Thursday, April 19, 2012

Paris Marathon Race Report-Finally a Good One

On April 15th just before noon I finished my first good marathon. I didn't hit my ultimate goal for this race which was 2:38 but I'm very happy with 2:40:18 and here's why:
I headed over to the start with my good buddy Stefan who has been a great friend during this preparation period as well as a sounding block for neurosis and race strategy. We piled in the metro (subway) with thousands of other runners and made it to the beautiful Arc de Triomph pretty early. It was pretty chilly with temps in the low 40's with a stiff breeze already at 7:45 but we dropped our bags off, threw on the garbage bags to keep warm, and headed into a hallway of a store to do the standard warm up, (thanks as usual Jason F.).
I did about 5 minutes of light jogging, legs felt spring loaded and I wasn't nervous at all, in stark contrast to the last two marathons. Caleb M. and Chris S. helped me so much with their last marathon in terms of modeling "relaxed execution" rather than trying to go out and smoke it. Plus the fact that they were drinking beers and eating sour patch kids gave me serious permission to enjoy the pre-race week :)
Gun went off and in my head I'm just thinking "relax, relax, relax." First mile was 6:03 (felt like 8 minutes) and i thought, ok, this is good. I didn't go out too hard, but 6:03 feels like jogging, we're in good shape. Second mile about the same, third around 5:58 and we were in the groove.
At 5k I made my race strategy decision. I wasn't going to violate my pre-race rules, but needed to make a shift. I could tell that the wind gusts, when I experienced them, were going to make the end of the race tough. At that point there were so many runners that we were drafting but I knew it was thin out. I decided to just try to run as close to 5:58-6:02 as possible and shoot for 2:38. My outside goal was to go under 2:37 if all conditions were perfect but it just wasn't the case.
**Side note-I cannot comprehend these runners who start a marathon in under 6 minutes per mile and then fall apart at like mile 3 already. What in the world is going on? I mean, I passed some people at mile 2 who were huffing and puffing and I'm thinking, "this is gonna be a really, really long race for this dude, why is he trying to sprint?!" No judging, just could be a much more pleasurable experience if these dudes chilled out.
Ok, back to the report. At the 15km mark there were cameras and I pulled my best Chris S. Michael Jordan move feeling seriously relaxed. At the half marathon mark I was at exactly 1:18:30 which was on pace for 2:37 still but I knew I was going to lose at least a minute on the back half which has much more up hill and some wind on the banks of the river. At that part I was itching to run harder but remembered the "no racing too early" bit that I had thought about and just relaxed and kept running around 5:58-6:00. My splits on Garmin are all wanky because of the tunnels in the race etc. But I was really regular at this point.
At 24k a friend who was coming to support me came along side and said "I'll run with you for a bit." He's a marathoner too but mostly a longer, steadier runner. After 400 meters he looks at me and says "are you sure this is the right pace?" while huffing and puffing. I looked at my watch and said, "yeah, right on target." His plan was to run 5k with me but at the 25k mark, 1 km into his section he said (and I loosely translate) "too rich for my blood, good luck buddy!" That actually boosted me mentally and I stayed on pace.
My wife and kids were at 29km mark and cheered loudly. At around 30km, Malcolm M. came along side and with his big smile and great encouragement really gave me another boost. And when he told me my 30km split and said "you're killing it dude!" I knew that today I wouldn't fold like before. The last two marathons were pretty brutal with big time bonking and cramps including last year's when I went 1:21-1:39 to run a 3 hour marathon in Toulouse.
The only thing I really screwed up here was that I misjudged the water station and took the gel after the 30k instead of before so I had too much GU in my mouth for a couple of kms. That thing never digested and I puked it up at the finish.
My coach Olivier G. who is a pure stud runner and a great friend, and a fantastic coach (un coureur d'un haut niveau et un bon pote, et bien sur un super coach), jumped in to run a bit next to me. At that point I wasn't talking but I was still rolling well. Still on pace for 2:38 at that point and hadn't really had any miles that weren't at 6 flat. We were in a good rhythm until about 35km when the marathon legs started arriving on a longer uphill with some wind. It was the first time the difficulty stood out. I got dropped by this super tall British elite woman (she was definitely not running like a "little girl":) but I held tough. At that point though, the fatigue was starting to set in. Mentally I had to just make a decision to not let go and to finish the last 4 miles hard.
No cramps or anything and not really a wall, just fading in the energy and my stomach was starting to hurt (I think some of this was in my head because I was thinking about the finish line). My miles started dropping down to 6:25-6:30 and basically that's where they ended up because I lost 2 minutes in the last 4 miles taking my time from 2:38 to 2:40.
As we turned the last straight away huge wind gusts just blasted us. We had been battling a strong head wind for a couple of miles but this was ridiculous. I thought I was gonna get knocked over. And it was then that I get a tiny cramp in my left calf. If you look up the video of the race you can see the cramp happen as I stagger a bit with 50 meters to go.
I crossed the line in 128th place/35,000 in 2:40:18. I finally ran a solid marathon even though I faded a bit. I really think the end was mostly mental though, I'm still learning and getting more experience and I've only been really training for about 20 months after taking 7 years off after college so I'm really happy with the progress. Thanks so much to my coach Olivier G. who is just the best. Thanks to all of you, Greg S. for publishing your book the week of the race and giving me a HUGE mental boost. To Stefan for all of your encouragement and partnership in this thing. To J-Rock who is probably my best "social network I've never met him friend". To Marie-Amlie J. who is a great friend, an amazing runner, and a tremendous source of encouragement to me. To Todd H.who was such a great teammate in college and whose 2:39 will stand as the barrier for me for yet another day :) Malcolm M. for seriously being the best friend anyone could ask for. And of course, lastly, to my God who is faithful beyond words. I called and you answered.
Next step: New York City in November! (with a whole bunch of little speedy races in the mean time).

