Category Archives: running

just go

I was sitting in the chaplaincy office the other day when a colleague came in. He passed on a request that he had received from a patient. We talked about some other work things.

And then.

“How are you doing,” my friend said. “How’s the family? How’s your running? Were you training for a marathon or something?”

“That was last fall,” I said. “But I need to get back out. I’m waiting for the weather to turn.”

The conversation went on.

A couple hours later another colleague and I were walking down the hall to different rooms in the same wing of the hospital.

“How’s it going with your running,” she said. We’ve talked about it before. Her brother is a runner.

“I’m way down. But after the weather turns, I’m looking forward to getting out again. I don’t want to be ‘one and done’.”

She smiled and we went our ways.

But I was intrigued. What are the odds that two friends and colleagues would ask the same question two hours apart? I started wondering who was prompting this coordinated nagging attack. But I stopped. Because it didn’t feel like nagging.

And I also understood that the most revealing part of the conversation wasn’t that two people asked the same question, but that I gave the same answer.

“When the weather turns.”

FullSizeRender.jpgI knew it was an excuse. During the last couple years, I ran every day for 420 days. I wasn’t any busier.The weather wasn’t any nicer. I simply haven’t been running.

The next day I ran, part of it straight into the 22 mile-per-hour wind. It felt good. Not like obligation, but like opportunity.

I understand that there are no Bible verses in this post. Because I’m not sure what your “running” is when it comes to your spiritual training. But could I ask you a question, just between friends?

“How’s your ‘running’?”


I started a page talking about my own publishing process. It’s drafty, but a couple of people have been asking.


Why I quit running.

FullSizeRender (5)I was doing great. As of July 22, I had run at least a mile every day for 425 days. In a row. On July 23, I didn’t run.

I wasn’t injured. I didn’t forget.  I made a choice.  I switched my focus from running every day to training for a marathon.

I asked a friend about coaching me for the marathon, which is just 10 weeks away. I showed him my running history and my current approach. I told him about what works for me with motivation and what doesn’t. I outlined everything I could think of about my physical and mental attitudes and behaviors around running.

And in our first conversation over dinner, my new training coach said, “you are going to have to think about a day off.”

I smiled.  I immediately started thinking about all the people I’ve read about who have maintained running streaks through all levels of marathon training, including people who have run marathons every day.

The next morning while running, I realized that I needed to release the streak. Not because of the rest day, though that is important. Not because of the struggle I have with maintaining two training goals at the same time, though that is real, too. It’s because I have to learn to trust a coach more than I trust myself.

He’s run three dozen marathons. He’s coached young runners for years. I asked for help because I understood that the low standard of running every day wasn’t getting me ready for running 26.2 miles in one day. I couldn’t self-coach.  I needed to start training. 

And to argue with the first thing he suggested would mean that I would question everything he suggested.

So I quit running. For four days. Now I’m training.

And I’m guessing that this isn’t just about running.

A word on streaks.

(A guest post from Ted Harris)

18,937 – 2,632 – 56 – 24 – 23 – 16

All of these numbers carry little significance except to the person they represent.

18,937 straight days I have awakened to a new day. 2,632 consecutive games played by Cal Ripken, Jr. 56 straight games with a hit for Joe DiMaggio. 24 straight All-Star appearances by Stan Musial and Willie Mays. 23 straight regular season wins by Peyton Manning and the Colts.

SIMG_0983treaks are most prominent in the world of sports but can carry great meaning in our personal lives.  Personally, I have been on a running streak – 85 consecutive days of running at least one mile. My goal is to make it to 365. Many have asked why and some have even mocked my sanity in sticking to such a crazy meaningless streak.

Are such streaks meaningless? Is it really insane to set out to do something on a consistent basis that will add to the quality of your life or someone else’s? Streaks teach us hard work, perseverance, discipline, and focus. Yes, there are losing streaks but that’s not what we are talking about. We establish a streak, establish the discipline in order to better ourselves or our situation. That number 16 at the end of the list represent the years that friends of mine have been clean from drugs that nearly ruined their lives.

What I have discovered is you have to respect the streak. Sure there have been times when I didn’t ‘feel’ like running. There were a few times where I only ran the one mile minimum at 11:00 pm just to get it in (that usually led to the mocking). And there may come a time when the streak ends. What then? My plan is to get up the next morning and start a brand new streak.

I hope you start or continue your streak.

Right now, I gotta run – literally – today is number 86 of 365.


Ted and Sari Harris and I have known each other for nearly thirty years. But we haven’t seen each other for twenty-five.  And Ted and I never, ever thought of running together. Until June 9, when we both extended our running streaks by one more day. He’s a pastor in Muncie, Indiana

Running with weights.

“Want to try a little experiment?” Paul said. “Take this package.”

It was about the size of a big brick, wrapped with grey duct tape.

Tim took it. The handoff was a little awkward because the two men were running. “That’s not too heavy,” Tim said. “About five pounds?”

“Good guess,” Paul said. He shook his head when Tim tried to hand it back. “I want you to carry it a bit.”

