LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS!

The American way!

life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.– Excerpt from the United States Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776

Today is Sunday July 5th, 2020. It is Independence Day Weekend in America.  Because the actual date fell on a Saturday, some businesses and institutions were closed Friday as well. Fireworks have been occurring each night across our great nation. On Friday Night President Donald J. Trump delivered a brilliant and stirring speech to a crowd of 75,000 Americans assembled in front of Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. The event concluded with a patriotic music program entitled ‘The Spirit of America’, the largest fireworks spectacle I have ever witnessed, and a live rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic preformed by the US Air Force Band.

My personal celebration took place on Saturday morning. I ran The Medal Dash ‘ALL AMERICAN’ virtual half-marathon,  my 5th race of this distance in the past two months.  A half-marathon is 13.1 miles (21 kilometres if you live outside the USA).  A year ago, this level of personal athletic ability would not have been possible.  I am stronger, faster, and fitter now because I have been training hard this entire year in anticipation of my first full marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon slated for Sunday November 22nd, 2020. I am determined to earn that Liberty Bell Finisher’s Medal, awarded ONLY to those who complete the race in its entirety.  I’m proud to be an American, because AMERICAN ends in ‘I CAN’!

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GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Philadelphia PA is the birthplace of America. 244 years ago, 56 patriots risked their lives and gathered there to sign the Declaration of Independence, creating the most free nation in the history of the world. America is a land of opportunity. Sadly, there are those among us who would wish to destroy our great nation. They claim racism, injustice, and a host of contrived social ills. These are lies delivered by self-deluded individuals with no moral compass, and no direction in life. They feel the world owes them a living.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

Your life IS YOUR LIFE. You are responsible for you own wealth, health, success, and happiness. The world owes you NOTHING. It is your job to pursue your own personal path to success. It is out there. Opportunity abounds and the possibilities are endless.  You yourself have to do the work! No one is going to do it for you, and even if they did, could you truly appreciate it? There is pride in personal achievement. Every medal on my trophy wall is hanging there because I did the work, put in the time, and earned those medals.  You can be successful, if you choose to be. That decision remains entirely in your hands.  I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Your life IS YOUR LIFE! So go forth and start living it! Seize the day! As always, I wish you success and happiness!

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RUNNING DOWN A DREAM!

Never quit, never surrender!

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I rolled on, the sky grew dark

I put the pedal down to make some time

There’s something good waitin’ down this road

I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine

I’m runnin’ down a dream that never would’ve come to me

Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads

Runnin’ down a dream

Song Lyrics–Runnin’ Down A Dream by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers 1993

As we enter the THIRD MONTH of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus that shut down the world continues to put  a major damper on summer fun. Restrictions are being slowly lifted. VERY SLOWLY. Things are far from back to normal. Even IF you were fortunate enough to escape the Triple Whammy of the loss of income, loss of life-savings, and a mounting pile of debt from past due bills, there is still very little to do. Many things have already been cancelled from June through September. Depending on what state you live in, you may face challenging restrictions.

In Pennsylvania a ‘blue’ Democrat governed state, a mask is mandatory to enter the few business that are open. In Florida and other ‘red’ states with Republican governors, masks are optional, and most business have been re-opened for weeks. When you restrict the sick to remain under virtual house arrest, it is called quarantine. When you force the same upon the healthy, you take away their freedom and liberty!, It is a tyrannical power grab. I am not the only person in my state who is fed up with this draconian treatment and many people are protesting at the state capital calling for the impeachment of Governor Wolf. In Philadelphia and other Democrat run cities, Antifa backed mobs stirred up by the death of George Floyd at the hand of Minnesota police has lead to wide-spread looting and vandalism. These are the type of sheep that ‘the Wolf’ adores. Easily manipulated and gullible enough to swallow anything they are fed. Peaceful citizens are made to cower in fear as Democrat leaders refuse to put an end to this madness. All of these seemingly unrelated events are part of a vast left wing conspiracy to stir up civil unrest, destroy a duly elected president, and prevent his re-election. If you believe that this entire situation is not politically motivated, you are an idiot. The virus is a hoax. People need to wake up, and face the facts that COVID-19 is no nightmare ‘boogeyman’ waiting at the door to pounce upon those who dare to venture outside.

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UN-CANCELLED!

Stress impacts the way our body functions in a negative way. It lowers our immune system, causes us lack of sleep, and can increase our blood pressure. It leads to depression and obesity. If left unchecked stress can destroy one’s will to live. If you want to be happy and successful, you need to eliminate stress from your life in any form that is impacting you. While the coronavirus may have taken away many of our outlets for stress relief such as shopping, dining out, or going to the movies, there are still many things that are NOT cancelled.  You may have seen many of these memes across the internet, lists of things that are NOT cancelled like HOPE, JOY, FRIENDSHIP, ect. It is a way of reminding us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and a bright, beautiful world is waiting outside for us if we can just step out of our own personal dark place.

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My life-changing journey began three years ago when I said to myself that enough was enough and I was going to fight to get the life that I always wanted. This meant a personal commitment to do whatever needed to be done, for as long as it needed to be done.  Winners NEVER quit, and quitters NEVER win. I had to force myself to constantly strive for what I have achieved thus far. I still have a ways to go, but slow and steady wins the race. A runner runs!

