When I’m not running a race

So, lots of friends are planning to run Hospital Hill, one of Kansas City’s premiere racing events. I’ve already decided not to run this year, but I’m starting to feel left out.

I’m running the Heartland 39.3 series of half marathons, then launching into serious training for my next marathon. Really, Hospital Hill would be a distraction. I have a feeling, though, that the closer we get to Hospital Hill, the more I’ll start second-guessing that decision.

What to do?

Running Rachel has a great suggestion. She recently blogged about “Six Reasons You Should Volunteer at Races.”

 Like Rachel, I confess that nearly every race I’ve ever attended, I ran. She paints a compelling picture for the value of volunteering at a race, not the least of which is this:

I think it is safe to say that my oldest son and I had fun volunteering at our first race. In fact, I think he had so much fun and was inspired by those running… that he even asked me when he could run a race with me! This is coming from the child that had no interest in running a few months ago! Yay! I call this a praise!

Don’t tell my non-running son, but I just might invite him to volunteer with me. You never know what might develop …

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Go Far, Go Together

An old African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Seeing as how so many elite marathon runners hail from Africa, maybe we should heed the proverb. Anything significant, long-lasting and impactful – whether running a race or saving lives – is better accomplished together.

I’m more interested in going far than in going fast.

This is why I joined Team World Vision. I can’t shake the moral equation: Thousands of young children die every day because they lack clean water, of which I have such a cheap and seemingly endless supply that I take it for granted. As a privileged American, I have resources that could prevent the illnesses that cause so much suffering in so many parts of the world.

But it’s not something I can do alone.

I can’t hop on a plane, shovel in hand (TSA screeners may have something to say about that) and fly over to Kenya to dig a well. The problem of a lack of clean water is beyond my limited ability to solve. But it is a solveable problem. We know how to fix it. It is simply a matter of getting enough folks involved. Getting enough folks to care.

We can go far, together.

So I am asking for your support, your prayers, and your sponsorship dollars as I participate in the Williams 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Okla., on Nov. 24 to raise funds for World Vision’s clean water projects in Africa.

An article in the latest issue of Christianity Today, Joining the Race for Clean Water, mentioned that African proverb in a report about the success of Team World Vision. Marian V. Liautaud, the article’s author and also a member of Team World Vision, concludes:

“Providing access to clean water in the most remote areas on the planet isn’t a job for individualists. It’s a job for collaborators. It’s an all-hands-on-deck endeavor. Every means, all people. Even those stuck in the middle of suburbia with just a pair of running shoes.”

Maybe you don’t have even a pair of running shoes. You can still join the cause, help children, and literally save lives. Your first step in this long journey we take together might be to write a check or contribute online at my fundraising page.

We do have a long way to go. But there is a finish line, in sight. And we’ll get there, together.

I care. And so I run.

Running, I confess, has been a selfish indulgence. Mostly, it’s a solitary pursuit that benefits myself. That’s not a bad thing – those benefits are real and worthwhile – but as the kids say, it is what it is.
 
After reaching my goal to run in the Boston Marathon this year and checking that off my bucket list, I began casting about for a new running goal.
  • Get a dog to run with me? Love love, love this idea … but first, I have to build a bigger fence around the yard.
  • Take up the triathlon? Not crazy about swimming. Or about biker shorts.
  • Sign up for an ultra-marathon, a 50-miler or 100-miler? Sorry, but that just sounds crazy. (Sign held by a spectator at the KC Marathon: “Why 26.2 miles? Because 26.3 would just be crazy!”)
Running has been all about me. It’s time to make it about somebody else. But to make this work, I’ll need your help.
 
I joined Team World Vision to raise money, to save lives.
 
So, I’ll be running in the Williams Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Okla., on Nov. 24. This is way more important than setting a new PR or placing in my age group. As a member of Team World Vision, I’ll join teammates who are running to raise funds for life-saving clean water projects in Africa.
 
More than 6,000 children under age 5 die each day from diseases spread by unsafe water or lack of basic sanitation and hygiene. Nearly 1 billion of our global neighbors go without clean water every day.
 
Lack of access to safe water is the #1 preventable cause of death on earth. We know how to fix this.
 
World Vision works in Africa (and around the world) to provide access to clean water, basic sanitation facilities, and hygiene education — because these are some of the most effective ways to prevent child disease and death.
 
As a member of Team World Vision, I’ve committed to raise $1,310 to provide access to clean water for communities in Africa, helping fund water and sanitation projects in countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Zambia. Why $1,310, specifically? Because that would be $50 per mile of the 26.2-mile marathon course. And $50 provides clean water for one person.
 
Here is where you come in. Please consider writing a check, or contributing online at my personal fundraising page.
 
