The 1000 Mile Challenge and Reflections On The Past Year

There is a sidewalk square at the corner of East 5th and Walnut Streets in Des Moines that is quite remarkable. It looks like all the other sidewalk squares; same shape, same materials made them all. It’s not marked with paint or worn by erosion. People walk by it every day without giving it a moments thought. But every time I go near that simple square of concrete, I feel a sense of pride stir up in me, and I get a little teary-eyed. I am flooded with memories; laughter and tears, happiness and pain, frustration and ease, and all the hurdles that it took to get to that particular square.

That spot, unnoticed by most everyone, is the place where I crossed the 1000 mile threshold for miles in a year. The original plan was to run 750 miles, but as that goal was crushed (I actually passed it without knowing), a new goal quickly formed in it’s place. “I have almost three months, can I get another 250 miles in?” I wondered to myself. Knowing that I had a marathon coming up, I would have a couple weeks of tapering and recovery. That meant a big push if this goal was to be achieved.

On December 20th, I hit the goal, right on the very square of concrete I described. As I was getting closer to the goal, I kept saying to myself and to others that it was no big deal, that others have run a lot more. That is true, but when I reflected on it, it was a bigger deal than I first thought. It wasn’t just a number, it was an accomplishment. It was hours of dedication and sacrifice that not everyone can or wants to undertake.

The magnitude of the milestone really hit me today. This morning I was warming up to run with the “Winter Warriors” group in the East Village, when a friend who knew about my accomplishment last week (and asked jokingly if there would be cake) smiled and said “Still no cake?” I smiled and said “Sorry, no cake”. That’s when I overheard another runner ask if it was my birthday. My friend explained that I ran 1000 miles in a year last week, to which the runner asking the question said an exasperated “My God! How many miles a week is that?” My friend started averaging it out as I signed up for the run, but hearing that reminded me of how I felt when I would see or meet someone who had run a half or full marathon, or completed a triathlon. I was and still am amazed by those people, even though somewhere along the line I became one of them. It’s funny how it changes and you don’t even notice until someone hears what you are doing or have done, and says “My God!” That is when you realize the transformation has taken place, even though you continually work on transforming and improving.

Some goals were not met this year, among them the century ride. Hopefully as bike training commences, that elusive beast will be tamed. My time in the pool was not as consistent as I wanted, but I think my goals for 2015 will change that.

My plan, along with my training partner Kara (I guess I have to retire the term “running partner”) is to compete in some sprint triathlons, both open water and pool triathlons, and build up to completing an Olympic distance triathlon. We also want to mentor a group training for their first marathon, and I would like to do two other things: a ultra marathon distance of 50k, and one obstacle course race. The 50k will be hard since most are off-road and I would prefer it to be a road race. I may have to just map it out and run it on my own.

It has been a great year! I feel better than ever, and love helping people achieve their dreams and goals. Sometimes encouragement and support is all a person needs to know what they can do. Thanks to everyone who encouraged me and supported me and my dreams this year!

A beautiful gift from my training partner Kara!

Live healthy, be happy!


A (Very True) Christmas Story

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all!  I thought I would take a break from all the exercising, and tell you a story about a Christmas event that I experienced many years ago.

Walking to school one day, it was easy to see the excitement on my face.  Now, most skinny second grade boys don’t get excited about going to school, but this particular day was different.  It was the last day before Christmas break, and that meant a Christmas play, singing carols, eating food and sweets, and last but not least, the gift exchange.  The protests over segregation had quieted down, and our new friends who rode the bus in to school were no longer escorted by the police or the National Guard.  I was carefully carrying the gift I selected for the name I drew (a girl whose name I no longer remember).  It was the game Candyland, and my mom made sure to use the prettiest paper and bow on it.  I was wondering as I walked to school who got my name, and what toy would I get.  Would it be a game? An action figure? A race car?  My mind wondered with all the potential possibilities.  I met my friends, both those that walked, and those who rode the bus, at the main doors of the school.  Everyone was carrying a gift, and we all were talking loudly and quickly as most second-graders do.

The day was a blur.  The play went as most children’s plays do, with lots of mistakes, many forgotten lines, and a couple kids running off in tears from their nerves.  The carols went by quickly, as the piano teacher belted out song after song on a somewhat off-key upright piano in the auditorium.  Then the lunch ladies fed us a traditional elementary school Christmas lunch, with turkey and stuffing.  We were then sent to our classrooms where we ate sweets and had the gift exchange.

