I should have seen it coming. As easy as I see my boys running at me when the ice cream comes out of the freezer, I should have seen myself running the Marine Corps Marathon. I didn't, though. I'd been in DC last year watching friends run this race. I'd navigated hours of dizzying metro rides. Dodged what felt like a zillion spectators crisscrossing the city in search of a zillion different runners. I was so lost when I left the city that day I swore I'd never run that race.
That's why I should have seen it coming. In my running life, the translation for never is almost always "see you at the starting line."
The morning started with traquility. Just my friends and I nibbling on some breakfast in the hotel lobby before we headed to the metro.
But tranquility was short lived. When we left the lobby we had 1 1/2 hours to get to the starting line of our race just 4 miles away. Yet, we barely got to the starting line as the first runners were taking off.
Those dizzying metro rides. Those crowds. They were back. And they were not tranquil.
All I could think was - when will I learn to let my nevers stay nevers.
I also knew it wasn't my thinking that got me there. It was my heart. Specifically my heart for a man I've come to love. Earlier in the year my friend Sid asked me to run this race since he couldn't. Sid is a Navy veteran. He's devoted the last 25 years of his life to running marathons for fallen military heroes - over 200 marathons to be exact. But he reached a point, at 72 years old, where his body wouldn't cooperate with him over the marathon distance.
So he asked me to tackle this one for him.
When considering my answer, my mind saw those crowds, remembered the logistical nightmare of it all. I remembered thinking I might need the Marines to clear a path for me out of the city when I left to go home.
But my heart - it saw Sid. It saw Sid marching 26.2 miles through the streets of Little Rock Arkansas, for 8 hours, carrying the American flag. (The Little Rock Marathon was where I first met Sid in person.)
It was my heart that told my mind to shut up and run. That's how I found myself standing at the starting line of the Marine Corps Marathon.
So my buddy Tracey and I decided we were going to run this one together. Every television station in the country should have interrupted their regularly scheduled programming for that breaking news. It's pretty common knowledge Tracey and I ran together several years ago on a hilly half marathon course in Lexington. Tracey tried to give me advice about running tangents when the only advice I wanted was how to survive a half marathon when you're only a few non-tangent strides from death.
I snapped at Tracey a couple of times. I think he didn't like it much. He never ran with me again.
We were two miles into our reunited race when he said, "Can you believe we've already gone two miles. The miles are just flying by." I think that was his way of saying look, two miles and we haven't killed each other yet.
The truth is the first ten miles flew by. I was running a nice steady pace. All along my goal was to get to the bridge at mile 21 without getting pulled off the course. That required a pace better than 14 minute miles. We were better than a minute per mile faster than that. And feeling good.
Before the bridge I knew I'd have to tackle mile 12. The Blue Mile. The one mile section of the course lined with pictures of fallen service members. Sid was going to be standing along the Blue Mile holding an American flag. More than the finish line, I was anticipating seeing Sid.
We weren't far into the mile when we came across a young woman bent down in front of one of the pictures of a deceased service member. She was crying uncontrollably while holding the picture. It was clearly someone dear to her. Someone she missed. Someone gone way too soon.
It occurred to me for every one of those pictures we were passing, many people had probably cried for them like she was crying. Many people are probably still crying for them - parents, spouses, children - lives never the same. I was barely into the mile and it was already emotional.
But I still hadn't found the man I was looking for.
Then I heard him shouting out. I heard Sid. There he was, standing as proud as ever with the American flag. It's like looking at soulmates when you see Sid and that flag together. For a man who has honored hundreds of fallen soldiers through his running journey over the years, there seemed in that moment to be no more perfect setting. Ever. And as I ran toward Sid, I felt incredibly blessed to share in it.
On this day, I ran to honor Sid because Sid honors them.
After spending some time with Sid he pushed us on. He literally pushed me I think. He probably sensed I was more comfortable hanging out there with him than tackling the final 14 miles of the marathon. But I'd come to see that finish line, to cross it in Sid's place and honor, so we pressed on.
