I'm not completely sure what brave looks like. But I recognize getting braver when I see it.
Several years ago when I worked with at-risk youth we'd take them on week-long trips to challenge courses. It was part of the plan to make them more self-confident.
The culminating event of those trips was the zip line. I remember standing with young boys and teens beneath the towering platform they'd climb to get attached to a cable, step off the edge of the platform and zip a couple hundred yards through the sky to a platform at the other end. I'd like to have a buck for every kid who stood there, looking up with fear in their eyes and said "I will never do that."
A few even quite angrily called me creative names while considering the possibility I might try to "make" them do that.
While we're talking about bucks, though, I'd also like to have one for every one of those kids who at the end of the week abandoned never and climbed up that platform. I'm not sure there's a greater event to witness than a young kid overcoming his fear and screaming with joy as he zips across a southern sky. It's like watching the most useful of prison breaks.
It was a thrill to relive some of those memories this week with my own kids. Especially my Elliott.
Elliott has always been less apt than his younger brother Ian to take a step on the wild side. When some of the riskier opportunities have come his way he's politely stepped away and said "no thank you." Even as he's watched his younger brother take some of those opportunities on he's rather confidently stood on the sidelines and said good for him.
So when Ian AND Elliott declared they wanted to do the zip line while we were at Massanutten this week I was caught off guard. I said let's go take a look at it first before we decide we really want to do this thing. We did. We looked. Way up the hill at that platform seemingly sitting in the lower levels of the clouds and they said, yes, we want to do it.
I'll be honest. Even after they were harnessed up I kept waiting for the change of mind.
As I watched them rise together, brothers, side by side up the mountainside on a conveyor, I kept waiting for them to look back with "get us out of here" eyes.
But they never looked back.
Then I watched the two of them climb up on that platform. From where Katie and I stood they were a couple of specks really, but they were our boys so I knew exactly what those specks were. And then, before I could see them racing across the sky I could hear cable against cable above me as they flew toward us. The emotions welled up in me as I watched Elliott fly above me onto the landing platform - and then Ian.
I knew I'd just watched them take giant steps toward bravery. There faces up above us were all the evidence I needed. I couldn't help but recall the life changing steps those steps turned out to be for so many young kids I'd worked with years ago. I'm sure my face projected my pride in those kids on my own.
The last several years I've personally discovered just how much better life is outside of our comfort zone than it is trapped inside it. What a thrill to watch our boys leap outside of theirs and experience just that.
And they are already asking, when can we go back?
Two Brave Boys Fying Through The Virginia Sky
And Dad Wasn't Going To Miss Out On The Fun
Labor Day weekend always comes with mixed emotions. There's the high of the return of college football season. The high of the cooler temperatures and changing leaves.
But then there's the low. The low of the boys headed back to school. The hectic schedule that comes with it. The low of homework and "how many days til summer, dad."
There were no big Cartwrights Go West summer vacations this year. Mainly because we did that gig back in February when we went to Arizona. But it was a busy summer nonetheless. There was swim team, basketball, camps for every sport imaginable, a week in Ohio, an eclipse - how can I forget the eclipse - and too much more to write about.
It was appropriate then that we gave the summer one final big goodbye yesterday with a trip to Westmoreland State Park with our friends Chuck and Mary Chris and her son and one of Elliott's best buddies Jack. We squeezed a few miles of hiking, a picnic lunch, sharks teeth hunting and some swimming/water fighting all in a few hours window. That seemed to capture the pace of our summer pretty well.
So it's off to catch the school bus now. Until next summer, everyone have a great year.
I have one monument, one memorial, one statue from my heritage that means anything to me. It's a wooden cross at Calvary, violently erected with my creator nailed deep into its face on a hill outside of Jerusalem. It can never be toppled. Even after the wood from that cross has long rotted and disappeared beneath centuries of rock and soil, that monument stands tall in my heart, and in my mind and in my soul. It lives on with a constant reminder, a commandment, to love the God on that cross and every human being the monument lives on for.