Monday, March 5, 2012

France National Cross-Country Championships

What a weekend!  After qualifying for the France National XC championships a few weeks ago as an individual I was really excited to go with a few runners from my club and compete on this level.  We met up on Saturday afternoon to drive the 4 hours to the town of La Roche sur Yon in Western/Central France.  There were 5 of us in the car, Olivier (my coach and also fellow teammate who qualified with me in cross court *short race), Marie-Amélie (Olivier's girlfriend but also pure stud runner who was running in the Elite women's race), Heidi (another American from my club was in Mélie's race), and Jean-Christophe (a masters runner from our club racing the masters long xc division.

It was a great trip there talking running, our backgrounds, and what to expect for the race.  Turns out that Jean-Christophe (JC) was a professional VTT rider for 9 years and was the European Champion competing in many world cup competitions.  Very cool stories.  This is especially true for you cycling fans because at one point he was roommates with Cadel Evans (2011 Tour de France Champion) and beat him in the European finals.  Not bad!

We stayed together at a youth hostel, sharing the rooms and sleeping how you sleep when you don't know the people really well and you're all in the same place.  It was fine though.  In the morning we ate a bit of breakfast in the Sports center complex with some pure beast runners all around.  We sat a few places down from last week's 1500 indoor France national champion as well as his buddy, 3x winner of the XC finals.  Everyone was super cool, chill, not cocky, nothing to prove.

The day of the race was a bit stressful due to the weather conditions.  Whereas Saturday was a nice day, and we had done an easy 4 miler on the course which was gorgeous and fast when dry, Sunday was storming, with wind gusts upwards of 45 mph and heavy rain.  The course transformed into a mud track and by the time we ran at 2 p.m. there was barely any good footing left.

Olivier and I warmed up in the pouring rain and wind but found a bit of shelter for some dynamic stretching and to get in the "zone."  I was feeling absolutely great after 2 days off and an easy run the previous evening.  We took our time getting our stuff together and went to review the course map to be sure of where we were going when we looked at the start time of the race and realized that they had changed the time by 10 minutes.  We were going to be late!  We literally sprinted to our stuff which was all in garbage bags to protect from the rain, and threw on our spikes.  We had to jump the fence and sprint 600 meters to get to the start in time.  Unfortunately, while jumping the fence my knee caught an edge and it got cut so there was blood streaming down my leg.  No time to worry about that now.  Plus when it mixes with the mud it looks like pure warrior.

We are all called to the start line, 285 of us, not one guy an average, casual runner.  We wait at the blocks in complete silence for at least 2 minutes while the clock in front of us ticks towards 14h10.  At exactly the start time the gun goes off and it's an all out sprint (not joking).  I find myself at probably 250th place because we got there late so were in the second row at the start blocks.  The course climbs for 600 meters in muddy conditions that I have never run in.  At about 1km out of 4.5, I decided that the course was so crappy that after a certain point these guys were going to settle in and stop battling.  I was wrong about the "letting up on the effort", but I decided to make a very hard move.  I probably surged harder than I ever have in a race and took a bunch of guys in the mud.   I hung on but by 3km was hurting badly.  I held my place, especially through the winding woods where guys were falling everywhere.  At one point this big guy went down in front of me and I jumped over him Reggie Bush style hoping not to clip his face with my spikes.