I’ll admit it here … I hesitated before signing up. I’m not crazy about asking my friends for money. Besides, this could be embarrassing. What if nobody contributes? There I go, being all self-centered again.
 
I’m trusting that you will come alongside … not just to help me … to provide real help to real people who face a real life-and-death crisis. I’m secretly hoping that you will exceed my expectations and give generously above and beyond the puny goal I set for myself.
 
Maybe the answer is obvious. Why is clean water so important?
  • No access to clean water cripples communities.
  • In the developing world, women and children walk an average of six kilometers to collect water for their families. The journey to and from the nearest well takes hours. And much of it is spent carrying a heavy jug of water. A majority of these women and children’s time is spent getting water. They could otherwise be working at their house, building a small business, or going to school. But instead, the lack of clean water causes poverty to persist.
  • Poverty isn’t the only result of inaccessible water. The water that women and children walk hours to get is often dirty and diseased.

No clean water and poor sanitation = disease and death

World Vision works in impoverished, mostly rural areas to provide potable water, improved sanitation, and hygiene education (WASH) so that waterborne illness decreases, health improves, and the burden on women and children is lessened by reducing the distance to water sources.
 
Over the past 27 years, World Vision has provided 12 million people with the many benefits of clean water. They are now dramatically scaling up their WASH programs, with the goal of reaching 1 million beneficiaries per year. As one of the leading WASH nongovernmental organizations globally in both funding and footprint, World Vision invests about $90 million per year to operate WASH programs in 57 countries.

You can learn more about how World Vision provides clean water at The Why and How of Clean Water

Turns out, it is a sprint

Wilson Kipsang celebrates after breaking the world marathon record.

You know how they alway say, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”? Meaning, I guess, that sometimes you have to take the long view, live out life at a slower pace, be patient for the finish line.

Turns out, it is a sprint, after all.

The marathon, I mean, is a sprint after all. At least it is when you’re breaking the world record, like Wilson Kipsang. By the time I crawled out of bed last Sunday morning, Kipsang had already finished running the Berlin Marathon and shattered the world record in the process. Kipsang crossed the finish line in 2:03:23 … basically, he sprinted the entire course.

Kipsang, incredibly, ran an average pace of 4:42 per mile. The fastest race I’ve ever run was an average 6:40 pace in a recent 5K. After crossing the finish line, I immediately barfed behind the closest trash bin. There was one proud moment when I ran faster than a 6-minute mile … while going downhill.

I can’t even imagine running a 4:42 mile, though I understand a few folks do run sub-4-minute miles. When all they have to run is a single mile. Kipsang ran a 4:42 pace, for …

Twenty. Six. Point. Freaking. Two. Miles.

As Mark Remy writes: “a speed that most of us could achieve only by Rollerblading on one of those moving walkways like they have at airports, while also wearing a Wile E. Coyote-style rocket strapped to our backs, assuming that we could get all of it through security.”

The prior record, coincidentally, was also set at the Berlin Marathon (by another Kenyan, of course). Actually, this is the sixth time since 1998 that the marathon world record has been broken in Berlin. Next time I feel the urge to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I’ll keep that in mind.

Sadly, Kipsang’s grand achievement was marred by an idiot’s idiotic act of idiocey. As the New York Times reported:

Although security in Berlin had been increased after the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April, a man wearing a yellow T-shirt stepped out of the crowd near the finish line and raised his arms, breaking the tape just ahead of Kipsang in an apparent stunt of ambush marketing. According to Agence France-Presse, the man was promoting a Web site for an escort service. He was intercepted by race staff, handed over to the police and charged with trespassing, the news agency reported.

“Trespassing”? Is that the best they can do? He ruined Kipsang’s once-in-a-lifetime finish-line photo. This jerk deserves to be trampled by an angry horde of very slow marathon runners. I hope, in Germany, felony trespassing is punished by hard labor in prison. At the very least, he should be forced to clean up the millions of paper cups that were discarded along the marathon route, with a pair of tweezers.

Ross Tucker notes that Kipsang is “the latest in a very long line of exceptional Kenyan runners.” Why do East Africans — primarily, Kenyans, and primarily, Kenyans from a single tribe of about 4 million people — so totally dominate the sport of endurance running? Tucker speculates in “Kenyan Athletes Run Amok.”

Amby Burfoot at Runner’s World recently reported on a study that suggests one reason: They are really, really skinny.

So, the world record inches 15 seconds closer to the magical two hour mark. The experts tell us we’re a long way from seeing anyone break that barrier.

But the great thing about running is that the vast majority of us are not trying to break a world record .. we’re just trying to beat our own personal best. We’re not competing against each other … just trying to improve ourselves.

I’ll be awestruck every time some runner shaves a few seconds off the world record. But I’ll always feel more satisfaction over my own improvement and the successes of my running friends.