The Black Suitcase With The Blue Stripe

It was a cloudy Monday. Roughly, 2:00 in the afternoon. I came home from work and one of my boys, Tommy, was beginning to pack for his 4 month adventure with the Disney program in Florida. (insert jealous parents here) “Dad, do you know where my black suitcase with the blue stripe is?” I had no clue.

He had been looking for quite some time, so when he asked me if I knew where it was, it’s almost like he was hoping I’d have the answer to one of the great mysteries of life.

He looked all around the house. From closets, to the basement, to the back of our van, in the random chance it was left there. It was not.

I headed downstairs to double check the basement. (Remember, he had already checked that before). I said a simple prayer, “God would you please help me find that black suitcase with the blue stripe? And I would like to find it within the next 2 to 3 minutes. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.” That’s all. I’ve learned prayer works. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6. Before I act, I pray. I remember it this way: P.F.A.S. Pray first. Act Second.

I headed into one area of the basement, but saw nothing. Then, as I turned the corner, behind some boxes, there it was, the black suitcase with the blue stripe that had been missing for weeks!

And guess what? I found that black suitcase in about 90 seconds. Just like I asked. “Thank you God”, I said, as I grabbed the suitcase, and walked upstairs.

As I approached Tommy’s bedroom, I said, “you know, many people laugh at me when I say, ‘I’m going to pray about it’, but, I do it because I expect an answer. All I know is that I prayed about finding your suitcase, and look what I just found”.

“Where did you find it?”, said Tommy with a dropped jaw. “In the basement”. I said confidently. Obviously, he was a bit dumbfounded after looking there several times before. He looked at me and said, “Thanks, Dad.” “No need to thank me,” I said, ‘thank God”.

As I left his bedroom, I heard in a voice filled with a hint of a smile, “Thanks God”.

Prayer. I do it before races. I’ve done it during races. Shoot, I’ve even done it trying to find just the right running shoes. I pray! And yes, I pray about finding the black suitcase with the blue stripe.

Nope. I don’t have magical powers. I just try not to worry, and to P.F.A.S. Pray first. Act second.

One Runner, And Two Sets Of Joneses

Long before we ever tried keeping up with the Kardashians, we were keeping up with The Joneses. You know the Joneses? The people you compare yourself too. The ones with the nicer car? The better job? The yard that’s mowed into those cool diamond shapes? Yeah, those Joneses.

We spend way too much time living our lives comparing ourselves to others. Not just with possessions, but with everyday life.

Recently, I was out for a run with my run group. It was a crisp, beautiful, Saturday morning. (Someone cue that ‘Pure Michigan’ music, please) I felt rested. The trail was shaded. And our cadence was much faster than normal. It just felt right. We knocked out 8.71 miles at a 8:10 pace. We were movin’!

When we returned, someone new to our group said, “next time you pass me on a run, can you make it look like you were struggling?” We all laughed, but she was serious. “There’s no way I could ever run like that. I wish I was as fast as you.”

Without missing a beat, we all chimed in, “Please don’t get sucked into the comparison game. All of us were much slower when we first started running. This has taken us a few years of training to run like this”.

Sadly, I don’t think it worked. This runner, like many of us, was livin’ in the land of the Joneses. Dreaming. Wishing. Comparing.

Friends, this isn’t healthy. I’ve been there. In many ways, I still am. You see, I often wish my work hours were different, so I could do things at night, without waking up at 3:45am. I wish my pay was different, so that I could travel and run more races. I wish a few thousand more people would read my blog, instead of sitting around and watching cat videos. Sigh.

When you compare yourself to others, you create pain, and a false sense of security. It stirs up emotions of either feeling, “less than” or “greater than” someone else.

Back when CD’s were cool, there was a song by Big Tent Revival called, “Two Sets of Jones'”. It compared two families, Rothchild and Evelyn, and Rueben and Sue. They lived similar lives, but their morals were built on completely different foundations.

When the storms of life hit Rothchild and Evelyn, they were broken because their foundation was built on money, and climbing the corporate ladder.

But, when the storms of life hit Rueben and Sue, they were able to withstand the storm, because their foundation was built on a foundation of faith.

I’ll let Big Tent Revival sum things up about, “keeping up” with others, “What is the point of this story? What am I trying to say? Is your life built on the rock of Christ Jesus? Or sandy foundation you’ve managed to lay?”

Whether it’s your pace on a Michigan trail, looking around your neighborhood, or watching someone’s Facebook feed, you will be faced with an opportunity to compare. “There’s two sets of Joneses, which ones will you be?”

That Dreaded F Word

Recently, I’ve spoken to several people about a rather famous ‘F word’ that has infused our culture. It’s a word that has caused Preachers to preach, social media to blow up, and prescription companies to make billions! FEAR! I hate that four letter word!