The final straight away was 500 meters of incline.  At this point my body was in pure lactic acid mode.  I had not let up from the beginning and was hurting badly.  I still managed a sprint at the end although the thing felt like it would never end.  I picked off 5-10 guys to finish 158.  I was really hoping for 150 but in my first xc race like this I was very pleased.  My coach and friend Olivier had a bad race and finished 210. Even though he didn't run well, and I'm not just trying to beat him of course, it was a mental boost to me to know that I had taken a risk and had finished so far ahead.

After the race I had to head to the Red Cross to get my leg taken care of because it was stinging badly and I was worried about infection.  They hosed the legs down and cleaned the cut but afterwards I was so cold that I shivered for like 30 minutes before getting back to the car.  No one else on the team had a great day so it was a bit awkward in the car because I didn't want to be overjoyed with my performance even though I was pretty happy.  What a crazy experience this was.

I'll never forget the big screen streaming the race in front of thousands of spectators, or the bracelet that said FFA athlete on it to get me into the race, or the level of competition that I have never seen before.  All 278 of those guys were just pure studs, I have never been in that deep of a race before.  But, I'll also never forget this great blessing that God has given me to re-start my career as a runner and to compete again.  He is worthy of all my thanks, praise, and glory.

Now it's time to get ready for a half and full marathon.  Gotta keep it rolling!

Monday, February 13, 2012


Indulge me now as I share what I just thought about for the last hour in the first run after a great race yesterday.
I know what it's like to be injured. I know what it's like to train extremely hard and be disappointed by a race. I've also experienced and tasted some success in the past and even more recently like yesterday. I now have gone to a new place in my running in terms of my level and expectations. But here's the thing, if my running is supposed to be my ultimate source of happiness I will be forever disappointed. I don't take any of this for granted, anything can happen. You can trip on a crack on the side walk and break your ankle (it happens). Directly after the race I went to work at my church where I'm a pastor. We were singing a song that really struck me and the words said "and all the praise and glory to God we sing hallelujah." I had just experienced a certain level of praise and glory from friends, from you, from my wife etc. But every breath that I have the privilege to breathe, every stride that these legs can take come from the giver of all gifts. My prayer with my life is that I give all of this to God and that He is glorified. God does not care about who wins and loses in sports. Teams that pray that they will win are just being stupid. (this reassures me because otherwise I would figure that He has something against Cleveland...still not convinced that this isn't true :P) But God does care about us using every ounce of gifting that He's given us to the maximum as worship to Him. Ryan Hall is such a great example to me in this way. So, when I run harder and harder I really do believe that I'm offering my body as a sacrifice and as "spiritual worship" to Him. This doesn't mean faster runners are doing this better, it's all about using whatever you've got in that fragile body. My prayer going forward comes from an old hymn that says "take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee."
Thanks for indulging the pastor today. Have a great one!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Confidence is a Decision-XC Race Report

Last night my wife asked me if I would have ever dreamed that I would be once again a part of a (good) team running in high level competitions.  The answer was clearly "no."  When I graduated college I figured the only sports team I would ever be on would be in a church flag football league or a YMCA basketball team.

So the fact that I find myself in a running club who competes in a lot of really cool races is a huge blessing and opportunity for me.  The thing is, in order to race at the big boy competitions you've got to get yourself on the team.  For example, we're currently in a cross-country championship series which started with the 92 department, moved to Ile-de-France regionals, and the next step will be semi-nationals to see who qualifies for Nationals, a huge race.  If I was living in the States I would probably look at this and think that it's just a bunch of old guys getting out there for fun, and that certainly exists, but the cross-country national championships are the highlight of the French racing/Track and Field calendar for the year. With 15,000 in attendance and world class runners (yeah, for real), it is a huge honor to participate.  We're not quite there yet, still one race to go, and we would never be in that elite race, but the fact that we're even in the picture is extremely exciting for me.

Yesterday's race was the regional championship for the west of the Paris region (a population of about 5 million or so).  We had won the last race but quickly found out that the team who took second hadn't let all the race horses go in that one because they dominated us this week.  As we came into this week we knew that we would qualify for the next round but to have a solid outing was important.

For me personally this has been a mental challenge.  I'm in good shape and ready to race at a high level but it's taken me quite a while to "believe" again.  Only 4 guys count for the team (instead of the 5 I was used to for college cross-country) so they need me to step up.  When you line up next to guys who regularly run 31 minutes for 10k and know that you need to finish with them, and when you haven't run a lot of races to give you that kind of confidence lately, it's a decision.

