Having been raised in a military environment, I’ve learned the importance of punctuality. Five minutes early is on time, on time is late, late is unacceptable. With very few exceptions (motherhood being one of them) I’ve kept to that rule. Having modeled for years I understand the complexity of a good winged eyeliner but it’s never worth being late. 

I ran a road race Saturday. It’s been a while – and I needed to get back out there. I run for Parkinson’s Disease – which has sidelined my awesome, athletic father and several other people I know. I run so they know – at least for a moment – they’re not alone. And usually around the half way point of long runs, we’re suffering together.

The race began at 7:30am and it was 3 miles away from my house. I woke up at 6:30 am, made a cup of coffee, got dressed and prepared to head out when my tiny tot woke up super early and despite a house full of visitors to watch her, she needed me. So I snuggled with her until the very last moment. I arrived at the parking lot at 7:20am and It Was PACKED. I had to park in the overflow lot and jog to the start line. I turned the corner and saw maybe a dozen people and another dozen children playing around.

Where was everyone? I went to the packet pick up table to grab my prepaid bib. “I’m here for my race packet for the 5k.”

“Ok! But the 5k started at 7am……”

I was late to the party.

“Good news”, said the peppy volunteer. “We have a 2k fun run at 7:30.”

Deal.

To the dozen or so parents I passed who were trotting along with their kids teaching them about pacing and breathing,

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Suckers.

The lesson was I was given a second chance to run, despite my being late to the main event.

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This weekend was significant for me for another reason – I was Baptized.

Let me back up. My father is a minister. However, he believed that we should make the choice as adults when we’re able to internalize what it means to make the commitment to follow Jesus. I decided, despite his struggles with mobility, my dad had one last baptism in him and I was going to be it! Even though I was late to the party at 40, now was as good a time as any.

First, I needed to build a village to make it happen. I was inspired by a photo of Marc Kapsalis, (West Point class of ’85). He was a big, strong, tough hockey player from Chicago who was baptized by dad as a cadet and he was coming to visit for the weekend. My daughter is about the same age I was when I first met Cadet Kapsalis and how amazing for her to see it all come full circle.

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Next, I asked Chaplain Funk if he and his wife Kathy Ann, (both WP ’80), would make the long drive from the east coast of Florida to help with the ceremony. Rick and Marc are on an advisory board with me and we’ve grown quite close over the past years. (Hence the shirts. Product placement at it’s best.)

We all gathered, with other close friends, around my parents pool and I was fully submerged into the Kingdom of God.

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There are so many times we’ve been late to things. Late to learning life lessons. Late to forgiving people. Late to dealing with the chip on our shoulders. Late to making peace with things. Late to healing past pain. Late to telling people how we feel about them. Late to love. Late to making our health a priority. Late to saying yes to God.

It’s not too late. It’s not too late to start working out. It’s not too late to make good food choices. It’s not too late to find your faith. It’s not too late to forgive, love, learn, grow, change. It’s not! Isn’t that the best thing you’ve heard all day??? IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO BE WHO YOU WERE MEANT TO BE. 

Surround yourself with your people – people who make you better. Find your support system. Plug in to your community. Join a church. A running club. A health club. A spa. Say yes to dinner invitations, to reunions, to old friends, to new possibilities.

and Run to Win.

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I’ve spent a significant amount of time in airports lately.

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I’m now in Europe but I imagine I’ll have to freak out my credit card and head home to check on my Irma-beaten home. For now, I’m refreshing a web cam hourly and drowning my anxieties in wine. In the midst of it all, I ran a race.

Stuttgart, Germany.

3pm on a Saturday.

The main event (I think. I don’t read, speak or understand German) was a 10k that started and ended on a stadium track. There was a 5k for losers-that-couldn’t-do-the-10k that started about ten minutes before. I was in that group.

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There were only a few dozen runners, mostly high school aged kids and some very fast adults. My favorite travel companion ran with me. She was yelling err motivating me like a tiny angry drill sergeant but it didn’t matter. I was pacing myself.