That's why when others are angered, saddened, or anxious about the idea of bringing down a Robert E Lee statue, I am not. I'll go on fighting for the cross on Calvary, but for worldly symbols and statues, count me out. Over and over the bible reminds me this is not my home. I believe those reminders are precisely for moments like this.
They are especially for moments like this when the fights over worldly statues come at the expense of the commandment to love every human. Moments that really challenge me to think and reflect.
I don't know how well I've listened, how well I could possibly ever understand, just how much hurt pours from my African American brothers and sisters when they say that, to them, these symbols we fight for are constant reminders of the days they were owned, the days they were the subjects of wars fought and lives sacrificed in the name of keeping them owned.
I don't know and can't possibly understand because I have the privilege of being white. I don't apologize for the privilege, that was God delivered not me designed. But it does mean I can't possibly understand what it feels like to be black instead of white when walking or driving past a statue of Robert E Lee. All I can do is listen. And when my brothers and sisters who are equally loved by that monument on Calgary say that statue hurts them and saddens them and angers them, I have a decision to make. Do I stand by Calgary or Confederacy? And do I understand in that moment, looking in their eyes and feeling their hurt, I can't possibly stand by both.
I think I've tried to minimize that hurt throughout my life: That was then, this is now. Look how far we've come. I don't see color when I look at people. I have plenty of black friends.
But what I can't minimize is this:
If my mom and dad were black, when I was raised on my great-grandfather's farm, instead of my parents using that experience to teach me the value of hard work they would have been haunted by the memories of the days when their great-grandparents were enslaved to do that hard work. If my mom and dad were black, instead of celebrating the day they sent me off to elementary school they would have been haunted by their own school days when they were shipped off to be educated with people of their own color, hidden away from their previous owners. When I was old enough to vote, instead of my white parents talking to me about the privilege I had to cast a vote my black parents would have been reminded that the day I was born their color wasn't afforded that same priviledge. When my black parents took me off to college they would have been overwhelmed with pride. Not because I was getting a college education, but because I was part of a generation of blacks who were finally getting the opportunity to have what white people had been getting for a couple of centuries before then.
Sure, those are old ideals, old practices, old ways of looking at things. But the consequences are still very real. Our government leaders are largely white. Our major corporations and businesses and national media are run by white people. The largest influences of our current culture are reflections of voting, economic and education practices of our not as distant as we like to believe past. I believe this is so, for the most part, not because white people are exercising their white privilege, but mostly because white people like me have had the privilege of being white.
It's a privilege that has set an entire people group back centuries in the pursuits of all things we call American. When this group argues taking down statues allows them to catch up, I suppose I could say the statues are inconsequential to those efforts. But that would be coming from someone who's never experienced the consequences of being forced to start that desperately far behind.
Yesterday, when talking about the violence that erupted in Charlottesville last weekend when white supremists came to town to protest the removal of a Robert E Lee statue, President Trump said this: "So this week, it is Robert E Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"
That's a good question, I suppose. I guess I would answer where it stops being the loving thing to do. I wish we could have more civil conversations about where that is, but when it comes to arguing about worldly symbols, that gets tough. I suppose that's why the bible warned us repeatedly to keep our affections for idols and symbols in check.
I know this, though. The one monument I worship, the only one I love - it is never coming down. There's a sense of peace in that. And no matter what your stance is with the Robert E Lee statue, it's a peace you can find too. Not only is it a monument that will survive the times, no matter how ugly the protests get, I will spend eternity at the feet of that monument. That's a claim I just can't make about the others.
I really thought our boys' swimming team days were over. Elliott had never been on the team. Ian swam two summers ago and seemed to like it but decided last summer he didn't want to do it anymore. So I was a bit surprised when I came home from work one evening this past spring and discovered the boys were thinking about joining the team this summer.