So, yesterday, we warmed up as a team (I LOVE that part), talked about the race, sized up the competition, threw on our spikes, and we were off.  This race was 4150 meters of pure pain.  Right before the race, Benjamin, one of my teammates who finished first for us yesterday (and 9th overall) said "man, I'm kind of afraid of what's about to happen.  Not afraid of losing, afraid of the pain I'm going to inflict on my body.  It's like when you're waiting to get a shot at the doctor."  Yeah, pretty much.  Just a side note, the guys who are in the front-ish pack run around 3:45 for 1500 (or 4:01 for the mile).

Gun goes off and it's almost an all-out sprint for 200 meters before the hair pin turn that only fit about 3 guys around.  I think I was literally air born on that corner getting carried by bigger guys but I remember sort of holding up the guy next to me because I didn't want the whole group to go down.  And after that it's just get into a fast groove.  I mean, pretty fast.  The pace on the straight parts was at least sub 5 early and then just varied based on what was going on.  We did two little loops at the beginning with a hill of about 50-75 meters, nothing bad, but when you're rocking it knocks the wind out a bit.  Then down a little and into a woods part where no one could pass.  The brutal part of this race is that it's just a pure battle from the beginning.  And with all of the hair pin turns every time you're sprinting almost all-out after having nearly stopped around the turn.  A few times we hit major mud patches but then you just re-explode into a quick pace.

All of the pace changes are tough to manage but are great for racing because you can see exactly the moment when the guy in front starts suffering.  My basic strategy in a race like this is to say "ok, let's go get the next guy."  Usually when I pull up to him I can tell he's hurting worse so I sit right behind his shoulder and then throw in a hard surge that he's not going to come back from.  But...this all takes confidence.  Yesterday I saw a pack of 3 guys from one team just in front of me and used this strategy to take the whole group.  They didn't come back.  Then I hear their coach yelling "what the mother #%#$ he#% you bunch of #%$# pieces of #%#$, you don't let a guy take the whole team?"  The thing is, when a coach does that I just take off, it's super motivating to me, and I doubt it's very productive for them.

Finishing the race was fun but was a challenge.  I hit this big huge mud puddle at about 400 to go that was up to mid-shin for about 20 meters so you just power through that and then let it rip for the rest.  I took two guys on the final sprint (including a Kenyan who had been talking a bit of smack this week) and it was really a good day overall.

Two weeks ago before the department championship race I made a decision.  Take off my watch and just race hard.  Don't let up, believe in what you're doing, and know that your training is on par with anyone out there.  When someone comes to challenge, just race them.  When a hill starts hurting, just pound it.  I'm a runner who has been way too concerned with pace, with numbers, and with times.  It's time for me to start running and hurting a bit when I race (usually I hold back afraid I'll "burn out.")

Now we have two weeks to get ready for the semi-nationals and while the team might not make it, if I can run the same way I might be able to qualify for that race which would just be enormous for me and I could bring the whole family etc. etc.  And yes, I'm still going to run the Paris marathon, and yes I'll still run a bunch of 20 milers but to be honest, I'm having a LOT of fun right now.  And when we're not getting paid, isn't that the point?  Plus, I've got NY and Boston up next where I will be in the States, far from my friends here (*tear).

Take away for you (maybe).  No matter what level you're at, good racing is usually a decision if the training is in the bank.  You've got to decide to hurt worse than the next person, to push it to the limit, and to go after what God has put in your tank.  I'm not there yet, but it's getting better.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Marathon Fail: Why a bad race can be good for the soul

Racing a marathon is a big gamble.  Unlike a 5k, 10k, or pretty much anything else, the marathon requires an incredibly committed training cycle and it's a one-and-done kind of day.  Whereas with a 5k you can just try again the following weekend if you want, with a marathon it's going to take some time to recover in order to be at optimal form to race another one.  The countless hours of running, mental preparation, fueling, and emotional commitment are summed up in a few hours on a Sunday morning.  And I've yet to run a good one.  

So what happens when 4 months of my life committed to running don't turn out the way I planned?  What happens when the race doesn't go well?  Is it possible to bounce back from the embarrassment and physical pain of an off-day on marathon morning?  The answer to that last question is yes, and I'd go further.  If approached in the right way, a bad race can be good for the soul.

