Posted tagged ‘races’

Running and Thinking

June 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                              June 11, 2018

                            

This morning I’ll get my four miles of trudging done around ten o’clock. Some days, I swear, the miles have been lengthened like a taffy pull, and other days (infrequently!) they seem to go by faster. However, on the days when the miles seems to speed by and then I check my watch I’m brought back to the reality that I’m running just as slow as ever.

The key seems to be my thinking! I run, therefore, I think! I go deep inside to thoughts and ideas. With music playing from my ear buds I ponder events from the past, like races I ran back in my high school days. There was the Fourth of July race around a recreational lake area outside of Ironton, Ohio. Fellow classmate Pat Boggs and I ran neck to neck around the lake and then I out sprinted him in the last hundred yards. As I run I relive those moments, the congratulations he extended to me after the race, the sound of our breathing and footsteps, it all seems to become real again.

I think about the story narrative of my book, reconfiguring scenes, and envisioning how my characters look and how they sound. I think of ideas for blog posts and how I might present an experience or interpret a scripture. 

As the laps get clicked off I’m not just running, I’m contemplating.

I’ve started praying more as I run. The granddaughter of a good friend of mine keeps coming to my mind as I make a turn into the wind. A couple of women that we know who are in complicated battles with cancer cause me to reach down deep and keep going a bit further as I pray that God would impart strength to them. I pray for friends and family, that God would walk closely with them in the coming day. I pray for a nephew who pastors a church, and one of his sons who faces a surgical procedure. 

Prayer seems to minimize the aching in my knees and hips…for a while, that is! 

As I begin my last mile and consider the possibility of quitting, I think of a young lady named Kayla Montgomery who won several state cross country and track titles even though she battles MS. Her ESPN profile brings me to tears and it carries me through the last mile, as well. 

As my 64 year old body runs I try to focus on the struggles of the distance. In two months I’ll be coaching a bunch of middle schoolers doing similar workouts. I want to be able to identify with the groans and the doubts. If I can push through the quitting points I’ll be able to come alongside them during those tough training runs. 

And I think of some of the guys I used to run with back in high school and college…Stan Brown, Duane Young, Jim Fay, Larry Crane, and Kevin Kelly from my cross-country team at Judson College; and Cecil Morrison, G.P. Markins, Greg Byington, Jim Thomas, Greg Harding, and Randy Justice from the Ironton High School team. I think of Eugene Smith climbing trees and waiting for the rest of us to pass him on our return to the high school. 

In essence, these days my four mile runs deal with the past, the present, and prayer. It isn’t until later on in the day that my knees scream at me, “What were you thinking?”

Out of Shape Churches (Part 2)

April 22, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           April 22, 2017

                          

I heard a presentation a couple of years ago from a state high school athletic association commissioner who expressed the growing concern about the number of one-sport high school athletes who were getting injured. I remember him referring to the NCAA’s growing concern about this. More athletes, who were coming to college with full-ride athletic scholarships, were missing some or most of the competitive seasons because of injuries. The sports affected the most were volleyball and baseball. The main cause of the injuries was “over-use” of certain areas. In those two sports it was appearing in the rising number of shoulder injuries. Bottom line,  those muscles were overused and exhausted.

It doesn’t take too much intelligence to figure out that out-of-shape churches are susceptible to injury for the same reason. The saying that has been heard to ad nauseam is that “20% of the people do 80% of the work.” The truth of that statement also leads us to discover a couple of things. When twenty percent, or less, of the people are doing almost all of the work their spiritual exhaustion makes them vulnerable to hurt and injury. In the workout world a common term is that a certain body part, like a knee or a lower back, “just gave out!” A sudden movement or moment changed everything. In churches “the twenty percent” is in danger of the same thing happening…”just giving out!” Someone who has been heavily involved in a ministry- one of those constants that people just take for granted- suddenly stops showing up. In simple terms, they just pooped out! Exhaustion mixed with frustration frequently results in absence!

The other dilemma of the twenty percent is that some of those people are a bit warped to begin with. They may volunteer for anything, but no matter where a psycho church member is serving he/she is still a psycho! Put another way, if an elephant volunteers to work in a china shop there is bound to be damage!