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Last year I took up distance running, and ran in eleven races starting with a 5K and working up to half-marathons.  This year COVID-19 cancelled many of my scheduled races, as well as a few in the next two months. I have been training all year for the Philly Marathon on November 22, 2020, less than six months away.

Fortunately my team of fellow runners whom I have dubbed ‘The Pack’ turned me on to a 12-week virtual running series called The Un-cancelled Project sponsored by Run The Edge. Each week has a theme.

  • gratitude
  • hope
  • humor
  • inspiration
  • courage
  • commitment
  • dreams
  • kindness
  • joy
  • community
  • perseverance
  • life

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Last week was week 9, JOY WEEK. I made at least three personal bests. Fastest half-marathon, fastest 8K, and most races in a single week. I ran on four different trails, and members of the team were along for four of the five races as I logged just under 37 miles total.

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Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed!

The point I’m trying to make is your life is up to YOU!

If you allow circumstance and criticism to beat you into submission, than you are not truly alive. Existing is not the same as living, and you need to live your life to the fullest for as long as you are able to. Nothing in life is guaranteed. The United States is a great country. It is a land of freedom and opportunity. If you are fortunate enough to live here, you can have anything you desire as long as you are willing to put in the time, do the work, and have the personal fortitude to see it through to the end. The race is long, now go out and run down your dreams!

 As always I wish you success and happiness!

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WATCH IT!

Another record broken!

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‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’ —Henry Ford

Stopwatches in one form or another have been around since before the USA was even a country.  The very first stopwatch was called a “physician’s pulse watch” invented by Samuel Watson 1695 as a custom project for surgeon John Floyer. It was able to measure an accuracy of 1/5 of a second.

In 1816 Louis Moinet  created the “compteur de tierces” (1/60 second counter), which looked remarkably like a modern stopwatch, and could be reset at the touch of a button.  This personal scientific instrument was way ahead of its time (no pun intended). It would take another century before a more precise stopwatch would be produced. In 1916 the Heuer watch company produced a  stopwatch accurate to 1/100 of a second.

Since the nineteenth century stopwatches have been an essential tool in  the racing circuit. By 1881 they were joined by the ‘photo finish’ invented by photographer Ernest Marks at a track in Plainfield, N.J to determine winners of  horse races that were ‘too close to call’. These instances where the outcome was to ambiguous to be determined by the naked eye used to be referred to as ‘dead-heats’. In the result of a dead-heat, officials had no choice but to declare the result a tie. Now in the current day improvements in technology, including digital super-slow motion replay, computer tracking,  pressure-sensitive digital timers,  and chip timers have rendered dead-heats all but extinct.

In 1962 science fiction author John D. MacDonald wrote the novel The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything. In the novel Kirby Winter inherits a remarkable stopwatch that can literally stop time for everyone and everything, except for the person holding the watch. Kirby uses this incredible watch to change his life for the better.   

Last month I brought an incredible watch to change my life for the better too, although it’s not as awesome as the watch Kirby Winter had in the aforementioned novel. It was an anniversary gift to myself was I was coming up to the one-year as a runner date.

Just over a year ago I started training for my first  ever race. The event was called Beat Beethoven and held at Alvernia University in Reading PA on Sunday April 28th, 2019.

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The event was timed by Pretzel City Sports, a local race-timing company owned by Ron Horn. I was both excited and terrified. I finished the race and made by goal. I vividly remember being told I did great by a woman who I later found out was Helene, Ron’s wife. My second race was a 15K the Chobert Challenge, also timed by Pretzel City Sports (PCS). My first half Marathon was the Bird-in-Hand Half on September 7, 2019. Although PCS was not timing the event, Ron and Helene were in attendance and again gave great encouragement.  All in all I ran nearly a dozen races last year, picking up tips and making many friends along the way.

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Two things I noticed about my fellow runners, besides the encouragement.

  1. Many of them wore these long socks.
  2.  Many of them had special runner’s watches.

In 2020 I planned to run two dozen races and compete in my first ever full marathon. Then  COVID-19 struck and the virus that shut down the world closed all the gyms and then began cancelling one race after another.  To date all my official timed races that had been slated for April and May have been cancelled or postponed, and June is now looking iffy too. As I had been relying upon timing results and marked distances from these races to chart my progress, this became problematic.  You don’t know how far you’ve come unless you keep accurate records to chart your progress. I don’t even have the treadmill at the gym right now due to this stupid virus!  A runner runs and I refuse to let some  virus  derail my marathon goal!         

Fortunately I have good friends to run with, marked trails to run on, and I was using my smart-phone to keep time, more or less. If you’re going to do any job well, you need the proper tools. Most of my running friends have runner’s watches. So I bit the bullet and made the purchase. (This watch cost more than any of my first 3 used cars!)

I decided to purchase the top-of-the-line tri-athlete Garmin Forerunner 945. Garmin makes one other even more expensive ‘total’ sports watch, the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro, but as far as runners are concerned it’s the Forerunner line, and the 945 is the top!

