Because of Boston…

running woman

Before I left the house yesterday, I hit record on the DVR.   I was excited to watch the coverage of the 117Th running of the Boston Marathon on TV later that evening.   For me, there is nothing more motivating to my own quest for health and quicker miles than that of untold hours of video footage of  the best of the best alongside the everyday tackling 26.2 miles.  For 6 years I have been all about running, and usually, I am glued to the coverage of races like Boston, Chicago, or New York.

Last night I was glued to the television for other reasons.   This morning, I am still unable to fully grasp what I have seen and heard.   I am seeing images that just make no sense and strike too close to home.  I am seeing images that speak of war ravished areas, not of Boston.  This doesnt make sense; and I wonder when it will.

Boston means something hard to put into words.  I have declared since the early days of our marriage that we will someday retire to Boston.   This has been our vacation getaway and some of our greatest family memories have occurred at the spot of yesterday’s chaos.   Stacey and I have stayed at the Lenox for romantic getaways without the kids, and then the Marriot when they were with us. We have toured Trinity and Old South Church, and made special runs for Truffles at Copley Square.   I have worked on mini-mission trips not far from there.

And it was at that finish line, a newly quit smoker and at my heaviest, that I decided that someday I was going to run.   Silently, on a Sunday before the 2007 marathon, I decided someday I would run that race.   I wasn’t sure how I would get there, or if my knees would hold, but something changed in me at that spot.

Although it wasn’t immediate, I did lace up the shoes with that finish line and those runners in mind.   Although, it may have taken forever for a 3 minute run to turn into a 20 miler, everything began to change.   I became a different man, husband, father, Christian, Pastor, and professional.   The doubts disappeared, and so do a great deal of anger and regret.   With the pounds lost, a better man remained.  Along the way I became a runner in ways that are hard to put into words.    I became a runner because of that finish line I swore to one day pass.

Today, when I run, I will lace up with many different images in my vision.

It seems that I have reminded my congregation on several occasions over the last year, that the Jews have a saying;  “The worst scars you will receive in life, will be upon the eyes, when you see that which can never be unseen”.     Many of the images that I saw yesterday fall into that category.   Once again, we are a nation that is dealing with yet another senseless act of violence.

I guess it is time to do what makes sense;  I will do what I always do when my heart breaks;   I will run.

I call my runs Sabbath moments.   They are moments that I feel closer to God.  They are moments that I feel holier.

They are moments that I frequently spend in prayer, sometimes in conversation, and – when my breathing holds – occasionally I sing.    There have been times when I have had deep conversations with God.   There have been times when nothing has been said or thought.   There have been times when I have been angry, hurt, or heartbroken.   There have been times I have run with tears streaming down my face.

Today, I will run, and ask the same questions I asked after Sandy Hook, after funerals, after Aurora, and after hearing that heartbreaking phone call from a friend, parishioner, or family member.  I will remind myself that God is not seen in the violence of the storm or earthquake, but in the still small voice that follows.

I will remind myself that God cries with 8 year old Martin.    I will remind myself that God cries with his mother.   I will remind myself that God is standing with the runner who will never run again.  I will remind myself that even if it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t mean that God is absent.    I will ask him why.   I will ask him what do we do now.    I will once again ask for answers that will likely have to wait.

Despite those questions that cause my heart to ache, I will do that which makes sense.

I will run.

I will run, because it still makes sense.

I will run, because of Boston.


“Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.”

~Psalm 26.2 (The Runners Psalm)

Oscar Rando and his Lesson

krispy kreme 5k 1

I received an email from a friend this past week about a run that he wants to do at some time in the future.

It’s a five mile run that takes place every year in February in North Carolina.   This past year it had 8000 runners.   

It is the famous Krispy Kreme Challenge.   Yes, that right; the Krispy Kreme Five Miler.


Respect the Run!

From Wednesday through Friday, I will be at the New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.    Although I look forward to this trip as an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and renew the spirit, this has been tougher to do over the last couple of years.

As you know, I direct the Miles for Mission 5K during the conference ( and the amount of work to pull off this event  is quite large.    As we approach the day, I am trying to juggle a great number of balls and I usually come screeching into conference with brakes squealing.

That said, and in honor of the great run that will be occurring this week, I decided to share a race report that was used as a passing of the peace moment at Asbury Church.

