Snapshot.

I know this is coming a bit late, but I wanted to let everyone know that I’m drafting up a race report from Saturday. I want to thank everyone who has supported Run For Something so far…your positivity helped me have a great day despite a lot of challenges. I finished in 2:48:08, 67th overall, and set a 10 minute, 13 second Personal Record. My official results are here, and you can see pics here. I can honestly say that I’ve never been more proud of, or satisfied with another race. It was a great day, and as soon as I get my thoughts together I’ll get a complete report posted. Jen took some great pics from the sidelines, and I’m going to get those up as soon as possible as well.

Mile #1

As I’ve put this whole concept together, I’ve thought long and hard about perceptions of me as a person and how it might affect what I’m trying to do with Run For Something. So, let me get this out right off the bat:

I ‘m no saint. To be honest, my first nature is not excessively generous or helpful.  Ask me the last time I fed the homeless or dropped some money in the hat of the dirty guy at the intersection and I’ll tell you: a long time ago. But I don’t think it takes a saint to do something good.  If goodness rested in the hands of saints, this world would be a pretty dim place simply because they are outnumbered by the rest of us. It falls on your average human, capable of both darkness and light. In short, it’s up to us.

Two years ago, my wife connected with a group called Mocha Club. A NPO that focuses on African outreach in one of a handful of areas, you can read more about them here at www.mochaclub.org . Jen spent two weeks in Ethiopia, working at a handful of orphanages. It was a life-altering experience for her. She didn’t go in and single-handedly alter the future of the nation. But she made a difference in the lives of a few children and more importantly, made a difference in herself.

The basic jist of the Mocha Club is this: with what you pay for two mochas a month, roughly $7.00, you can make a big difference in the lives of a few in Africa. It’s not an unfamiliar model. But what was unique to me was that they also provided a means of connecting people with the projects their money goes towards. I liked that engagement aspect a lot. This was no guilt-trip infomercial. This was real. It told me was there were a lot of ways to help, from the traditional donation to the opportunity to actually get out there and engage with the folks you are helping to support. A chance to alter your mindset, to bring back a message you can pass along to your circle of friends and family.

Pretty sweet. So I gave, and continue to do so to this day.

About a year later, I came across a project for the Maasai which utilized runners in the New York City Marathon for charity fundraising. Go to www.maasaimarathon.com to see for yourself. It was a little bit of a whack across the back of the head…What if I could do something like this for Mocha Club?  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before. Races have a long-standing relationship with charities. Athletes have been brought into the process with concepts like Team in Training, which raises millions for cancer research every year. So why couldn’t it work for Mocha Club?

Ever  do walk-a-thons as a kid? I went door to door every spring as an elementary school kid raising money for my perpetually broke small private school. For the walkathon, people would pledge whatever they felt…sometimes a dollar a mile, sometimes a dime, whatever.  On Walkathon Day, it was a grand adventure. I think the course couldn’t have been longer than five or ten miles, with little aid stations along they way where an adult would stamp your card to verify that, yes, you did in fact walk as far as you claimed and you could grab a cookie and some lemonade. I looked forward year-round to that little fundraiser because it tied something I was good at (distance) with something noble (raising money for my broke school).

So, here I am again, 23 years down the line. But this time it’s not a ten year-old with a bowl cut and a grin at your door. Now it’s a 33 year old with some gray hairs, who runs a lot but wants to use that running to do something for Mocha Club. That something, I’ve determined, is the following: fundraise and promote awareness for the Mocha Club through my running.

My goals:

1)      Run Grandma’s Marathon, in Duluth, MN on June 17th in 2:45 or faster

2)      Raise  $500 or better in funds for Mocha Club

How I’m going to achieve them:

1)      Lots of running. By the time June 19th comes around, I’ll have logged close to 2000 miles since the 1st of January. Dozens of speed and strength workouts accomplished within a carefully planned training plan with the sole aim of putting me on that start line with fire in my veins and steel in my will.

2)      I’m asking you (and myself) to donate to Mocha club. I’m still working on how much, and working through a couple of models to employ, but should have that out soon.

Now, I know that as soon as you read this, everyone is going to sprint to www.mochaclub.org, debit card in hand to make their donations…but I’m asking you to hold off for a sec since I’m trying to work out the infrastructure on their website. More to follow there…

 So that’s it for now. Not a memo, but a mission statement. I’ll keep you all informed as I work out the details on the donations…in the meantime, please visit Mocha Club’s web page.  Let that percolate in your mind for a bit.

The Starting Line

An ironic admission:  I don’t like blogs. There are too many of them, and all-too-often degenerate into pedestals for punditry, rant, and unvettted  journalism.  If there’s a cultural phenomenon I associate with blogs, it’s the idea that having a captive audience doesn’t excuse you from the responsibility not to report mundanities; or the obligation to know the difference between ‘they’re,’ ‘there,’ and ‘their.’

However, this isn’t to say that all blogs suffer the same ailments. They have become a means of near-instant communication and interaction in a world, empowered by modern communications, more comfortable connecting its inhabitants for the briefest of physical moments before sending them back out amongst their far-flung destinations and origins.

Enter me, and the story which trails behind, aside, and in front of me.  For those reading who don’t know me (and as of this writing I think that would number around zilch) I’ve been a competitive athlete since the age of 15. On and off for the past 17 years, I’ve competed in a variety of endurance activities, to include duathlon, triathlon, and good old-fashioned running.  This isn’t to say I’ve done any of them consistently for the past 1.7 decades with the one exception of my time running as an intercollegiate; rather they’ve been periods of serious punctuated by months of something else.  I always trained hard enough to be regionally competitive but never anything beyond that. When I wasn’t in a Serious Training Mode, it wasn’t because I was sitting in front of the telly crushing bags of chips. Usually it was because my job made it impractical for a period of time or because I  was focused on another activity.

The common thread throughout it all was running. Whether it was a means to an end (fitness for something else) or the end itself, I’ve always viewed myself as a Runner. In the past two years, I’ve experienced something of a revival (“renaissance” would imply something far too grand). Living in Tucson, I hooked up with Dave and Michele Hill’s Grinders, a dedicated bunch of serious runners of all ability levels. Under Michele’s guidance, I’ve gotten into the best running shape I’ve been in since college.

But as I’ve put in the countless hours and thousands of miles in the past months, I’ve begun to question my motives. Here I am, in relentless pursuit of something, usually a specific time I want to run over a specific distance. Really? Is that it? I spend all this time, make all these sacrifices, all in the name of something that won’t break any records, won’t get me on the podium, won’t even get me in the top 10% of my own age group peers in the country. Last October, I ran the Long Beach Half Marathon. My bottom-line goal was to break 1:20 (roughly 6:05 pace for 13.1 miles).  I accomplished that goal, running 1:19:19 (6:03 average pace), placing 37th overall. That might seem pretty fast to some, but let me put the performance in perspective. 1:19:19 put me in roughly 75th percentile. That means out of all the men out there at my age at the time (32), I was slower than 25% of them! In academic terms, I got about a C+ on that test. Even more humbling – world class runners will cover the same distance in about 60 minutes…amazing.

There is clearly no doubt about my place in the pecking order.

I’m not discounting the pursuit of potential. AB-solutely not. But the single-minded pursuit of excellence has a cost. There is sacrifice in the ten plus hours a week I spend running. If you think about it, ten hours is a lot of time. You can fit a lot of quality family time in there, self development, or even rest and recreation. Lots of things you can do with that chunk of seconds, minutes and hours.

And I’m starting to think that if I’m going to make that sacrifice, maybe it would be good to associate it with something in addition to personal aspiration.

So, I’ve got A Plan. This Plan will tie my running to charity, although I’m still trying to work out the details. This blog is my Start Line (and race course if you want to continue the metaphor). It’s way of telling folks, “Folks, I’m going to do something here. It probably won’t be big. It probably won’t be terribly pretty. But it will make a difference, if only a small one.”

I’ve got a non-profit picked out, as well as a concept, but I’m already up to 765 words and probably exceeding blog-a-bility. So, I’ll save it for the next entry.