And it really felt pretty good! Now, I knew I couldn't hold that pace for 9+ miles, so I decided to try and make the first mile of the race at an 8:30 pace and decide how to proceed from there.

That first mile went well and I decided to see how long I could hold the pace. I finished mile two in 8:24. Just past the two mile mark, I passed a young boy who mentioned my poster I wear pinned to my race shirt. It gave me an opportunity to tell Amanda's story. I ran with him a quarter of a mile or so, telling the whole story of how she died, and the role that teen substance abuse played in her death. He seemed extremely receptive and I felt blessed to have the opportunity to talk with him about it. When the race was over, I saw him again and spoke with him a while. I learned that he was 11 years old and his parents both run too.

About two and a half miles in, a good friend I met a couple of years ago and her young daughter were working the aid station. It's always great to have folks cheer you on in a race, calling your name and knowing you by sight, but today I learned that even water tastes better in a race when it's handed to you by a friend. So thanks Nancy to you and your beautiful young daughter for supporting us at the race today!

Around mile three, I passed a couple of men I'd had in sight for quite a while. We were off the road and on the paved trail going up a slight incline. As I passed one of them, he told me he appreciated me sharing Amanda's story with the young man back there. He'd been just ahead of us when I was telling it and evidently heard it all. This guy ended up passing me later and finishing somewhere ahead of me, but I was grateful for yet another person hearing Amanda's story.

I'd covered mile three in 8:22, but was beginning to realize that I wouldn't be able to hold that pace for the entire race. I pushed on through mile four, covering that one in 8:24. But when I came to the aid station around the halfway point, I took the water offered me and slowed to a walk to drink it. I only walked about 30 yards, but the need to walk was a sure sign that the rest of the race would be slower.

Mile five went by in 8:51, not quite 30 seconds off my pace for the first four miles, but still pretty good I thought. I kept pushing, knowing that up ahead at the turnaround there was a short but very steep incline I'd be walking up. When I arrived there, I made no attempt to run up it, but picked up the pace when I reached the top and made the turn. We were less than four miles from the finish now.

The next aid station was at mile six and I planned to walk through that one too. When I reached it, I did just that. I managed that sixth mile in 9:06, the slowest of the race yet. There was only one more hill between the seventh and eighth mile markers, and I decided I'd be walking it too. The seventh mile went down in 8:41. Only 2.3 miles were left, but I knew my pace was going to slow.

By the time I reached the sign marking the eighth mile, I'd slowed down quite a bit. The Garmin showed I finished it in 9:36. But just past that eight mile marker was the aid station where my friend and her daughter were working. So again I got a little boost as I took water and walked again to drink it. Now only 1.3 miles to go.

Just past the water stop, as I started to run again, a lady passed me who asked about the poster on my back. So I was blessed again with an opportunity to share the story. She slowed down to run alongside while I shared, giving me time to tell the whole story, before she picked it up and pushed on.

I reached that last hill and slowed to a walk as I climbed. It was slowing me down, but I didn't feel the least bit guilty. I'd pushed harder than I should have at the beginning, and was just wanting to finish well by this point in the race. At the top of the hill, I picked it back up again. My goal now was to keep running all the way in, even if it was a slow run, I wanted to run it on in.

Another guy and I had gone back and forth several times in the last half of the race and he was ahead of me at this point. But just before mile nine, I passed him again. He picked up his pace and asked me if I'd gotten faster since last year. He remembered my poster from the 2013 race and said he didn't have as much trouble beating me that year. We talked a little as we ran past the ninth mile marker and continued conversing as we made the last turn. At that point, with a couple hundred yards to the finish, I told him I was going to ease it in, and that he was definitely going to beat me. He took off and finished several seconds ahead of me.

I crossed the finish line in 1:21:55. I knew I'd PR'd the 15K distance here last year, but I couldn't remember what my time was. I was pretty sure it was somewhere close to today's finish, but I just couldn't remember. When I got home and looked it up, I learned that I didn't get a new PR this year, but that I did tie last year's time. I don't know what the odds are of running 9.3 miles in exactly the same time a year apart, but I figure they've got to be pretty long. Even so, that's what happened today. Last year I set a PR for the distance at 1:21:55 and this year I ran it again in exactly 1:21:55.

. After the race, as I was walking away from the water and food table, a man came trotting after me asking me what my poster said. So I had another opportunity to share Amanda's story. He said he'd seen me at the race last year but never got an opportunity to read it or ask me about it. But this time he got to hear and I got to tell him.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. ~ 1 Peter 2:9

Every time I told Amanda's story at the race today, I told them, "This is why we're out here." I firmly believe that God lets me run so that I can share the story of Amanda's death and what He has done for me to keep me going through our tragedy. I've said it many times before, but I just can't say it enough, every step I take, every mile I run, every race I finish is only by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

I'm not strong enough. I'm not good enough. I'm simply not enough to do any of this without Jesus. He keeps me going. He gives me strength. He keeps me motivate. Without Him I'd be nothing and I'd accomplish nothing. I am so grateful for this opportunity to run and to share. And I'll keep running as long as He lets me.

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.