Race Report: Global Running Day 24 Hour Virtual Relay

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Global Running Day 24 Hour Virtual Relay as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassdor), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!

While running is oftentimes an individual sport, the running community seems to me to be more important now than ever before. Even as we have to run our races individually or with small groups of people, we recognize that we are a part of something bigger. When everything around us seems fractured and broken and confusing and weird, we can always count on the running community. This felt especially true for me on June 3rd (aka Global Running Day). As part of a worldwide celebration of running, I signed up for a 30-min time slot from 10:30 to 11:00 am. Even though I am 2 hours from Chicago, I was running as a representative for the Windy City. At 10:30 am I got an email from someone I will probably never meet saying, “Officially passing the baton! Have a great run, happy global running day!!” And with that, I was off.

But on this run and on this day, when I should have been celebrating running, the running community, and my love for the sport, I instead felt heavy. Heavy over the loss of Breonna Taylor. Heavy over the recent loss of George Floyd. And especially heavy over the loss of Ahmaud Arbery. As I ran that day, I thought of Ahmaud and how he was senselessly murdered while out jogging. I am a white, 6’6″ male that has never had to worry about losing my life while out jogging. And that’s not fair. But now is the time to do something about it. As a running community, we have to come together. We have to become allies for people of color. We have to stand up for one another. An act like this can never be allowed to happen again. And even though my races for the year may be cancelled, I look forward to the day when I will be on the starting line with people from all nationalities, countries, ethnicities, and races.

Race Report: Soldier Field 10 Mile

Disclaimer: I received free race entry to the Soldier Field 10 Mile as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!

What a weird time for running and races! With the COVID-19 pandemic and everything shutting down, races are not the same. When I signed up for this race a few months ago, I expected to be in Chicago at the starting line on May 23rd. I expected to be surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of other runners. I expected to run as hard as I could, and maybe even get a new PR. I expected to run through a city full of vibrance and life. I expected to be able to go to a pizza place and get some Chicago-style deep-dish pizza after the race. Instead, I ended up running my 10 miler in Nappanee, Indiana. Instead of cars, there were horse-drawn carriages. Instead of people, there were cows. Instead of high rises and skyscrapers, there were silos and barns.

As I ran past cows and horses and fields and fields of corn, I couldn’t help but think of how my life and everyone else’s life has changed in the last few months. When I signed up for this race, I took for granted that I would be able to run it in the city. But even though the race wasn’t what I imagined, it was still such a blessing. It was a blessing that I was healthy enough to run. It was a blessing that I was able to run the 10 miles with friends (and actually 6 additional miles because they were running an even longer race that had also been cancelled). It was a blessing that I got to run outside without a mask. It was a blessing that I was able to stop thinking about all the issues and problems in this world right now, even for just a little bit.

Whereas almost every other sport has had to completely stop in these last few months, running goes on. This is the beauty of our sport. It doesn’t matter what’s going on, we always find a way to run. I remember when I first started to run in high school… at the time, I did not handle cold temperatures very well. Whenever it was below freezing, I would go downstairs and run from one side of the basement to the other side. Back and forth. Over and over and over and over again. Based on my calculations, it would take 50 or so back and forths to equal one mile… and I would usually do a few miles. Even though some might think this is insane, I think this is what makes running beautiful.

Run the Race (Part II)

As I mentioned in my last post, I started running a few years ago. Running has opened up my eyes to several passages of Scripture and allowed me to view it from a fresh perspective. Today, I want to examine a passage in 2 Corinthians and see how it connects running with the Christian life. Corinthians 9:24-27 says,

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Paul states in this letter to the Corinthians that “… I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.” No one runs aimlessly (or at least no one should). Running is too painful to do without a purpose. For me, I run not only to increase my speed and endurance for track events, but I also run for my general health. Any time I start to get tired of running, I remind myself of why I do it. This helps me keep going.

