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Archive for the ‘Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon’ Category

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What is killing you?

No, I didn’t just call Neil Arter a monkey, but if I had, it would have been a complement, for I have been imitating him in some ways for a while now.

As I’ve said before, it was Neil and his posse that coerced, if not forced, me to participate in my first ever OKC Memorial event three years and four races ago. I quickly caught the bug, and have done a few more events since then. Mostly, I’ve tried to just be more active.

Yesterday was my 4th time in this specific event, and I was not alone. After completing it with my family, some of us walking, and others running like the wind, it was great to reflect on something Little Frau had said to me in the car much earlier that morning as the six of us headed toward Downtown OKC: “This is your deal”. She was right, but it was great to have some with me, both those who had been coerced, and those who were becoming fellow imitators.

As we arrived at church later that morning, the lesson was entitled “Monkey see, Monkey do”, and was all about becoming imitators, and encouragers.

Ephesians 4:1-3: Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

Ephesians 5:1-2: Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Philippians 2:1-4: Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

I don’t have it all figured out. I need to be better about taking care of my health, both in level of activity, and in what I consume. I need to be a more diligent student of the Word. I need to be better about taking care of things, whether it be my lawn, my car, what I say, or otherwise. And, I need to let my kids (and others) see me doing it. Hopefully they will be encouraged to imitate the same.

The first time I participated in this Memorial event, there were two of us. By the next time, there were still just two. Two times two is four. By the third time, there were four of us running. Four times four is sixteen. This time around, there were five of us running. Five times sixteen is eighty. Fourscore, indeed.

Four. Score. Yes, I think we did. We have the medals, muscle aches, and memories to prove it. I hope we continue to run to remember. And to imitate, for whatever is killing us, we can help each other by word and deed.

Just like Neil does. Monkey see, Monkey do. Yes, I just called myself a monkey.

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With my family, there is a 67% chance of not wanting to hear that phrase, and a 100% chance of wanting to know why the speaker is so excited.

“We’ve been duped!”, said one half of the 67% clan, and I have seldom felt so good in having been found guilty of deceiving.

Such was a part of two of the conversations held with my progeny earlier this week, and I am quite proud of them all.

What about the stretch mark, you might say? Well, number one son has been working out, and was proud to show me the impact on his epidermis from growth in the bicep. Sometimes, growth can be painful, and it can feel so good.

And what of the deception? Are the 67% still speaking to me? Sometimes, a bit of innocent subterfuge results in a positive outcome.

Two years ago, I ran my first 5k. My physical fitness mentor, a “Dean of deception” if you will, was not taking “no” for an answer when asking me to get up and get out for the 2010 Memorial Marathon event. It was not his first time to push me, and likely won’t be his last. It went so well, I did the half marathon the following year.

This year, I wanted my little 67% fraulines to get into motion, so I “asked” each to do the Memorial 5k on behalf of the other so that “she would not have to do it all alone”. Little did they know that my half marathon ambitions had been muted for the year, and that I would be trekking the 5k route alongside them.

As we surveyed the inclement weather forecast last night, each affirmed their excitement and desire to follow thru with the event, and I was proud.

As we stood outside today in a 27,000+ talkative sea of humanity in the early pre dawn hours and heard an absolute hush fall over the crowd for 168 seconds of silence, I had goose bumps in the moment, and I was proud.

As we crossed the start line and watched number one son run off to his 20 minute +/- time, I was happy for him, and I was proud.

As the 67% and I turned onto the home stretch quarter mile and “dialed it up a notch”, their old man had a hard time keeping up with their escalating 2 on 2 race for the finish line, and I was proud.

As we all sat together later in the morning and struggled to stay awake next to Mom/Little Frau in the worship service, I was hungry, I was tired, and I was proud.

I witnessed these young ladies develop stretch marks, of sorts, earlier today, and I’m not ashamed to say that it felt good. So did my subsequent 3 hour nap, but I digress…

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It’s an old family joke. When one of the “A” girls would see the romantic interest of a guy they liked, the response would be “she’s no prize”.

Sometimes, oftentimes maybe, do we say the same about ourselves?

An athlete, I am not, but I am getting repetitive. And I want to be a winner. Not to win, mind you, but to run with purpose, and therein win the prize.

I Corinthians 9:22-27: When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

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Have you ever witnessed a marathon, much less participated in a part of one? It is a litter-phobic’s worst nightmare. Paper cups, banana peels, oranges, and those nasty “fuel” packets. Whomever thought up Vanilla Bean flavored GU should be jailed and never released. Nasty stuff, but I digress.

Runners discard other stuff, as well. Nice stuff. Gear. Hats, gloves, jackets, and shirts litter the by-ways of the race. For some opportunistic observers, it is like an athletic apparel grab bag Christmas. And there is good reason for the littering. The good runners know what they are doing.

Hebrews 12:1-2: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

I am not very good at casting off weights that encumber, or at letting go of what so easily trips me up, but I’m working on it.

So, what’s say we litter the landscape? It will help those who run behind us to learn the importance of letting go, and of pressing on toward the prize, regardless of “cost”.

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In this era of royal wedding celebrations, beginning a blog with Elton John lyrics seems highly appropriate.

Today was the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. It is a great event, and has had a defining impact on the sense of community in OKC. In a sad realization, my running today and all the good of this event is memorializing one of the most tragic events in our history.