Katie's always been big on the boys swimming. Because the boys swimming means she's hanging with the other swim moms each morning. And swim team moms put soccer moms to shame when it comes to creating a social gathering. They meet at the pool every summer morning, turn the kids over to coach, drink mimosas and talk about the challenges of motherhood - and likely wifehood - until the final whistle blows and they remember they actually brought kids to the party. So my immediate thought was Katie bribed them with video games or a playmate for Fritz to join the team.
At dinner that night I asked the boys, all a part of the investigation I'd suddenly launched, so tell me boys, what are the reasons you do and don't want to be on the swim team. I was sure this would stump them. Especially Ian, my younger one. I fully expected him to say he didn't want Fritz to grow up an only dog. That wasn't his answer though. He said he liked swimming, he wanted to hang out with his friends, but the meets were too long and that was the reason he didn't want to join the team. (Exactly. Long meets pal. You should really focus hard on that point).
Elliott had a similar plus list. Hang out with the friends and swim a lot. His negative was a bit different, and one I wish he hadn't told me. He said he didn't want to swim because it would be embarassing if he finished last in the races.
Wrong answer, because now I was fully committed to getting Katie to her summer social. Many things have come easy to Elliott, so I knew the fact that he was hesitating to join the team because he was worried about not doing well was the exact reason he had to be on the team. Shoot, now I was ready to rescue a dog if that's what was required.
I spent the next few days subtly encouraging the boys to join. I'm sure Katie was far less subtle - cleaning the house in her swimsuit while drinking those mimosas likely sent a strong message. So the heat was on. Especially on Elliott. I may have been whispering "swim team" in his ear while he slept at night.
In the end, both boys said "we're in."
Over the next couple of weeks he got some extra coaching attention to help him get more comfortable in the water. This week he earned his first ribbon at a meet and got personal best times in both events he swam in. It's clear, though, swimming doesn't come easy to him, which is great. We talk all the time that the secret to greatness is getting great at overcoming adversity. And believe me, swimming has presented Elliott adversity.
The other good piece of that equation is what it does for Ian. Ian the little brother. Always trying to keep up with big brother and always coming up just a step short. Swimming gives Ian a chance to shine in the sibling rivalry. He already has a collection of ribbons. And he's not so sly in his willingness to give his brother some pointers on how to improve. Ian's enjoyed turning the table and taking a seat at the victor's throne for a spell.
I don't know what they'll say when it's time to register next year. But for now they're enjoying time in the water with friends, and mama's enjoying the poolside social with the swim moms club.
I used to think Mark Zuckerberg wanted to take over the world.
Now I know he does.
And I, for one, will be cheering him on and helping him any way I can.
Last week I participated in Facebook's first Communities Summit. I got to see and listen to Zuckerberg up close and personal. I walked away believing it's impossible to be near him or anyone that works with him without feeling like these Facebook folks truly believe there's value in every human life. It fuels their obsession for connecting us. They get high off of helping us discover our own personal value grows exponentially when we multiply it by the value of togetherness.
It's an obsession they wear on their faces. It pours out of every interaction with them.
Why on earth are they all so bent on us connecting?
This is what Zuckerberg told us at the summit:
“Connecting friends and family has been pretty positive, but I think there is just this collective feeling that we have a responsibility to do more than that and also help build communities and help people get exposed to new perspectives and meet new people -- not just give people a voice, but also help build common ground so people can actually move forward together.”
I'm not sure there was one person sitting at the summit, I'm not sure there's one person reading those words right now, who doesn't love the sound of moving forward. Especially if you reflect too long on the current stagnate state of our divisiveness.
Wouldn't it be nice to wake up one day from our unending arguments about what direction the world should go and discover we're actually moving in a common direction?
Several years ago I would have been thinking what you might be thinking right now. This Zuckerberg guy's a dreamer. Maybe even a bit whacked out. We live in a world of disunity and no amount of "likes" and "shares" is going to change that. You can Facebook live that little let's get connected speech to every world peace loving group on Facebook, Mark, and we're still going to be hopelessly devoted to telling one another how we should be living instead of finding the common good in the way we are living.