We made it to the half marathon mark in 2:50. I'd never felt so strong after a half marathon. We were on target for the 6-hour finish I was shooting for. All was good.
Until it wasn't.
At about mile 15 things started getting tough. I felt good breathing wise. I didn't feel drained thanks to cool temperatures. But every muscle in my body was sore. Not to mention a few bones. Feet. Calves. Thighs. Hips. Even my shoulders were sore. The good news about soreness is, unlike the Georgia Jewel when I was trying to battle through nausea and dizziness, I knew my mind could overcome pain. Not once, even as the pain grew, did I consider I wouldn't beat the bridge. Not once did I consider I wouldn't see the finish line.
I knew we had friends waiting at mile 18. That became my target. As hard as my race was starting to get, I knew seeing friends would be a boost of energy. In a city overrun with unfamiliarity, thousands of people I didn't know, roads I'd never traveled, a place full of enormity and overwhelming, I knew seeing smiles and hearing cheers from within the world I treasure - I knew that would prove to be a pit stop that would go a long way towards getting me home.
And I was right.
The greatest cheer squad ever!!
As we left the cheer squad not all was cheery with me and my running partner Tracey. We'd done so good for 18 miles. We'd buried the nightmare of that first race to the finish line together many years ago. Now, I confess, most of this falls on me. The homestretch is always a grumpy stretch in my running journey. If it's a half marathon grumpy visits at about mile 10. If it's a full marathon you might want to avoid me after about - well - mile 18.
Tracey was pretty focused on us breaking the 6-hour mark. But I knew at this point that goal wasn't happening. Tracey was using all sorts of coaching strategies to get me to speed up. The one that sent me over the edge was when he told me if I "picked up my pace a little bit my body would follow suit."
There was something about that statement at mile 18 - in the midst of my misery - in the midst of me grappling with the reality I had to lug my body another 8 miles to the finish line - that didn't sit well with me. Maybe it was how I interpreted that statement as Tracey believing I wasn't smart enough to know my body was going to follow me where I went no matter how fast I went. Like who does not know that? Maybe it was me interpreting that statement as him insinuating the only reason I had slowed my pace was because I didn't know my body was sort of married to my pace - and not that I was dying. Or, maybe it was how I suddenly realized this guy ignored the memo I sent out long ago that as loudly as I could proclaim it proclaimed:
I AM NOT COACHABLE!
So I politely as I could told Tracey to shut up. I tell my kids to never say those two words - that there is never a helpful or loving way to say shut up. So I hope they never read this article. Because in that moment, shut up was the most helpful and loving sentiment a human could possibly express.
Do as I say boys - not as I run marathons with Uncle Tracey.
The truth is, though, and don't tell Tracey, but some coaching did sink in. I did dig in toward that finish line. I did celebrate within when we beat the bridge - one of my primary goals in this race. I knew beating 6 hours wasn't possible, but I doubled down on a new goal to beat my previous marathon time.
As I was doubling down additional reinforcements showed up. Not coaches, just beautiful souls tackling their own races. Charlotte Powers and her dad Papa Powers came along. My buddy Cliff joined us for the last few miles. There is inexplicable power and strength that comes from friendship, from a shared journey. Especially when that journey is one as challenging as the Marine Corps Marathon. I think it's because our friends, who know us best, remind us - like they did at mile 18 and again down this homestretch - that we do have it within us to do far more than we imagine.
That's what I did. Over the last 8 miles I discovered what I often know but let doubt stand in my way of discovering: I am capable of more than I'm doing. Every single day, every one of them, I have more in me. If I choose to hide from it or run from it - that doesn't mean it's not there. It just means I leaned into comfort and not the challenge of embracing the finish line of progress in life.