We are called to obey God’s commandments and live the way Jesus lived, but we constantly turn this into a sort of checklist. Read the Bible in the morning? Check. Prayed before I went to bed? Check. Didn’t use any curse words today? Check. When we live like this, we are running aimlessly. Living life trying to check things off a list will leave you feeling worn out. This is not how Jesus wants us to feel. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus calls out, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” God doesn’t want us to be exhausted trying to be a ‘good’ Christian. Instead, He desires that we see Him correctly and live accordingly. When we begin to see God for who He really is, living the Christian life becomes far more than a simple checklist. We still do the items on the checklist, but now we are doing these things because of who God is. We read our Bible because we want to hear from the supernatural voice of our Father. We pray because we have the amazing opportunity to talk with the God of the Universe. We don’t use curse words so that we can live like Jesus and draw closer to His presence.

It is impossible to run with a purpose unless you know why you are running. Christians are called to run to obtain the prize, but we so often forget what that prize is. Is the prize a happy and care-free life? Is it being healthy and wealthy? Is it going to heaven? What is it? When we are unsure what the prize is, we are much less likely to run to obtain it. We may walk or jog, hoping to get there eventually, but we definitely won’t run. In order to keep running, we have to remember why we started running in the first place. For Christians, we run because of Jesus. He is the prize, and it is Him that we should run toward. This run may be hard and tiring, but it is so worth it. There is no greater prize possible than that of Jesus, so let us run with purpose and not aimlessly.

*Adapted from one of my old blogs that was originally posted January 18th, 2017 on Daily Wonderings of a Young Christian 

Why do I run? (Part IV)

Every step, every breath, every heartbeat, every muscle contraction. They are all blessings. Each time I go out for a run, I try to remind myself of this. Every run is a gift from God above. Humans were specifically created to put one foot in front of another over and over and over and over and over again. While we will never be the fastest mammal, humans have a surprising ability to run long distances well. In fact, humans are thought to be capable of running marathon-length distances faster than pretty much any other mammal (even faster than horses on a hot day). This is thought to be due to a number of reasons, including that we have springy tendons and ligaments in our legs and feet, a large gluteus maximus (i.e. a big butt) that helps stabilize us, and the ability to cool down through sweat. In the past (and in the present, as seen in hunters of the central Kalahari in Botswana), hunters took part in something known as persistence hunting. Persistence hunting took place during the hottest part of the day and involved the hunters chasing prey (i.e. zebras, wildebeest, and even cheetahs) until they were run to exhaustion. These hunts would take up to six hours or more. What a blessing that humans not only have the physical and mental ability to run far, but that we also have the capability to do it well! If God uniquely made humans for long-distance running, what better way is there to honor Him than going out for a run?

As I started my journey into the long-distance running world, my number of miles per week and my time spent running alone both grew significantly. This meant that I had to find something to occupy my mind. I can be alone with my thoughts for short runs, but no one (myself included) wants to be stuck with only my thoughts for a three-hour run. That’s a scary place to find yourself. Luckily, it is 2020, which means there are 29,382,011,938,193,840,183 different podcasts out there to listen to. While I also listen to some great, not-so-serious podcasts (shout-out to Rob Has A Podcast and The Office Ladies), so many of my runs have been filled with sermons and Christian living podcasts. One of my favorites over the past few years has been John Piper’s Roman series. This series, which consisted of 224 sermons, taught me more than I could have ever imagined and really changed the way I view God and myself. Learning from incredibly wise Christians from all over the world through podcasts has been so meaningful for me and my journey.

Besides listening to sermons, runs are extremely valuable times for me to pray, meditate, and worship. Everything in this world is so rushed and hurried. Running gives me a chance to take a step back and focus on the important things. Some of my best times of prayer and meditation have come on a long run where my headphones die. As mentioned earlier, I don’t want to just be stuck with my own thoughts for very long, so I bring my thoughts to God and engage in a conversation with Him. There’s just something about being out in nature that opens my mind and softens my heart in beautiful ways.

Running is all about recognizing the blessing of movement and connecting with God. What other reason for running could compare?

Liebenberg, L. (2006). Persistence hunting by modern hunter-gatherers. Current Anthropology47(6), 1017-1026.
Lieberman, D. E., & Bramble, D. M. (2007). The evolution of marathon running. Sports Medicine37(4-5), 288-290.

Run the Race (Part I)

When I was in high school, I absolutely hated to run. Running for even a mile was torture. It wasn’t until I started forcing myself two, three, or four miles a day that I began to enjoy it. It was amazing how much better running was when I didn’t feel like I was dying with every step. I eventually liked running so much that I decided to join my undergraduate university’s track and field team as a sophomore.

As a runner, I have learned a great number of lessons from God. I have learned to rely on God for strength, even when I feel weak. I have learned to glorify and praise God through my running. I have learned to persevere, even when I wanted to quit. The biggest lessons I have learned, however, are from passages in the Bible about running. Hebrews 12:1-2 states,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

When you are running an endurance race, you want as little weighing you down as possible. That’s why cross-country runners wear those skimpy shorts that are one wrong wind blow away from showing everyone something they shouldn’t be seeing. Even a small watch feels like a twenty-pound weight by the end of a cross country race.

The passage in Hebrews says that we, as Christians, should “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”. Running allowed me to see the value of this passage of Scripture. A sin may appear small and insignificant at the time, but it can become a heavy burden that drags you down if you aren’t careful. Even things that seem innocent, such as television or a certain book, can prevent you from living the life God has in store for you. If we want to truly chase after Jesus and live like Him, we need to throw away anything that may slow us down. This may be painful or awkward for us at first (imagine how I felt the first time I had to run in my cross-country uniform), but it is well worth it at the end. No one says at the end of the race, “I wish I would have run that race with heavier shoes and clothes so that it would have been harder.” The Christian life is not some stroll in the park; it is already a difficult journey that requires perseverance and lots of faith. Therefore, it is important that we pray to God to help us throw off any unnecessary weight. We don’t want to make our race any harder than it has to be. Running is already hard enough.

*Adapted from one of my old blogs that was originally posted January 13th, 2017 on Daily Wonderings of a Young Christian 

Why do I run? (Part III)

This last year I made the mistake of signing up for a March marathon. This meant that the bulk of my training was completed during a cold and snowy Indiana winter (I know it could have been much worse… It could have been Minnesota for goodness sake! But anything worse than the Kentucky winters I was used to was dreadful for me). There were many days where I had to put on two, three, or even four layers of clothes and drag myself out of the house to get my run in. In addition to this, I had my eyes set on running a Boston qualifying time. The combination of these two things- a cold winter and ambitious goal- resulted in a focus mainly on the goal. I just wanted to get my runs done and over with so I could get out of the cold as quickly as possible. I completely forgot about the process. And the process is what originally got me to love long-distance running in the first place.

There are two main types of marathon runners. There are those that set the goal of running a marathon, actually run the marathon, and never want to think about running another marathon. Then there are those that set the goal of running a marathon, fall in love with the process of running a marathon, and run several more marathons. I happened to fall under the latter category. After my first marathon I was hooked. Not so much because of the marathon itself… that actually was quite painful in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. Instead, I fell in love with the process. There is something beautiful and amazing about marathon training. Before my marathon training begins, I run four or five times a week, but usually at a slow and consistent pace. And never more than 10 miles or so. However, that quickly begins to change about sixteen weeks out from the marathon. As my training starts, I begin incorporating speed workouts and long runs. As the weeks go by, the speed workouts get faster and the long runs get longer. While a 12-mile long run feels next to impossible at the beginning of the training, a 24-mile long run feels like a piece of cake (not really because that’s a super long distance but you get my point). By the time of the marathon, I can look back on the last few months and truly appreciate how far I’ve come.

