Back on my birthday, April 27, I ran the longest run of my life. I ran 27 miles to support Laura Baumgardner and her Pontiac, Illinois high school students' annual Run for Respect 5k. My run wasn't a part of a sanctioned race. There was no t-shirt or medal or timer or finish line. Just me and the road and a day of reflection on what it truly means to love and respect others.
I guess it's fitting, then, that a few months after that event, I received a package in the mail from a man I deeply respect. I respect him because he makes it a priority in life to honor people. He makes ordinary people doing seemingly ordinary things feel like heroes. And he rarely does it without pouring his time and heart into delivering that message.
So I wanted to share this package with you. I wanted to show you what it means to go above and beyond the call of love your neighbor duty. The gifts my buddy Bill Manning sent me are priceless. I will keep them forever. But more than those gifts will symbolize my efforts, for me they will serve as the identity of friendship and thoughtfulness.
As I write this, I feel like calling out "Robert, Robert, Robert!!!!, akin to Missy Hepp , trying to get your attention at the Meg's Miles Memorial a few years ago.
I apologize for the lateness of this getting to you, but the old wheels sometimes turn more slowly than I would like, as do the ideas that come into my head.
But, I wanted to take the time to recognize a very important accomplishment of yours, and pay forward a kind gesture bestowed upon me back in 2009.
A very kind and dear friend, Emily Woloszyn, once told me that a marathon should never be completed without a well-deserved and earned medal. And, I was given such a handcrafted medal, much like this one, which I still hold dear to this day.
I am of the firm belief that, aside from ultra marathoners, no one should run 26.2 miles unless it is indeed a part of an organized event. The distances are long, the training is difficult with lasting after effects, and most of us have only a limited amount of them in our bank to complete in our running lifetimes.
So with that being said, please accept this certificate of achievement and accompanying finishers medal.
And here is the backstory:
Date line, 2009. My life back then was indeed on an upward trajectory after some dark days. I was dating my future wife, and even though we were living more than 2,800 miles apart, all was looking up. It was time to start planning on my fall marathon as well as other life changing things. The Philadelphia Marathon was on the horizon for me. The timing was right and I had plenty of time to train. Throw into this the opportunity to travel to Maui over Thanksgiving to spend time with my future wife and family, and it was even better! The plan would be to drive to Philly, run the marathon, and then fly to Maui the next evening.
Challenge #1 - when I went to register for the race, it was - yes, that's right - sold out. And the options for another marathon were very bleak at this time of year. Completing one after a Maui vacation and training in the winter months was not appealing to me in the least.
Challenge #2 - So, after some problem solving and creative thinking, I decided to organize and run my own marathon in Syracuse a week earlier than Philly. The plan slowly came together, and a date was set: November 15, 2009. The course would be an out and back along the Erie Canal Towpath and would be a certified distance course measured and marked by a local certifier for a fee. It even had a name: The Inaugural Left Out in the Cold Marathon
In 2009, Facebook and other social media were just starting to take off, so my options were limited. I advertised on the local running store message/chat board, something along the lines of "come run a local, certified marathon - date, time, and no cost (and no frills either).
Well, as you can imagine, few folks were lining up to take part in this adventure. It was a bad time of year, many had already run their fall marathons, or no one wanted to get involved in this seemingly crazy scheme. All except for one, very interesting and unique stranger that since has become a very good friend - and expert on all things chocolate - Michael Woloszyn!
So, November in Syracuse can be tricky, and can potentially bring all kinds of weather. Race morning came - it was an early start - maybe 6-7 am. There was just one other car in the parking lot when I arrived at the start - I had to assume that this was the only other entrant into this marathon. And, indeed it was. We finally got to meet after weeks of emailing and the like. He presented me with an Official race T-shirt, which I have to this day and have attached as a picture. What a great way to start a race.