They ran, talking about their activities from the previous weekend. “I got more sleep than last weekend,” Tim said. “It helped to not have any more weddings, but it also helped to actually turn stuff off and crawl in bed.”

Paul nodded. “I’ve realized that I need to start to bed a little earlier than I think I should. It always takes longer than I think it will to get the coffee ready, to pick stuff out for the next day, to finish up. And I need to leave time, on purpose, for my examen.”

“Is that a medical thing?” Tim laughed.

“It’s a review of my day that I have with God,” Paul said. “I’ll tell you more about it sometime if you are interested.”

“I’ll try to remember,” Tim said. “But at the moment, I’m thinking mostly about this weight. Is there a reason I’m carrying it? Is it to make me stronger?”

“It’s possible to get stronger by carrying the weight,” Paul said. “But for runners, strength training often happens while we are not running. This time, I wanted to help you understand something about the challenge of weight.  If you are planning to run a long distance, wouldn’t you want to have as little unnecessary weight as possible?”

Tim nodded. “I’d love to have less weight right now, whatever distance I’m running.”

Paul reached out for the package. “So stop for a minute. What do you think is in this package?”

“I think it’s flour,” Tim said. “In the old days when sugar came in five-pound packages, it would be a tossup.”

“It is flour,” Paul said. “Plain ordinary flour. Is there anything morally wrong about this bag of flour that I asked you to carry? Is it illegal to have flour?”

Tim smiled. “Unless you are intending to feed the flour to someone who is gluten intolerant, flour is pretty benign. To be safe, you could have given me corn meal.”

“I wanted something less expensive for this lesson,” Paul said. “Because it is a lesson. An ancient writer was using running as a metaphor for spiritual living.  He or she said to put off the stuff that weighs you down and the sin that trips you up and run with endurance.

“In running, we have stuff like that flour. It’s not wrong, it’s not evil, it can be quite good as pancakes or tortillas. But we usually know to put it down. But there can also be body weight. If we eat in a way that just fuels the running throughout our week, we’ll end up with less weight to carry. You saw how just five pounds is a lot.”

Tim nodded. “I remember how much harder running was on my knees thirty pounds ago.”

“And you carried the flour because I asked you to,” Paul said. “Let’s start running again. Think about how often you carry stuff because other people ask you to. You carry obligations, you carry busyness, you carry their work. You can, in the course of a week, add a lot of weight to your life. And that can shape your running. You feel pressure to finish training runs because of the time running takes.”

Tim laughed. “There are times when I’m out running that I feel my whole body tighten up when I start thinking about the tasks on my todo list. You could tell that standing was making me nervous, couldn’t you.”

“That’s why we’re going to wait to talk about the sin part,” Paul said. “But I’m guessing that you’ll be thinking about eliminating weight for the rest of your run.”

“I am,” Tim said. “And I’ll be wondering what you are going to do with that flour. Save it for the next person you are coaching?”

“What a waste,” Paul said. “What if no one else needs this particular coaching? I’m going home for breakfast. After the workout carrying the weight, I’m ready for pancakes.”


On being a runner.

The morning was perfect. Low sixties (16C), low humidity, no clouds. Tim was feeling much better about running than he had been on that Monday a couple weeks before. He was feeling better in general.

He showed up at the park and started running slowly, allowing his body to warmup. He nodded to the people he met on the path. He was getting more comfortable running in daylight now that he’d been working at it for a month. And running with someone like Paul had helped. There was a sense of community that helped him through some of the moments of insecurity. Alone, he would have quit.

Tim had never been a runner. Growing up, he spent more of his time exercising his mind than his body. He laughed at his friends who were working hard going in circles around a track. It seemed pointless.

But he couldn’t deny that something was different. His conversations were changing. His choices about all kinds of things were starting to shift. He thought back to the way he mocked his friends and wanted to apologize. A little.

After all, they were pretty arrogant about their abilities to attract attention.

He was lost in thought when Paul came up from behind. Paul had to say his name a couple times.

“Sorry,” Tim said. I was just thinking about changing labels. Are you a runner? Am I?”

“What do you think makes a person a runner?” Paul answered.

“I used to think it was about winning races,” Tim said. “Or having a certain physique or spending a certain amount on shoes or running ultramarathons. But I’m not so sure anymore. I’m starting to think it’s about running.”

Paul laughed. “Well, being a runner certainly involves running. I think about how I used to read about running. I’d look at magazines. I’d read books. But I wasn’t a runner. I wasn’t even a bad runner. But when I realized that, there was this small nudge. It said to do something different, to live differently. So I ran a little.”

“But how much? When had you run enough that you could look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m a runner’?”

“Ah. There’s an interesting thing. I think that when you say that there needs to be a change and you start running, that you are a runner.” Paul smiled.”You may or may not realize it or accept it, but you are. When you quit sitting and start moving, when you start to follow that path, you are a runner.”

“You make it sound like a conversion,” Tim said.

“I think of it more as accepting a new identity. And growing into that identity.” He looked at Tim. “It’s about training, after all. Learning how to live like a runner lives.”

Paul shook out his arms. “Time to get moving. It’s what runners do.”

He looked at Tim again. “And you are a runner.”