But that was several years ago.
I was actually at the summit representing about 16,000 people in the Meg's Miles Supporters Facebook group. The group formed when a young woman in my community, Meg Cross Menzies, was hit and killed by a drunk driver back in 2014. Shortly after, 100,000 people joined together on Facebook to run and pledge their miles in Meg's memory. They ran a million or so miles in every state in our country and in countless other countries around the world. And that was all in response to one-single-Facebook post by one of Meg's grieving friends.
I've seen responses to tragedy like this before. Heartbreaks going viral isn't anything new. A mass inclination to do something - anything at all to bring comfort - we've been there. But you know what I haven't seen? I haven't seen heartbreak branch into a thousand runaway vines of togetherness.
I now have more best friends than I've ever had in my life. A majority of them I met online as a result of that first post, many of whom I've since met in person. They help me out when I need them and they know I stand ready to return the favor. I've become attached to their families. I donate to their kids' fundraisers - we've had to build a room addition to house girl scout cookies. In fact, the size of my family has grown so that I'd need to rent out Madison Square Garden for a true family reunion.
Here's the beauty of my growing family. It includes people who've never been a part of my family before: gay people, atheists, people of all sorts of colors, horse and dog and cat lovers, runners, movie addicts, far left democrats and far right republicans and some very middle ground variations of something quite different in between. And on and on and on it goes. My family is now filled with diversity. I suppose you can see that as a knock against me and my shallow past. I own that knock. But I see it as overwhelming evidence of the power of Facebook.
What Facebook has always understood is the power of story. By creating a platform for us to share our stories with one another they've managed to educate us about the often tragic difference between acceptance and connected. Acceptance says I hear your story and I promise not to let in stand in my way of getting where I want to go. Connected, however, is I hear your story and it's a beautiful reason for us to navigate this world together.
I've seen that education take root in the Meg's Miles group I belong to. I've seen it grow from a single post about a single relatively simple human being into a group of thousands of diverse people running together, step for step, on a mission to spread goodness into the world. I've seen it work better than any other goodness strategy I've seen in my 53 years on earth.
Facebook's brilliance actually comes in their ability to weave their complex technological platform together with their understanding of the human need to love and be loved. They removed all religious and cultural overtones in their masterpiece so we can simply focus on each other. Because left to our own devices, those overtones often distract us away from the beautiful human stories we tend to bury beneath worldly stereotypes and misunderstandings.
I think that's Mark Zuckerberg's platform when it comes to his campaign for taking over the world. And maybe it's not so much taking over as it is taking out. Taking out all the hateful noise that keeps us from discovering the beauty in each other. He's not been perfect in his campaign, for sure. You can find hate anywhere. But he's done it better than anyone I've ever seen.
So if Mark Zuckerber is truly trying to take over the world, for what it's worth, I have his back.
So I've just used a multi-billionaire's image to trick you into reading a minimum wage blog post. That's only partly true. I am headed to Chicago tomorrow. I've been invited there to take part in a 2-day Facebook summit. And Mark Zuckerberg will be there. He's delivering the day one keynote address. But whether he and I actually sit down on a couch and chat billionaire to dreamer extraordinaire is still up in the air. Probably more up in the air of my imagination than his, but air is air, right?
It's such a long story. Most good ones are.. I'll spare you the details and give you the bedtime version.
Just over 3 years ago, Meg Cross Menzies, a young mother of 3 beautiful little kids, was struck and killed by a drunk driver while running on a rural road in our tiny community just outside of Richmond, Virginia. In response, one of Meg's heartbroken friends sent out a call for everyone to "run for Meg" the Saturday after Meg died. With a huge assist from Facebook, over 100,000 people from all over the world ran a collective million or so miles in Meg's memory. Most of them never knew Meg - including me.
