A Tale of Two Marathons

10644434_10203874083907459_5413677428575784629_nLast Saturday I officially completed my second marathon. Actually in my opinion this is the only real one since the other ended in disaster.

Pretty much everything you need to know about my first marathon can be found in this picture at the finish line.

 

 

 

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  1. The stomach cramps that kept me from standing up straight
  2. An inability stand on my own
  3. The forced smile that tries to cover up the severe pain I’m in

Now compare that with the picture from Saturdays finish line

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  1. A real smile
  2. Not overwhelmed by pain
  3. Standing on my own power

A lot of things made the difference between these two finishes. But one of the most important was listening to my body

During the marathon I had the privilege running with one of my training partners who is faster than me [1]. Together we ran the first twenty miles at race pace (very fast), but after that my right leg started cramping.

At this point I had a decision to make. Do I start slowing down a bit and let my friend continue at her fast pace? Or do I try to keep up with her?

Thankfully our running coach reminded us last week about listening to our bodies. So I realized the beginnings of a cramp in the leg were my bodies way of saying. “Okay John you’re running an awesome race but now it’s time to let your partner go because this pace is a little too fast for me.”

So for the last six miles I slowed down and simply ran my own race [2].

And that’s what made the difference

In the first marathon my body started warning me about pushing too hard but I chose to ignore them. Hence the picture of me doubled over in pain.

In the second I listened..so the last mile was an awesome experience

Instead of people asking if I was okay like first marathon

  1. They cheered me on as I went faster [3]
  2. Gave at least three “aussie aussie aussie” chants which I responded to with a loud “oi oi oi”
  3. And joked with them about just rolling me down the hill

I’m not really sure how it would have finished if I hadn’t listened to my body…but I can guarantee you sprinting and playing to the crowd wouldn’t be involved.

The most important thing that marathon training has taught me about running is this: Don’t chase the rabbits.

There are always people who are faster (rabbits), or better than you in certain situations. And there often will be voice in the back of your head that says “you have to keep up!”

Don’t listen to it…

Just let them go and run your own race

That may mean your pride takes a hit, but it makes the difference between celebrating and collapsing at the finish line.


  1. Duirng our long runs she always had more strength and speed at the end  ↩
  2. I still ended up running much faster than any other long run, and set personal records  ↩
  3. ran the last mile at the fastest pace because of emotion and adrenaline  ↩

Why I’m Going To Enjoy Running a Marathon

Last Saturday I ran with a friend who recently completed the New York City Marathon (and instantly became my hero). As you can imagine we spent a lot of time talking about her experience, and one thing she said stuck in my mind.

According to her the first eighteen miles “just flew by”

Just so you know, that isn’t the normal response

I remember what she said while having lunch with friends yesterday. One of them told me about a couple who decided to run a marathon, and had a very different experience.

Around mile eighteen she started vomiting heavily and it took her about an hour to get started again

Hearing two very different stories during the same weekend had a strong effect on me. Personally I expect myself to be somewhere in the middle [1]

Obviously there is a big difference between running strong and puking your brains out, but the question is what makes that difference.

The answer is quite simple…practicing running longer distances

See for the last eighteen weeks my training group has met at 6:15 Saturday morning (usually) for the groups long run.

How long a run you may ask? Well let me put it this way, just on Saturdays we ran around 253 miles combined.

Oh wait it gets better…

In the month of October my Saturday runs looked like this:

  1. Eighteen miles
  2. Fourteen miles (including every hill in Winston Salem)
  3. Twenty miles
  4. Twenty-Two miles

If you multiply all of our Saturday miles by the average time it takes to run one (and divide by sixty) you come up with about forty-two hours spent just running on Saturdays.

The reason why people don’t run marathons (or get in shape) isn’t because we are all just incredibly lazy. It’s because of the huge committment required [2].

That’s why it’s easy to approach something like fitness and think “you know I could probably get by with doing less”

Don’t do it

You will find yourself puking on the side of the road instead of finishing strong.

It’s far better to count the cost, make a conscious decision about whether or not you can do this, and follow through to the end.

I was talking with my brother (who is also running the marathon) on Saturday and he encouraged me to “just enjoy the race.”

And as crazy as it may sound…I think I will


  1. The miles won’t fly by, but I won’t be revisiting my breakfast either  ↩
  2. when you spend three to four hours running every Saturday it takes lots of time away from your family  ↩

Why I Put The Donut Down…Again

This week I made a drastic change that will not only affect my ministry, put personal life, and help the return to Australia. It’s something that’s needed to be done for a long time but I kept putting it off.  This week that finally came to a stop.

What is this huge decision?

No more buying snacks

Over the years I’ve developed a habit of buying cheap snacks during the day costing one or two dollars. It began with 59-cent donuts at Walmart, but has since grown to include fruit pies, potato chips, and goldfish among other things

Most people stop buying these kinds of snacks because they are unhealthy but that isn’t necessarily my problem. You would be amazed at how much junk food a person can eat while training for a marathon [1].

