Observations About Criminals

Here I sit on Palm Sunday with Easter a week away and I was thinking more about the last blog post I wrote. I keep pondering the criminals that were crucified with Jesus and have a few observations I thought I would share.

Both criminals originally mocked Jesus.

‘The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.‘     ~ Mark 15:31-32 (NLT)

Like many people, both criminals originally joined the crowd and mocked Jesus. Our natural sinful state is to reject Jesus. We want to do things our way in our time. We are naturally selfish. The criminals were the same way. They were no different that any of us.

The first criminal never seem to recognize Jesus for Who He was.

Even after hanging on the cross for a while, the first criminal was still only concerned with himself.

‘One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”’     ~ Luke 23:39 (NLT)

After all he witnessed, the one criminal still only cared about himself. He questioned that Jesus was Who He said He was. Although undeserving, he hoped Jesus would save him when and if He saved Himself. He completely misunderstood what Jesus was doing that day. Like many others, he thought Jesus was dying the same way he was. He totally missed the point.

The second criminal came to understand that there was something unique about Jesus.

‘But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” ‘     ~ Luke 23:40-41 (NLT)

I feel certain that the second criminal did not believe he deserved special favor from Jesus. His response to the first criminal showed that he understood that their next step would be standing before God as guilty criminals. He also expressed that he saw Jesus’ innocence. Although he recognized the guilt he and the other criminal carried, he also clearly realized that there was no guilt with Jesus.

Even as he was dying, the second criminal had the good sense to ask for Jesus’ forgiveness.

In addition to recognizing Jesus’ innocence, the second criminal also recognized that Jesus truly was the Messiah.

‘Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”’     ~ Luke 23:42 (NLT)

It is often said that we cannot do anything to gain salvation. However, I think that statement is slightly misleading. It is true that we cannot do anything to earn our salvation. Salvation does require us to do something. We must trust in Jesus in the faith that He has paid for our salvation when we were unable to pay that debt ourself.

The second criminal accepted the free gift Jesus was offering by His sacrifice.

As shown above, the second criminal saw the price that Jesus’ was paying for humanity’s sin and was willing to ask for forgiveness. This is forgiveness that Jesus freely offers us through His grace. We know that the second criminal accepted that gift based on Jesus’ reply to him.

‘And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”’     ~ Luke 23:43 (NLT)

Think about how the two criminals dealt with their suffering after this exchange. The first criminal had no hope. He appeared to reject Jesus in his last moments. The second criminal suffered in the same way but he knew he was going to be with Jesus in Heaven that very day. All that was required was for Him to accept the gift Jesus offered. He did not earn his salvation but he did make the conscious choice to put his trust in Jesus.

Jesus had to die to pay the penalty for our sin.

I sometime hear people ask why Jesus had to die. God established a code for the Israelites back in the Old Testament. Sin is something that God takes seriously because it separates us from Him. He is perfectly holy. When we sin, we break the relationship we have with God and it can only be restored through the sacrificial process that God ordained. The thing that all sacrifices had in common was that the animal being sacrificed had to be without flaw or defect. Unfortunately, we become flawed when we sin. Therefore, we are not qualified to be a sacrifice for sin. Jesus, however, lived a sinless life and did meet the qualifications for being an acceptable sacrifice. The author of Hebrews explains it as follows:

‘In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.’     ~ Hebrews 9:22 (NLT)

You see, it required the shedding of blood from a pure sacrifice to forgive our sin. Jesus is the only one that met the requirements and that is why He had to die.

The people mistakenly thought they killed Jesus.

Although this point does not specifically relate to the criminals that were crucified with Jesus, it is a point that I think is important to make. Pontius Pilate and the Jewish religious leaders may have thought they killed Jesus, but that is a belief rooted in their own ego.

Before His death, Jesus tells us that He is going to voluntarily lay down His life for us because that is what God required.

‘“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”’     ~ John 10:17-18 (NLT)

Jesus could have stopped the proceedings at any point along the way. He allowed the process to run its course because He loved us enough to be that sacrifice for us.

Some others also realized that Jesus was Who He said He was.

There were a lot of people observing Jesus’ crucifixion. We know His mother was there with John. We know that the religious leaders were there. We know that some soldiers were at the foot of the cross gambling for his clothing. Obviously, there were countless others watching the spectacle that was a public execution. One prominent person that saw everything firsthand made the following declaration when he saw what transpired:

‘When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”’     ~ Mark 15:39 (NLT)

I have to believe that the Roman officer had seen countless executions. I feel certain he had seen just about everything you could imagine. However, what he witnessed when Jesus died led him to only one conclusion — Jesus is the Son of God.