Life is a series of new events, unknown challenges, and surprises.  Anyone who thinks they have complete control is living a fantasy.  The same is true in running.  While we have the reigns in many areas, we don't control the weather, unknown race day factors, or sudden illness.  We are also not impervious to mental struggles, bad racing decisions, or physical let downs.  In other words, "off-days" are both in and out of our hands.  They're our fault or they're not, but there's no going back.  And this is where the secret lies. 

Everyone knows the famous story of Michael Jordan being cut from the 8th grade basketball team and then turning out to be a decent NBA player (even if it was for a rival team for my Cavs).  The way we react to disappointment and discouragement says a lot about us but these challenges might be more important for our growth as a person in terms of our emotional, mental, and spiritual development than any PR we can run.

Bonking and racing badly in Toulouse have been really good for my soul because it was a solid dose of humility, of the awareness that despite my best plans I'm not in complete control, and that we all have limits.  There are a lot of factors for why I didn't perform up to my capabilities on that morning but instead of thinking just about them, let me finish with where I go after a bad race.

1. I must realize that I'm not the center of the universe, that life goes on, that running is great but it's not the be all-end all, and that there are much more pressing concerns in the world other than my desire to run a sub 2:45 marathon.
2. I must embrace the humility and weakness that comes from these kind of days.  Instead of being cocky and blaming the wind, bad fueling, or my coach, it's extremely important to say "no, I didn't have it this time, but I'll keep working hard."  Plus, humility and weakness are the central themes of a certain message in Matthew 5-7 called the Sermon on the Mount preached by Jesus which contain the best ethic for life that have ever been written down.
3. The most important lesson is just about perspective.  Every day is a gift. Every run is a blessing. Every marathon is another beautiful challenge.   The pressure that I put on myself is completely self-imposed and not rooted in anything "real."  My son has no idea what the difference between running 3 hours and 2:45 is (and neither might you if you're not a runner.).  Running is not about these kind of things in the end, it is about joy and humility and grace and love.  That's where speed and records come from.  

So, as hard as it is, I'm embracing defeat in order to grow as a person, not just as a runner, but I'm hoping that the next marathon these lessons will serve me well in accomplishing my goal.  I'm not letting go of trying hard to hit 2:45. That's still there, it's just that it's important in a different way than I originally thought.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Marathon Relay Race Report

Two weeks ago I ran a marathon. And let's be honest, it did not go very well.  Sure, the time of 3:00:20 wasn't necessarily embarrassing on the surface, but in some ways it was especially after running a 1:16 half and turning in a great cycle.  Recovering from this race hasn't been very difficult for me physically but it has taken its' toll mentally. This is why I was pretty glad to have another competition on the schedule shortly after the marathon debacle.  It was a new challenge, and an old one.

The week before my marathon, my club, USM Malakoff qualified for the Ekiden marathon relay championships of France.  I wasn't on that qualifier team but there needed to be some changes for the championship so they needed my help on race day.  The breakdown of the race is : 5k-10k-5k-10k-5k-7.2km.  I ran the second to last 5k.

I really had no idea what to expect from this race in terms of my performance or what the environment and ambiance would be like.  I was pleasantly surprised in both cases.  When I arrived at the race at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday for the 1 pm start I was just thrilled to be on time.  I had just spent the entire weekend outside of Paris helping to lead a young adult retreat where I spoke and led music and didn't get a whole lot of sleep.  After a 2 hour morning drive I got to the race and met the team.

There were around 90 total teams including the women and definitely some studs, especially the foreign legion team boasting some beastly Kenyans and Ethiopians.  The atmosphere was pretty electric near the start where the race would feature loops of a 5k course. 

It's a bit particular to run this race because of the weird warm up times.  You find yourself trying to time it during a certain leg of the relay and trying to calculate the time before your Go Time.  I incidentally warmed up just a tad too early and spent too much time standing around before the race.  The warm up was the standard variety à la Fitz then the 5k course to check it out and try to get my legs under me.  I did not feel good during this warm up.

I'm not sure if it was the lack of sleep, different "fueling" during the weekend, or the 2 hour drive the morning of the race, but my legs felt heavy and dead.  My stomach kind of hurt too. 1 p.m. is a really weird start time.

Our 5k legs weren't blazing but both the 10k legs were around 33:00 (much slower than usual for one guy but pretty right on for another) and then it was my turn.  The relay is done by passing one of those slap bracelets that used to get confiscated when I was in 4th grade at school but was surprisingly effective as you remove it and then just give it to the other guy to throw on.  I took the bracelet and took off around 2:35 p.m.  The race went directly up hill for about 400 meters into the wind.  So, no matter how you felt going in you were a bit winded by the top of the hill.  Since it was kind of chilly too the winded feeling was more pronounced.

