Dear Bill and Sally

Four years ago, I shared a story of an inspiring couple, Bill and Sally Squier, who run ultra marathons. They both finished the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run that year, and both have attempted it since.

This past weekend, they were back out at Umstead to try again. Neither made it the full 100 miles. Bill stopped at 37.5 miles, and Sally made it to 50. I haven’t had a chance to talk with them, but I know a hot sun took its toll on Sally.

Did I mention they’re both 74 years old? I’ll pause a moment for you to be impressed.

Sally waved at me on her second trip past me at about mile 19. Note the smile.

Bill smiled, too, as he rounded the corner on his third trip past me. He had already run 31 miles at this point.

I wanted to write them a post-race letter and share it with you, too, because you may find inspiration in their story. Here’s the letter: Continue reading

A running gift

Saturday brought an early start, a drive through the dark of pre-dawn hours with a zillion stars lighting the sky. The sun began to rise, and along with it, the fog:


A photo from the moving car

Our destination was a small Virginia town built along the banks of a winding river. We were there so my husband could run a race and so I—training for my first half marathon of this illness- and injury-plagued year—could do a long run.

Shortly after we arrived at the start area of the race, the sun and fog began a dance. The trees and the river played spectator and stage to the dance. I immediately regretted bringing only my cell phone for a camera.

NewRiverMorning2015_2FT NewRiverMorning2015_3FT NewRiverMorning2015_4FT

As I alternated between taking pictures and fumbling to put gloves back on (it was in the mid-30s, and I had not brought the right gloves for my “smart” phone), a thought struck me. The autumn combination of fog, sunlight, trees and water is probably my favorite of nature’s glorious offerings.

And if it weren’t for running, I’d have missed this beautiful morning.

If you had told me two decades ago that, one day, I’d rise early enough on a Saturday during vacation that only the stars would be up, I would have laughed at you. I have never been a morning person, and the idea of routinely giving up the one day a week I could sleep in would have never crossed my mind before I took up running.

Yet here I am, more than ten years into a life of running, and Saturdays have become synonymous with race day or a day to run long, especially on vacation. Not every Saturday, mind you. Just more than I ever would have guessed in my pre-running days. You know what? I’m glad for that change.

Running is a gift that gives all runners something we might not otherwise have. For me, those gifts include stunning vistas, an excuse to get outside regardless of the weather, an improved sense of direction, greater wanderlust, better health, and, yes, more time with the obsessive runner in my house. (Don’t worry. He readily admits his obsession.)

This morning, I ran with my dog who spent our vacation lazing at doggy camp. She didn’t drag as she sometimes does. She was full of energy, and so was I. At one point, she bounded along next to me, changing gears to match my increasing pace. She looked up at me, her ears streaming behind her, and her gaze said, “This is what I’ve been missing. Running along together like this is bliss.” I’d be lying if I said all running days are blissful. But sometimes, as with today and Saturday, running is bliss.

So while I may not always (or ever) greet the Saturday alarm with enthusiasm, I am grateful for the time and ability to run. Especially on the crisp fall mornings when the sun and fog dance along the water and among the trees.

What makes you feel more alive and get you out of bed in the early dark of Saturday mornings? For you runners out there, what is the greatest gift running has given you?

On running camaraderie (or feeling like a slacker)

This past weekend, my husband and I volunteered at a 100-mile endurance run. It’s the one my husband ran last year, and it always brings out amazing runners and volunteers alike.


Runners heading down the hill toward one of the well-stocked aid stations. You can see volunteers waiting to fill up bottles and hand out food.

As a runner, I am always reminded during this race of some of what I love about running. Because I am not an ultra runner (someone who has run more than a marathon distance), I also have a chance to feel like a slacker when it comes to running. Humility is a good thing, right? (I ask rhetorically and with a smile.)

It happens every year: the volunteers make small talk with one another in between filling water bottles, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, doling out soup and even (shudder) popping blisters. Invariably, the question comes up: Do you run? Continue reading

Thirty years running

I thought about following up last week’s post about the shepherds in my nativity set with a post about wise men, but there’s a wise woman I want to introduce you to today. She has traveled the world to share Christ’s truth and love with others, and her running shoes always go with her. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing her story as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.


Barbara Latta was feeling restless on December 5, 1983. Her husband was away on an annual business trip that always took up the first two (!) weeks of December. She tried to talk her sons (a pre-teen and a teenager) into going for a walk with her. They declined, the older citing too much homework and the younger citing too much comfort to give up by going outside. So she went by herself and ran a mile and a half. It was the first step in a grand adventure.


Barbara has many medals, ribbons and trophies, but this one for her first triathlon, completed earlier this year, is one of her favorites.

I grew up calling her Mrs. Latta. She had two sons, one of whom was my age, and we went to church together. Somewhere in my adulthood, Mrs. Latta transitioned to “Barbara” for me, as we studied the Bible together and also ran local races together.

Last Thursday, Barbara reached a major running milestone. She celebrated her 30th anniversary running streak, which means she has run every day for the past 30 years. Today marks 30 years and 7 days of running. Every single day.

“You should try running.”
As with many runners, she had a mentor, the principal at the school where she worked as the librarian. Her principal was a marathoner, and this was still in the early days of running before its popularity skyrocketed. He had been telling her for some time that she should try running and was happy to hear she had run that morning. Continue reading

Running thoughts

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” – Revelation 13:9 (NIV)


I ran a 10K this past weekend on a beautiful day that promised of early Fall. The race is well-organized every year, which means that, among other things, traffic control is well-done and volunteers are out at all turns where runners need directions about which way to go.