Fear keeps you from taking another step. Fear robs your joy. Fear keeps you from doing greater things.

Fear has always been ‘a thing’. From friends afraid of signing up for a tough, challenging race, to plots in movies. Remember, “Back To The Future”, when fear almost kept George McFly from asking Loraine to the “Enchantment Under The Sea” Prom. To music, with lyrics like “Fear is a Liar”, “My fear doesn’t stand a chance, when I stand in your love…”, and “Fear No More”. But, it’s nothing new. Fear itself has been around for a long, long, time.

In the Bible, I think about a guy named Peter. If you don’t know the story, let me share it with you. In Matthew 14:25-31 it says, “Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid. “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

It’s easy to read this and think, ‘What was Peter afraid of? Jesus was right there!” But, let’s break it down. These people, the Disciples, were already in fear. So, when Jesus said, ‘don’t be afraid’, Peter had to actually take a step out of his comfort zone, the boat. So, he did. He pushed fear aside and was WALKING ON WATER, with a storm surrounding him. Wow!

That said, despite the storm, what was the one thing that caused him to sink? FEAR! He was afraid. Fear changed him. But, as soon as Peter realized what was happening he cried out, “Lord Save Me!” I love the next word, ‘immediately’. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.

I don’t know what you’re fearing today. Maybe it’s the fear of trying something new. Or, the fear of losing a job, or a relationship. But remember, “FEAR is a liar!” Say it aloud. FEAR IS A LIAR!

Think about what’s holding you back, push fear aside, and take a step. Sign up for a new race. Be George McFly and ask Lorraine to Prom. Go be that guy named Peter. Step into something you’ve been afraid to tackle. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Together, let’s we run by faith, and put an end to that dreaded F word!

Going Rogue: Rogue River Park Review

How often do YOU run the same route? I feel like I always do. Now, that said, there are some benefits.

  1. I know the exact place where each mile lands. (Fire hydrants, tall grasses, telephone poles)
  2. I basically know how long the route is going to take for me to complete it.
  3. When you run a familiar area, you do feel safer.

But, it gets very mundane, right?

That’s why I love running with my Gazelle Sports Run Camp. Each week, we have a different place to meet up, and get our miles in.

I was recently introduced to Rogue River Park in Belmont, Michigan. A well thought out Trail Head, with a restroom, and lots of parking!

We met up on a HOT Saturday morning. The temp was 74° at 7:30, with 80% humidity. It was like walking into the mouth of a dog!

For the last few months, I’ve been running inBrooks Adrenaline shoes. But, thanks to Gazelle Sports. teaming up with Topo, I decided to try Topo shoes. (Which were very comfy with a low drop)

The low drop did take a bit of an adjustment, but once I settled in, i really liked the comfort and ease of the stride. I really liked the shoe!

We headed north on the trail toward the city of Rockford, MI. (Which is about 3.5 miles from the Trail Head) It’s a very shaded trail. But, be prepared, when you head north, it’s a long gradual incline.

One of the best parts of the trail? It is very shaded. That’s a major blessing in the heat!

The scenery getting to Rockford was great, too. I loved the views of Rogue River! However, make sure you’re lubed up on Bug Spray as flies and other bugs could find you delicious.

One of the highlights was entering Rockford. As I ran over a beautiful bridge, I noticed a farmers market to my right. And, heavenly smells coming from several restaurants. I also loved the fact that we ran along Rogue River. It’s hard to beat that view!

After crossing over a small wooden boardwalk, we arrived at our water stop. (Here’s video I shot at Mile 4)

As we turned back, and headed for the trail head, the sun was definitely beating down! Again, another reason to be thankful for a shaded trail! Oh, and since we spent the majority of the run north with a gradual incline, the run south was a decline. (Cue the Hallelujah Chorus)

After we got back to the trail head, a few of my friends wanted to try on a demo pair of Topo Shoes. So, we took off and ran another 2 miles. This time, we headed south.

Heading south felt much more urban. We did run under a nice little bridge, and we even saw a Deer run alongside a fence. But, for the most part, we saw lots of houses and swingsets.

At this point, I was pretty spent! We pulled off a 8:27 pace in that heat and humidity. My calves were burning, and I was ready to be done.

Oh, and as you head to Rogue River Park, grab money! I found these little treasures for a post-run reward.

If you known of any cool trails, or areas, that I should check out, please let me know!

Keep making a difference, and Run By Faith!

Lord, have Mercy.. Health Seaway Run

Race day. I love those two words. But, for years, those two words brought me a lot of fear and nerves. You know, it’s the culmination of months of training for a half marathon, into one morning of 13.1 miles. What if I hit an early wall? What if my nutrition is off? What if?