Fast forward to the summer of this year. I was starting training for my Chicago Marathon. And I had learned my lesson from the last marathon. I really focused on being present for each run I completed. I didn’t worry too much about how fast I wanted to run at the race but chose instead to just find joy in the act of running. Right before the Chicago Marathon, I actually felt as though I didn’t train as hard or as often as I should have. But I didn’t let this stress me out. If I ran a slow race, that was fine with me because I had learned how to love running again. In the end, I finished with a marathon personal best in a time more than 15 minutes faster than my previous marathon (I was shocked to say the least). Not only was enjoying the process better for my motivation and desire to run, but it also did wonders for my speed and endurance. As I move forward into 2020, I hope I can continue to trust the process of running.

Runners spend approximately 99.874% of the time in the training process rather than in a race. When you take time to slow down and enjoy this process, running becomes incredibly fun and exciting. What other reason for running could compare?

Why do I run? (Part II)

I started out on the track, moved to a XC course,
and now reside mainly on the trails.

For most of high school, I hated running. I was on the track and field team my sophomore year, but I spent most of my time practicing the high jump. I distinctly remember going for a run at some point and having to stop after about half a mile because I was tired and felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. During my senior year, I decided I wanted to start running more to help me get in better shape for the swim season. I started forcing myself to run 2 or 3 miles a day. And surprisingly, I started actually enjoying running after a month or two.

Fast-forward to college. My freshman year I was a walk-on for the swim team (we were Division III, so I literally walked on the pool deck and was allowed to join without any other questions), but I hated it. After the season was over, I started running again and realized how much more I liked it compared to swimming. So that next year, I quit the swim team and joined the track and field team (this time I talked to the coach about joining, she asked me if I had any experience, I said, “No, not really,”, and she welcomed me to the team). Just as in high school, I focused quite a bit on the high jump that first year, but I also ran the 200- and 400-meter dashes. I was never the fastest (I was actually very mediocre… I would always place somewhere between 8th and 12th at conference, regardless of the race distance), but I quickly learned something about myself. I loved pushing myself to see how fast I could run. Every race was a chance for me to prove that I was faster than I used to be. There was something almost mystical to the feeling of chasing after my personal bests of yesterday.

The problem with chasing personal records is that there is only so much you can improve. Going into my junior year, I felt like I had maxed out my potential in the 200- and 400-meter dashes. I started getting bored of running these races and longed for a new challenge. I convinced my coach to let me start running the 800- and 1500-meter races. I had huge room for improvement in these races and became obsessed with running them faster and faster. Apparently, this wasn’t enough for me, as I joined the cross-country team my senior year (my first time ever being on any sort of cross-country team). Maybe I would have been better off if I would have picked one event and stuck with it, but that wasn’t why I chose to run in the first place. Running to me is an adventure, an adventure that is always changing and evolving.

Once I graduated, I realized that I was never again going to be able to run as fast as I did in cross-country and track. I would never have the same amount of structure, coaching, or encouragement on my own. However, if I couldn’t go faster, that just meant that I had to go farther. I started running farther than I ever had before. The December after graduating, I ran my first half marathon, but I had my eyes set on a full marathon. In April of 2018, I ran my first marathon. But even that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to keep pushing the distance, so that summer I ran my first ultramarathon (a 36-mile run from midnight to 6 am around a mile-long lap). Since then I have run two more marathons and three 50K (about 31 miles) races. The distance for marathons and ultramarathons is so long that there is always room for improvement. You not only have to be in good physical shape, but you also have to be strong mentally, know when and what to eat and drink during the race, know what to wear and what equipment you would need, and so much more! In the future, I hope to run a 50-mile and 100-mile race. As the distances get longer and longer, I’m excited to see how much and how far I can push myself.

Running is all about pushing yourself in ways you had never imagined. What other reason for running could compare?

Why do I run? (Part I)

I had a picture taken of me after I completed each lap. 
As you can see, things got a lot harder around lap 5.