The course contains a lollipop section: an out-and-back part (you run the same road going and coming back, which makes the lollipop stick) with a loop at one end. From overhead, the course looks like a lollipop, hence the name.

The “circle” part of the lollipop for this particular race started near the 4-mile mark, where there was also a water stop. There were volunteers handing out water, and another volunteer whose sole job it was to point runners in the correct direction. Runners turned left to start the circle of the lollipop by running down a lovely hill. To leave the circle part, runners came down a gentle hill and turned left again, putting them back on the “stick” part of the course.

I was running back toward the end of the lollipop’s circle, ready to turn left onto the “stick” part of the course. And that’s when all the yelling started.

A runner approaching the water stop for the first time took a cup of water and then turned right instead of left. This put her running against the stream of runners coming back through the turn and meant she was off-course and heading into a needless uphill grind.

The volunteer was yelling to her to turn around. The runners coming toward her yelled to her to turn around. There was yelling and pointing and dodging as she continued heading the wrong way. Finally, she got the most puzzled look on her face when she looked directly into my eyes. I pointed the other direction and yelled again, “That way!”

She wasn’t dazed. She wasn’t delirious. She wasn’t near collapse. No. She was wearing earbuds.

“I know it’s fun, but you have to be able to hear!” That’s what the volunteer called out to her as she ran back by him. Who knows whether she heard or heeded his words.

Until the past few years, races’ insurance could be in jeopardy if competitors wore earbuds or headphones, and some race directors went so far as to say they would disqualify runners caught wearing them. But this rule has relaxed recently, and more and more runners wear earbuds during races.

The increased use of earbuds during races is a detriment to our sport, and I wish races would go back to encouraging runners to race without them.

Missing a race’s camaraderie
One of the reasons I love racing is the camaraderie that comes from pounding out mile after mile with other runners. I don’t like to chat while I run, but I do enjoy an occasional pleasantry with another runner, maybe a bit of encouragement after a tough hill or a “You can do it” when my energy flags. With more runners wearing earbuds, the sense of communal effort and support is beginning to dissipate, and I miss it.

Another reason I wish we could go earbud-free at races is for the spectators. I don’t need a group of cheerleaders on my daily runs, but at races, especially long ones or particularly hard ones, it’s nice to have folks cheering on the side of the road and ringing cowbells or whatever other noisemakers are in vogue. (I vote for a cowbell over a vuvuzela any day. Just my two cents’ worth.)

This past spring, my husband pointed out how much less fun it is to cheer for runner after runner who can’t hear the cheers because of earbuds. In the last few races I’ve watched, I’ve noticed this growing phenomenon, too. It discourages me as a spectator. I mean, I could have slept in and could be enjoying coffee and a good book on the porch swing. But I’m trying to support the runners out there. It’s a whole lot more fun when runners come by and acknowledge spectators’ presence with a smile, a wave or a even a call for “More cowbell!”

Many runners who like to wear earbuds and belt out tunes as they run should also know that just because they were born to run doesn’t mean they can (or should try to) sing it like the Boss. Though sometimes being near someone belting out an off-key song does spur me to run faster to get away sooner.

The safety in our hearing
Our sense of hearing is one of the best ways we runners can protect ourselves out on the roads, too, and it’s the safety issue that makes me also long for earbud-free races.

The truth is we are more vulnerable as runners than we like to admit, and being able to hear what’s coming up near us (car, bicycle, angry dog) is one of our best protections. Three years ago, a runner wearing an iPod died after a plane making an emergency landing hit him. I wonder if he could have lived if he had been running without the iPod.

Car back!
It’s common to hear “Car back!” or “Car up!” among runners and cyclists out together on the roadside. It’s a way of helping protect each other.

As I mentioned, the race this past weekend always has great traffic control, but it’s not perfect, and there are cars that end up driving alongside runners at certain points, especially some of the more residential sections of the race. Earlier in the race Saturday, I watched as a runner ahead of me did a 360-degree spin to avoid getting hit by a driver determined not to wait for runners to pass by before pulling into her driveway. What if the runner had been wearing earbuds and not heard the car or the runners near her yelling “Car back!”?

It all makes me think of the verse in Revelation (yes, I know this is wildly out of context). But I say to those of you who run, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Hear the cars coming. Hear the volunteers directing you. Hear the spectators cheering for you. Hear the beautiful rhythm of all those feet heading together for the same finish.

This sign sat near the start of the course Saturday. I think another good one might be: “You can run with an iPod tomorrow, when no one is cheering.” But please, leave at least one earbud out.


You can run slow tomorrow when no one is watching … I know, Mom, it should say “slowly.”

I add this second sign just for fun and conversation. A little encouragement goes a long way, and most runners I know appreciate fun signs along the course. I admit that this one puzzled me a bit, though:


My first thought when I saw this one: Makes it seem longer in a good way? Or in a bad way?

So I have a few questions for you runners out there. Does running make life seem longer to you? In a good way, I hope? Do you run with earbuds when you’re racing?

For you nonrunners out there, are there times and places where you get so caught up in your own electronic world that you miss the cheerleaders’ encouragement or the cars whizzing by? Are you willing to unplug to hear what you might be missing?