By about half a mile in I had no idea how fast I was going but it didn't feel smooth at all. Saw the mile at around 5:15 and figured ok, I don't feel great but there are only 2 miles left, that's nothing!  Fortunately the second mile had some downhill and I ran it hard.  Then, the third one went through the woods and I picked a couple of guys off before running a sharp left, then flying around a little blue barrel to run 100 meters back to the relay zone.  When I looked down and saw 16:50 I was pretty shocked.  Not only have I not gone under 17 since 2001, I had done it on tired legs. 

The last leg ran very well and our team finished 8th!  It was pretty incredible to be with the guys, cheering each other on, and exchanging all the high fives and smiles at the end. It's been a long time since I've been on a team.  While there was a pretty huge difference between the first team and ours, I was still pretty stoked about the finish.

More importantly, this race served as the beginning of the next phase.  Clearly the marathon training is still there, sure I had a bad day but it's not the end, there is much more to come.  I have a couple of "new phase resolutions" post race:

1)    continue to have fun with running and don't get too concerned with performance.  This is not my profession, this is my hobby, and one day I'm confident I'll run a sub 2:45 marathon but it's gotta be the right timing and it needs to be fun.
2)    In training I'm making the decision to run most if not all runs in the pre-dawn like El Jefe Greg Strosaker.  It's already made a big difference for me and for my wife and I think it will make the next marathon cycle much better for everyone (including my two sons).
3)    I'm going to have fun racing some shorter stuff for a while like cross-country, 10ks etc.  before re-launching another marathon cycle in the spring.  I haven't even decided which one the will be yet

Friday, October 7, 2011

Running for Pearl

I met Malcolm (Mally) McLoughlin, like a lot of my Parisian running friends, on Daily Mile.  This site has really been the gateway to a lot of fantastic relationships for me both in the "real" and "virtual" world.  But, more and more I've been able to connect with these guys and share runs, races, and coffees together face-to-face.

Mally and I became real friends quickly.  I remember our first lunch together in Viroflay talking running and ultras and minimalism and his crazy attempt at running the length of Ireland (570 km) in a week. Relationships are nearly impossible to define because describing why you "like" someone or are friends with them is much the same as describing why pizza sounds so good the evening after a long run or why jazz music is so transcendental.  Sure, there are measurable realities like shared interests, experience, or beliefs, but much of friendship is subjective.  You just kind of "click" or you don't.  It was clear to me early that Mally and I would really be friends.  We both walked away from the lunch inspired and motivated not only to run faster/farther but to be better people.

One of the most inspiring things about Mally is his relationship with his daughter.  Pearl, named after a certain magnificent rock band, is autistic.  So, like any kid with a bit of a disability, there are challenges for her and for her family on a daily basis.  Mally is not content with just surviving but wants to give her the best opportunity to succeed in life, and he feels that way about other autistic children and their respective parents.  Because of this commitment and passion, Mally started an organization called Running for Pearl ( a few years ago to raise awareness and support for those affected by autism.  He's raised quite a bit of money as well as created a support network for many who haven't yet gotten the help they need.

As a pastor, my job is to encourage the spread of the kingdom of God.  This happens in many ways, but I believe, is always connected to the heart and love of God through Jesus, which I have seen in Mally's commitment and pursuit of support for his own daughter and those affected by autism.

This is why I have decided to run my non-club races as part of the Running for Pearl team.  I went out, bought a jersey, got the organizational logo from Mally, had it imprinted and then started publicizing.  It's actually very easy.  I wore the jersey for the first time at my half-marathon in Vincennes where I was proud to PR in 1:16:15 as a member of his team.  I will also be trying to run sub 2:45 in Toulouse for my upcoming marathon as a Runner for Pearl.

There is nothing crazy about this commitment or partnership except that it involves a very special little girl and her great dad.  I would love to encourage all of you who run regularly to think about partnering with a group that excites you and can make a difference in the world.  Ryan Hall's Steps foundation is a great example but there are countless others.

For me, running is intensely personal. It's selfish in many ways in terms of how much time I spend training and preparing, but when it comes to race day, I like to think I can be running for someone else as well.  Personally, that always involves dedicating every action to God but it's also fun to make a tangible impact for others.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have interest in joining the Running for Pearl team or if you'd like advice on other opportunities to use this great sport for a great cause.