In the wake of that run, a Facebook group formed: Meg's Miles Supporters. Today, I am one of the administrators for that group. The group has over 16,000 members who walk, run and pray each other through life and running challenges, and celebrate each other's life and running victories.
Recently an add popped up on my personal Facebook page asking group administrators to apply to attend the first ever Facebook Communities Summit in Chicago. The Summit is part of Facebook's goal to bring people closer together and build common understanding. Ads like this don't usually catch my attention, but for some reason this one did. I applied, interviewed, and long story made bedtime version short - tomorrow I'm headed to Chicago.
I'm fired up about the trip. Mainly because I love Facebook.
I know Facebook has it's detractors. I'm just not one of them. I've watched Facebook do far more to bring people together than tear them apart. In a world that some days seems hell bent on ripping itself into global shreds of hate and intolerance, all sources of unity are enticing to me. Especially one like Facebook that has nearly 2 billion active users.
Here's the thing about unity the world often gets wrong but Facebook gets largely right. Unity is about extending ourselves to others, not sitting back waiting to receive what others can extend to us. And through my work in the Meg's Miles group I've come to believe Facebook may be the most powerful human extension tool in the world right. I used to think the command of my Christian faith to go to all the ends of the earth with God's love was biblical hyperbole of biblical proportions. That was before the bible found a seat at the Facebook table.
I've seen Facebook extend hundreds of high fives across thousands of miles to a runner (me) finishing his first marathon, something he never thought he could do. High fives that made an ordinary struggling runner feel like an Olympic champion. Enthusiasm extended to make a dream come true.
I've seen Facebook extend love, care and support from hundreds of complete strangers to an online friend who lost his dad. An extension that didn't bring his dad back, but delivered him an extended family he never would have had without it.
I recently saw a friend use Facebook to seek and match donations for the town he grew up in. The small Missouri town was devestated by flooding. He extended himself on behalf of his roots and in return hundreds of us got to extend ourselves into a piece of his childhood and into the lives of people who played a role in it.
Last year our Megsmiles group collected shoes for refugees living in a camp in Greece. Thousands of shoes were mailed in and collected at local churches, businesses and schools. Then we got to see pictures of the shoes on the feet of desperate children thousands of miles and an ocean away. A mere decade ago that kind of immediate extension and response to crisis was impossible.
I've always known the world is filled with loving and caring people. So has Facebook. Only they've found a way to mass produce and mass extend their impact.
Here's the other thing. And maybe the most powerful and miraculous thing of all. Facebook extends lives.
I am awed every day that the influence of Meg Cross Menzies is still impacting and changing lives. Meg has been dead for over three years, but still her life is extending into mine and this week into Chicago and last year onto the feet and into the hearts of little Syrian children in Greece. Facebook has certainly been the tool for that. A powerful one. But here's the bigger lesson I take away from it:
Meg's life is extendable because she lived a life of extension.
Meg volunteered in her church and in her kids' schools and at her family's vegetable farm. Meg treasured a life of sacrifice because her sacrifice always meant more love and abundance for others. Meg lived her entire life extending herself to others which has made it possible to not only keep her influence alive, but extend it to people she never in her most sacrificial dreams imagined it would reach.
Meg's life, and Facebook, have led me to consider my own legacy in ways I never had before. The things I do today truly have the power to shape my kids and their kids for generations to come. Facebook is a tool that can help extend the impact of that legacy well beyond me, but it's up to me to give Facebook loving and caring and sacrificial material to work with.
So when I sit on the couch with Mark this week - come on, work with me here, let a guy dream - I'll thank him for what he's built. The opportunity he's given us all to extend ourselves in meaningful and life-changing ways. I'll let him know the kind of pressue he's put on this dad who wants to leave an influential and eternal influence on his boys.
And, yes, I may just ask him for the opportunity to extend a selfie of the billionaire and the dreamer extraordinaire to the Facebook feeds of my friends and his!
I'll be in touch from Chicago!