Two weeks ago, I joined two co workers and 6100 other runners and walkers for the Merrimack Count Savings Bank Rock ‘N Race.   It was the ninth annual 5K run/walk held in Concord to benefit the Payson Cancer Center at Concord Hospital.

After the spectacle that was the Fitness is Fun 5K on May 5th in Chesterfield, NH, I was hoping to have a much better showing.   For those of you who might not know, the Chesterfield Race was supposed to be on a “relatively” flat course and as such, I started that race full tilt.   After the mile mark, I looked at my watch, and decided I was going to set a personal record and I was all smiley inside.

That smile turned bitter when I turned and saw the straight up incline of Winchester Rd. and I quickly began running at a snail’s pace.  Needless to say, I learned that relatively flat means Mt. Everest in Chesterfield speak.   For those of you who travel along Winchester Rd, please look for my left lung, as I think I coughed it up somewhere on the two mile mark.

Anyways, with that being my only 5K of the season, and not even remotely happy with my performance, I eagerly embraced the opportunity to race and the Rock ‘N Race this past Thursday.   I learned on Wednesday that there would be 6100 people on the course, and my mouth opened.   That was 20 times bigger than any of the largest races I had been to before.   At first it was intimidating, but I said, a race is a race, right?


The closed down Main Street in Concord, and after the starters gun went off it took three minutes to reach the start line.   The best that I can explain it would be like running through Wal-Mart at Black Friday.   For the first mile it was elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder, and sweatiness to sweatiness.

After a quarter mile I quickly got frustrated.   I would find myself blocked in, and having to stop as people lumbered ever so slowly in front of me.    People would decide that running was too much work and just stop, directly in front of you.   Sometimes they would do so with eight of their friends walking shoulder to shoulder.   

To make matters worse, every half mile there was food.   At the half mile mark, there was Chocolate Covered strawberries.   There were Nacho’s at the 2 mile mark.    There were also a half dozen candy stops.   Several people offered beer from their front yards.  With each pit stop I passed, I grew more and more confused.  

I kept telling myself that this is not how you are supposed to run a race.

At one point, I had finally managed to get up to my race speed, which is about 7 miles per hour.   There immediately in front of me was a heavy set beast of a man, with a half dozen chocolate strawberries in one hand, and a 20 ounce diet coke in the other.   As I was making my approach to pass this man, he caught wind of the Nacho’s and like a hound when it sees the rabbit, stopped dead in his track.  

In an attempt to avoid collision with his bulbous backside, I jumped to the left, where – unbeknownst to me – stood a little ten year old boy eating his own Nachos.    This 225 pound frame travelling at 7 miles per hour struck that little boy and sent him hurdling into the bushes.   Luckily no one was hurt in the ruckus, but it became clear that this was not a race to set a personal record in.

At every half mile there was a band of some sort of the other.   Each thought it would be funny to sings songs about the silliness of running, which further added to my confusion.    At one point post nacho collision, I wanted to stop in the middle of the mob; raise my hands to the air and scream out:


Perhaps I am a bit of a purist, but it was a party disguised as a run.   Running is about healthiness and pushing your body to new levels, not about how much you can ingest before you hurl.    I am very deliberate in telling people that running is my Sabbath, and it was almost as if it was being profaned by junk food, beer, and foolish people.  In the end, I was both a bit angry and disappointed due to the run interrupted.

Shortly thereafter, I realized that this is often the same feeling I get with the church.   Sometimes, when I turn on the news or listen to some show on television, I find myself wanting to scream at those who look at church as anything but what church is supposed to be.   For some it’s no different than Thursday’s run.   It’s a party, it’s a social club, it’s a chance to eat, or to do anything else but to be truly about the business of the church.   

It’s oddly ironic that when I see these things I want to stop, throw my arms in the air and scream out “HEY EVERYBODY! GAMES’ OVER!”

 As I think about this desire, I realize that it’s our responsibility as people of faith, to be one voice  among many.   Maybe it’s all about figuring out – in the end – how to make our voice the loudest for our community.    For it’s not about the networking, the food, or the social stuff;  it’s about making disciples for the transformation of our community and our world. 

We do that by opening our minds, hearts, and doors to God and one another.  We do that by respecting the run.

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