We could have not asked for a more perfect day to run a flat and fast marathon. As we started our race in the pre-dawn hour, we came upon something across the canal path. We weren't sure just what it was - something discarded or some trash. But as we approached, this pile - later discovered to be a sleeping bag WITH someone inside it that moved as we ran up to it - it sure got the adrenaline pumping as each of us jumped to either side!! (I found out later that that was one lucky sleeping bag inhabitant........)
They say you can learn a lot about a person from running with them, and this was no exception with Michael. We talked about so many things over that marathon that we never would have had the opportunity/comfort level to do otherwise. Mile after mile went by on a beautiful Fall day.
At about the halfway point, my Mom, Laurel, and my Sister, Peggy, met us along the way with water and fuel. What a great crew and welcomed sight that was! They met us again at the turnaround, and then again at the first point. My sister even ran a little way with us. It was a great recharge as we headed back towards half #2. They also kept Laura Lee informed from the other side of the country of our progress, as no tracking was available.
The only downside to this course was that we had to overshoot our cars and then turn around and finish where we had started. This proved to be a mental challenge that I hadn't counted on, but we forged ahead! I walked a bit, and urged my friend to continue on. But in the true runner camaraderie, the reply was, "we started this together, and we'll finish it together."
My time for that marathon was 4:27:49, and I do know that I came in second place overall and won my age group. But that was not the biggest takeaway. Yes, this was before Facebook and running apps and smart phones, but it was indeed an official marathon on a certified course with a credible witness, so I have always claimed it as one of my accomplishments, as should you friend.
So congratulations Keith on a well deserved accomplishment. It was fun recalling this experience, and I trust you will enjoy retelling of your 27 mile Birthday Marathon in the years to come.
Best wishes as the running and the adventures continue.
Just over a year ago I had the opportunity to represent the Meg's Miles Supporters Facebook group at the first Facebook Communities Summit in Chicago. Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook team hosted the summit believing great things happen when people are in community with one another. Well, as fate would have it, I met two awesome women while I was there who've become permanent fixtures in my community. And today, thanks to the friendships we've formed since then, the three of us are going to dare to do something great together.
The story starts with Jodi Stoner. Jodi was actually attending the summit representing I Run 4. Shortly after meeting Jodi at the summit I interviewed her for my TwoTim47 podcast. I was intrigued by Jodi's devotion to a 7 year old boy named River. River has spina bifida and Jodi runs every mile of the thousands she runs to raise awareness about the disease, and to let River know just how much she loves and respects him.
I recently interviewed Jodi again after she ran the Boston Marathon for River. As I listened to her recount the challenging conditions of this year's race, and how her love for River magnetically pulled her to the finish line, I knew Jodi and I were destined to work together for the long haul to make a difference in the world.
Jodi must have felt the same destiny. Shortly after that second interview Jodi reached out to me with an idea. Every year she hosts the "Run to Jodi's House" half marathon. Friends and locals register to run a local 13.1 mile route that ends at Jodi's house in Florida. Jodi let me know this year's proceeds were going to go to my TwoTim47 mission.
The Run to Jodi's house half will take place November 11, 2018.
That's where the other friend I met in Chicago comes into the story.
Laura Baumgardner is a special needs teacher in Pontiac, Illinois. Each year she and her students host the Run for Respect 5K in an effort to eliminate the word "retarded" and replace it with the word "respect." The spring before meeting Laura I'd actually run this race virtually in Virginia to support them. Like I do when I run any race to support a great cause, I felt fulfilled.
While I was in Chicago at the summit I had a chance to meet Laura and three of her students. Hanging out with them made Run for Respect more than a cause for me. Laura and her kids adopted me into a shared vision. A shared belief. A beautiful idea that no matter who we are, no matter what labels or diagnosis get attached to us, we are all exactly the same under the beautiful principle that we all deserve love and respect.
I walked away from that meeting with Laura and her students - Mitch, Nick and Austin - knowing I wanted to be a bigger part of their journey to promote respect.
So this past April, on my birthday, I ran my longest run ever - 27 miles. For this 54 year old man, that took a big effort. But knowing each stride was for a larger than life group of kids and their hearts for loving other people the way other people deserve to be loved made it worth it.
Shortly after that run was done, I knew I'd have to do something bigger for them this year. I mean, we were in this thing together now. I had no idea what it would be. Then my friend Jodi announced she was going to use the money raised at her half marathon to support TwoTim47.
I was out running shortly after Jodi told me about her idea. I was moved by it. Then I started thinking about it. I wanted to come up with a special way to use the money she was going to raise. That's when it hit me, this natural link between Jodi and Laura and their common mission to fight for respect for the people they love. And by extension, they fight for respect for everyone.
So here we go. Here's where my running ideas often turn to running craziness. But I love what Jodi and Laura do so much. They deserve some craziness. It's a craziness that's been kindling in me since I interviewed JP Caudill on my podcast. JP ran 7 marathons in 7 days on seven different continents. I left that interview wondering if I could ever run 7 marathons in 7 days.
Next year's Run for Respect 5k is going to be on April 13, 2019. In the week leading up to that 5k, which I will run in Pontiac, Illinois with Laura and her kids, I will run a marathon on 7 consecutive days leading up to the race. One for each letter in the word RESPECT. I'll run in a city or state or community that corresponds with a letter in respect.
So on April 5, 2019, I will get my 7 marathons in 7 days Run for Respect started. The first letter in respect is "R" - so I'll get the challenge started right here in Richmond. Where does it go from there?My plan is to let Laura and her beautiful kids help pick some of the subsequent locations. I will let my TwoTim47.com Patreon supporters help pick a stop or two as well. (Learn more about supporting TwoTim47 on Patreon here: www.patreon.com/twotim47)
The good news is you can help out without having to run one single marathon. A half, maybe, but only one.
Jodi is opening her race to virtual runners. So for $25 you can register for Jodi's race, get a cool medal, and support my 7 marathons in 7 days Run for Respect. The more money raised, the bigger the possibilities get in terms of where I'll run those next 6 marathons after getting it started in Richmond.
I plan to use each of those marathon locations to spread a message of respect. Respect for those battling to end disrespectful words. Respect for those too frequently called retarded instead of being wrapped in love and respect. Respect for those battling health challenges like spina bifida.
I'm going to run 7 marathons in 7 days to promote the idea that respect starts with an internal mandate that we love and respect one another, not an external demand that others earn it. I think we spend too much time outlining, maybe even dictating, conditions under which we'll be loving, instead of shaping ourselves in the image of a God who offers unconditional love.
My goal over the course of these 7 days will be to spend a lot of time shaping myself into someone who offers that kind of unconditional love. If I can move some hearts in that direction with me, then I'll feel confident all 186.5 miles that week (7 marathons and a 5k) will run us all a lot closer to a world of respect that can outrun hate and judgement.
If you'd like to register to run the Jodi's house half marathon and support Jodi, Laura and her kids and the TwoTim47.com's mission to run 7 marathons in 7 days - all for respect, you can mail your registration to Jodi at:
To Register for the Run to Jodi's House Half Marathon
Send your name and address and $25 to:
8800 Mill Creek Lane
Hudson, FL 34667
The actually race will be run November 11, 2018. I will be running my half marathon that morning in Ashland, Virginia - the morning after I run a full marathon in Richmond - so I guess the training for 7 in 7 officially gets started in November with the Run to Jodi's House Half Marathon.
That's fitting now, isn't it?
If you're not up for running a half marathon that day, run it that week over several days. Walk it or bike it if you would rather collect your virtual miles that way. Just put in 13.1 miles, get Jodi your registration, collect a cool medal, and accept our thanks for promoting unconditional love and respect for everyone.
You can listen to my podcast interviews with Jodi Stoner, Laura Baumgardner and JP Caudill here:
Life is like running.