Was I? Or was I just being lazy?

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We ran at the back of the pack. I jogged a comfortable pace that allowed me a consistent jog without the need to walk or rest or breathe too hard. I had plenty in the tank and could even sprint around the track at the end. Pacing is important. Knowing your limits, knowing whats ahead of you, saving for the future. Economists will tell you pacing yourself financially is how you prepare for the un for seen future and keep yourself financially fit. But when is pacing detrimental?

At my home church in Sarasota, Florida (whats left of it after Irma) our pastor has been doing a sermon series on prayer. He talked about exercising your prayer life by extending the time you spend in prayer, increase the velocity and intention of the prayer. In other words,

don’t pace your spiritual life.

Amp it up. Don’t say, “God bless them”. Say, “God fill them with your Joy!” Don’t say, “God do something about my shitty co worker.” Instead, say, “God turn my heart to show them your Grace!” If you’re conservative, pray for Democrats. If you’re liberal, pray for the Congress. We all should be praying for our President – there’s a lot at stake. It’s not easy. It’s time consuming. It’s humbling to pray for people we don’t like. It’s uncomfortable to work those seldom used muscles. It’s exercising spiritual muscle.

Jillian Michaels, in a yoga dvd I do when i’m being lazy err pacing myself, she says, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” You win, big J. You win.

At this week’s race, we jogged the first mile with a nice German lady who was keeping our pace. Then, around the half way mark, she excelled. She picked up the pace and continued accelerating with each kilometer and finished quite near the front. I don’t know if she was able to sprint around the track but I know she ran to win.

My friend Amy was so frustrated with my “pacing” she almost left me for the biergarten. Seriously. The race had a biergarten.

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She stayed with me, encouraging me and shouting random German phrases in her thick Texas accent. She ran to win.

“Runners train, they don’t practice.  Your workouts are designed to work different phases. Often this means running at controlled levels to maximize the time spent working in those zones. By going all out you don’t spend much time in that zone in the beginning and then cannot go fast enough to get in the zone at the end. However pushing your limits is where your gain your speed and strength. You need to incorporate sprints and high levels of anaerobic workouts to exhaust your muscles, break them down and build them back up. Run the correct paces.” – random Reddit dude. He runs to win.

We need to be picking up the pace – doing our wind sprints so when we need the extra oomphf to pass the pack, our bodies respond. Likewise, we need to keep doing our spiritual sprints so when we need to spring to action – like rebuilding whats left of a hurricane ravaged home – we’ve got enough strength to climb that mountain.

My spiritual muscles are exhausted from praying this week.

Next time, let’s go all out on a run. And then vomit. It’ll be great!

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Run to win!

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What does a motivational running blog have to do with an election?

Regardless of what side you fall on, a new era is before us. I, in my 30’s, can not think of another time when we have been so hopeless about our future and each other. Like the last quarter of a 5k or the 22nd mile of a marathon, when our muscles have depleted their resources and our motivation is waning, we have to engage that spiritual muscle of hope in our training and faith in our body to cross the finish line. It’s the muscles we need to reach the end of the race, finish the match, to compete when the game is on the line.

Cliff McCrath, 1978 NSCAA Coach of the Year who retired second on the all time collegiate coaching wins list, talked about the political protesting of the inauguration almost like a game. He said, “But, just as I felt bad about other losses, I buckled down and threw myself into the process…” Imagine if he had let his players walk off the field, game half over. Imagine if the striker or point guard or quarterback decided not to play the game because he didn’t like the opponent. Would we support them?

As for me, I don’t see this election as a game-ender. If you have deleted friends over this or they have deleted you, well, then they weren’t very good friends. The sun will still rise in the morning, and the morning after that, and the morning after that. But the world seems pretty pissed off.

Good friends, spouses, roommates, teammates, should always come ready to play, ready to win.

Election Day 2017.