Several years ago I injured my lower back. To be more precise I herniated a disc. The injury was because of lifting some heavy objects and putting too much stress on that area of my back. In my physical therapy sessions the therapist showed me some safer ways to pick up things that won’t cause injury, and some exercises that would help strengthen a weak area. Looking back at that, now it is evident to me that I was doing things wrong. Injury was bound to happen at some time.

I’m helping with the middle school track team right now. We spend a lot of time stretching at the beginning of practice and then at the end of practice. In other words, we do a lot of prep work before we start depending on various muscle functions. Years ago when I was planning on running the Pike’s Peak Ascent, a 13.2 race UP Pike’s Peak (affectionately referred to by my wife as “The Death Race!”) I would go over to Barr Trail, which runs up the mountain, and train. I’d run up five miles and then back down the five miles. On other days I’d run around our neighborhood for a few miles. Although the Ascent was a challenge my training preparation was essential in getting me to the top of the mountain…and surviving!

Out of shape churches are too quick to press a warm body, or an overly-committed body, into ministry work. They expect their volunteers to attack a mountain when they still breathe hard just going upstairs.

Healthy churches do a lot more preparation before the ministry race starts! Healthy churches understand the value of the Holy Spirit in the functioning of ministry.

Blue Ribbon Bill

June 30, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              June 30, 2016

                                      

I was an energetic eight, like a wind-up toy that takes off in unpredictable directions. That was me! Our family was living in Williamstown, West Virginia, home of the Fenton Art Glass Company. My mom and dad worked across the Ohio River in Marietta, Ohio. We were a family of five in a small town that was devoted to kids. One of those devotions was a summer program at the community park. Each morning, Monday through Friday, kids would come to the park for crafts, games, and Kool-Aid.

At the end of the summer was the annual gathering up the river in Vienna of kids from all the park districts in the county for various swimming races and track and field competitions. I had completed a week of decent behavior at home, not setting anything on fire or getting caught in a lie, so Mom and Dad said I could go on the bus to Vienna. I scurried off that morning, brown lunch bag in tow, headed for a day of adventure.

The community park in Vienna had a huge outdoor pool, even a terrifying high dive, which I kept my distance from. Buses filled the parking lot unloading children, most of whom had high-pitched voices like me.

Everyone got settled and the swimming competitions began. I was entered in the 25 yard freestyle for eight year olds, plus the 100 yard freestyle relay. I had my J.C. Penney’s swim trunks on, characterized by their lack of fashion and dullness. I, however, didn’t know that they weren’t in style. My mom worked at Penney’s! Everything I wore was from Penney’s, all the way from my “Chuck Taylor high tops” to my Towncraft “whitie-tighties” to the bow tie I wore on Sundays to church.

The announcement came for all eight year old boys to report to the deep end of the pool. I scooted along the concrete in that direction. Twenty five yards doesn’t seem like very much, but from the deep end of the pool it looked like the whole length of West Virginia. I stood there waiting and in another few moments one other boy arrived. He looked scared. Someone must have told him that he was swimming against an Olympic champion. He looked over the side of the pool into the water, and his eyes got bigger.

A man who looked all official approached us. We stared at him. We knew he was older than eight, plus he had clothes on, so he must not be in the race with us.

“Are you boys here for the eight year old 25 yard freestyle?” We both looked up at him and nodded yes.

And then my competition, while looking once again over the side of the pool, asked him a question. “Is this water over my head?”

“Yes, it is! It’s twelve feet deep.”

His eyebrows rose up to the top of his head, and then in a quivering voice he said to the man, “Well, I can’t swim!”

The man looked at me and said, “Well, I guess that means you win, son!”

I won! I hadn’t even gotten wet! I was the Wood County, West Virginia eight year old 25 yard freestyle swimming champion!

It did not seem like the right time to inform the man that I couldn’t swim either! I figured I could dog paddle at least until I got to the shallow end of the pool. However, I was okay with not having to find out whether to not that was the reality or not.

Honesty and openness had not arrived in my life yet. Those Sunday School lessons probably wouldn’t be taught until I was nine! He pointed me towards a table to the side where I was to go to pick up my blue ribbon.

A little later on our relay team was lined up to swim. Conveniently, we were the only team entered so we were awarded first place. I had won my second blue winner in the swimming competition that I didn’t have to get wet for…and even more bizarre, in the swimming competition that I couldn’t swim in!