When the clock stopped I'd run my fastest marathon by 21 minutes. That's progress. It wasn't a world record. No timer in the world could possibly be impressed by a 6 hour and 20 minutes marathon. But I long ago realized if I'm in running for records or impressing timers, I'm in for a discouraging journey.
This running journey has been far from discouraging, though. This journey has filled me with confidence. It's overwhelmed me with the hope I've always found running toward a new horizon.
Every run. Every race. I am always running toward unchartered territory, an uncomfortable new horizon where I find God there waiting, reminding me: I'm glad you brought your fears and doubts with you. Now once again bury them. You surely won't need them as you head on toward your next new horizon.
Grateful for this guy's friendship. Grateful for his loving acceptance of my mile 18 grumpies.
You know that look when you see it.
I'll never forget seeing it on my friend Robyn's face. She'd been in the middle of a lengthy phone conversation. The call ended. Robyn tucked her phone away. And then that look took over. Where there'd been peace and contentment. Where at one moment there had been excitement, anticipation of a weekend of fun with friends, there was now concern.
It was the kind of concern that runs deeper than the bank calling you about fraudulent activity on your account or a friend cancelling an upcoming coffee date. It was the look of concern that said life would never be the same.
A short time after that call the results came back. My friend Robyn's mom Rose had Gioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. A month earlier I'd picked Robyn up at the airport for her annual trip to visit us and run the Richmond Marathon. Now she was processing how to tell her mom goodbye.
Life isn't always a marathon. When you know you're losing your mom, life suddenly feels much more like a 40 yard dash than a marathon. A lifetime to tell someone what they mean to you suddenly seems reduced to minutes.
Soon after this news I was with Robyn on Kiawah Island in South Carolina. We were there to run a half marathon. Life had changed for her, but she was committed to running the race that had been on her calendar for months. Running had been one of Robyn's passions for a long time. Now maybe it was a form of therapy.
Several of us were there running with Robyn. We committed to run this race for her mom. This one's for Rose. It was a prayer. It was a ray to run and honor Rose's fight against a disease that refuses to lose.
Running has always been a struggle for me. It's hard. The finish line always feels like a zillion painful miles away. But out there running that Kiawah half, I realized I was fortunate. Even though I knew logically my life would end one day, out there running - without a doctor's prognosis that my days were numbered - I could at least feel like I'd be able to run forever.
I was suddenly grateful for that: the hope that I'd be able to run forever.
What a gift it is - those moments- when we can innocently believe we'll be able to do anything at all forever.
After that race I wanted to do something to let Rose know I appreciated her strength. Strength that, without her knowing or intending, became a gift of gratitude for me. I could only think of one way to express that appreciation to Rose. I sent her my Kiawah Island Half Marathon finishers medal.
It wasn't a medal that represented victory. I've never had one that did. But every race medal I've earned represents a struggle. Taking on something that doesn't come easy. A willingness to fight all the way to the end. Whenever Robyn talked about Rose, that's what I heard. I heard about a mom in a hell of a fight, but a mom who wasn't going to go down with anything less than offering a hell of a fight in return.
Rose lost that fight last month. But all the way to the finish line she gave it her all. Cancer is once again the vicious victor. It's robbed the world of a beautiful mom and friend. I hope we'll one day find the weaknesses in cancer's attack and come up with a gameplan that stifles it once and for all.
But I also hope this. I hope we'll continue to rob cancer of some of it's evil glory. I hope people like Rose will continue to say to cancer: you can steal my life, but in doing so I'm going to reveal a strength in this life that makes the world stronger. Out of the depths of the ugliest places of cancer, I will rise with a beauty the world might have never got to see. So in some ways - you lose cancer.
I regret I never got to meet Rose in person. I'm sorry that it was cancer that introduced me to her beauty. But know this cancer - as you celebrate another ruthless attack on the innocent - many of us discovered a beautiful human being in spite of you. You come to weaken us, but people like Rose remind us we're stronger than we think. People like Rose embolden us to fight you back like never before.