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There are many players in the sport-watch field, but Garmin is widely believed to be the industry leader.

Most runners have the discontinued Forerunner 235 that came out years ago. This is Gina’s 235:

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My 945 has many features that earlier models do not have, as well as all the common features that  runners have come to rely upon. After using my watch for just one month, I have seen a definite improvement in my performance.  For a more detailed list of feature specs on the watch, this is from the Amazon listing:

  • Premium GPS running/triathlon smartwatch with music
  • Download songs to your watch, including playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music or Deezer (may require premium subscription with a third party music provider)
  • Performance monitoring features include Vo2 Max and training status with adjustments for heat, altitude Acclimation status, training load focus, recovery time, and aerobic and anaerobic training effects
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment solution (available for supported cards from participating banks) lets you make convenient payments with your watch so you can leave your cash and cards at home
  • Full color, onboard maps guide you on your run so you never get lost during your workout
  • Safety and tracking Features include incident detection (during select activities) which sends your real time location to emergency contacts through your paired compatible smartphone
  • Battery life: Up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode, 10 hours in GPS mode with music or up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode. Display resolution – 240 x 240 pixels

I haven’t  yet mastered all the features as I am still in the learning phase, but this is definitely the king of sport watches, and I have never been more happier with a purchase of a wearable tech product.

The watch tracks and records  all my runs via GPS. It lets me know when I make a new personal record!

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It monitors my heart rate and oxygen levels.

It has a coaching function.

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It makes predictions based on my performance.

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I can download maps!

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It  has a compass!

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Oh, and it can tell time.

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Because of the expense of this item, I highly recommend purchasing an extended warranty, and investing in a screen protector like I did to keep the watch face from getting scratched.  If you are a serious runner, you want to protect this invaluable tool for as long as you own it. As always, I wish you success and happiness!

A SMALL MOUNTAIN…

Is STILL a mountain!

a small mountain

Climb every mountain

Ford every stream

Follow every rainbow

‘Till you find your dream– Lyrics from the song Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music.

Last Sunday February 23rd 2020, due to an unexpected event there was no weekly article posted on my blog. It was maybe the 3rd or 4th time that this has happened since I began writing InstantCoffeeWisdom three years ago. To my frequent and long-time readers, I offer an apology, and an explanation.

Every now and then, life throws you a curve ball. Something you never expect. Sometimes it can be a bad thing, but sometimes it can be an unexpected and pleasant surprise.  This was the latter.  I was originally working on an article concerning nutritional supplements (which will now be posted next week, bumped by this article) when one of my running friends gave me a surprise gift.  Accepting this gift meant dropping everything I was doing, and being a little selfish to spend time with my friends. I feel bad for disappointing my dedicated readers like Ken, and  especially those who check-in from foreign countries like Romania, England and Canada.  I am always amazed that I have readers in other countries. The internet can be a wonderful thing, but I digress!

One of the items in my bucket list is training for a marathon. I have been putting in a lot of time running both at the gym on a treadmill, and in official timed races of various distances. Registration for official race events costs money, and as I planned 24 of them this year I had to pick and choose as well as budget accordingly to be able to afford to pay for my fitness hobby.  The point I have been stressing this year is that your Health is your Wealth, and vice-versa. What is the point of becoming rich, only to be too sickly and infirm to enjoy the fruit of your labors? The point of life is to enjoy it!

Gary Brendel, a friend who is part my pack of runners  wanted to run in The Ugly Mudder 13K Trail Run and he asked if I was going. This was a race that I had skipped. I told him that I had limited funds and had to pass because I couldn’t afford the extra race with all the others I had lined up.  Gary told me he would pick up the tab for my registration. I was stunned! It was such a wonderful gift and a generous surprise that to refuse would have been rude. It is very nice to know that when times are lean, you have friends who have your back. Gary is also planning on running in the Philly Marathon with me in November, and my other friend Steve will run the half that same day. Additionally, Gary also convinced another mutual friend, Alison Riley to run with us in The Ugly Mudder. Alison is a novice runner who believed that she was only able to run 5K (3.1 miles). This was her first ever 13K (8.078 miles) and she did amazing!  Like the Bible says in Proverbs 27:17, ” As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

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 One Ugly Mudder!

The name ‘Ugly Mudder’ is a play on words. It is a near homonym for ‘Ugly Mother’. A Mudder is a race horse that runs faster on a muddy track. This was the logo for this year’s commemorative  t-shirt.

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The character depicted is reminiscent of Baba Yaga , the pestle wielding witch from Slavic folklore who would kill and eat unfortunate travelers who got lost in the woods. Baba Yaga was most likely an influence  for the fictional Blair Witch in the 1999 horror film, The Blair Witch Project.  

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The 17th annual event was timed by Pretzel City Sports. PCS was founded in 1987 by the awesome Ron Horn and they help many regional organizations such as The Pagoda Pacers hold races.

