A Weekend At Camp

This past weekend, a mere few days after my marathon, I hopped in my car and drove 10 hours to my camp. It’s called Camp Sandy Cove and I have been involved with the camp, as a camper and as a staff member, for over 10 years. Over that time I’ve grown a ton, gone through incredible challenges, had awesome fun times, met wonderful, lifelong friends and been able to do ministry with many great kids. I am so thankful for camp and all it has meant in my life.

This past weekend they had a mini-camp retreat for campers who want a taste of camp before the summer. I realized that given my job and scheducle before Czech, this would be the only time I could visit. So I emailed Tim, the director, asking if he could use me to help out. He agreed and so off I went.

I only spent 3 days, 4 nights there but it was truly incredible. I got to be in a cabin again with kids. I had camp food, sang camp songs, slept in a cabin. It was really fun. But the best part was that I got to give devotions to the campers in my cabin on both friday and saturday nights when they were there. Giving devos was always my favorite as a chief because I was able to sit down with the kids, explain something from the Word and then answer any questions they might have (you see where this interest in teaching is coming from?) Now the first night my kids were pretty energetic and it was late so I kept it short and I’m not sure they got much from it. But the second night was totally different. I talked about my marathons and how running was really important to me and I love it but it doesn’t come close to my relationshipwith God. They paid attention pretty intently and even asked some good questions.

Now I may never see those kids again and I may never return to camp in an official status again either but I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to pour into those kid’s hearts and minds. Thats the great part of being part of ministries like my camp (and Thrive). Even when you leave you know that ministry will continue in your absence. God will continue to do great things. And all you can do is look back and think, “Man, thanks God for letting me be a part of that.”

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Boston. Check.

It’s probably too soon to fully appreciate what I did today but I wanted to write about it while it was fresh in my mind. Today I completed my first Boston Marathon. I ran it in 3 hours, 6 minutes and 29 seconds. That time is just over a minute faster than my Qualifying time that I ran in the Disney Marathon. This is weird. Before 2009 I was just an ex and fairly casual college runner. Now I can legitimately say that I run marathons. Kind of cool, I think.

Boston was totally different from Disney but really great for a number of reasons. Starting in a small town 26.2 miles outside Boston it meanders through parts of 8 towns in Massachusetts before ending on Boylston street. Some highlights:

1) Little kids watching with their parents who hand out oranges, water or just try to get a high-five from you. Very Cute.

2)The sheer noise of the Wellesley college girls. I knew it was coming and I could literally hear their roar as I approached. For a good quarter-mile theer is a sheer wall of screaming, crazy, college girls leaning over the barrier, cheering you on. Add in the noise of the crowds in Boston and it is pretty surreal.

3) I high fived a guy in a chicken costume on the side of the road and ran by Santa and a few elves later on. Also late in the race I ran past a guy dressed as Captain America, complete with a shield.

My ultimate goal, sub 3 hours, was not met, but in terms of pure effort I am amazed at what I did. My performance was vintage me. I ran the same pace for about 15 miles, running even and fairly strong. I picked it up on a downhill mile and then slowed on the hills as it got later into the race. But after I crested the last major hill around mile 21 something strange happened. I decided to make a surge. It was still a long way to the finish but at this point I knew 3 hours was not in the cards and so I think that sort of took the pressure off.

So I took off. I found open space on the sides of the route and just started blowing by people. And another amazing thing happened. My legs handled it. At Disney, my hamstrings were gone by mile 22 but here they survived the whole way and never really hurt. I didn’t train more or better for this race, so the only explanation is the crowds and pure adrenaline carried me.

The last few miles I kept pushing. I had tunnel vision of sorts, keeping my eyes ahead and missing a lot of the fantastic crowds. At this point every mile feels like it takes two to complete and it was touch and go but I still kept surging and when I made the final turn, all I could do was try to remember to smile, pump my fist a bit and get to the finish line.

After I crossed the line and stopped running I realized how much I had overextended myself. My legs were shot and the long walk to get water, food, a medal, and meet family was difficult. I considered plopping in one of the available wheel chairs for a minute but didn’t. I met my mom and her friend, got home and promptly passed out on the couch for 2 hours. I feel better now. My legs probably won’t tomorrow…

So that’s it. I ran Boston. And it was awesome.

Running Boston.

On Monday I will be running in my first ever Boston Marathon. It is a big deal.

For many people the idea of running 26.2 miles without stopping is not just unexciting but unfathomable. I hope to show with this entry why I am tremendously excited to run in this race.

The Boston Marathon is the oldest race of its kind in America. I will be in the 113th edition. That’s right, this race has been going on every year since 1897. It is widely considered one of the best marathons in the world. It is a race that just bleeds history. I will be running with around 25,000 people. That’s right, so many people want to run this race that they have to put a cap on the number who can officially enter. I will have good company on race day. Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher, both 2008 Olympians, are expected to finish near the top and both have a good shot at winning. Bill Rodgers, an American who won Boston 4 times in 6 years in the 70s will be running for the first time in 10 years.