One of our dear family friends, Angie, who taught Elliott for two years and is currently a teacher at Ian's school, recently sent Katie and I the photos below. And photo credits to Angie Hoggan for all of them.
Obviously the pictures aren't of Ian performing in the classroom. It's field day (Ian's favorite subject). Still, I'm going to say this might be the best school report any of our boys' teachers have ever sent home. It probably shouldn't fire me up more than straight A's or spelling bee victories or science fair success, but it does.
A lot more.
Maybe that's because that's how I see life. It's a tug of war. One minute the momentum is absolutely going your way - I can't be beat! Then out of nowhere life starts dragging you through the mud, face first and feet wildly flopping in the air behind you. In that moment, you can begin thinking yourself through the protocol of what to do next, or you can instinctively jump to your feet and start fighting back.
Or at least pulling back.
No, I'm convinced, make me choose between a picture of a straight A report card or any of the pictures above and I'll take any one of the pictures above.
Don't get me wrong. It's not like I don't value education - don't want our boys to apply grit to their grades. I do. But I've seen too many people who know everything there is to know about the world only to have no idea how to respond when the world doesn't treat them the way they've been taught it will or should.
Of course, the obvious benefit to my philosophy, especially given it's Fathers Day, is there are many limitations on just how smart I can teach our boys to be. My smarts reach a dead end quicker than most dads. But make no mistake, there's no limit to how much grit I can pour into them. So maybe I'm just playing to my fatherhood strength, but that's exactly how I'm going to keep playing.
Happy Fathers Day to all my dad friends out there.
My wife, Katie, is a great mom. I know that. But not often enough do I show that.
As I sit here on Mother's Day morning, it's a simple task itemizing the ways my wife is a good mom.
As I sit here on Mother's Day morning, it's hard for me to look at that list and confess how infrequently I show my wife I truly understand the difficulty of her job. But I do confess it. Making a list is one thing. Appreciating it is quite another. I'm afraid I'm good at list-building, not so good at the other.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not confessing to being the world's worst husband and dad. (Although I'm sure there are moments when my wife wants to confess to that).
I do believe, though, in reflecting on areas where others are great we can always examine where we can be better. I don't believe there's a better Mothers Day gift I can give my wife than saying I know you're a better mom than I give you credit for and I'm going to work harder to show that. Gratitude is a much better gift offered out of the blue than right on cue.
For all you moms out there - for the reasons I've just pointed out in my wife - you are all my heroes. I know you tackle the challenges above and many more. And you so often do it while embracing the blessing of motherhood for what it is: the opportunity to make a beautiful, life-changing, world-impacting difference in your home and on eternity.
I know my own mom made that difference in me. I know my wife is making that difference through our boys. And I pray for the difference all of you are making.
Dads and husbands - remember, gratitude is better out of the blue than right on cue. Work on it with me between now and next Mothers Day.
Our Easter Sunday started by attending the Hope Church Easter service at Altria Theater in downtown Richmond. Afterwards, while we were still somewhat presentable, we snapped a rare family photo. Then, it was off to grandma's famous Easter brunch and the much awaited annual Easter egg hunt.
The rules never change. But still, grandma always has to set the hunters straight on a thing or two. It does my heart good to see the boys still getting excited about this annual Easter tradition. They are growing by the minute, showing signs of getting older - and cooler - so I treasure these moments when they are clearly still boys. I do know they won't stay that way forever.
There's Elliott. Always intense. Whether playing basketball in the driveway by himself or 5 on 5 at the local Y, if there's competition to be had he has his game face on. Even in a family Easter egg hunt.
Then there's Ian. Oh, Ian is full of intensity himself. He doesn't go down without a fight. But Ian is never going to let intensity stand in his way of a class clown moment. Not ever.
It was a beautiful day to be reminded of what we have as Christians in this mortal world through the eternal love and sacrifice of Christ.
It was also a beautiful day to be reminded of how blessed I am in the here and now by my incredible wife and boys.