As for the race itself,  The Ugly Mudder 13K Trail Run is a foot-race up Mount Penn on some of the ugliest, treacherous, and muddy trails imaginable. Mount Penn is a 1,120-foot-high mountain that rises to the north and overlooks the city of Reading PA.  It’s a little mountain, but a mountain is still a mountain. For comparison the tallest mountain in Romania is Moldoveanu Peak at 8,346-feet , which is slightly taller than Omu at 8,219-feet, also located in Romania.  The tallest mountain in England is Scafell Pike at 3,209-feet.  In case you may be wondering, the tallest mountain in North America is Denali in the USA in the state of Alaska. At 20,237-foot, it is also the third tallest on Earth.

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There are two large structures visible on Mount Penn.  One is the William Penn Fire Tower. This imposing stone and reinforced concrete tower is 120 feet tall and is situated on Skyline Drive. The 120-ft.-tall former fire observation tower was built in 1939 for $30,000. A lighted Cross on the tower was forcibly removed in 2009 by God-hating atheists who threatened a lawsuit because the Cross reminded them that they had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.    

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One mile from the Fire Tower is Reading’s landmark Pagoda, the symbol of the city for over a century.

Commissioned in 1906 at a cost of $50,000 by William A. Witman, Sr. , the Pagoda was completed in 1908.  It was originally intended to be a luxury resort atop Mt. Penn, but due a bank foreclosure after the denial of his liquor license, Witman never opened the Pagoda.  By 1910 the Pagoda and its surrounding 10 acres of land were deeded to local business owner, Jonathon Mould and his wife, Julia (Bell).  On April 21, 1911 they “sold” the Pagoda to the City of Reading for the sum of $1.  Since then the Pagoda has been owned, loved and cared for by the citizens and City of Reading.

The Pagoda is 28 feet (8.5 m) wide, 50 feet (15 m) long, and 72 feet (22 m) tall and located at  98 Duryea Dr. Reading, PA.  After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 anti-Japanese sentiment nearly caused the building to be torn down. Cooler-heads claimed that the building was actually not Japanese, but a Korean Pagoda, so the Pagoda was spared.  (FYI– a Korean Pagoda is usually built entirely out of stone, and is slightly different looking than the Reading Pagoda which is clearly based on a Japanese design. Thank God there was also no internet in 1941. LOL. )

As for the course itself, it was rocky and treacherous, not to mention uphill and muddy at places. There was a little patch of ice easily negotiable just before the finish line.  You just knew it was going to be a rough trail when a priest was running in case someone needed Last Rites.

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The humorous description and cautionary words from the promotional e-mail flier are as follows:

The same thing happened to most of the trails used in the Ugly Mudder. Once, they were bucolic hiking trails used by courting couples, families with kids, dog walkers, etc. And then heavy storms took away their topsoil, lack of use resulted in wild indigenous plants growing across the path, erosion left huge gullies in them that twist ankles and make then unsuitable for biking, etc. And what we have left are trails that are so misshapen and un-navigable that they can ONLY be used for the Ugly Mudder. The Ugly Mudder is a mishmash of ups & downs, fallen logs, debris, rocks & roots, discarded household items, deer poop and urban relics.  To offset this misery, Pretzel City Sports provides a bunch of “perks” at the event including a great post race party with a free breakfast, funny signs on trail to ease your pain, unusual aide stations with equally unusual beverages, cold volunteers that will treat YOU even “colder”, great course markings & other niceties that has made this, on several occasions, one of the 5 largest rustic trail runs in the entire country & the largest East of the Mississippi. In fact, annually, 99.9% of its participants live to run another day so how hard can it be?  Come join the 250-400 people each year that REFUSE to let ankle deep snow, sub-zero temps and a few rocks & roots turn them into mega-weenies, candybutts or, worst of all, “Bachelor/Bachelorette Fans”. LEGAL B.S: You RUN AT YOUR OWN RISK & you alone are responsible for your welfare at all times while racing!! You SHOULD finish this race unscathed other than from frostbite & snot frozen to your face. But if you DO get a boo-boo, crawl to an aide station so we can pick you up in a warm car. You WON’T get lost; it’s marked that well!  But if you STILL manage to do so, ask someone how to Uber to Stokesay Castle; the finish is right next door. Since this is a mid-level challenge, people discouraged from coming are

  1. those under 18 (15-17 yr olds OK with parent present-14 or below MUST have someone run with them)

  2. anyone, other than a current employee, who will miss K-mart and

  3. people who religiously “eat clean” because we ALL need Oreos and  they’re about as far from “clean” as a food group can be. And also DAMN yummy!

In case you’re wondering about the funny signs, I took pictures of them all as I ran. They ran in FOUR series each spaced about 2 miles apart ,and  started with a warning:

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  • WARNING! BE PREPARED FOR…
  • THE SHITTIEST 8.078 MILES
  • YOU’LL EVER RUN (IF YOU CALL THIS RUNNING)

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  • LOTS OF “DOWNHILL” COMING UP
  • AFTER YOU FINISH THIS “RIDGE FROM HELL”

  • THERE HAVE BEEN MORE DEMOCRATS
  • RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
  • THAN WE HAVE ENTRIES IN OUR CLYDESDALE DIVISION
  • MAY MEAN THAT WE THAT WE HAVE LESS “FULL” PEOPLE IN THESE PARTS
  • THAN WE HAVE PEOPLE “FULL OF THEMSELVES”

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  • WHAT GOES DOWN, MUST COME UP
  • AND WE REALLY MEAN “UP”!