Last week my friend Robyn mailed me the medal I'd sent Rose last December. She said he mom had hung it up where she could see it every day. As I write this, that medal now hangs where I can see it every day. A medal that once honored my capacity to take on a challenge and conquer it now hangs in honor of a woman who did some conquering of her own. Rose stood toe to toe with a disease that wanted to impose darkness, and in doing so she revealed light to us all.
That Kiawah Island Half Marathon medal has far more value and meaning today than it did the day I crossed that finish line. That's often how these medals go.
In running, the finish line is often viewed as the big moment. After months of training and miles of racing, the clock stops. A goal is achieved - or not - but this race story is over. The runner moves on to the next race, the next story, the next finish line.
Running builds into us this idea of speeding ahead. Keep your eye on the prize, no looking back. As a result of that, if we're not careful, we can miss the much bigger stories that are often as central to our race as the training miles are. We can miss the life story often buried in the race story.
That's why I want to take a look back at my Georgia Jewel story. On the surface, it's a story of running my first ultra marathon. It's a story of tackling the most daunting physical challenge of my life. But in looking back, I discover a richer story. One that is pointing me toward a more meaningful finish line. Frankly, one I never saw coming when I registered for this race.
My Road to the Georgia Jewel
Back in August of 2017, I interviewed ultra runner Harvey Lewis on my podcast (Listen Here). Harvey has tackled some incredible distance challenges over the years. He's a former Badwater 135 champion. More recently he ran the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail in the 8th fastest time known to man. But during this particular episode, I became more interested in Harvey's diet. He'd been a vegetarian for many years, and he gave his diet a lot of credit for his running success.
Later in 2017, Harvey did a series on Facebook featuring athlete friends who also adhered to vegan or vegetarian lifestyles. One of those athletes was Jenny Baker. I reached out to Jenny and asked her to be a guest on my podcast. She agreed to, and in December of 2017, I interviewed her. You can listen here.
During that interview Jenny mentioned she was the race director for an ultra marathon in Georgia called the Georgia Jewel. Jenny said she took on this role as a way of giving back to the community. She said that's what she wants her race to be about - giving back.
In February of 2018, I interviewed JP Caudill on my podcast. JP had recently completed the World Marathon Challenge. In the challenge, JP ran 7 marathons in 7 different days on all 7 continents. I was awed by his accomplishment, fascinated by every word he shared during our conversation. You can listen here.
That interview with JP sparked intrigue in me. It sparked a serious wondering of just how far I could push my own running limits.
A few weeks after that interview I ran the Little Rock Marathon with some friends. I joked with one of those friends, Nicole Williams, about running 7 marathons in 7 days. She suggested I was crazy. I think I believed her and started thinking about an alternative form of crazy. That's when I recalled my conversation with Jenny Baker and the Georgia Jewel.
A few weeks later Nicole and I were officially registered for the 35 mile Georgia Jewel.
Soon after that, I interviewed Kate Fletcher. Kate had recently run 100 miles at a local high school to raise money for scholarships for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college. I was moved by Kate's heart. So was GoFundMe - they came to her school to make a short movie about her fundraiser. Listen to my conversation with Kate here.
To be honest, when I first reached out to Kate it was because she'd run 100 miles. Since signing up for the Georgia Jewel I'd become more fascinated by longer running distances. I'd begun imagining just how far I really could run. But after interviewing Kate, I was much more captivated by her heart than by her running.
My friend Eddie Brown was captivated by both. He reached out to me shortly after my interview with Kate and said he'd taken up running. It had been years since he hit the road, but he was back at it. He also told me about his non-profit, Giving Words. Giving words supports single moms in central Virginia. He went on to tell me that Kate is a single mom and he'd discovered she could use some help.
