A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"


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A Home Away From Home: the Relentless Chiang Mai 24-hour Endurance Run

Dear friends,

Here is the write up about the 24-Hour run I put on for FUN, as well as a fund-raiser for Relentless. However, no photos are found on THIS page because I’d have to go back through and re-load all the photos again here, which I won’t do in the interest of time and saving consternation. I encourage you to click on over  to the page on Relentless where I’ve posted the full deal. The event was truly special for everyone and we all did have fun! It was a lot of work but so worth it in the end! I’m so grateful for all your thoughts and prayers and for all the help by volunteers here! I’m also very grateful for all the donations that came in for Relentless!

Again, I’d like to encourage all of you who follow this blog to also follow the blog on Relentless, as well as the Facebook page to keep  up with what I’m doing.

Blessed to be a blessing!

On 25 May at 2pm, the first wave of runners started off the line for the Second Annual Relentless Chiang Mai 24 Hour Endurance Run. It was quite an international group, with twelve different nationalities represented among the 42 participants. Even so, ultramarathon culture transcends all others as the main aid station along the looped course became a home away from home – even as the many expatriates already call Thailand a home away from home.

Located near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, Huay Tung Tao Lake is encircled by a 3.7 km, nicely paved asphalt loop. The gently rolling road provides just enough diversity to keep the muscles interested, and there is enough shade to keep runners cool for much of the way.

After the swimmers, picnickers and fishermen packed up for the night, the full moon came out so that nobody needed to wear a headlamp. Crickets and frogs joined the chorus. Magical.

Runners had the option of running 6 or 12 hours, and four teens participated in the 3-hour kids’ division! A relay option for teams of up to eight people was offered for the 24-hour time, but nobody took advantage of that – everyone wanted to go hard-core solo!

Another unique feature was that the 3-, 6-, and 12-hour runners had the option of starting at either 2pm, 6pm, or 10pm. Some of the participants wanted to start earlier and get their run in, while others cherished running through the night. This timing also helped to spread out the runners and give the 24-hour people more company through the night.

This event pulled the absolute best from everyone. It was never about “winning” to beat another person – as there were no prizes for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. It was all about challenging oneself – an opportunity to push further than previously attempted. The top 12-hour finisher had never run further than 55 km before his remarkable 85 km distance! Nearly all of the runners set a personal record, either in the most distance ever covered or the fastest time it took to cover a certain distance. Most set personal records of over 20-30 km.

A timed event, unlike a distance-oriented event, gives participants the opportunity, when they are tired, to take a break. They eat something, drink some coffee, stretch, and re-evaluate. Then they are ready to head back out for more. It was a safe environment in which to push themselves further than they thought possible. It was exciting to be a part of an event in which so many people came away having bettered themselves and achieved something great.

The aid station crew was no less exceptional. Many friends and relatives of runners volunteered their services and helped crew everyone – not just “their guy.” The kids who ran the 3 hours also stayed up most of the night and were the most cheerful and helpful crew ever! Several volunteers (including the kids) took laps with runners they had met only a few hours prior to keep them company and encourage them along the way. This was most helpful during the hot, middle part of the second day when we were all flagging a bit.

Finally, another remarkable note about this event is that it was a fundraiser for Relentless, a project that fights human trafficking through health care. Although this was a small event, approximately $8000 was raised, over $3000 of that by a single participant!

I look forward to hosting this event again next year and I hope that those of you who may be traveling through Southeast Asia looking for an ultramarathon will consider joining us next year!


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Catching up on 2012

I hope that this finds your new year a happy one so far! Although I want to jump ahead and start discussing this year, I still have some unfinished business to write about 2012.

RELENTLESS After returning from the States in November, I dove into deep water preparing a series of workshops on child abuse and neglect for residents at Chiang Mai University School of Medicine. Please see this post on the Relentless weblog for more about that. Another few days in Bangkok in December saw some partnerships down there solidly come together.

The heavy cotton skirt got pretty hot, and I had constant wardrobe malfunctions, but it was a lot of fun. All the smiles were worth it!