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At the last water station, they also had shots of whisky to anyone who needed calm their nerves after surviving this harrowing experience.

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Yeah it was quite the challenge, and this was only the second trail run I have done. Of the three of us, Gary finished first . Alison twisted her ankle on the rocks half-way, but was able to walk-off the injury and finished ahead of me. I’m a Clydesdale, so I tend to run slower, plus I took pictures. I did NOT finish last, and my pace from my first trail run had improved so I am getting faster which makes me happy. Progress is progress, and slow and steady wins the race!  

The best part was my friends waiting for me at the finish line.

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As always, I wish you success and happiness!

RUNNING ON EMPTY?

Do you have what it takes?

RUNNING ON EMPTY

There are different types of fuel offered at gas stations, and each type is meant for a specific type of automobile engine. Diesel fuel has more chemical energy than gasoline, but gasoline engines cannot combust diesel fuel, so the car would stop running. The reverse situation would be similar, and would more than likely destroy the diesel engine because the gasoline would combust at improper intervals. In either case both vehicles would be going nowhere fast.

Some people also live and die by their little gas gauge. Either they fill their tank only when it’s empty, every time it hits half-full, or always fill it only when they use it with just the pennies in their pocket which they hope will be ‘enough’. The last situation is often referred to as ‘running on empty’. Every now and then, you see one of these people walking to a gas station with an empty gas can, IF they even have one.

As you travel down the proverbial road of life, you are the vehicle that gets you to your final destination. Just as there are different types of car fuel, there are FOUR different types of fuel that keep you going.  How far you go in life is determined by how much ‘fuel’ you have. Are you ‘running on empty’, or do you have what it takes to go the distance?  

The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. –Romans 14:3

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1) Physical Fuel (AKA food) – There are seven types of nutrients that every human being needs to survive. These are: Water, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids (fats), vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.  Depending on your body type, age, and sex, you will need different quantities of the seven nutrients at different times of the day, in differing amounts.  Eating too much of the wrong foods at the wrong times will have disastrous health implications.  The same can be said of not getting enough of the right nutrients in your diet.

There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up. –Proverbs 20:21

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2) Financial Fuel – Taking care of yourself requires money. There is very little in life that is free. The reality of consumerism  in a capitalist society is that you get what you pay for. The higher the quality, the more expensive the cost. Professional athletes may earn millions of dollars in their respective sports, but they also send far more on maintaining and improving their physical health. More money means a better quality of life, better food, and in some cases, less stress. Here is a real life example, today I paid $90 for three pairs of socks. Socks as in what you wear on your feet. I am a runner in training for my first marathon at the end of this year. These socks are high quality compression running socks from a trusted brand, MUDGEAR. Yes, you can buy socks at the dollar store for $1, but I guarantee you that they will not be good enough for professional running.  

As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:16

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3) Emotional Fuel – When you feel good about yourself, there is a special type of energy generated.  There is no way to explain it properly. It just radiates outward, and people respond to it.  Since I began training to become a runner, I started losing weight as a result of the combination of diet and exercise programs that I was adhering to. People noticed, and I started getting compliments and praise. This of course adds fuel to fire, and I felt even better. Some people have told me that I’m an inspiration. If my example has managed to fuel the fire of another person to improve their lives, then I count that as a win.  Words have power, and the right word at the proper time can make all the difference in the world. When I ran my first 5K on April 28th, 2019 I told all of my closest friends where and when the race would be. I was excited about the race, and I was also terrified because I have never done anything like that before. It was my secret hope that my friends would take this subtle hint and make a point to cheer me on at the finish line. None of my friends did. What did happen was that other runners, and officials of the race encouraged and cheered me on. And I felt empowered as I crossed that first finish line. As I continued running in more events and for longer distances, I began to make new friends in the running community who share my passion. Now these friends are waiting for me at the finish line cheering me on, and I feel amazing!

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As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. – Psalm 42:1

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4) Spiritual Fuel – As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”  (Philippians 4:13). The Holy Bible is the inerrant word of God and is a source of incredible strength and wisdom to everyone who chooses to read and follow it. I can honestly say that I am a far better man with Jesus in my life than I am without Christ. There is power in that book and I urge you to read it and discover the truth for yourself.  As always, I wish you success and happiness!  

THE CALL OF THE WILD!

The benefits of teamwork!

THE CALL OF THE WILD

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” -Rudyard Kipling

Alaskan Malamutes are the oldest breed of domesticated dog  originally bred for their strength and endurance to haul heavy freight as a sled dog.  Although they resemble wolves, they are not wolves. However , wolves and dogs are interfertile, they are capable of interbreeding with one another, and their resulting offspring are likewise capable of producing offspring themselves.

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Just are there are many types of dogs, there are many types of people.  Claiming that all people are equal in all aspects is as ridiculous as an NFL Quarterback deciding to take ballet lessons, or replacing  a Klondike sled dog with a Chihuahua. Not everyone can be part of a team ‘just because’.  Over a hundred years ago, the poet Rudyard Kipling pointed out that a wolf pack, like a team of sled dogs or athletes,  is only as strong as its weakest member. A weak teammate brings down the entire team. But, when every member of a team is the strongest they can be, exceeding every expectation, they form a ‘Dream Team’ such as  the 1992 USA Olympic Basketball Team which was the greatest collection of players ever formed on the same team. Strong teammates work together, encourage one another, and are stronger together! Together everyone achieves more!