The gifts were all placed under a Christmas tree in our classroom.  Our teacher started pulling out the gifts, calling to the child whose name was on each tag.  Once the gifts were passed out, we went in order opening them and showing everyone what we received.  The girl who got my gift was thrilled with Candyland, and that made me happy.  There were toys everywhere!  It was amazing to say the least.

Then it was my turn to open my gift.  As I started to unwrap it, I looked across the room and saw Jerome, one of the boys who rode the bus to school, and he eyes were wide with anticipation.  I knew Jerome’s family didn’t have much money, as he was on the lunch card program and got free lunches (breakfast too, if the bus made it on time).  Something told me that this was his gift.  I opened it to reveal …

A pair of brown socks.  The whole class erupted in laughter, except for me and Jerome.  Jerome was tearing up badly and looked like he wanted to run away.  Now, don’t ask me how a second-grader does what follows, whether it be divine intervention or the Christmas spirit, but I hollered out “Hey! I like these!  They’re soft and they will keep my feet warm.”  The classroom fell silent.  Jerome smiled at me through a tear soaked face.  Suddenly, the teacher agreed, saying what a thoughtful and caring gift it was and that I would be able to enjoy them for a long time.  The classroom, still silent, looked at the teacher as she asked the next child to open their present.  Before long, the classroom returned to normal.

As we were dismissed from school and walking down the hall, Jerome ran up to me. “Do you really like them?” he asked. “We couldn’t afford any toys, I’m sorry” he said.  I looked at him and said, “Of course I like them, they are nice and they feel warm”. I didn’t want Jerome to feel bad, even though it wasn’t the gift I was expecting.  Jerome said “My mom let me pick them out, I hope you like brown”. Now he was smiling, and that smile warmed my heart in ways you couldn’t imagine.  “I do like brown” I said, and then realized that we walked way past the bus stop.  “Jerome! You’re going to miss the bus!” I exclaimed.  Jerome looked startled, and then started running back to the bus stop.  But then he turned, waved, and yelled “Merry Christmas!” before joining the crowd getting on the bus.

I wore those socks on the first day back to school after Christmas break.  I wore those socks long after they were worn thin and bare.  I kept those socks in my drawer when I could no longer wear them, a reminder to me about that time and the gift I was given.  I kept them with me as an adult, until one move too many caused them to disappear, yet they remain ingrained on my mind and in my heart.

You see, what I wanted as a gift was a toy, as any child does.  A toy to be used and discarded with time.  What I received that day with the gift of brown socks was something that would last a lifetime … I was given the gift of compassion for my fellow man.  Even as a young boy, I knew the feeling of helping someone else feel better, of easing their burdens even if for a moment.  It was truly a gift that has lasted a lifetime.

I wish you all the gift like the one I received with those pair of brown socks.

Merry Christmas!


Winter Warriors, Ugly Sweaters, and Closing in on 1000

It’s been a busy few weeks, with holiday events, and end of year at work. The time flies, and sometimes with all the holiday goodies popping up everywhere, good nutritional choices fly out the window as well. But so far I’ve managed to maintain my weight and still enjoy sampling some of the goodies that are around me. I used to love sweets, and I still do, but now when I overindulge I feel bloated and sluggish. So I try to be careful.

I have joined a “Winter Warriors” program hosted by Fleet Feet Sports. It’s a 9 week program where we meet to run outside every Saturday no matter the temperature. You get points for coming each week and, bonus points depending on the temperature. At the end of nine weeks, the points convert into entries for prizes, including a complete Mizuno winter outfit!

I also entered my first “Ugly Sweater Run”. It was a 5k event, and I never realized the horrible sweaters that are out there. There is even a “Ugly Sweater” kit at Target for $5.00! I tried the kit, but by the time I crossed the finish line, most of the items had fallen off! I guess it wasn’t designed for runners.

I am oh so close to my 1000 miles for the year goal. As of today, I have 20 miles to go. I’m going to try and run outside today, and with the wind and 30 degree temps, it should be a challenge. That’s ok, I like challenges.

In case I don’t get to post before the holidays, Merry Christmas, happiest of holidays, and a joyful new year to one and all.

Live healthy, be happy!