Olympic-sized joys, sorrows and the race that made me cry

I’m still going through the 1,000+ photos I took during the US Olympic Track and Field Trials, but I thought you might like to see a few of my favorites.

There’s beauty in the competition, and I begin on that note today.

OlyTrials2016_ 4FT

A fluid rainbow of jerseys and shoes at the start of the women’s steeplechase semis (with a pole vaulter watching from the field)

My husband and I enjoyed the time away, and we celebrated as some of our favorites made the Olympic team. This year, though, more of our favorite athletes than usual did not make the team. So when I look back at photos of certain races, there’s heartbreak and sadness in them.

If you stopped by this space last week, you saw a photo of Reese Hoffa from last year’s US championships. Two Fridays ago, he competed again. Continue reading

Much ado about ice buckets

The ALS ice bucket challenge has taken social media by storm in recent weeks and is generating plenty of talk, pro and con.

For the ALS Association, the bucket challenge has generated awareness and raised millions of dollars in a short time. School children have enjoyed watching their principals get doused with icy water. Friends and families have come together for a moment of joy and hilarity. And for ALS sufferers such as Lorri Carey, the ice bucket challenge has brought hope. These are all great reasons to call the challenge a success.


There has been a backlash to the bucket challenge, though. Clean water advocates are decrying the waste of so much clean water in a country where some regions are suffering devastating drought and in a world where access to clean water is a struggle for more than 700 million people. Even the ALSA site suggests repurposing the water and offers suggestions of water-free ways to help the organization.

While the waste of clean, drinkable water troubles me, I don’t want to diminish the success for ALS research. Besides, even though I haven’t dumped a bucket of ice water on my head, I can understand why August is the perfect time for such a challenge, and I know I’m guilty of a lifetime of wasting water in fun ways.

So for me, the ice bucket challenge has brought up complex issues of balancing the rights and needs of those of us who live in a privileged place, those who live with a terminal illness and hope and pray for a cure, and those who lack basic necessities and dignities of life.

I reached out to several non-profit groups who raise funds and awareness for clean water projects around the world to ask for their take on the ice bucket challenge. Lopez Lomong—a U.S. Olympian I’ve blogged about before—responded with enthusiasm.

Lomong’s foundation has partnered with World Vision in a project called 4 South Sudan. One of the major goals of the project is to help communities in South Sudan gain access to clean water and sanitation facilities.

Here is Lomong’s challenge:

Take the ice bucket “Clean Water” challenge for the women and children of South Sudan who walk miles every day for clean water. Taking the challenge will give thousands in South Sudan the gift of education, safety and life. Just $50 gives clean water for LIFE to one person in South Sudan.  Thank you for being awesome and bravely taking the challenge to save lives in South Sudan!

So will you accept the challenge? If you have already done a bucket challenge for ALS, consider skipping a second bucket and making a donation to fill someone else’s bucket with clean water.

If you feel like you’ve been missing out on the fun and want to cool off with a bucket of water (and would repurpose the water or conserve water in some other way to make up for it), have at it. Two worthy causes—more research funds to find a cure for ALS and better, safer access to clean water in South Sudan—could benefit from your bucket of fun.

Have you taken the bucket challenge and repurposed the water? Maybe filled up a kiddie pool that you were going to fill anyway? Or stood in a garden that you needed to water? I’d love to hear your creative ideas for repurposing the water. And if you accept Lomong’s challenge to give a person water for life, please let me know in the comments below so I can thank you.


“USA! USA! USA!” Those chants filled my TV yesterday, as I watched the US team succumb to Belgium in the World Cup round of death. I’ve never been a soccer fan (can’t quite call it football yet), but for some reason, this year, I watched as many of USA’s matches as I could. Maybe it was because of the hilarious commentary from Men in Blazers—a British duo that made me laugh and comprehend and hope for a long Team USA run in this World Cup. They seemed more patriotic about American football than most Americans I know. They made me crave cupcakes, too. (Fortunately, I haven’t caved to that craving yet, as I’m still trying to shed pounds from that cheese-laden trip to Vermont.)

But y’all know by now that soccer isn’t likely to replace my favorite sport: track and field. My husband and I journeyed to Sacramento this past weekend to see the US Track and Field National Championships. This is considered an off year because there are no Olympics or World Championships later in the season. It’s the only year in a four-year cycle that this happens. Nonetheless, we enjoyed attending this championship meet.


The women’s 10,000 meter race. Kim Conley (in the coral shorts, hip 17) won the race.


The men’s 5,000 meters. Bernard Lagat (hip 8, 4th from right) went on to win the race.

Some of the races are harder to cheer for than others. I mean, how do you cheer for one runner when there are three or four you’d love to see win? The men’s 5,000 was like that for me Friday night. If we had stayed for the men’s 1500, that race would have been even harder for me to pick who to cheer for.

Continue reading

Running for an imperishable wreath

When I was six years old, I held my mother’s hand while we gleefully smashed the tiny acorns that scattered the sidewalk in front of our church.

When Lopez Lomong was the same age, he was ripped from his mother’s tight grip, taken by soldiers from under the trees where his family and others from surrounding villages had been in prayer during a church service.

I was born in America. Lomong was born in southern Sudan (now South Sudan). To quote Robert Frost, “That has made all the difference.” It’s a difference I can’t begin to grasp.

Lomong is one of my Olympic heroes, representing the USA in two Olympics – in 2008 in Beijing where he also served as flag bearer in the opening ceremonies and again this past summer in London where he came in 10th in the 5,000 meter final. I feel blessed that I got to see him earn a spot on both the 2008 and 2012 teams, watching him race at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Ore.

Lomong runs a victory lap after winning a spot on the US Olympic team this past June in Eugene, Ore.

Lomong runs a victory lap after winning a spot on the US Olympic team this past June in Eugene, Ore.

Lomong’s story is nothing short of amazing: from being abducted by soldiers in war-torn Sudan to living in a refugee camp in Kenya for 10 years to a journey to the United States where he would become a citizen and live out his own version of the American dream while never forgetting the other boys and girls left behind in Sudan.

Lomong has shared his life – its struggles and triumphs – in a moving memoir published last year, called Running for My Life. Never has a book title been so accurate. Running saved his life.


Lomong’s remarkable memoir of his life so far

Lomong’s book was one of the Christmas presents I gave my husband, and I read it right after he did, knowing that I needed to keep the kleenex nearby. I was still unprepared for how the book would affect me emotionally. Continue reading