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Screw the stick figures. Be like LaToya and Kathy….

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Two Americans in Europe.

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One of us is a registered Republican, one a Democrat. One of us was active duty, one of us opposed the second gulf war. One of us experienced the raw hatred of racism, one of us has only known the white bubble of privilege. Despite it all we have laughed together, wept together, shared our hopes for the future as our young daughters braided each others hair.

You can decide to disappear when things get tough.

We’ve decided to show up.

Be the change you want in your leaders.

It’s our right to show up and protest. Protest cyber bullies by supporting each other on social media. Protest loneliness by getting to know your neighbors. Protest hatred by practicing empathy. Protest extremism by seeing another’s point of view.

Play fair. Be humble. Practice equality. Above all, be kind! Kindness has a ripple effect that will have more impact on the world than any protest, law or lawmaker.

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Get in the game! It’s not over yet. In fact, it’s not even half time.

Play hard – give it everything you’ve got. Don’t get lazy with your body, mind, spirit. Athletes exercise their bodies to stay fit, stay competitive, stay in top form. It’s how we win the game. We have to exercise our spiritual muscles to be competitive in our every day lives so when the hard times come – and they always come – we’re in top shape! Strengthen the muscles of kindness, empathy, compassion.

You’ve all gone to the inauguration, um, stadium to see the runners race. Everyone runs, one wins. Run to win. They’re after a personal fortune, err, prize that tarnishes and fades. You’re after a gold that’s eternal. 1 Corinthians 9:24 (kind of…)

Exercise the spiritual muscle of HOPE. Run to win.

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My parents are in town for a week. Parkinson’s makes it difficult for my father to travel and he doesn’t do well out of his routine but I needed them and they came.

Life Lesson #1: Ask for what you need. Don’t expect to get what you want but ask for what you need.

I wanted to do something special for them while they’re here so I asked them if there is anyone in particular they would like to see in the DC area. They gave me a few names of people – intimate friends – people who feel like home.  Some of them joined us for a few hours last night.

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Life Lesson #2: “Home” is not places but people. The comfort of your childhood living room can be revisited in the embrace of an old friend.

We assembled in the lounge of a hotel nearby. The first to arrive was a wrestler from the class of 1991. A product of my father’s high school in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, though over 30 years a part. President of FCA at West Point, a constant presence in our home. Two more couples came. First, leaders in their life and in their faith. He a strong, calm presence. She an effervescent joy that heals the soul.

The second family are generational friends – parents, children, grandchildren… Our families bound together by faith, hope, service and sacrifice. For years, their Thayer Road home was our family base when we’d return to the Academy for visits. They feel like home.

Life Lesson #3: Relationships rooted in Faith are like a house built on a rock.

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”

The last guest was a grad from the early 1980’s that my father had craved a reunion with for over 20 years. He was a surprise guest – a gift I could give thanks to my stalking abilities and social media presence. 20 years but as a day….

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Life Lesson #4: Stalking works. (oh, wait. Don’t do that, kids.)

Life Lesson #4.5: Reach out.

Don’t be afraid of rejection. If it happens, you’ll use the spiritual muscle you’ve been honing to deal with it.

A recent study said the only regret people have is NOT taking a chance. What are you waiting for? What are you afraid of? You’ve been through worse. Don’t let fear paralyze you. Life is too short. You can handle whatever comes. Reach out. Be brave. Be Bold. Love hard.

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We had other reunions. A former cadet from the class of 1988 – one of my first “big brothers” that I haven’t seen in 20 years stopped in while passing through town.

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And a few weeks ago we reunited with a super special couple (whose son was one of my favorite guys growing up) – people that are more than family. (is there such a thing?) Sometimes family is the what we’re born into. Sometimes family is what we put together ourselves. Love them both.

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Life Lesson #5: Love more. Love harder.

Like an athlete playing his last game of the last season, lay it all on the field. Like the last quarter mile of a race, sprint to the finish. Run to win.

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