Everyone has dreams. Some dreams are just that, flights of impossible fancy which will never come to fruition because the person dreaming the dream never did the work. Success in anything is not guaranteed, but you will never achieve success without hard work.

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The Budweiser Brewing Company used to sponsor Superbowl commercials featuring their world famous Clydesdale horses. One of these ad spots was ‘The Donkey who wanted to be a Clydesdale’. The tale was told from the point of a donkey who wanted to be on the Clydesdale team his whole life, so he trained hard, did the work, and went for his interview. He made the team.

Clydesdales are one of the largest breeds of work horses. These strong powerful beasts are the malamutes of the horse world. They are not as fast as race horses, but they are bigger and stronger.  So again, putting a much smaller race horse on a Clydesdale team weakens the team.   

Vive la différence!

I am a Clydesdale. In addition to being a breed of horse, Clydesdale is a term applied to larger runners. We are in a different category because of our larger size. Distance running is broken into different divisions by sex, age and weight. A 4O year-old runner would have a hard time beating a 17 year-old.  Same for a woman out-running a man, and a larger person beating a smaller, faster person. So by competing within your division, with similar athletes, you are encouraged to do your best without being discouraged by other outside your category.

The Clydesdale movement began in 1988 and was started by Joe Law who wanted to level the playing field to encourage larger runners. Their motto is “You don’t have to be thin to be fit.” Instead of being compared to a horse, some larger women have instead adopted the term Athena, after the mythical goddess of strength.  I’m not particularly fond of the second term because it’s sexist, but I’m a guy and horses are thinner than cows anyway.  

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I will never be 18 again. We all get older. We do not have to be fat! The important thing is to train hard every day to improve ourselves and not to just give up and quit.   

‘Vive la différence’ is a term borrowed from the French and means ‘long live the difference’. In other words, be happy as you are, but don’t be unhappy about what you are not. Celebrate yourself and be the best that YOU can be. There will always be someone who will be stronger, faster, smarter, richer, thinner, or better looking. YOU are not THEM. THEY are not YOU! YOU are YOU! YOU are the only YOU in the entire world, and the only YOU who will ever exist. So do everything YOU can do to improve YOURSELF  and ignore the criticisms of those who are eager to see YOU fail. YOU have to do the work, YOU have to live YOUR life, and YOU have to be the success you so desperately desire to be in your heart of hearts.  If YOU do NOTHING, nothing will happen, nothing will change, except maybe that the situation will become worse.

I have been working on improving my life and health for years. I have had many failures and false starts along the way. The key is that I never gave up, and if something wasn’t working, I searched for something else that might and tried that instead. Eventually, I stumbled upon a system that worked for me. The terrifying part? Some people have been inspired by ME.  This just means that I have to work even harder, because people are watching and basing their goals on how I do. A few have tried to do what I have accomplished,  failed and gave up. Don’t QUIT! I encourage YOU to pursue YOUR path to success, and I wish YOU all the happiness and success that God has planned for you in your life.  The journey is the important part, so stick to the path until you reach your destination. As always I wish you success and happiness!

NOW WHAT?

Avoiding the stumbling blocks!

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“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

The road to success is paved with hard work. There are no short cuts, and every journey is an individual one. Two of the most destructive stumbling blocks you will encounter are:

  1. self-doubt
  2. unsolicited advice

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. – 1 John 3:20

Self doubt is often created by the internal worry that we somehow do not measure up to the task, whatever it may be. In his famous book The Power of Positive Thinking Norman Vincent Peale gives us the secret to happiness: “The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.”  Self doubt tells us that we can’t succeed, we’ll never win, and that happiness in the form of success will be forever denied us because we are not good enough. The key to remember is that if we were born with a healthy ‘normal’ body, we have the same opportunities in life as any other individual with a similar origin. Sometimes we’ll have people along the road of life to encourage and help us , and sometimes the journey will be a hard and lonely one. The strongest people in life have managed to cast away self doubt and pave their own paths. There is great power in succeeding at a challenge we have set for ourselves. The reward is knowing that we accomplished what the naysayers  told us we could not do. God never gives us anything that we cannot overcome.

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The Narrow Gate

In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.… –Matthew 7:12-14

“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – Burt Lance

Always consider the source when receiving unsolicited advice. Someone telling you not to fix something that works will hold you back from finding a better way to do it. Likewise, if you are doing something that  is working for you, but which is not the way that someone else is doing it, remember that everyone is different. What works for you MIGHT not work for them, and vice versa. As long as you are not doing something illegal or immoral, if it works, keep doing it.  Just because ‘everyone else is doing it’ doesn’t mean you should do it too just to appease them. The only person you are competing with is yourself.   You just need to check yourself to see if you are improving. This is easily accomplished by keeping careful records of your progress. For example, I myself have been struggling with my weight for years, and it took a lot of trial and error before I chanced upon a diet and exercise program that worked for me.  I have carefully monitored and recorded my weight for years. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I discovered a few dietary supplements, meal plans and exercise programs that broke the chains that had been holding me back.  Nine months ago I began competitive running, and now I monitor my progress with that, so I see the results. More importantly,  OTHER people have taken notice of the external changes to my physique, and they have been inspired by it. Actions speak louder than words, and results are hard to argue with. The proof is in the pudding.  If it works, KEEP doing it, never quit, never surrender!