It will be much better to come to this conclusion while you still have time for it to make a difference in your life. Please do not wait until it is too late. We will all make this declaration one day whether we want to admit it now or not. The important thing is to do it now and put your faith in Jesus as the Savior that paid for our sin.

‘Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’     ~ Philippians 2:6-11 (NLT)

What Kind of Criminal Are You?

I have been pondering something since last Easter. I don’t know why this just hit me after all of these years, but something caught my attention for the first time after reading about Jesus’ crucifixion. The thing I have always just glossed over as part of the story is that Jesus was crucified between two criminals. For me, it had just been a minor detail in the story.

‘Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.’
Luke 23:32-33 (NLT)to make sense to me.

As the passage tells us, there were two criminals with very different responses to the situation in which they found themselves. Crucifixion was an incredibly cruel way to execute someone. The method of execution involved tying or nailing someone to a large wooden beam and letting them hang, perhaps for several days. Death would occur through a combination of constrained blood circulation, organ failure and asphyxiation. Death could be accelerated by shattering the legs with an iron club to prevent the person being crucified from supporting the body’s weight and made inhaling much more difficult, which hastened both asphyxiation and shock. Often the condemned man had been whipped or scourged leading up to his crucifixion such that he was already in a dramatically weakened state.

I do not know that I could adequately put into words the suffering that the condemned person experienced during a crucifixion. However, I did want to lay a foundation for this setting in an attempt to explain how Jesus, along with the two criminals were suffering during this experience so that the reaction of both criminals might make more sense to us.

There are a couple of different passages that describe how the criminals reacted to their execution in the midst of their suffering. All four Gospels tell us that two criminals were crucified with Jesus.

‘Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.’
Matthew 27:38 (NLT)

‘Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.’
Mark 15:27 (NLT)

‘There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. ‘
John 19:18 (NLT)

Since all four Gospels mention this, it must be significant. Right? I think so. It made me think about why it was noted in each account of Jesus’ crucifixion. Maybe it was because of their role in the story.

‘The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.’
Matthew 27:41-44 (NLT)

Matthew tells us how both criminals joined in with the crowd to hurl insults at Jesus. They were just like the religious leaders and other spectators. In the midst of their suffering, the still took time to mock Jesus. However, Luke tells us how one of the criminals changed his tone.

‘Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” ‘
Luke 23:34-41 (NLT)

I believe one of the criminals heard Jesus showing forgiveness to those that were involved in His execution. Even in his suffering, the criminal realized there was something different about Jesus and he wanted it.

Although both criminals initially taunted Jesus, one had a change of heart after experiencing Jesus’ presence first hand. When the first criminal continued mocking Jesus, the second criminal could no longer respond to Jesus that way. First, he rebuked the first criminal for how he was responding. Second, he asked Jesus to remember him when it is all over. He recognized his need for a Savior and made the conscious decision to ask for salvation, which Jesus quickly assured him would be his.

The second criminal did not have a chance to do anything to “earn” salvation but Jesus freely gave it to him anyway. People often think they have to do something to receive forgiveness and salvation. The Bible is very clear that there is nothing we can do other than accept the gift of grace that Jesus offers each of us. We are not able to do anything to earn it. Fortunately for us, Jesus did the work on our behalf. All we can do is choose to accept the gift or reject the gift. There really is not another option. We can be like the first criminal and reject the gift Jesus offers us or we can be like the second criminal and accept it.

Going back to the title of this blog post… What kind of criminal are you? Whether we realize it or not, each of us is represented by one of the two criminals. Are you like the first criminal who rejects the gift of salvation that Jesus paid a hefty price for us. Or are you like the second criminal that accepts Jesus’ gift and gets to experience a personal relationship with Him. The choice is yours. All of us make this choice. Your response has eternal implications. Make no mistake about it, you are making the choice. Do not follow the example of the first criminal. Make the same decision the second criminal made. I encourage you to look into what Jesus is offering, especially as we approach Easter. I promise you will not regret choosing Jesus.

When I think about this, I am reminded of the song “Too Small a Price” by Don Francisco. I think this song illustrates the choices made by the criminals so well. This version shows the brutality of crucifixion to give an idea of the circumstances the criminals were experiencing when they made their choices.