Why do people run? For some, it’s a torturous way to get in shape or lose a few pounds. For others, it’s a way to release the tension of the day. For me, I’ve always viewed running as a fun sort of challenge. I’m always trying to run harder and faster and farther. But I’ve recently found a new reason to run.

About a year ago, I competed in a race called Painful Elimination. In this race, you had an hour to complete a four-mile loop on a single-track through the woods. If you completed the loop within the hour, you could start a new loop at the top of the next hour. This continued until you could no longer finish a loop within the hour.

I was cruising the first few hours, but things started to get a little more difficult at around 10 am. By that point, humidity was at an all-time high, the sun was beating down, and it was about 90 degrees out. I finished my 6th lap (about 24 miles) at noon, but felt dead. I had sweat so much in the last few hours, and no matter how much water and Gatorade I drank, I couldn’t replace all the water and electrolytes I was losing. My blood volume was dropping and my heart rate was skyrocketing. Even after I would stop running, my heart rate would stay elevated.

After finishing my 6th lap in about 52 minutes, I didn’t know if I could run another one. As I was walking over to my car to get some food and drinks, some older guys called out to me. It was a group of four guys, all in their 30s and 40s, and they were stationed beside a big ole RV. They could see how much I was struggling, so one of the guys hopped out of his lawn chair and offered the seat to me. I gratefully sat down, but still felt as if I had nothing left. One of the guys grabbed a cold water from his cooler and handed it to me, while another one of the guys draped a cold towel over my neck. While I sat there for the next few minutes, one of the guys who was still in the race (and was struggling just as much as I was) talked to and encouraged me.

When I got up to start the next lap, I still had doubts raging through my mind. However, the kindness and encouragement I received from the group of guys sparked something in me. I finished that next lap with less than a minute left in the hour. It was painful, but I did it. These guys I had never met showed me another reason to run. A better reason to run.

I learned that day that running is all about community. When a best running friend has a hard time mustering up the motivation to run, we should be right there beside them and remind them why they run. When another friend is considering starting running, we should open ourselves up to helping them get going in any way possible. When a complete stranger is struggling at mile 18 of a marathon, we should encourage them to keep pushing. And when a race is over, we should celebrate and congratulate anyone and everyone. No matter how fast or how slow, running is running. We are all crazy enough to go out and do something that most people only do if being chased. This is a cause for celebration.

Running is all about community and helping others be the best runners they can be. What other reason for running could compare?  

Race Report: Chicago Marathon

ChicaGO run this marathon!

Such an awesome experience! This was my first big city marathon, and it was an unforgettable and amazing atmosphere. In the other two marathons I had run before Chicago, I ended up running alone quite a bit from miles 18 to 24. This was when I needed people the most too! Both of these previous marathons I bonked super hard and came nowhere close to reaching my time goal. I went into this race thinking that I would probably bonk again and not come close to the 3 hour mark and BQ I was shooting for. I ran the first half of Chicago in around 1:27 and was feeling good. By the time I got to mile 18 (where I normally start to bonk), I was still feeling good. Once I got to mile 20, I realized I might actually have a shot at breaking 3 hours! The crowds the entire race were amazing. Spectators lined basically the entire course, and every time I thought about slowing down, I would be urged on again by the crowds. Not only that, but I was surrounded by about 45,000 new runner friends. I for sure never had to worry about running alone in this race. But despite the huge number of runners, I never felt claustrophobic or squeezed in. It was such a perfect environment for running! And all the volunteers did such a great job, regardless of whether they were handing out Gatorade or directing runners. Overall, I ended up finishing the marathon in around 2:56.30. I was so grateful and felt so blessed to have finished under 3 hours. I didn’t have super high expectations going into the race, but the flat terrain, perfect weather, and amazing crowds all combined to create a perfect situation for a big PR! ChicaGO run this marathon! You won’t regret it.