I've since learned more about Eddie and Giving Words and Kate's needs. It's struck me how in my interview with Kate all you heard was a heart for giving to others. Nowhere in her did you hear a need for others to give to her. But Eddie said he wanted Giving Words to not only help Kate, but to honor her heart for giving to others. Eddie said he wanted to give back.
Why does that sound familiar? Give back? Isn't that what Jenny Baker said the Georgia Jewel is all about - giving back? She did. So that's what I intend to do with this race. I want to help Eddie give back to Kate.
I also want to honor Jenny's vision for the Georgia Jewel. When I cross the finish line, when I run my longest distance ever, when I check "ultra marathon" off my bucket list, I don't want that to be the end of this Georgia Jewel running story. I want that story to live on. What better way to make that happen than helping Eddie and Giving Words help Kate, and help breathe life into the lives of some single moms just looking for a break. Looking for their own finish line in life.
I encourage you to listen to my conversation with Eddie below. Since I'm running the 35 mile Georgia Jewel, I'm looking for as many people as possible to help me give back with a $35 contribution to Giving Words. A contribution that will go directly to helping them help Kate.
When you donate to Giving Words, you'll find a place to "add special instructions to the seller." In that box, please write "Georgia Jewel." Thank you so much for supporting and for giving back.
Click on the Giving Words logo below to donate.
The first time I went for a run, at least the run that ignited what I've come to call my "running journey," there were very few expectations. It had been years since I'd tackled a run of any distance. All the possibilities I imagined in that run were rooted in survival.
Something happened along the road of this journey, though. In the stillness of miles that seemed to go on forever, out of boredom if nothing else I suppose, I started listening to God. At first I was shocked that he still wanted to talk to me. After all, I'd spent years holding my hands over my ears every time he tried to tell me anything. But there he was. Talking. Overlooking years of a back turned against his voice. And there I was. Listening. And in an instant my life filled with possibilities.
Since then God's built a mission out of my running. I set my sights on the next finish line, he defines what I'm actually running toward. More often than not the finish line pales in comparison.
As I look toward my next big finish line, the 35 mile Georgia Jewel, God has put another mission on my heart. I can't wait to share that with you tomorrow. But once again, it's a mission born in listening. It's responding to God's whispers and being astonished at how he uses the wildly different miles of my running journey to weave into being one beautiful destination.
With my limited imagination I can only see a few hundred yards in front of me. I can imagine the finish lines and the medals and the ice cold coca cola to celebrate with. But my faith in God has put a magnifying glass on possibilities. It's turned footsteps into opportunities to serve, hard work into change that goes well beyond me.
The reality is, we are God's tools for changing the world. He's just blessed me with the chance to make running my tool.
Come back tomorrow to hear more about the possibilities God's revealed through my Georgia Jewel journey.
It was the Friday before I was scheduled to run my 9th half marathon. The half marathon - that's my race. Never was I more aware of that than on November 12, 2016 when I ran my first full marathon. Immediately after crossing the finish line of that race I decided 26.2 miles was indeed NOT my race. Too far. Too much training involved. I decided then and there the marathon was the perfect race to do once, check it off and escape as fast as I could still run back to the starting line of the race I love.
The half marathon.
This 9th half marathon was going to be particularly meaningful. I'd partnered with St. Andrews Church in Pearland, Texas to run the race to raise money for their hurricane relief efforts. (Running My 9th Half Marathon - The Hokie Half for Texas). What God had put so strongly on my heart I was now prepared to fully pursue. Only, until this particular moment, I wasn't fully aware of what pursuing entailed.
The first connection I made at St. Andrews Church was Tom Lusk - a dear friend of a long time dear friend of mine. I'd already been considering how I would get the bib I would wear at the Hokie Half for Texas to St. Andrews church after I completed the race when Tom reached out to me with this message:
I listened to your podcast today. Great work! As the Minister of Fun of St. Andrews church, (which I find hilarious that you discovered that little tidbit of information) I wish you good luck in your upcoming half marathon. I will also throw out another idea I had, if you are so inspired. I would like to invite you and your family to come to Pearland to come and witness our outreach in action for yourself, perhaps even get a chance to participate , if you so desire. I would also invite your family to attend a service at our church and get the full experience. We honestly are a no frills church where the emphasis is put on the message "love everyone, perform service, and understand we are all people...in progress, and where a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops are part of the dress code for Sunday service. This would be an open invitation and no strings attached (unless you want to run a race down here) and absolutely no pressure. Father nor Debbie know I'm extended this invitation, but as my title suggests, wouldn't it be fun to put faces to names, be able to participate first hand and be my family's special guest at one of the church services.
You see what Tom put in parentheses don't you - (unless you want to run a race down here). So you know want the runner in me always looking for the next running challenged did - I went to the Houston area race calendar to check out available races in early 2018. The first one I came to was the Houston Marathon. But, as luck would have it, a no go. My race, the half marathon, was sold out.
I was not long finished with exploring that race and making the unfortunate sold out discovery when I got this message from my friend Robyn Larkin.
So as I finished listening to your podcast, I realized that running the Houston half in January would be a GREAT way for you to go there and meet people from St Andrew's in person...and to continue raising money for them...🤔
To which I responded:
Already checked, the Houston Half is sold out. I'm NOT running the marathon. But there are other halfs down there early next year. Would love to get a group of us to go. Maybe do a day of working with the church and then run. Something to explore for sure. But yes, I'm with you.
Followed - after a brief bit of thought - by this message:
And now after listening to myself I'm rethinking - if those folks can do all they are doing, the least I can do is run another marathon. The perfect place to do my second one maybe? Ugh. Why do you put these things in my head.
Robyn responded with this:
So I just got a few chills. I originally registered to run Houston in 2017. Then Chris had to go to Bermuda and it was at race weekend time...so I deferred my entry until 2018. Coincidence? You need to go there and run this. It's a flat area, so the course is going to be pretty flat.
You know what happened next. I signed up for the Houston Marathon. The flat -(famous last words) - 26.2 mile Houston Marathon.
I'm going where I've never been : Texas.
I'm going where I thought I'd never go again: the marathon.
I'm going to Houston not by my design but through wide eyed obedience to God's call. Any questions about that were put to rest last night in an email from Father Jim at St. Andrews Church. He emailed me a report of the contributions made to St. Andrews Church for hurricane relief as part of my Hokie Half for Texas run. My original goal was $500. His report said $2,000.
And then there was this. Before I'd received that total - one that spoke to the financial contribution - I received an email from a dear friend that spoke to the heart contribution that was blossoming from this effort. My friend Nicole Williams has been a long time supporter of my TwoTim.com ministry. Still, I was a bit surprised when I received this email from her:
Congrats on the hokie half finish and even more so, the reason you did it. I am so proud of you and the efforts by all of the amazing people who have come together to support the hurricane Harvey efforts. I have been so moved by your podcasts, the pictures and the people there.
Flash back a little earlier in the year. I had decided to run another full (in addition to rva this year). I found one within a couple hours of me, in September. Perfect timing and close. I never actually signed up, but I've been training. Here we are two weeks from this full and I still have never signed up. Honestly, I've been asking myself for a couple months now, why haven't you pushed the button. Today, it became clear. God has plans for me to be doing something else. After talking with Jason today, who is also on board, I wanted to message you. I want to be a part of this Houston marathon journey and meet this Pearland Texas community. My heart has forever been moved because of this story you have shared.
Excited for this journey and hope I can join you on such an important visit to Texas and meet this community and tackle 26.2 miles.
I say it all the time. As I grow closer to God I'm no better than I've ever been at predicting what He will unfold in front of me next. I could never have predicted all that he's doing through one simple idea that was hatched during one of my routine runs. But if we point our thoughts and desires toward him, if we act with faith on the simple ideas he plants in us, he'll reflect them back to us and to those around us in miracles.
My friend Nicole and her family joining me in Houston is a miracle I never saw coming. But looking in the rear view mirror I can clearly see God orchestrating it. I can see God arranging Robyn's race schedule so we'll be running this race together. I can see God forming my friendship with Janice nearly 20 years ago so she'd be able to arrange my friendship with St. Andrews Church at precisely the right moment in time.
I'm reminded nothing in our lives is small. No moment. No thought. No race. God is constantly at work in all we do and all He does is bigger than our minds can dream or imagine. Like Texas big. The anatomy of this trip to run the Houston Marathon is mind boggling to me, but to God, it's just the way he rolls.
The lesson for me, and maybe for you, is to start the ball rolling. We can't go for a run and dream of a ball and then come home and set it in a corner. We have to push it. Run behind it and give it a couple of extra shoves full of momentum for good measure. Then watch what God does with it.
When I dreamed of this TwoTim47.com ministry I dreamed of running to dark with light. The mistake I made was in grabbing a flashlight when God had a stadium full of spotlights in mind.
Thanks for the extra light God. That's why I like to run with you.
I was a few miles into a run last week when I felt a pull to head to Blacksburg on September 17th and run my 9th Half Marathon. It was more than a pull to run, though. The call to this race came with images of the tragic flooding scenes I'd seen playing out in Texas. There was only one reason I could be feeling the urge to run while at the same time being overcome with the heartbreak of seeing so many people suffering in such a big way. I was supposed to run this race for Texas.
The first thing I did when I finished my run was reach out to my TwoTim47.com Patreon supporters who support me at the marathon level. When partners sponsor me at this level I agree to run a race for their cause. If I was going to run the Hokie Half for a cause I came up with, I needed to know they supported it. When I reached out to them, not only did every one of them support the idea, they all agreed to contribute to whatever support I decided to offer Texas.
(You can learn more about my TwoTim47.com Patreon platform here.)
That's when I decided what I was going to do. I used $85 of my August Patreon support to register for the Hokie Half. The remaining $108 I will donate to the Harvey Hurricane relief efforts in Texas.
Then came the next challenge. I didn't want to make a generic donation. I wanted to know something about where the money was going. It wasn't just about trusting it would go to a good cause. If I'm going to feel my heart pounding through my chest for 13.1 miles in Blacksburg next week, I'd like my heart to pound when I send off my donation. That can't happen without knowing something about the story on the other end of the donation.
So I reached out to friends on social media. I asked if anyone had any personal stories related to the suffering in Texas. My friend Janice, whom I worked with several years ago in North Carolina, put me in touch with her friend Tom in Texas. He was doing recovery work with his church. Then Tom put me in touch with the pastors at his church.
I was only on the phone with them for a few minutes when I knew their church, St. Andrews, was a story I needed to be a part of. I was sure they were part of the call I felt running last week.
St. Andrews is located in Pearland, Texas, a community within the Houston metropolitan area. They were hard hit by Harvey and are now leaning on churches like St. Andrews to help them rebuild. A rebuild that could take a decade or more.
What drew me to St. Andrews is they've been spending years getting ready for a moment just like this one. They've been building a loving partnership with the Pearland citizens for over 20 years. Father Jim Liberatore said this about his church's relationship with the community:
"Many churches establish themselves by looking inward and taking care of the family but don't necessarily look outward. My understanding of reading scripture and from some people like John Wesley see that we have a mission to the community and I've basically encouraged the congregation over the years to see the walls collapse of the church and that the parish, the church walls, actually become the community, so that we are the pastors of the community, we are lovers of the community."
That's long been the struggle I've had with many churches - their obsession with looking inward. When I decided I wanted to partner with someone to help with hurricane relief in Texas I knew I wanted to partner with an organization that would respond in love and not out of a sense of media fueled obligation. Don't get me wrong, I think we all have an obligation here - that's precisely what led me to look for a way to help - I just think obligations are best and most helpfully met in love.