This is not an easy, flat course. The elite guys who want to set world records go to places like Chicago, Berlin and London. The guys who decide who run Boston (and elites generally only run 1-2 a year) simply love the course, the experience and the running. The course is mostly downhill for the first half making it seem deceptively easy. But than when you get into the teens, the hills start. They are notorious and infamous, none more so than the last, called heartbreak hill. It’s not big, it just comes at the one point in the race you would prefer it not to.

I want to run fast and get under 3 hours, 7 and a half minutes faster than my debut marathon in january at Disney World. I am under no illusions that this is an ambitious and difficult goal to meet. I will have to stay focused and run hard the whole time. I have to hope my legs don’t tighten too bad near the end as they did as Disney. I will have to run with a confidence that to be honest I very rarely have.

Ultimately though this is more about the experience than the time. Boston is run on a holiday that’s only here in New England, Patriot’s Day. The race, in it’s entirety is shown on network TV here. To be a local experiencing this for the first time is a huge highlight of my running career and my life.

I don’t know when I will cross the finish line on Monday, but when I do I’m going have a smile on my face.

Talking to God in a Convenience Store.

In the past year or so it has been my unfolding habit to blog about spiritual things on major Christian holidays (pretty much Christmas and Easter). So here we go again, enjoy.

Last night I worked the night shift at my job. My own store closes at midnight, but many of my company’s stores are open 24 hours, including one nearby my own. Earlier this week my manager asked if I wanted to cover a shift this weekend for that store. I thought I heard 7-11 and figured a)it would be short b) early in morning or late at night, no big deal.

A few minutes after I agreed, my manager comes over to give me further instructions and reveals it is 11PM-7AM. The night before Easter services at church. Awkward. The plus side is the 7 hours that were on Easter I got paid time and a half. The bad side was staying up all night was not a thing I like to do.

So last night I show up to work expecting a long and dull night. And for the most part it was pretty dull. Not many customers came in and I had a decent amount of boring tedious chores to keep me busy. But in the first hour or so when I was just settling into the new store I decided to pray. Amidst cigarettes, lottery tickets, and mostly overpriced small groceries I just started talking to God.

I’m not much of a prayerful person, I’m not too good at it, but I felt like I should. Being at home during this time hasn’t been the most helpful in keeping my relationship with God strong and so I just made up for lost time and brought up a lot of things that were on my mind. It wasn’t anything special and with customers walking in every now and again it was pretty disjointed, but ultimately I think merely being able to do what I did last night shows in a small way what we celebrate today.

Jesus Christ rose again, conquering death, so that we can be in relationship with him. He made himself, the infinite and holy, accessible to us, the mortal and flawed. Praying in a crappy little convenience store should not be something that glorifies God. And yet last night I think it did. Truly we serve a good and faithful king.

Happy Easter Everyone.

Going to Sokolov!

Big news came today in my email. TeachOverseas completed its team formation process and has figured out where to put teachers for next year. I got the email today. I don’t have many details just yet but here’s what I know.

I have been assigned to the town of Sokolov. It is in the far west of the country, very close to the German border. My teammate/roommate is another first year teacher as well. He is on facebook and while I haven’t talked to him yet I probably will in the coming weeks.

It looks like I will teach in both a middle school and a high school there, as well as schools they haven’t determined yet. I believe I will still be teaching English but I may get the chance to teach history as well. I’ll let you know when I figure that out.

On an exciting note for me I did some research and found out my team has a soccer team in the country’s second division (equivalent of AAA in baseball) and they have a very nice little soccer ground with a track around it. Hopefully I will be able to attend many games while I am there.

This news totally adds to my excitement and I cannot wait to get news about where I am going and what I am doing. I will post news and updates here as I receive them.

Nostalgia trip

Have you ever had a trip down memory lane? You’ve taken a second and just remembered a time in your life at a certain place with certain people and it was all just really good? I had one of those moments last night. It was random and kept me up late looking at pictures but it was pretty cool.

Most of my nostalgia trips generally involve camp. I’ve had lots of great times and friends over the summers at Camp Sandy Cove and it’s pretty easy to look back and say to myself “those times were awesome.” Last night though was a nice reflection on the more recent and equally as good time I had in South Africa.

It’s only been a few months since I’ve been back but I found myself on the Thrive Africa site last night just looking at pictures. I am a pretty easy going guy and it’s hard for me to always recognize the significance of things I’ve been a part of. But last night it sunk in that my time with Thrive was significant. And awesome. And good. And pretty darn fun a lot of the times. It’s crazy that that was my life for nearly a year. Waking up on a mission base in another country, going to classes, meeting people from all over every week. It was truly a big deal and I am thankful I got to go do it and be a part.

With all that said I should be hearing in a week or so where exactly in the Czech Republic I am going to be and who I will be living and working with. Very exciting. As soon as I hear I’ll update my blog. Stay tuned.