The change came as I looked at my expenses for the month of October and was shocked how many fit into the “junk food” category. Those transactions showed just how much power snacks had over me.

The problem with cheap junk food is you don’t really think about buying it because they are only a few dollars. However it’s surprising how quickly those two-dollar expenses can add up

Please don’t think I’m against junk food (trust me I am a huge fan). However more than ever before it’s important for us to be careful with our money [2].

And though most of us do a great job of evaluating larger expenses, it’s easy to overlook that sixty-cent donut (or how many of them we buy in a month).

In the end I want my money to be invested in things that really matter

  1. Like sharing the Gospel of Christ with others
  2. Ministering the needs of families who are financially struggling
  3. Offering services for free that people would normally pay for
  4. And helping those in foreign Countries who don’t have what we enjoy

In order to do this things like junk food have to go

  1. The cherry pies
  2. The Pepsi
  3. The Chips
  4. The Crackers
  5. And yes even the donuts

It will be a sacrifice but I think that I’ll live.


  1. the marathon diet goes like this…run twenty-two miles, and then eat whatever you want  ↩
  2. this is particularly true for Christians who are comanded to glorify God wtih finances  ↩

Why You Should Never Run Alone

In late July I began a Marathon training program with serious concerns about wehther or not I could run ten-miles. In October I ended up running 149 miles total.

What made the difference?

  1. A training plan that gradually worked it’s way up to longer runs
  2. Proper nutrition
  3. Self-confidence that grew as I acheived goals
  4. But more than anything else it was my training partners

Till about a year ago I would always run or train on my own just because it was more convenient. However I’ve since made the commitment to never run alone (or as little as possible).

Because running with partners keeps you going on the hard days.

There are experiences in training that will make a person want to give up or quit [1]. And if your training on your own (like I was) then the motivation to keep going must come FROM YOURSELF.

Obviously this resulted in lots of training runs ending early.

That’s why having training partners who can give encouragement along the way is so awesome.

Last Saturday was a particularly hard run for me [2] and to be quite honest my mind was telling me to give up about half-way through. Thankfully that’s when my partners started giving encouragement and telling jokes to take my mind off of the pain.

Runs like that are reminders we need more than just determination when facing challenges. Because our determination can only take us so far

In that moment when you really want to give up there must be a motivation “outside of yourself” that comes from trusted friends.

In twelve days I will finish the Richmond Marathon, something that would never be accomplished without my faithful running partners.

  1. Who slowed me down when I was going too fast
  2. Who encouraged me when I was going too slow
  3. Who confronted me when I missed a training run
  4. Who listened to all my corny jokes, and sang disney songs to make me laugh
  5. Who used logic to motivate me (fn)
  6. Who always gave me a high-five and good job when we were finished
  7. And more than anything else kept me going when I wanted to give up

Thanks for reminding me it’s not about how strong you are, but whether or not there are people to help in your weak moments.


  1. large hills, leg cramps, lack of energy  ↩
  2. It was forty-two degrees and raining  ↩
  3. If you can run eighteen miles of course you can run twenty!

Why I Run (And You Should Too)

It doesn’t take long for people to figure out running is a big part of my life. The question they usually have after learning I’m a runner is “why do you run?”

My answer to this is different from the normal reasons for running or exercise.

  1. Like staying in shape (losing weight)
  2. Stress relief
  3. to have fun
  4. Or make new friends

While all of these are motivations the most important reason for running is this: I run because of what I used to be

Allow me to explain…

God in His sovereignty didn’t choose to give me lots of athletic skill [1] which meant as a child anything that involved physical activity usually ended in embarrassment.

And because exercise was avoided at all costs I was always out of shape and overweight.

It wasn’t till 2000 (a year after graduating from College) that I finally decided to take fitness seriously for the first time in my life.

Today I regret spending so many years using lack of natural ability as an excuse for inhaling bag after bag of microwave popcorn [2].

There’s an idea in the minds of people that unless you have the physical skill of Lebron James, Peyton Manning, or Derek Jeter you can never get in shape. Let me just go ahead and clarify something for you…that’s a lie.

Of course we know this, but sometimes you need to see that non-athletic person conquer physical challenges

And that’s why I run

  1. It isn’t always pretty
  2. You will never mistake me for Usain Bolt
  3. I’m usually the last one in my group
  4. And lets just say my form isn’t perfect [3]

but if one person who buys into the “I can never get in shape” lie sees me and is challenged it will be worth it.

  1. The kind who wore “husky jeans” as a child
  2. Who always got diet pepsi while thier brother or sister got regular pepsi
  3. Who always happened to come down with something just when PE class started
  4. Who tried dozens of diets, but never really changed their eating habits [4]

I’m convinced the world is filled with people who truly want to put the donut down and start getting fit. But they need heros and role models.

Which is why we all must run


  1. the ability to play sports  ↩
  2. Especially days like today when my old knees are giving me grief…and by old I mean 38  ↩
  3. It’s gotten worse since a friend told me I point my feet in when I run  ↩
  4. by the way all of these happened to me so I’m not singling anyone out other than myself  ↩