Tag Archives: 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


Such a great cloud of witnesses.

IMG_3014Preparing to run my first half-marathon, I got a lot of encouragement. People sent me texts. They (you) “liked” my Facebook status. They came to the race.

I could have interpreted the support as pressure that I must do well, increasing my fear of failure.

But my friends aren’t like that. They know I’ve not been an athlete. They know I’ve been training. Some of them know the struggle of running 13 miles. Some of them know the struggle of not walking at all. Some of them know the cost of perseverance.

So when they offer support, they are cheering. They are hoping I do as well as I can. They are hoping to strengthen my resolve and to help me fight my fears.

And I respond looking for ways to run more intentionally. In the middle of the race, when I am struggling, I know that there are people who believe in my work more than I do. I know that when I get to the end, I will find family waiting.

There is an image of running in Hebrews 12:

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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Before the “therefore” is several paragraphs of biography. Some are famous Bible people. Some are not. And some are referred to as “others”. All of them demonstrated faithfulness in the face of opportunity and resistence. Each of them is part of a group of people cheering.

I’ve often felt guilty for not measuring up to this crowd. I now see them as friends, cheering on the way, waiting at the finish.

trusted advisors.

“You told me to remind you about Ezra,” Tim said as Paul caught up to him. “And I want to know what you’ve been telling God about me.”

Paul laughed. “Nothing bad, I assure you. In fact, I thank God for you. Instead of being grateful for stuff, I’m grateful for people. And I’m content with whatever stuff I have.”

Tim shook his head. “You don’t strike me as someone who settles.”

“I didn’t say I settled. In fact, why do you think I’m out here running? I’m training because I don’t settle. I want to improve. But I’m content with what I have.”

Tim looked confused.

“I’ve been running for a long time,” Paul said. “I’ve seen fads in shoes, in exercise plans, in clothing, in technology. But I decided a long time ago that I was going to concentrate on running. If I have new shoes or old, I still have to put in the miles. A watch doesn’t make me faster or slower. A shirt is a shirt (unless it’s cotton and it gets wet. Then it a dead weight.) I focus on the run, not the stuff.”

Tim nodded. “I’ve struggled with that a little. Sometimes I read a magazine and see some new thing. I want to buy it because it seems like I’ll get better. Usually, I’ll remember that what makes me better is running.”

“Sometimes those shoes look amazing, don’t they?” Paul said. And then he laughed. “But I’m content with these.”

“But what about Ezra?” Tim said. “Didn’t you say he had something to do with giving advice, like shoe ads?”

“Ezra. He’s the title character of a short book, though it’s mostly about other people,” Paul said. “There’s a short description of him that I think about any time I look at people who try to give advice or teach others about running. Or anything else. It goes, ‘Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.'”

“That’s nice,” Tim said. “But what does that have to do training advice? Was Ezra a running coach?”

Paul smiled. “Ezra was a coach of sorts, but I don’t see him running. Here’s why I talk about him. The first thing we read is that Ezra was committed. His heart was set. He was passionate about what he was doing. He was training for something.”

Tim shook his head. “Always with the training. From our first conversation. But I’m working on it.”

“Second, Ezra studied,” Paul moved on. “Before he taught, he learned. He wanted to know all about what God said. When I’m looking for who I’m going to trust for advice about running or nutrition or life, I want to know that they aren’t making it up. I want to know they have studied.”

TIm nodded. “I get that. When I hear someone talking about a training method, I’m starting to look for their research. And if they are saying that this is brand new, never before discovered, secret until now, I need to know why they are ignoring everything that has been said before.”

“That’s a helpful filter,” Paul said. “And then I add another one. Ezra observed the law. He did what it said. He kept the practices. Not only was his heart involved, and his head, he made his body part of his life. So that by the time he got to teaching, he had complete credibility.”

“So don’t take marathon training advice from a person who only runs 5Ks?” Tim said.

Paul nodded. “Assuming that the person has the capacity to run, that’s exactly right. And they don’t have to run fast, if what they are teaching you is how to complete a marathon. But I always pay more attention to the whole life of someone who is telling me how to live mine.”

And while Tim was trying to make sense of that sentence, Paul started to move ahead.

“Have a great weekend,” Paul said. “Don’t forget your long run.”

Tim waved. “So should I trust you? Just because you run faster than me?”