The heavy cotton skirt got pretty hot, and I had constant wardrobe malfunctions, but it was a lot of fun. All the smiles were worth it!

RUNNING The Chiang Mai Marathon was held on 23 December. Due to some injuries and health issues, my training had not been what I had hoped it would be so I thought of a way to take the pressure off myself and not take myself too seriously: run in costume! A friend of mine had the perfect idea to run as a Thai school girl! I called a colleague who works in a children’s home and asked if I could borrow one of the girl’s uniforms. Perfect! It was immediately culturally recognizable, and very perplexing (and funny!) that a farang woman would be running in such an outfit! I still did OK – good enough for 3rd place in my age group which gave me an extra $100 towards my vacation fund.

URBANA The workshop series took me right up to 24 December and on Christmas evening I boarded a plane to speak at Urbana. The conference, for the first time, had an emphasis on health care ministries and I was honored to be invited to speak on human trafficking, orphans and vulnerable children, as well as sit on a panel of cross-cultural health care workers. The talks went well and I was talking with students for an hour after each session! Otherwise, I stayed pretty busy with my own work, networking, and meetings – Urbana is a great place for that!

HOLIDAY After Urbana, I made an 8-day lay-over in LA where I stayed with friends in Santa Monica, CA. It was my first true holiday since attending Breathe in 2010! I ran on the beach and in the mountains every day (a total of 101 miles)! I saw movies, went to art galleries, and basically didn’t use my brain for the entire break!

BOOKS I can’t let 2012 go without mentioning some of the best books I read last year and making these recommendations to you!

  • Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas is a most excellent book! In fact, I was preparing an entire blog post to discussing this, but I got really busy so I dropped it. Perhaps if I have time to write in the future…
  • Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden is another gripping true story of the only person born in a North Korean labor camp known to have successfully escaped.
  • The novel of the year for me (perhaps the only novel I read) was Byzantium by Steven Lawhead. Not a new book, but if you haven’t read it you are missing out.
  • Other notables include The Other Side of Normal by Jordan Smoller (psychology) and Waterlogged by Timothy Noakes, MD (endurance hydration).

There is, of course, much more to say and reflect upon between these sterile lines of text. There is more I’d like to share with you. Unfortunately, by the end of the year my margin got totally eaten away by a number of things outside my control (and a few things within it). Now I’m trying to re-establish a better rhythm of life for this year. However, just catching up from a week of vacation can be enough to cause burn out! I’ll not let this happen.

Do take care, and please send me a note…


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Orphan Awareness Month

I’ve been quite busy these last couple of months in the States, so today I get a 2-for-1 on the blogging about this important issue. Here is what I’ve just posted on the Relentless site. If you get both, no need to read this one.

November is Orphan Awareness month. You will no doubt see many posts by friends about orphans, adoption, fostering, etc. There are many perspectives on this topic but I will present just one here – one related to the just care of these vulnerable children.

First, a clarification: many “orphans” around the world aren’t technically orphans at all. They are children who have been abandoned for one reason or another. Sometimes the children have a disability and the parents either do not want to have a disabled child, or are overwhelmed with the burden of caring for the child. Sometimes divorce, poverty, imprisonment and other factors contribute to the child’s abandonment. I’m not demonizing these parents, I’m just stating what is true in many places.

It is not that we are not aware of orphans and the issues involved in the care of them, but I think we need to reflect on our awareness of our approach to caring for orphans. One approach has been “orphan tourism” or “voluntourism” From the the Child Safe Network:

“Many people come to Cambodia with the intention of donating their time to volunteering at an orphanage or other child-related organizations. Like orphanage tourism, this can develop into a lucrative business which can endanger the proper care of children rendering them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Unregulated volunteering in all its aspects is harmful to children.”

Here is a real story from a colleague in Thailand:

A colleague of mine who works in a children’s home had a trusted friend in her church invite her to bring the children to a fun day of activities with other children. When they arrived, all the children were separated and placed in 20 different vans with tourists from different parts of the world. The children’s home staff were not allowed to be with the children. This was a group of tourists who had paid a lot of money to the leader of this group to allow them to spend a day with children at an elephant show, etc. However, since my colleague and the staff could not accompany the children, she demanded that the children be returned to her and they went back home.

