Chris and the Dragon

Random thoughts, findings, & loose threads on faith, culture, & parenthood

Posts tagged running

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Praying with My Feet

When I run, it can often be a release, an escape. When the world starts to surround me on all sides, all I want to do is throw on my shoes and hit the road. I find that I have been running a lot harder recently. It has taken on an added urgency, almost a purpose. I can’t decide if I am running away from something or running towards it.

Running has always been a time when prayer came more naturally for me. I think that is due to the natural vulnerability inherent in running. Sometimes those prayers have been conversations that ramble like hills. Many times, the words stay the same and they repeat with every stride.

There’s a passage in John, I believe, about the Spirit praying for us when we don’t really have the words to say what needs to be said. I feel like those are the prayers that have been happening more often of late. It’s like a hum that weaves in and out of the music coming through my headphones. It rises and falls with my breath. Its meaning is something that I cannot quite understand. It is like this indecipherable grasping for God. I don’t have words for it, but I can feel it.

That sounds like nonsense and maybe it is. But perhaps God fights fire with fire. When life gets nonsensical, our Creator uses what appears to be a bit of nonsense to get through to us. Maybe God uses scrap pieces of running shoes, iPod playlists, shortness of breath, and road to say something that I could not even at my most eloquent. I’m not sure.

All I know is that I have needed peace this fall. Faith, for a variety of reasons, has been a tough road to trod. Yet in those times when I have to go run for fear that I may implode, when I am either running so hard away from something or perhaps towards something, God has met me out there in a way that I can’t quite describe.

I have not and do not deserve that. But all the same, I am grateful.

Filed under faith prayer running

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Thank You for Helping Me Break 4:30

I kept trying to write some sort of moving narrative about finally obtaining my marathon goal on the third try. There were going to be lessons of perseverance and community. You would have chuckled at some of my witty observations and nodded while making a “mmmm” noise when I brought it all home. Alas, that didn’t happen. So in lieu of that, here is a non-exhaustive thank you list to all the people and things that finally helped me break 4:30 (my official time was 4:26:41) in the marathon:

-The cross country trail at Dorman High School, where I ran numerous long weekend runs.

-That article in Runner’s World that told me I needed to eat a gram of carbohydrates for every pound I weigh in order to avoid hitting the wall.

-The three bagels with peanut butter, cup of yogurt, and bottle of G2 Gatorade that I consumed in a quixotic effort to somehow carb up enough before the race.

-The Swamp Rabbit Trail, for being considerably flatter than the streets of Nashville.

-The coolish, partly cloudy weather.

-The 4:15 pace group, whose community I enjoyed until about Mile 14.

-The volunteers that served at all the aid stations and the police officers that kept cars from running us over.

-The lone port-a-john by the abandoned train caboose on Swamp Rabbit.

-The person that exited said port-a-john before I got there meaning no wait and little time lost when I had to go the bathroom.

-Furman University, for always being one of the best places in the world to run.

-Jim. The image of my nearly two and a half year old kid dressed up as Buzz Lightyear standing by the course and excitedly yelling “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” was all kinds of epic awesomeness.

-My mom, for coming out to cheer me on and for being there to help me when I had my first ill-fated 20 mile training run back in September.

-The lady in Travelers Rest that stood by the course and cheered by name for everyone who passed her.

-My gag reflex, for not following through when I felt like I was going to boot around Mile 18.

-The waffle cookies, which were good for fuel up until that gag reflex kicked in.

-The 4:30 pace group, who passed me when I was walking around Mile 21 and considering another swing and  miss at my goal. I started running again when I saw you guys trudge by.

-Florence + the Machine, for your 2010 hit “The Dog Days Are Over” which was playing on my iPod when the 4:30 group passed me. Your harp and theatrical singing pushed me through the wall.

-My dad, for running alongside me a couple times during the race and encouraging me, especially as I ran my last mile. Also for getting me interested in running all those years ago in the first place.

-Oxygen.

-The finish line, for existing.

-EA, for coming out and supporting me, encouraging me as I trained, and letting me go off on two and three hour runs on Sunday afternoons even when you wanted to nap. I would never have done this without you. I’m glad that I didn’t scare you this time.

-God. Even though I am not particularly fast, when I run, I do feel Your pleasure. Thank You for letting me experience this.