In the afternoon, however, I outran about twenty other boys in the 50 yard dash. I moved like a young gazelle in my Chuck Taylor’s. Call me Speedy!

Three blue ribbons! Blue Ribbon Bill! One of them won legally with full disclosure, and two with tight lips, unable to spill the beans.

 

Winning My First Blue Ribbon…and Second

April 28, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 28, 2014

 

When I was eight years old I was a non-stop mover. I was the hyper kid before we ever used that term. I may have defined it. I had short brown hair…no sissy long hair for us in those days…a freckled face, and most of my front teeth. Women were always telling me I was cute. Of course, they were also all my aunts. Unrelated eight year old girls seemed unimpressed!

In the summer time our community of Williamstown, West Virginia was a paradise for kids. There was the community swimming pool, Little League baseball, summer tennis lessons on the high school courts, and the greatest outdoor basketball courts I can remember.

Williamstown also had a summer parks and recreation morning program where kids could come and get involved in different crafts, games, and other kid-oriented activities. At the end of the summer the Wood County Parks and Recreation competitions were held in Vienna, a few miles up the road. Children from the various summer program areas came together to compete against one another in swimming, track and field, and other competitions.

I can remember hopping on the bus that morning with the other kids from my park and heading up the highway. I had my school lunch pail containing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white. (We didn’t know what wheat bread was in those days. If it was around it would have been viewed with a high degree of suspicion. After all, in 1962 we were told that there were all kinds of Communist subversive efforts going on. To us wheat bread would have been seen as a subtle pulling towards the dark side.)

      On the way to the competition my park director, a nice-looking young lady who I remember as being named Patty, informed me that I was going to be competing three events: the eight year old 25 yard freestyle and the 100 yard freestyle relay in the swimming competition; and the eight year old 50 yard dash in track.

I knew how to run fifty yards. I was fast. Whenever we played tag on the school playground none of the girls could catch me!

Maybe that wasn’t the best of ideas, now that I think about it!

The swimming competition started right after we arrived at the Vienna park, and being eight, my age group was to go first.

The announcer hit the volume on the loud speaker and said, “All those boys in the eight year old 25 yard freestyle race are to report to the deep end of the pool.” 

That was me! I entrusted my lunch pail to my friend Ronnie and trotted on my tippy toes to the  end of the pool that featured the diving boards. There was only one other boy waiting there. The starter waited another moment to make sure there were no other boys stumbling towards the deep end and then he turned to the two of us and asked, “Are you boys here for the eight year old race?” I nodded yes like a kid about to be given medicine, but the other boy looked up at the man with a pitiful expression of uncertainty and asked, “Is this water over my head?”

“Well, yes son, it’s twelve feet deep!”

     A couple of eyebrows rose towards heaven, and his eyeballs got as big as saucers, and he said to the man, “Well…I can’t swim!”

The starter looked a little puzzled and said, “Ohhh!” And then he turned towards me and continued, “Well, I guess that means you win, son!”

He handed me a blue ribbon, which I would have immediately pinned to my chest if I hadn’t been bare-chested.

The thing of it was…I couldn’t swim either! Honesty, however, had not arrived as a resident of my life, and I wouldn’t start taking swimming lessons at the Williamstown Community Pool until the next summer. I had the mindset that I could dog paddle twenty five yards. Lassie did it on TV all the time!

Besides, the deep end of a pool where the water was undisturbed looked deceptively shallow…like you could just reach over and touch the bottom.

But if you didn’t HAVE to get wet, why give out any incriminating information?

So I didn’t!

Thirty minutes later our relay team was the only team entered in the swimming relay race…so I doubled my blue ribbon haul…and was still bone dry!

The third blue ribbon was legit! I out-raced about twenty other eight year old boys in the fifty yard dash. I was like a greyhound in the midst of a bunch of dachshunds!

I enjoyed my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and hid my three blue ribbons in the safe of my lunch box, like I was The Man from U.N.C.L.E!

I’m not sure I learned any lessons that day on the value of good sportsmanship and fair play, but…I was eight!

I still have those three blue ribbons in my closet. Every time I come across them while looking for something else I simply chuckle and remember.

Those were good days, days that still make me smile, except now when I smile I have all my front teeth!