As you'll see in some of the photos below, St. Andrews has already been hard at work in their community.
How can you help me partner with St. Andrews?
What St. Andrews needs most right now is prayer and money. There will be so much to do in the early stages of the relief - stages which might last years - gutting and repairing homes, helping replace essential items and simply helping people get back to a place where they can get to and from their work.
I want to give a special thank you to my marathon level Patreon supporters who gave me their blessing to use this race for this hurricane relief effort:
Robyn Larkin, Tiffany Eisentrout, Nicole Williams and Rachel Wood - Thank you!
And to the rest of my Patreon supporters who make it possible to enter races and find extra time to write stories and create podcasts and videos - I could do none of it without you all. So thank you Kristie Allen, Lashell Head, Solomon Whitfield, Kelly Anderson, Kimberly Yenser, Kimberly Caldwell, Missy Blacker-Hepp, Jenny Reynolds, Shannon Sala, Donna Shultz-Shegana and Angela Marini.
I ask for everyone's prayers as I tackle my half marathon next weekend and for all the people struggling in Texas, especially those in the St. Andrews community.
Like I said, I will be donating to St. Andrews as part of my Hokie Half Marathon run. If you would like to join me I know they'd be grateful. Maybe you could donate $13 for the 13.1 miles I'll be running in Blacksburg on September 16th. Every dollar will go a long way towards the healing and relief the St. Andrews community will be searching for.
If you donate at the link below, when you enter the giving type enter hurricane relief. In the memo section please enter TwoTim47. This will help us track our TwoTim47 Hokie Half Contributions.
So that's what I did. I drowned myself in coconut water, I ate as many pretzels as my rebellious stomach would concede to, and I rested. I woke up every half hour or so and did a self-examination - one question: could I make it to the starting line if I had to right now?
For most of the afternoon the answer was no. Trust me, the absurdity of it all wasn't lost on me. I've spent the duration of every stomach virus of my life wanting life to end, or at the very least praying for the anihilation of all forms of food. But here I was overlooking the merits of
When the race started I actually felt pretty good. Katie and the boys were standing on a corner just a few hundred yards into the race. I gave them a cheerful finger point to let them know "I've got this."
Through the first 8 miles of the race I did have it. I was running a solid 11:30 per mile pace that had me on target for a 2 and a half hour half marathon. That was the goal I'd set earlier in the summer.
But just as suddenly as my Thursday night dinner escaped me, that pace went down the drain. I began to feel hungry and weak. I knew I
In the end I got my redemption. The hook on my medal rack set aside for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon medal is now full. But like most of my races, I won't remember what I did as much as I'll remember the people who helped me do it and celebrate it. God has used running to weave me into so many awesome lives and stories. I love the way He allows his love to live out in me through each and every one of them.
In the end I got my redemption, but an awesome God used redemption to make failure a very beautiful thing.
It's one thing to dread looking at yourself. It's quite another to hate it.
But Ray hated it alright. He hated being tired. He hated feeling like he was always on the run from depression. He hated spending birthdays wondering if this would be his last.
You've got to make a move, Ray, and you have to make it now. Those are the beautiful words that rise from one of the ugliest moments in Ray's life.
Ray knows it's God. Depression has its ally, Ray has his.
Life is like running.
If we have friends running alongside us, there's no fight we can't fight, no race we can't finish.
22 Too Many
Ashland Run The Rails 5K
Charlottesville Fall Classic
Faith And Running
Flying Pig Marathon
Kiawah Island Marathon
Land Between The Lakes
Little Rock Marathon
Marine Corps Marathon
New Song Mission Possible 5k
Patrick Henry Half Marathon
Richmond Half Marathon
Run For Respect 5k
Running For Soles
Run The Bluegrass
The Georgia Jewel
The Hokie Half Marathon
Uncorked Half Marathon
Virginia Beach Shamrock Marathon