EIGHT YEARS AND COUNTING: What I’ve Learned From My Run Streak (So Far)

Back in December, I completed the 8th year of my run streak. At that time, I was asked to write an article for “The Vulcan Runner” (the monthly newsletter distributed by the Birmingham Track Club). It was an interesting request since I have had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with the club over the last several years. I originally decline the request because I do not think others care enough about my run streak to want to read about. I was then asked if I would consider writing an article about what I have learned during the streak. I thought that would be a more interesting topic, so I agreed. As I am closing in on Streak Day #3000 in a couple of weeks, I though I would share this in my blog. The following is what was published in the January issue of the newsletter…

Talullah HM

Running in the Tallulah Half Marathon in Jasper, Alabama

When I finished a run on 23 December in Liverpool, New York, my run streak hit its 8th year. I was asked if I would share what I have learned about running during this time. It is an interesting assignment for me because I do not consider myself an authority on running — I just think of myself as an average runner who is simply more consistent (and slightly more obsessive) than most others. Regardless, I will attempt to share some thoughts, and I hope someone else may find this helpful.

Stats on my run streak after my 23 December run

  1. The first steps are the hardest. I was 41 years old when I started Run University’s Running 101 (Couch to 5K) program in May 2008. I was much heavier and had no idea that it would be so hard. I went home after the very first session (during which we just completed one mile by walking an eighth of a mile and “slogging” an eighth of a mile until we covered the whole mile). My wife, Caroline, asked how it went, and I told her it was too hard and I did not think I could do it. There was no way I would ever run a 5K. She encouraged me to stick with it until at least the target 5K, Race to the Courthouse. Since she was not offering the needed level of sympathy for my situation, I decided I would quit after finishing the 5K. Eventually, the shin splints stopped hurting, and the running got a little easier so I stuck it out. I think we forget that it can be, and often is, hard for many new runners. If you will just stick with it, it will be well worth it.
  2. Run for you. I believe that you ultimately have to run because you want to do it. Running for a cause or running because someone else wants you to run will only keep you motivated for a little while. If you do not have the desire within you, it will become easy to stop. If you can set personal goals and reasons to keep going, it can become a part of who you are and becomes a lifestyle choice.
    Magic City 5k

    Finishing the Magic City 5k as 1st overall Grand Masters in 2019

  3. Run for others too. This might sound contradictory based on my previous point, but I can explain. Running is a great way to give something back. There are so many great charitable organizations that benefit from running events. We all know about the charity groups at large races like the New York City Marathon or Boston Marathon. However, there are numerous smaller charities that benefit from local races as well. We have lots of options in Birmingham alone. The Bell Center and Mitchell’s Place have benefited from charity runners at the Mercedes Marathon weekend. Open Hands Overflowing Hearts is the beneficiary of a fun 5K/10K in Helena as well. Even if you do not fundraise, you help these charities be participating in these events. I do not want this point to be only about running for charities, however. I enjoy running with other runners too. I get as much joy and satisfaction from helping another runner complete a race or hit a time goal as I do when I race for myself. We can build a stronger running community by helping one another.
    S2S 15k

    Running with Alison Noble in the Statue-to-Statue 15k

  4. Cherish the relationships. My best friends these days are the people I run with or have run with in the past. I suspect this one does not need to be mentioned here, but it is one of my favorite things about running. The bonds that are developed through the miles on the road together run deep. You know the relationships are strong when you can have deep philosophical discussions or highly personal conversations with your running group. When you develop close relationships, you truly want the best for your friends. And that is what they become, your best friends. Also, what is said on the road stays on the road.
    cropped-ragnar-finish6.jpg

    The 1st place overall mixed ultra team at the Ragnar Relay Tennessee with Julie Pearce, Jack Burnette, Becca Fite, Sara Turner and Kile Turner

  5. Push your boundaries on occasion. Running is unique because it is a sport that can be whatever you want it to be. If you want to become a 5K specialist, you can. If you want to run a 100-mile race, you can (you are borderline insane, but you can choose to do that). If you want to run a marathon or half marathon in all fifty states, there is nothing stopping you except maybe your budget. I do believe that you need to push yourself on a regular basis. Whether that is pushing pace or distance or something else, I do not want to get comfortable with my running. P.T. Barnum once said, “Comfort is the enemy of progress” and I believe that. If you can find your limit today, you may be amazed how much further you have to go to find it again in a year. I have only been running for a little over eleven years and I hope I have not found my potential’s boundary yet. However, I do not think you can physically push your limits every day. If you do, I think you are asking for an injury. The great thing is that there are multiple ways to push yourself, and I believe that should a regular part of your running plan.
    15380281_10211801240296037_5676596329447017067_n

    Running in rainy conditions at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon with Jennifer Cole

  6. Learn from tough runs. Not every run will be magical. Some days, it is just hard. Maybe you have tired legs or you did not fuel properly. You can expect to have some tough runs. Rather than lament those runs, look for the lessons. You may have started too fast and ran out of fuel. It may have been a hot summer day, and you did not adjust for the heat and humidity. It does not matter the reason the run was difficult, there can be a lesson to learn. Personally, I do not believe in bad runs. I think they all have merit and can teach us something; I just have to identify the lesson.
  7. Celebrate every accomplishment. No matter what you accomplish, you should celebrate it. Every accomplishment is the result of dedication and effort. Success is rarely an accident, especially in longer distance events. I am amazed at what Micah Morgan has accomplished in the world of 100- mile races and 24-hour races. To be honest, I am in awe. Those results did not just happen. They reflect the hours and miles of training she puts in daily. However, Micah is so humble, that I also appreciate her husband, Cary, touting her results. I love seeing others doing well. It does not have to be on the level of Micah either. I am amazed when I see Beau Talley or Suman Silwal complete yet another 100-miler or hear Robert Kracke or Allen Jones talk about running their first marathon. I hope we all can be as happy seeing someone else accomplish his or her goal as we are when we do the same.
    Houston Marathon

    Celebrating my 1st sub-4-hour marathon at the 2014 Houston Marathon

  8. Never downplay an achievement. One of my pet peeves is hearing someone make excuses for his or her achievement. The most common example of this that I hear is when you ask someone about a race, and they reply with, “I just ran the half” (as if 13.1 miles is nothing to be proud of). That is malarkey! If you look at any race, only a very small percentage of the population will even participate. There may be 55,000 runners in the New York City Marathon but that is a minuscule percentage of the population of New York City. Even with about 60,000 runners in the Peachtree Road Race, that is a very small percentage of Atlanta’s population. In addition, I would expect over half the participants in both races are not even residents of those cities. According to a USA Today article in 2015, “marathoners and half-marathoners still make up less than one percent of the American population”. I do not know the percentage of the population that has run a 5K, but I would expect it to also be a small number. Whatever you achieve, own it, and do not downplay what you have done.
  9. Never take it for granted. Those of us who can run should never take this running gift for granted. Enjoy every time you have the opportunity to run. I have not missed a day in over eight years, and I am thankful for that. I just read an article about Coach Rich Wright of Baldwin High School in Pittsburgh. On Christmas Eve, he ended his run streak a few months short of 30 years because he needs back surgery. On the other hand, Robert “Raven” Kraft of Miami Beach is about to complete 45 years of his run streak at the end of December. He says he has slowed down over the years, but he still runs the same 8-mile route every day. I hope to go to Miami to run with him one day. There is also Ernie Andrus, a WWII veteran who is running across the United States for the second time — at 90+ years young. It will take him about three years to complete this cross-country run, but he appreciates each day (you can follow his progress on Facebook). An injury or illness can end a streak at the drop of a hat. I try to be thankful for each run.
  10. Consider every run a great run. I have already mentioned that I do not believe in bad runs. The flip side of that is that I think every run I am able to do is a great run. Every opportunity to run solo or with friends is a gift. I never want to forget that.
    withMeb

    With Meb Keflezighi where I ran for his charity at the 2013 Boston Marathon

There are many, many other things I have learned, mainly by making mistakes — And while I am sure I still have more to learn, I am looking forward to each and every run. If I could close with one thought, it would be this:

“Be thankful for every time you get to run, and never forget to give back to others in return for those who invested in you when you were getting started.”Trail Run

Your Choice – Lamb or Lion

Yesterday was Good Friday. As Christians, we celebrate it as the day that Jesus was crucified for our sins. I think I have always understood in my head what that means. After last week’s sermon by Pastor Chris Hodges at the Church of the Highlands, I realize that I never understood what that really meant. As Pastor Chris said in his sermon, Good Friday was only good for us. It was horrible for Jesus. He went through unimaginable pain and suffering for one reason only. Our sin would keep us forever separated from God unless someone paid for that sin. We could not do it. We did not have the means or capacity for it. Only Jesus could do pay that debt for us. I would very much recommend that everyone listen to Pastor Chris’ sermon titled “Power in the Blood“. It will change your perspective of what the cross really means but, more importantly, it will change your life.

After Jesus was crucified and buried in a tomb borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea. It was borrowed because He only needed it for a couple of days. Today represents that day between Jesus’ death and His resurrection. What happened during that day? It was the Jewish Sabbath so I think Jesus honored the Sabbath. We often hear that He went to hell and battled Satan and the demons to take the keys to death and hell. Why do we think that? Well, in Revelation Jesus tells John,

I am the living one. I died, but look – I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.  ~ Revelation 1:18 (New Living Translation)

How difficult was the battle Jesus had with Satan? I personally believe it went something like this:

Jesus died on the cross and was buried in the tomb. The Sabbath started at sundown. The Jewish leaders were fearful that His followers might try to take his body so they expressed their concern to Pilate who was the Roman leader in their region. To appease their concerns, Pilate place Roman guards at the tomb and they rolled a huge stone over the opening. There was no way anyone was coming to take His body.

At some point after His death, Jesus knew it was time to deal with Satan. He walked into hell without knocking. Satan and the demons cowered in fear. Jesus told Satan to give Him the keys. Shaking, Satan handed them over. Jesus turned around and walked back out. I think Jesus only had to say to Satan, “Give me the keys” and Satan had no option but to oblige.

Why do I think it was that easy? God created the universe and everything in by speaking it into being. Also, the writer of Hebrews tells us,

For the Word of God is alive and powerful, it is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.  ~ Hebrews 4:12 (New Living Translation)

God’s Word is a weapon that we know Satan cannot defend against. We see it when Satan tempts Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). His Word was all it took to defeat Satan between His death and resurrection and His Word alone will prevail in the end.

Jesus came the first time as a Lamb to be the sacrifice for our sin. After He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30) and He willingly gave up His life, His role as the Lamb was complete. The next time He comes, it will be as a Lion to usher in His kingdom and to banish the devil and his demons to eternal suffering in hell. We all have to decide which Jesus we would rather deal with: the Lamb that paid the sacrifice for our sin or the Lion that will sit in judgement over everyone. Personally, I know that no one can meet the standard that His judgement will require so I would choose the Lamb. I will accept His sacrifice so that I be on His side we he returns as the Lion. We all have to decide for ourself. No one can make the decision for us. What will you do?

10 Years on Cinco de Mayo

It has been quite a while since my last post. I never claimed to be a good blogger, or consistent for that matter. You get my ramblings when I decide to ramble about something. I promised myself when I started this blog that I would not post just for the sake of posting.

So what is worthy of a post today? Saturday was Cinco de Mayo. It was the Mexican holiday that commemorates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Here in the U.S. I think Americans “celebrate” Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to drink beer. I suspect most people do not even know why it is a Mexican holiday. I had to look it up myself.

If anyone is still reading, I guess they are still wondering what warrants this post. Cinco de Mayo 2018 marks the ten-year anniversary of my first day in Run University‘s Running 101 (couch to 5k) program led by Coach Danny Haralson. In other words, 5 May 2018 marks the beginning of my running career. I met Danny for the first time that day at the formerly Colonial Bank parking lot next to the Mountain Brook YMCA. That building is near the site of the old Shades Valley High School and is now a BB&T office building that we run by often.

If this were a movie script, that day would have been the launch of a glorious running career. The reality is that I did not like it and wanted to quit. The program lasted seven weeks and culminated with the Race to the Courthouse 5k in late June. I hated everything about it for the first six weeks and had every intention of stopping as soon as I finished the 5k. A week before the race, we ran the route and it was the first run that did not suck in every way. I still did not like running, but I realized the 5k was doable.

After the 5k, I stuck with it and ran another 5k in July. Since there were no 10k races in the summer due to the hot Alabama summers, our group just continued running together until our 10k in October. It was during that summer that I started to enjoy running. In reality, I probably enjoyed spending time with the friends I met in the running group. It also helped having Jerry Smith run with us during almost every run. Jerry was a long-time runner and helped Danny with his C25K groups. Between he and Danny, I learned to push myself while learning to enjoy running.

I went on to finish the Hueytown 10k in October and followed that up with the Vulcan Run 10k in November. From there, I ran my first half marathon (Mercedes Half Marathon in Birmingham) in February 2008 and my first marathon (Baltimore Marathon) in October 2009.

To date, I have run 36 marathons (including five ultramarathons) and almost 60 half marathons. I have also run numerous 5k, 8k, 10k, 15k and other distance races. I am not very fast, but I will finish what I start. I enjoy pushing myself to see what I can do.

As my blog title denotes, I am also an accidental streak runner. I have run at least one mile every single since 24 December 2011. I never thought my streak would get this long. Early on, I was inspired by Prince Whatley‘s streak. His run streak went for over 11 years before an injury forced it to end. He is an amazing athlete that has coached so many runners through the Team In Training program that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Like Prince, I want to be an encouragement to others with my running. I want people to understand that I am a very unremarkable runner. If I have a strength, it is consistency and determination. Some might call it obsession and would probably be accurate in their assessment. I am not very fast. I am also not overly slow. I am just very average. I see a lot of runners that are much faster and possess much more impressive achievements than I do but I understand that everyone runs for different reasons. I can appreciate each person’s journey is different from mine. I just want them to reach whatever goal they have and will be happy to help in any way I can.

This post got much longer than I expected, but that is what can happen when I ramble. Come run with me sometime and find out how true that can be. I want to close with one of my personal running quotes that guide my running journey.

There are two types of distance runners: thoroughbreds and pack mules. I am perfectly happy being a pack mule. ~ Randy Lyle

2000 Days and Counting

With the completion of my run on the morning of 14 June, I officially hit 2000 days in my running streak. Just the thought of that still sounds crazy. That’s almost 5½ years of running every single day. The streak started with no thought to go a significant amount of time. Back in January 2011, I saw a Runner’s World challenge on Facebook. The challenge was to run every day in the month of January so I decided to give it a try. I made it about 20 days before I got sick and the streak ended. The next year, one of the members of my running group at that time, The Village Runners, saw the same Runner’s World challenge for January 2012 and suggested we try to complete it as a group. We felt like the accountability of the group would make it easier to stick with it. That is kind of how it started.

Although it was not on my mind at the time, my streak actually started on Christmas Eve of 2011. My wife, Caroline, and I went to Syracuse, New York, for Christmas to spend Christmas with her brother (Donny), sister-in-law (Anica) and niece (Maddie). We flew to Syracuse on Friday, 23 December, and I intended to go for a run when we got there. Donny picked us up at the airport and we began visiting when we got back to the house and I never did run. I did wake up the next morning and go for a run with Caroline to Onondaga Lake Park. It was 22° with snow and ice on the ground.

2017-07-01

When 1 January came around and we started the Runner’s World challenge, I had already run for 8 straight days. We made it through the entire month and I was at 39 days. For those that know me, you know I am a numbers geek. I realized that I could reach 50 days in less than two weeks so I decided to go for it. At 50 days, I wondered if I could get to 100. By the time I reached 100, my friends were encouraging me to try to run for the entire year. I did not think I could make it that far, but I decided to go for it and I made it. By that point, I was committed to keeping the streak going. At some point, I had to change my mindset from “I have to go run” to “I get to run every day” to take some of the pressure off of myself. Maintaining a run streak this long was never my plan. It just happened. It is also the reason my blog’s subtitle is “Ramblings of an Accidental Streak Runner”. The ramblings are self explanatory if you ever read any of my blog posts. The accidental part is just a fact.

I used to say that I would keep going until I got hurt or sick. Well, I have been both hurt and sick but I somehow have managed to get a run of at least one mile in every day. I typically run in the morning because I have learned that it is a good way for me to start my day. My run wakes me up and gets my juices flowing.

As I have mentioned in other posts, I am still a relatively new runner having started running only nine years ago. For over half my running career, I have been maintaining this current run streak. It was more challenging in the beginning because I was putting too much pressure on myself to make sure I ran. It was not always fun because I made it more of a chore that I had to do. When I decided to enjoy the runs and to run for the fun of it, the pressure went away for the most part. My running buddies have been a huge factor in helping me to keep the streak going because someone is always willing to run with me. There have not been very many solo runs in the 2000+ days of the streak. For that, I feel very fortunate.

Another thing that I have done is study other runners. I read about them to see what makes them tick and what motivates them to do what they do. These runners have become my heros and role models. I cannot express enough how these people have encouraged me, some personally and others from afar. As a show of gratitude, I want to acknowledge many of those runners here:

  • Dick Beardsley – One of the most famous Boston Marathons was run in 1982 where Dick came in right behind Alberto Salazar after running neck and neck the entire race. He was a great marathoner during that era but it is his story since 1982 that makes him an inspiration to me. He overcame some serious demons in his life and is now inspiring people with his story.
  • Owen Bradley – As a local Birmingham runner, Owen is one of the best ultrarunners in the country. I am always amazed at what he is able to accomplish. He is also one of the best runners that I personally know.
  • Terry Fox – I went all the way to Vancouver to run a half marathon back in 2012 primarily for the opportunity to visit the Terry Fox Plaza and see the tribute to him. His Marathon of Hope inspired Canada back in 1980. Although he did not reach his goal of running across Canada before he was stopped by his cancer, he became a Canadian hero and the Terry Fox Foundation still raises tremendous amounts of money for cancer research.

IMG_1349

  • Kathleen Hamrick – Another local Birmingham runner that has achieved some crazy things. She and her sister ran the Grand to Grand stage race and then ran a similar event in the Amazon. Just the thought of one of those races blows my mind.
  • Danny Haralson – If you have read my blog before, you know Danny has been more influential to my running than anyone else. His Run University is how I started running in a Couch to 5k program back in 2008.
  • Dick and Rick Hoyt – I first saw a video of Team Hoyt when our church played it one Sunday morning. I was so impressed with their story that I began reading and watching everything I could find about them. I had to the honor of meeting Dick at the race expo in Boston in 2013 and 2014.

IMG_1350

  • Dean Karnazes – I became intrigued by Dean when I read his book, 50/50, about his adventures running 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. Once again, I looked for everything I could find about him because his story was so incredible to me.
  • Meb Keflezighi – I had the pleasure of meeting Meb back in 2010 at the expo of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas and became friends over the years. He has always been an inspiration and encouragement to me. Meb is just an incredible runner but an even better person.

IMG_1351

  • Nadia Ruiz – I became Facebook friends with Nadia a few years ago and have been amazed at all she has accomplished in running. She became the youngest person to complete 100 marathons and most of those have been Boston qualifying times. I had the honor to finally meet her at the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon in 2016.
  • Joan Benoit Samuelson – Joan was the Gold Medalist in the first women’s marathon in Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. At a dinner the night before the 2013 Boston Marathon, Meb introduced us to Joan and she was such a nice lady. The next day, she set the course record for women over 50 years old.
  • Erica Speegle – Erica is a local runner in Birmingham that is the fastest women in town. I had the pleasure of watching her run in the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles. She is another terrific runner that has always been so encouraging to other runners.
  • Michael Wardian – I first read about Michael when he ran two marathons in the same day back in 2013 and actually won one of them. I have followed him since then. I learned that my admiration was warranted when I heard an interview he did on a podcast with my friend, Suman.
  • Julie Weiss – Julie is another incredible runner that I first met at the Walt Disney World Marathon when she was nearing the end of her quest to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks while raising awareness and money for pancreatic cancer. I also had the privilege of running in the same marathon where Julie celebrated her 100th marathon in the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon in 2016.

IMG_1352

  • Prince Whatley – Prince is a local runner in the Birmingham area that ran a run streak for over 11 years before an injury ended it. Besides being a tremendous runner, he has always been such an encouragement to me and other runners in our community.

I am always interested in learning about runners that I think are some of the best. I am interested in learning what makes people do what they do. We all have our own motivations and reasons for running. For me, it is about challenging myself and pushing my boundaries. I have no idea how long I will be able to maintain this current run streak but I plan to see how far it will go. And I will have fun doing it.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Last year at this time, I was wondering if I would be able to run without pain ever again. I had hurt my hamstring somehow at the end of 2015 and it affected my preparation for the 2016 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon. During the month of December when I planned to work on speed drills, I found myself having to walk up hills and being unable to push the pace during my runs. I had registered for Los Angeles with the goal of running a PR at that marathon. Suddenly, I was not able to do any of the things I wanted to do to get ready.

We went to Los Angeles in February 2016 to run the marathon as well as watch the 2016 Olympic Trials the day before. We wanted to watch our friends, Erica Speegle and Meb Keflezighi, run in the Trials so it was a good time to go. At the time we registered, my goal was to attempt to run a PR there. With my training not going as planned, I realized I had to adjust my goals and I did. Although the first half went well, the second half was a real challenge. The beginning of the marathon was hillier than I had anticipated and it was unseasonable warm for February with highs in the low 90s. It was actually worse for the elite runners in the Trials on Saturday because of their later start but it warmed up quickly for us as the sun rose into the sky. I ran with my friend Teresa who was coming off a foot injury and we both suffered over the last half of the marathon and finished much slower than we had planned. But we did finish!

12747474_10207568501983744_3726031038575884197_o

 

After returning to Birmingham, it took me much longer than normal for my legs to recover. I usually start feeling pretty good again within a week. This time I found myself struggling even after six or eight weeks. I could not figure out why the recovery was so difficult when I felt like I had not been able to run very hard at all in the marathon. It just seemed that every run, especially the longer runs, were such a struggle and that was not what was normal for me. Nothing I did seemed to help with the excessive fatigue I felt in my legs during my runs. Eventually, I started having days where I was feeling more normal and I was ready to get back to training again.

Almost immediately after I started getting back to my normal routine, I noticed I started having pain in my foot. It began to bother me more and more but I tried to ignore it. I told myself I could deal with the pain in hopes it would eventually go away. It did not.

A year ago, my running buddies in Run University went to Jasper, Alabama, to run the inaugural Tallulah Half Marathon. The run started well and I ran strong for about six miles. At about the halfway point, we run up a hill and my foot starting to really hurt to the point that I had to walk most of that hill. From that point on, I determined that I had to walk up the hills for the rest of the race. Unfortunately my foot started to hurt running downhill too. Needless to say, the last seven miles were not much fun. After the race, I tried to hide the pain but it was obviously hurting me based on the comments from my friends. It hurt bad enough that I was almost certain that I had a broken bone somewhere in my foot. I made an appointment with Dr. David Linde at Foot Specialists of Birmingham for the next week and learned that there were not broken bones. However, I did have plantar fasciitis and was told that I could continue to run as long as I could tolerate the pain.

For the next few months, almost all of my runs hurt. Some hurt worse than others. I had the IMT Des Moines Marathon coming up that October in Des Moines, Iowa, and was trying to prepare for that race. It was a frustrating time as I was not able to finish my long runs on Saturday like I needed. I found myself walking the last mile or so just about every week. The level of frustration was growing each week such that I was prepared to let Des Moines be my last marathon. I was tired of hurting all the time. I was even having to wear sneakers to work because my loafers hurt my foot within minutes of putting them on. I followed my doctor’s instructions but nothing seemed to help.

14702483_10154058850675753_6968379994313637076_n

I continued to run as best I could through the summer. On Labor Day, some of my running group went to Scottsboro, Alabama, to run the Scottsboro Half Marathon. At the start, I was asked if I had a goal for that race. I said I wanted to run at a pace that would allow me to finish within two hours and I would stay at the pace until I finished or my foot started hurting, whichever came first. I finished the race that day in 1:55 but was most happy that I ran pain free because the previous week had been one of my more painful weeks so far. I am not sure why, but my foot has not hurt again and I got back to running and training again. It felt good to run without hurting again.

Yesterday, our Run University group went back to Jasper to run the second annual Tallulah Half Marathon. I did not have a specific goal other than to run well, especially since I ran 3:58 in the People’s United Bank Vermont City Marathon in Burlington just two weeks ago. My only plan was to run the first two to three miles hard and then decide if I thought I could continue running that hard. After last year’s experience, I just wanted to run a good race. I am happy to report that I not only ran a good race, but I was to exceed my expectations. After the struggle last year, it was redemptive to come back and run well.

19029226_10155388167309859_7778040022875830239_n

Since the Scottsboro Half Marathon, I have turned 50 years old but I have been running as well as I ever have. Since I was 41 years old when I started running, I missed my prime athletic years but that gives me the opportunity to hit new PRs even at my age. At the beginning of March, I ran a new PR at the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. About a month later, I ran a new 15k PR at the Ellis Porch Statue to Statue 15k in Birmingham. This race is billed as the South’s toughest 15k. Just a couple of weeks after that, I ran a new 10k PR at the OHOH Run for Their Lives 10k in Helena, Alabama. The lesson I learned (again) is not to give up on yourself. We can all do just about anything we want if we are willing to work for it. After suffering for several months last year, I am more appreciative of being able to run than ever. It makes a huge difference to run with the right attitude. I enjoy running with my running groups more now than ever. It really helps with my run streak too. Most of my friends probably have no idea how close I came to ending my run streak last year due to the foot pain I was enduring. I may have had a few more one-mile days than I would have normally but I was able to keep the streak going. By doing so, I should be able to reach run streak day 2000 on Wednesday, 14 June. For the last couple of months, I have been looking forward to hitting this milestone. A year ago, I would have said there was no way I could get here. Wednesday, I will show myself the reward of maintaining the consistency that I have been able to maintain. I hope to show others that anything is possible if you are willing to fight for it. It is not easy but that is what adds the value. Never give up and stay focused on your goal. You can and will achieve your goals if you can do that.