The most important thing you can do in life is to lead by example. You are being watched all the time by everyone in your life, whether or not you are aware of it. It is better to be held up in high esteem as an example of what is possible, as opposed to being a cautionary tale of what NOT to do in life. There are too many fools who took the short-cut down ‘Easy Street’ which lead to destruction. If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, live your life the right way, and remember that life is YOUR life, and you are the one who need to live it. As always, I wish you success and happiness!

THE END IS THE BEGINNING!

Life is a journey!

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“Be decisive. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” – Anonymous.

In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul made a metaphor between his life and career in the first century church equating it with a road race.  

” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – Paul the Apostle (from 2 Timothy 4:7)

This was one of the many ways the early leadership of the church created bridges between people to connect unfamiliar concepts to various individuals. As I began running road races last year in 2019,  I quickly came to realize how appropriate this comparison was. Before I even attempted my first 5K, my goal was to run a marathon. 5K is 3.1 miles, and a marathon is about nine times that at 26.2 miles. I was inspired by Nathan Maxwell  @socialshark , a friend on Twitter who was an ultra-marathoner. Nate and I connected through a love of coffee. When the internet was in its infancy, it was referred to as The Super Information Highway. Now we have social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The thing about social media is that it allows individuals to share ideas, images and information of all sorts at a rapid-fire pace, with little or no filter. This double-edged sword has both brought some people closer, while at the same time destroying some relationships.   I am often amazed at the number of people around the world who check in regularly to read my weekly Sunday opinion piece. It is quite humbling.  

Running is a lifestyle choice. Like many things, you do it for as long as you can, on a regular basis. Once you quit, often there is no going back.

 “The end is in the beginning.” – T.S. Eliot

The First Key to success in life is proper planning executed at an early time. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I am currently using a lot of racing and health metaphors because of the interconnectivity of health and wealth. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, “Your health IS your wealth, and your wealth IS your health!” As I prepare for my first marathon at the end of 2020, today I run my first official race of the year, a 10K in Muhlenberg PA. Last year I ran a dozen races, from 5Ks to half-marathons. In 2020, my plan is to run twice that, both in distance and frequency. Each of these races has an entry fee. Had my finances not been in order, I could not afford to do this. As an athlete in training for competition, I have certain nutritional requirements. Dietary supplements , special meal plans, and better quality organic produce all cost money. Again, had I not taken steps years ago to fix my finances, I would not be in a position to afford these added costs. Not to mention I also need to buy quality running shoes and gym clothes.  

The Second Key to success in life is you have to want it. That should be obvious, but saying you WANT it and actually wanting it enough to do the work to attain the goal are two different things. When you really WANT something, the effort you are putting into attaining that goal should be outwardly apparent to anyone observing you. Actions speak louder than words, but RESULTS shout from the rooftops! 

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The Third Key is not giving up. The road is long and hard, and there are many stumbling blocks.  My most grueling 5K of 2019 was a night run obstacle course, The Zombie Fun Run. The ‘fun’ stopped when I wrenched my knee as I slipped on a muddy hill. I was terribly concerned with each painful step that I would not be able to finish, but I managed to limp my way to the end. In a couple of days, I was right as rain again.  The first half-marathon I ran two months prior also was fun, until I hit the 9th mile, and was breaking personal distance records. That was when I started getting leg cramps.  I also limped to the end that time.  DNF (Did Not Finish) is currently not in my vocabulary. I have completed every race I signed up for. ONLY once (during the Chobert Challenge 15K trail run) was I DFL (Last), but I did finish.  Often when I am in such trying periods, struggling to reach the finish line, another quote from the Apostle Paul comes to mind.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Paul the Apostle (from Philippians 4:13)

Just like Nate’s Twitter posts inspired me to begin running, other folks I have connected with have inspired me to continue. One fellow runner who is truly amazing is Bruce Cronrath. Bruce is 76 years old, has a replacement knee and still runs half-marathons.  Whenever  we race,  he’s usually a few minutes faster than I am. I currently run about a  12 minute mile, and outweigh Bruce by over 100lbs. Bruce is a Vietnam  Vet and a credit to our country. He is the perfect example of never giving up, and demonstrates what is possible when you devote a lifetime of dedication to a healthy lifestyle  . I hope that when I reach his age, I have his level of stamina and endurance as well.

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Hopefully I have encouraged you through my blog to rise to new heights in whatever pursuits you wish to engage in. You can accomplish it as long as you give it everything you’ve got and never quit!  As always, I wish you success and happiness!