“Ask me Monday,” Paul said.

Practical steps.

“How did you know about running at a conversational pace?” Tim said.

Paul smiled. “And happy Wednesday to you, too. Are your legs feeling okay after our run on Monday?”

“They are,” Tim said. “And that’s why I’m curious about how you knew about running at a slower pace than I usually run. After we were done talking, or after you ran away, I realized that I had run further than I usually run and that I hurt less. It was great advice. So, did you make it up?”

Paul shook his head. “I read about it several years ago.  From a number of running writers. So I tried it. I did most of my running a little slower than my capacity. And I discovered that it helped my last longer.”

“How do you stay slow?” Tim asked. “And why is your conversational pace faster than my gasping pace? And how did you know to follow that advice?”

Paul ran for a bit. Tim could tell that he was thinking.

“I think there are several issues you are raising,” Paul finally said.  “Let me see if I understand them and then I can answer them in order. First, you are looking for practical advice about how training works. Second, you are wondering how to compare experience with youthful energy. And third, you are wondering about how to determine whose teaching to trust? Does that seem accurate?”

Tim nodded. “I have a lot more questions, but those will do to begin.”

Paul laughed. “I know. When they get over their shyness, new runners are full of questions. You are going to need to help me remember my answer to your third question. Ezra. Remind me to tell you about Ezra. He’s my favorite person for talking about what kinds of people and advice to trust. But I want to take care of the short answers first.”

Tim started typing on his phone. “I’ll remind both of us.”

“Let’s start with your second question,” Paul said. “Never fall into the trap of comparing someone else’s middle with your beginning. In running, in writing, in understanding stuff about God. Use someone else’s apparent expertise as an opportunity to learn from them rather than as a way to criticize yourself.”

Tim nodded. “I’ve just started improving at that skill. Just in the last week or so.”

Paul ignored the compliment. “On your first question, I quit listening to music and started listening to podcasts. Because they are conversational, I can keep my pace better. (And it’s challenging to listen to Joel Runyon talking about doing impossible things at 37.) Look for really simple practical acts. It’s why I pray every morning and every evening. If I see the sun coming up, it reminds me to talk to God.”

Paul started to speed up, slowly, like he always did. Tim did his best to keep up. “What do you talk about?”

Paul smiled. “Lately, I’ve been talking about you. See you Friday.”

Conversational speed.

“Can we run together for a little longer today?” Tim asked. “When you come running up at the end of my run, say few things and speed off, I’m a little frustrated.”

Tim was running his new route at the park.  A guy he met last week caught up with him.

“I can do that,” Paul said. “I wanted to find out whether you were interested in talking. You seemed pretty hesitant last week.”

“It wasn’t about you, exactly,” Tim said.  “It’s pretty scary to run in public, to have everyone watching and judging. And then, when someone older passes you, that’s pretty intimidating. No offense intended.”

Paul smiled. “None taken. But what makes you think that people are judging? Are you?”

Tim shrugged. “No, not really. But everyone is better or faster or cooler than I am. I want to stay in the shadows.”

“I’ll go back to my first question from last week,” Paul said. “What are you training for? Before you argue, let me explain a bit.

“When you have a clear sense of why you are running, what you are training for, it changes your relationship to everything: to running itself, to other people, to your life. You worry less about what other people think of you and more about how people might help you.”

Tim ran silently for a bit. “I’m not sure I understand.”

“Let me be really practical for a minute,” Paul said. “How fast are you running right now? Faster or slower than usual.”

Tim looked at his watch. “I have no idea,” he said finally.

“I can tell you. You are running a little slower. You can tell by the way we are able to talk. At your usual pace, you would be gasping. I’ve slowed you down a bit because good training happens at conversational pace.

“Too many people try too hard on their own when they start running. They run fast, then burn out. Because you wanted to talk to me, you adjusted your pace to mine. And my pace is a perfect speed for you to build stamina.”

Tim laughed. “I knew I was matching you, but I thought I was speeding up. But you are right. I wanted to know what you knew so I stopped worrying about what you thought of me.”

Paul smiled. “You will speed up, eventually. If we run together enough and you follow my lead. But the secret is learning to live at conversational speed.”

“That sounds like it’s about more than running,” Tim said.

Paul smiled. “That’s enough slowness for me. See you Wednesday.”