I’ve changed my thinking from ‘what if’ to ‘trust my training’. For months, I have rehearsed this race in my mind. But now, it’s time to take rehearsal, to the “13.1 mile stage”.
Race day happened to be the Mercy Health Seaway Run Half Marathon. As I lined up, the weather was fantastic. It was cool, and somewhat cloud covered. I got to the starting area of the 8:30 pace group, and I was not sure if I was going to race it, or run it. There is a difference. Racing it means going ALL OUT and shooting for a P.R. (personal record). Running it means to enjoy the miles. Take a few pics, enjoy the scenery, not worry too much about time.
I got into the groove of the race and held a steady 8:30 pace for the first mile. It is VERY easy to race Seaway AND enjoy the beauty of the water, and feel the summerbreeze, (sing along) ‘which makes me feel fine’.
By mile 4, I was still on that 8:30 pace. I was thinking, ‘I feel good at this pace’. My half way point, which is by the amazing view of the submarine, I crossed the timing mat at 55:51:93. Wow! If I could hold that pace, I might set a P.R.
As I passed through Pere Marquette Beach, which has a simply amazing view, I didn’t really focus on my time. I took in the breeze off of Lake Michigan, the sound of the water, and the change of footing as I ran on the boardwalk. (Was this Michigan? Yeah baby!!)
At mile 8, I was starting to feel it. I walked through an aid station, got my nutrition and got back at it. The run through the neighborhood provided cheers, a water hose, and much needed shade!
At about mile 10.5, I asked my running friend, Amber, what our total time was. She said 1:30 and change. I remember thinking, ‘if we keep this pace, maybe I will P.R.. That said, I knew we had the challenge of a hill near the 11.5 mile mark. So, I just kept my pace.
At the dreaded hill, I put my head down, leaned into the hill, swung my arms a bit more and tackled it. I maintained my pace and knew I only had about 1.3 miles to go.
I took in one more water from the aid station, and headed for the finish line. As I heard the cheers, I knew my finishing time would be close. ‘I don’t have much more I the tank to push it for the finish’, said Amber. I was gassed too, but when I saw the timing clock, if I was close to my P.R., I was going for it.
With about 100 yards left, I saw the clock. It said 1:51:something. I couldn’t quite make it out. I sprinted to the finish, gave it all I had, and crossed.
As I crossed, I saw my wife, Patty. She was handing out medals to all of the finishers. As I saw her, another great volunteer began to the medal around my neck. “Can I have my wife put my medal around me?” The volunteer smiled, “Oh my gosh, yes!” I turned to Patty. She put the medal around my neck,l as I sunk into her arms. “I’m so proud of you. You ok?”, Patty said. I was good. Just exhausted.
My second half of the race was 55:38, for a total time of 1:51:30. I missed my P.R. by 20 seconds. Ugh!!!!
After collecting my thoughts and realizing I was THAT close, I had nothing to be upset about. I ran my heart out on a beautiful, yet very challenging, Half Marathon.
I gathered my things and headed to Pigeon Hill for the after party. I met up with several runner friends, and, met some new friends, too. It’s funny, with all of the agony and sweat and tired legs, everyone kind of forgets about it at the after party. And let me tell ya, Seaway throws a heck of an after party!
Sweat. Swag. Seaway. That is the beauty of race day!

Running By Faith

Running the miles. Sharing the encouragement!

Hi. I’m Tommy, and I love to run. I love encouraging people! And, I choose to Run by Faith!

What does “Run by Faith” mean? Pretty simple, really. My favorite book, the Bible, has a great quote that says to, “walk by faith, not by sight“. Well, as a runner, I ‘run by faith, not by sight’. Get it now?

Here, I plan to share my passion for running, along with my passion of encouragement. I want to help you run some trails, and help you navigate through life. Bottom line, this is my new blog where fitness, friends and faith come together to help you, “Run by Faith”!

The Starting Line

Running has changed me. It started by signing up for a simple 5k race in 2005. I never would’ve thought that a 5k would end up changing how I do everyday life.

It’s the running community. It’s the challenge of the training. It’s the journey of walking, or in this case, learning to run by faith.

I’ve often heard that we should, “learn to enjoy the journey”. What does that really mean? To me, it’s always about the destination, right? How soon can we get from Point A to Point B to really begin to have some fun! But, if we are always rushing to get to the destination, we will miss the little blessings of the journey it takes to get there.

As a runner, I am always focused on finishing the race “How is my pace?” “How much longer til I cross the line?” “Will I get a P.R.? “(personal record) But, if I solely focus on the finish, I lose the joy of the journey to get there.

My goal is to help you to learn to enjoy the journey. To explore new places to run, cool places to grab a bite, or a beverage, and share some encouragement along the way.

Go make a difference, and run by faith!