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RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

(Your life may depend on it someday)

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE

“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” — George S Patton

Two hikers stumble across a grizzly bear and her cubs. The enraged mama bear snarls and charges towards them. As the two men turn to flee in terror, the one says “We’ll never make it, we can’t outrun the bear!”  His buddy replies, “I don’t need to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you.”

That’s an old joke, and you’ve probably stumbled across it before. Often it gets recycled or changed a bit.  Lately it’s been used pretty often in the popular Zombie Apocalypse Fiction genre.  One traumatic  example was in the second season of TV’s The Walking Dead when Shane shot Otis so he could outrun the zombies chasing them by sacrificing his buddy.  In the move Zombieland, Columbus had 33 survival rules, but his NUMBER ONE RULE was Cardio. “To escape a pursuing zombie you will need to out-run it, and this means being in good shape. ” There is even an running app for your smart phone called Zombies, RUN!

Many people take running for granted, often fooling themselves into believing that if they ever needed to run, or run FAST and far , they could if they had to. You’ll never know how far, or how fast you can run unless you make time for a regular fitness regime that includes cardio.  Now besides entertainment, end of the world Zombie fiction is good for getting people to THINK about what they what they would do if the unthinkable happened. When a natural disaster such as hurricane Katrina or Sandy suddenly devastated coastal regions would you have  fresh water, power, or food? What about tools, and other supplies. So let’s assume you were smart and did have a ‘bug-out-bag’ with supplies ready and waiting for an emergence. Could you strap it on your back and walk with that load  for miles if need be? Could you?

Two out of every three Americans are overweight, and half of those are obese. Being FAT is not healthy. It is bad for your heart, your veins, your bones, and your mental state. It is bad for every part of your body. I should know, I’ve been struggling with weight issues for years, and two years ago I embarked on a vigorous diet and exercise program to get my life back on track once and for all. Understand this above all else, it is impossible to lose weight by exercise alone. Exercise just helps to strengthen and tone the body. You’re food is your fuel, and your body needs the best possible nutrition to build strong bones and muscles. As a stress eater, I know that it is a struggle to give up comfort foods such as chocolate, cake, and pizza. Trust me, I know all about it. It is a daily struggle of mind over matter, but once you establish a daily routine and stick to it, you will see results. It will NOT happen overnight, all good things take time. The important thing is to start.

The Power of Positivity

When you feel good about yourself you feel better physically, and vice versa. I was in a bit of a funk a year ago because my weight had hit a plateau which is common.  So I needed to change what I was doing as far as both diet and exercise. After all what is the point of being rich and successful if you’re too sickly or overweight to enjoy the fruit of your labors? Doing NOTHING is not an option. When I was fatter, my knees hurt. Running was not an option in that state. As I began losing weight, the knee pain lessened and I started doing the elliptical more and more at the gym. And I began to see results so I started feeling better about myself. Obesity causes mental illness, such as depression.  Over the past two years I’ve managed to lose about 60 lbs so far, 30 last year, and 30 this year.  Last summer when I lost the first 30 lbs, I was on vacation and a cute waitress at my favorite cafe noticed, and told me I looked really good. That one compliment made my entire year and provided the impetus  to train even harder. So I decided to try running.

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One of my friends on Twitter is Nathan Maxwell @socialshark . I met him though CoffeeChat. He’s an Ultra endurance athlete, married with six kids. He started running 11 years ago and at the time he too was overweight, and couldn’t run one mile. Since then he has trained incredibly hard and to date has run more than 60 ultra marathons and four 100 milers. He has been (and still is) an incredible source of inspiration and motivation. I am fully convinced that I would not have reached the level of running I have currently achieved had it not been for his knowledge, wisdom, and encouragement.  Almost six months ago, I ran my  first 5K, that’s 3.1 miles. Since then I did a 15K Trail Run, uphill with 4 creek crossings in 90°F heat, and two weeks ago I ran my first half-marathon (13.1 miles). On October 13th I’m running another half-marathon, and four days later I have a 5K night run planned. I hope to run a full marathon in a year or so once I get my times down on the half-marathon.

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If there is one thing that I can say about the running community, it is filled with people who encourage and support other runners. I have been told that I was AMAZING more than once, and have gotten many thumbs-up, fist bumps, and high-five palm slaps. Likewise I have passed on encouragement to fellow runners, including one man  who decided to run his first 5K at age 70. And yes, Richard finished, and he wasn’t last! Even if he was, the point is running the race, and not giving up. I was dead last when I ran the Chobert Challenge 15K trail run. I burned over 2000kcals and was exhausted and staving when I crossed the finish line, but I did it, and there was even pizza waiting! Next time, I won’t be last. My first half marathon was grueling, but I finished! The best thing about half-marathons and up is that you get a finishers medal when you cross the finish line. This is not to be confused  with the insulting participation medal. It is a FINISHERS MEDAL and you earn it when you FINISH.  Crossing that finish line is an accomplishment that needs to be recognized.  Each year there are over 750 marathons and half-marathons held across America. Less than 1% of the US population runs in these races.  As for 5K races and such, there are also medals awarded by divisions and gender, so you can still win first, second, or third in your bracket even if you were not in the top three over all, and your times are recorded so you can track your progress as you go for the gold! Good luck, and as always I wish you success and happiness!  

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