Taking in the day, the event, and the wealth of human experiences going on around me, several analogous moments and thoughts emerged.

First, just the act of running is strange to me. As expressed before in this space, an athlete I am not. And yet, I am running better, faster, and stronger at 45 than arguably at any time in my life. What, you may ask, prompted the change? Well, I guess I would say I’m trying to be more like the person who I am hoping to influence to be somewhat like me. Make sense? Of course, we are talking about number one son.

We started the race together, but the sheer volume of runners took him away from me. We agreed to run at our own pace until we got away from the crowd and then get back together, but with 26,000 participants, we were never away from the crowd. And there is an analogy: life and the world separates us from those we want to be close to, and we long to be near them again. In this case, I knew I “had his back”, following from the rear and from afar, and he knew as well. After a time, I decided we might not see each other again until the end of the journey. And yet, I was comfortable. He was in good company, he was self confident, and he was blessed with natural ability. And, maybe most importantly, he was confident that if he got into trouble, he could simply slow down or stop, and that I would not be far behind. As we reunited around mile number 6, we were able to share our independent experiences and observations from the journey thus far. Then, around mile 10, he said it: “Dad, would it be OK if I go on ahead and meet you at the finish line?”. Analogous moment number two: who could not hope to reach this same place in real life with our kids; to see them go on ahead and succeed, knowing confidently that we can meet them in the “reward tent” that awaits at the finish line.

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Second, this was my first half marathon, and even though it was my fourth race in the past 12 months, I have never really done any successful disciplined running my whole life. Why now? Again, it comes back to relationships, with my son and with others. You see, when I “run with purpose”, it seems to make me a better person to be around.

But let me just say, as in life, there were several “what have I gotten myself into?” moments. You see, as I neared the first mile and one half mark, another large hill loomed, I had lost my running partner, and the rain was falling, and falling hard, at that. They say “in every life some rain must fall”, and who has not found themselves in similar circumstances: running alone, lost in a crowd, wondering why exactly they are doing what they are doing, and wishing the rain would let up, even if only for a while. I stopped under a bridge, I took the picture shown above, and adjusted my equipment and my expectations for the 3 hours that lie ahead, and the hardships that might occupy those hours. And I adjusted my resolve. I would endure, and I would finish this race.

My finishers medal from today says “Honor Celebrate Reach Unite”. What a great summary and symbol for what this race symbolizes and seeks to accomplish every year. People from all walks of life. People from all over the world. People who are not blessed with the health I am able to possess. Those who suffered loss on April 19, 1995. Those who did not lose that day, but wish to honor those who did.

I was passed today by those running to honor those they lost from their lives that day. I was passed today at the 8 (half m) 22 (full m) marker by a cyclist who could not walk and was pedaling their special trike by hand. And they had already been 22 miles to my 8.

At that moment, I looked at my son, and I felt both the pain and the strength in my legs, but I could feel them, and I was thankful. I then watched my son strongly run on ahead to the finish line before us, and I was thankful. I told myself that I would finish strong, rain, cold, and pain, or not, and I was thankful.

We ran to remember, today. And, Lord willing, we plan to do so again. But, as we conclude in analyzing this journey, the map above points out the final life analogy of this post, that simply being that the race does not end in the same place as it began. The race loop circuit actually takes you to another place, as does life.

Circle of life, indeed. And a wheel of good fortune, to boot. And we are thankful.

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I am signed up for the OKC Memorial Half Marathon this year, along with my son. While I was not living in OKC at the time of the tragedy, and he had not yet been born, it and my friends here were on our heart that day. I gave blood yesterday in rememberance, as I did the evening of that fateful day 16 years ago.

My son and I will run, or walk, and we will remember. It is the right thing to do.

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I cut myself shaving this morning.   It was a brand new blade, so I never actually felt the cut, but afterwards I could smell the blood.    They say that sharks can smell blood in the water from miles away and travel towards their prey.   It is a powerful aroma, indeed.

We are not big TV watchers in our home, but the wife and I love to watch NCIS.    There’s something about the Gibbs character, and the mystery plots, that draws us in despite sometimes weak and repetitive plots.   He sacrifices for his people.   He is always loyal.    And Gibbs has his “rules”, like “Never apologize; it’s a sign of weakness”.    I disagree.    Additionally, it seems that those people closest to Gibbs often end up dead.   Not a guy you necessarily want to hang around with, it would seem.

Disagreements can be mysterious things.    Anger can be a dangerous thing, as can be apologizing to others.    The “sharks” in your midst may smell blood in the water, but you have to venture out there regardless.    When I got in the car this morning, the old 80’s Asia tune “The Heat of the Moment” was playing on the car radio.     “It was the heat of the moment: telling me what your heart felt.   It was the heat of the moment.   It showed in your eyes.”

On this April 19 OKC Bombing Anniversary, we need to remember that bad blood, left to fester, can result in even worse decisions.    That is true in relationships, as well, no matter how small the issue may seem.

Someone of stronger character than the fictitious Gibbs has a few pointers for us, and his “blood and water moment” has saved us.

Luke 6:28-30  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

 So, never be afraid to apologize.     And more importantly, never be afraid to forgive.    It’s a sign of true strength, and you may need it to fight off the sharks.

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