Filed under running

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Hunger Games Signs at the Marathon

Marathon spectators will often hold up signs of encouragement. Sometimes it will be cheering on specific people. You’ll see a lot of “Go Mom!” signs held up by adorable kids or “Run (person’s name) run!” signs. Some are more general. There are a ton of “Run like you stole something!” and “Kick asphalt!” (sometimes the latter sign has an additional “s” just in case we didn’t pick up on a pun that was seemingly hatched by a lunch table of 3rd grade boys) signs.

On Saturday, I noticed a lot of Hunger Games-inspired signs: “Welcome to District 12!” and “May the Odds Ever Be in Your Favor.” I understand Hunger Games is a big deal, but I feel like a book featuring a weapons-fueled death match may not be the most appropriate reference for an event in which some people already feel like they’re going to die. It’s as if I’d come to mile 23 and a person hands me a cup of Gatorade, a battle axe, and says, “I’d stay sharp. I just gave the dude in front of you a crossbow.”  

Just a thought. But I know it comes from a sincere place, so thanks for the encouragement.

Filed under thoughts too long for twitter too short to be a blog running Hunger Games

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The Sophomore Slump

The thought crossed my mind yesterday that I was writing self-fulfilling prophesy.

Turns out that thought knew what he was talking about.

I ran, by my standards, a pretty impressive first 15 miles. At the halfway point of the race, I clocked in at 2:03:36. Mind you, this is 34 seconds slower than the fastest full marathon ever run, but I was still pretty pleased.

"This is going to be great," I thought. "Even if I slow down to a ten minute mile pace, I can still finish this sucker off in the low 4:20s. I just have to avoid that wall."

Well, the wheels came off a few miles later and I careened into that wall a good six or seven miles earlier than I did last year. The problems started with a miscommunication about what I needed when I stopped with my team (that’s right, I have a team; I couldn’t do it without my team. I am not just saying that because they’re all related to me) a little after mile 15. I needed Gatorade and another packet of energy chews. All they had was water.

"No big deal," I thought.

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Filed under running Country Music Marathon

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Electric Boogaloo: A Good Sequel is Tougher to Pull Off

The first time you run a marathon, all you have to do is finish. Sure, you have a time in mind. But even if you whiff on that goal—as I did—you still finished a marathon! You are the 1% in a way that will provoke no street protests! Because the goal of your first marathon is so singular, your focus is laser-sharp. You train. You work. Even your brain does pushups. Your friends are impressed (or at least polite enough to act impressed). You think: I must finish. And at the end—when you do finish—you feel like Rocky in the first Rocky when it was still a pure underdog story.

Round Two, I am finding, is not quite the hero’s journey. Your friends are still impressed, but—since you’ve done it before—they’re a little less impressed. After all, you didn’t die the first time. Since you have done it before, your training doesn’t have quite as much urgency. You figure you can slide into it. Then you catch yourself doing that and you come to a desperate realization: you can’t just finish. You have to beat your previous time.

Now instead of focusing on that singular goal, you start thinking about the little things that could go wrong, even if they’re imagined. Is that tendonitis in my left ankle? Why is my knee feeling funny on a rest day? What if I hit the wall hard again? What if I hit it earlier this time? What if some frat boy dressed up as Spider-man burns past me as my son watches?

I’m starting to understand the sophomore slump and why so many sequels feel derivative. The original is spurred on by this pioneer-like drive. Whatever you doing is fresh. It’s new! It’s exciting! There’s a boldness in a first go-around partly because you don’t completely know what you’re doing. But the ignorance produces a giddy enthusiasm.

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Filed under faith running sequel Country Music Marathon

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Born to Run, the Gospels, and Me

When it comes to book subtitles, there are few that can rope me in faster than A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. That right there is a book that I want to read and read it I did. Born to Run is ridiculously entertaining, engaging, and fascinating. Typically I would write a review for it1, but something else was on my mind as I went through this true story account of ultrarunning.

One cannot help but be drawn in by the way in which Christopher McDougall writes about running ridiculously long distances. I ran my first marathon this past spring. I plan to keep running marathons, but I also promised EA that this was far as it was going to go. No ultras. No Ironman triathlons. 

Yet McDougall lays down a great case that humans were indeed made for covering great distances on foot. And reading accounts of the Tarahumara running 50 to 100 miles in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, I found myself thinking, “Wow, they just seem so free and joyous in how they do this. I wonder if I could go further.” This is in spite of the fact that at mile 23 of my first marathon, I temporarily lost my will to live2.

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Filed under Born to Run running faith