I hope everyone had an awesome Easter.
Back in the spring of 2015 I was gently persuaded to tackle the gently rolling hills of a half marathon known as Run the Bluegrass. The race winds through horse farm country in rural Lexington, Kentucky. The Run the Bluegrass absolutely lived up to its tagline: America's prettiest half-marathon. You'll have a hard time finding a prettier spring drive. That's right. I said drive. But all the talk I heard that downplayed the magnitude of the 32 hills on the course was high altitude deception. So running this course, I left there believing, is for people who have something to prove in their running journey.
Let's jump ahead to 2017. The year I just so happened to set out to prove something in my running journey. Late last year I decided I was going to push myself to do more than finish races this year. I was going to try to run them fast. My world fast - not standing on the podium world fast.
When I set that goal I knew the first true measure of my progress would have to come through a return visit to Run the Bluegrass. The 2015 race was one of those I just finished. And barely. It took everything I had to get across that finish line so I left there feeling accomplished. I also left there swearing no mas, no mas.
The 2015 RTB finish line photo of THAT face haunted me for a long time. It too close for any future comfort reflected the pain I felt in that moment. It kept the pain alive in my head no matter how many races I ran elsewhere trying to exorcize it. It became painfully clear the only place I'd ever be able to exorcise it was back in Lexington.
That's where I was last weekend. Running the only race I've ever sworn I'd never run again.
If you read my last post you know I was coming into this weekend with tons of confidence. I'd just run my fastest half marathon ever by 21 minutes. Granted, it was on a completely flat course. EVERYTHING about that Virginia Beach course truly was gentle and non-rolling. At least everything but the weather. I had no dreams of running a 2:32 here in Lexington, but I did want to significantly improve on my 3:01 from RTB 2015. And I wanted a finish line picture that would erase the memory of the one that had been haunting me.
I don't think any starting line has ever gotten me more excited than this one at Run the Bluegrass. It was beautiful. Even in dreary starting line weather the scene simply remained beautiful. Because the starting line is sloped you can see all the other runners in front of you. At least when you start as far back as I did. Something about that got my blood pumping. Maybe it was being able to see the full collection of pre-race excitement and determination of the other runners. Maybe it's because this year I was full of determination myself.
I had one intermediate goal in mind. I wanted to hit the 5-mile mark in under an hour. I knew that would set me up for my best chance at coming in under 2:50 - the goal I settled on. I wanted anything in the 2:40s.
One problem though. For the first time ever I forgot my watch. If you're a runner you understand the panic that swept through me with a speed that would have left any runner anywhere envious. How on earth was I going to monitor my pace? The answer came from my friend Leah. Without hesitation she offered me her watch. I was overwhelmed by her selflessness. Then I was relieved and completely centered on time and distance.
I arrived at mile 5 in a little under 59 minutes. I was ahead of the pace I needed. The hills on miles 7 through 9 really started to take it out of me, though. I got to mile 10 in a little over 2:05. My pace was clearly slowing, but I knew I could get the final 3+ miles in the slightly under 15 minute miles pace I would need. I also knew I would be fading fast when I got there. This felt very different than the feeling I had two weeks earlier at Virginia Beach when I felt like I had tons left for the final 3 miles. This race I was running on empty.
I was within 3 tenths of a mile from the finish. I heard the race announcer shout out a finisher's time at 2:42. I didn't have much left to push, but I knew at this point if I did it was possible to beat 2:45. I tried to hit the gas. I saw my friend Missy about a tenth of a mile from the finish. She was the huge ball of hanging over the fence and screaming and throwing high fives energy I needed for a spark. Then I saw the rest of my Megsmiles friends cheering. It wasn't a sprint, but I kept running - that's my half marathon equivalent of digging deep. And it wasn't a huge grin, but it was a finish line photo that exorcised that 2015 memory for sure.
That, and a finish time of 2:44:18
Listen to my podcast and hear my lessons learned from the 2017 Run the Bluegrass: