Thursday, May 31, 2007

Counting the Cost

At the outset of any venture it is wise to "count the cost." That way we do not get ourselves into the position of backing out because we didn't think something through enough. We can also decide if the activity/pursuit is really worth the cost. Over the course of this marathon training program I will cover about 450 miles. Even at a 9:30 pace, that will require 4275 minutes of running (not counting the minutes to stop sweating after running). Over the next 18 weeks, I will be investing just over 71 hours in the marathon training adventure--about 1.5 work weeks, or just under three full days. I have counted the cost and I believe that for me and at this time the investment is justified.

But the reality is that not everyone would agree with me. I have already encountered folks who give me the "Are you sure you're OK?" look. But whether anyone else agrees with me, I am OK with the investment of time and energy. [It certainly helps me that my usual running time--early mornings--does not cost my family anything. They are either still sleeping or getting ready for work/school and not looking for meaningful conversation.] Bottom line for me is that I do not care whether anyone else applauds my efforts or even notices. This is not about anyone else and their preferences. This is about me doing something that is mentally and physically healthy for me and something that I have wanted to do for many years.

In some ways this is also true about striving to follow Christ. Each person must choose to follow or not and that decision cannot be based on what others think. Either being a Christ-follower is worth your investment or it is not. Millions, and perhaps billions, down through history have concluded that it is worth the investment, but you decide for yourself--then act.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Goals -- friend or foe?

I realize that some people like goals and others find goals repulsive--I like them. Goals are motivating and give me a means to measure progress and accomplishment. I am not an obsessive goal-setter, but they offer me a sense of encouragement. Goals for the marathon? Finish in four hours or less and weigh no more than 175 on race day.

The risk inherent in setting goals is that I may not reach them. If I finish the marathon in 4:08 or weigh 178 at the start will it be a failure? Not at all! The best goals are guideposts, not minimum acceptable standards. At the same time, good goals are also measurable along the way. I can track my race pace progress by extrapolating my training pace and I can watch my weight shift throughout the training. That way I can get positive feedback along the way, not just in October.

Most Christ-followers I know have never given any thought to specific goals related to their Christ-following. They have general thoughts like, "I want to be a better person," or "I want to be more loving." But how do you measure that? Some have said that spiritual goal-setting presumes on God by declaring what I will and will not do. (Words of non-goal-setters.)

I have found that I accomplish more when I set goals than when I do not--even if I do not reach the goal. If I have a goal to read the Bible through in a year using a scheduled program (see for a sample) then I find that I will read more than if I have no plan at all. If it works for Bible reading, how about other aspects of spiritual growth? Prayer, fasting, Scripture memory, spiritual virtues, ...

Why not try setting a spiritual development goal in just one area--try Bible reading first--and see where you are a month from now? Persist in the Journey!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Plan = Success?

Today began my "official" training for the Twin Cities Marathon. I am using a training plan from Hal Higdon ( as a guide. Why a program? Because I trust someone who has done this before more than I trust me--someone who hasn't. Why Higdon's program? Because I have heard of him and he seems to know what he is talking about. There are lots of training programs out there, and I am sure that most of them could do their part to get me to the finish line, but I chose this program. Better to choose one and follow it than to waffle between programs and get behind.

While the program will help, it will not get me to the finish line. The program is detailed--workout distances for each of the next 18 weeks (around 450 miles total). The program has been used by others. The program seems to be do-able. But I still need to put in the miles. Simply having the program and having the run distances entered on my calendar will accomplish nothing in and of itself.

People have asked, what program should I follow to become a disciple of Christ? I think that most of the time they want to know how to get to someplace they have never been. Most of the time people have been disappointed when I tell them that there is no single plan, but that a good strategy is to pick one of the many that are out there and follow the plan. Becoming a disciple is much more of a journey than a destination, and there is no guaranteed plan for a lifelong journey that charts each step from now until the day you die. Better to head in a direction--toward Christlikeness--and see where the journey takes you.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Does technology make us better?

Phil's cabin (four hours north of home) is one of my favorite places to run. Winding dirt road through immense stands of pine trees. Around by the lake and always on the lookout for deer. I saw one car and two people on a 55 minute run. And so quiet that all you can hear is the birds and the wind in the treetops.

Running can be a fully unfettered experience. Given the right conditions one could run naked (not this one, but "one" could) and get the same physical benefits and emotional lift. At the same time, strap on your GPS-enabled heart rate monitor, your moisture-wicking shirt and shorts, lace up your $140 shoes, start up your ipod Nano, and you have a vastly different experience than the birthday suit runner. But is it a better experience? Does the technology help you listen better to the sounds of the nature through which you run? Help you better feel the rhythmns of your body? Clarify the window into your thoughts that running throws open wide?

I am not a running Luddite, because knowing how far and how fast is a strong motivator. But I do not want to miss the sound of the wind in the Aspens becasue I am listening to a song I can hear any time. That may be part of why I love to run. It makes me slow down enough to really listen and see. It gives me time to imagine ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rattlesnakes are in the Area

The sign got my attention right away. Running this morning (5.5) and evening (4.45) in Folsom (outside Sacramento) along the shores of Lake Natoma I did not expect to see rattlers. It is beautiful here--different trees and flowers in bloom all over. There is a paved path along the lake and also an off road path. I enjoy Runners World magazine (, but have never seen running environments like they show in the magazine--until today. The off road paths were hilly and wound through the trees by the lake.

I was a bit spooked by the rattlesnake warning. But, without the warning sign, I would not have been aware that rattlesnakes could be an issue. I think that God's word is like that sometimes. Apart from His warning, I would not be aware that there may be a threat. And because there are warnings, I pay closer attention. I would have ignored the rattlesnake warning at my peril. So too with what God has to say.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Chicago Serendipity

Every now and then a change of environment can be refreshing--a new book, new food, new socks, a new running route. I'm in Chicago for a day for a conference and I wanted to run this evening after the last conference session. The doorman at the hotel pointed me to the way to get to the lakefront trail and away I went. Chicago is such a vibrant and beautiful city. So many people were out enjoying the late spring evening--biking, roller blading, walking, running.

It was one of those rare runs where I did not want it to end. I ended up going 6.5 miles, but I was disappointed when I got back to my starting place. It was good to stop so I won't be miserable tommorow, but it was hard to stop. Most of the time I am ready to be done by the end of my planned run, but not tonight. Even something that is hard work can be enjoyable.

Tomorrow I go to California for a couple of days of meetings and I am looking forward to encountering another serendipitous experience.

P.S. Saw my friend Frank (and Aileen) on this trip and I am reminded how good it is to have an old friend who is also a good friend--and cool to boot. I appreciate that we could talk about much more than news, weather and sports. Props to Frank!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Not alone is OK

Despite what the rest of my family thinks (they are Florida residents), Minnesota in the late spring and early summer can be incredible. Today is sunny and 85, with a slight NW breeze. A perfect day for an EDI (easy does it) run. Usually I prefer to run alone--my own pace, my route, in my own little thought bubble. But today, my daughter H came along--for the first part. It was great. We could talk and encourage each other to keep a steady pace. Wouldn't want to do it this way every day, but today was nice. It was even a little sad when we went by the house after 2.25 miles and dropped her off.

Sometimes it is better not to go it alone. Even the most self-sufficient of us needs a little encouragement or help along the way. It is OK to offer, and OK to accept.

My TCM registration has been confirmed and October 7th is the target. Every run between now and then points to, and will contribute to, that day. Nothing like a big 26.2 mile target! I feel encouraged (perhaps the residual endorphin effect) that this time will be different and that I will see both the start and finish lines.

Friday, May 18, 2007

At the start ... again

I am 47. I am a husband and father. I am a runner. I am a Christ-follower. And all of those things come together somehow. This blog is to chronicle my thoughts and observations while training for the 2007 Twin Cities Marathon. I know that if I do not write, I will miss most of the ephemeral thoughts that flit through my endorphin-driven mind. So it is as much for me as for anyone.

I have been here before--several times. I have been a runner off and on since high school. I have been a Christ-follower, sometimes better than others, since high school. After reading Jim Fixx's book, I wanted to run a marathon. A number of times I have trained, even paid my money, but have never even made it to the start line. Sometimes injury and sometimes lost interest, but I want this time to be different.

Since I started following Christ I have wanted to do it well--to be a good follower. A number of times I have tried, with varying degrees of success, but never quite seemed to get there. But I want this time to be different.

I am hopeful.