The leader of the tour  group was angry. Some of the leaders of other children’s homes and the tourists were upset, and did not understand.  Some of the other leaders wanted to know why the children in my colleague’s group kept covering their faces when people were taking photos of them. Well done, kids! Nothing bad happened, and nothing bad was intended, but the procedure of the “fun day” presented all kinds of risks to the children.

Children have a right to privacy, even if they are “wards of the State” and their care is funded by foundations based in foreign countries. Children also have a right to be protected. Some well-intentioned volunteers can inflict unintentional harm on children. Some volunteers appear to be well-intentioned but have nothing but harm intended for children. Proper child protection policies properly enforced will protect children, as well as protect those serving children.

You will find much more information about why children are not tourist attractions at the Child Safe Network. Here are some Child Safe Traveler Tips. You will be interested to see this documentary on “Cambodia’s Orphan Business“.

Do you have any other reflections or questions or comments about this? Perhaps you have a story to share  – please do!


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Fall Tour 2012

I will soon be returning to the States for over two months but the schedule is packed! Below is a brief overview of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing. The dates listed are fairly firm. However, opportunities for speaking at particular venues in those places are still being worked out. I hope that there will be an opportunity for me to meet as many of you as possible. If I’m going to be in your area and you would like to meet with me or host a gathering, please let me know.

SEPTEMBER

2 -6         Arrive Fort Wayne, IN

7-8          Hallucination 100 mile ultramarathon in Pickney, MI

9-11       Novi, MI. Speaking at Christ Covenant Church

12-15     Ft. Wayne

16-29     Sacramento, CA attending a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam training for healthcare professionals presented by the California Clinical Forensic Medical Training Center, UC Davis.

30 – 3     Orange County, CA

OCTOBER

4-10       Los Angeles area, meeting with community groups of Pacific Crossroads Church as well as meeting a number of other people involved in counter-trafficking efforts.

11-13     Lincoln, NE Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking at University of Nebraska-Lincoln I’m giving a talk on health and human trafficking

14-16     Denison, IA meeting with supporters and speaking at a local church

17-18     Ft. Wayne

20-21     Tussey Mountainback 50 mile ultramarathon

19-23     Upper Darby, PA (suburb of Philadelphia) to meet with Interserve HQ

24-27     Nashville, TN meeting with Abolition International

28-29     Fort Wayne

30-3       Grand Rapids, MI

NOVEMBER

4              Fort Wayne (LWCC)

5-7          Indianapolis, IN

8-10       Louisville, KY Global Missions Health Conference (I’m a Dean and Speaker)

11-12     Ft. Wayne (GCC)

13           Depart for Thailand

I’m very much looking forward to seeing so many of you!


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Huay Tung Tao Trek 6/12/24 Hour Endurance Run

Where to start when writing about this event? I’ll start with gratitude. Thank you Jesus for seeing me through the organization of this event, for all the help you provided, for the beautiful weather (one can expect a least a little rain in July), for keeping us healthy and safe, and for the wonderful place to run. I also must thank MANY other people, but that would take up too much space on this blog. The whole thing would have flopped without everyone pitching in to help and support one another. Entire families were involved and I feel like we became more like family through the event. Beautiful.

Runners at the start!

Although this was not my first crack at being a race director, a 24 hour endurance run is quite a bit different from a pot-luck “Cha-bu-duo”* 10km run! The idea came as sort of a whim as I was thinking of ways to prepare for my first 100 mile race in September. “I need to start practicing running at night, but what if I could practice running all night…” I mentioned this to a couple of my ChUG** friends and they thought that it was a good idea … or did they really say “good”? Anyway, I thought it was brilliant and went for it! Richard told me as we were setting up before the start, “I may not want to thank you later, so I’m thanking you now for having this brain-fart.”

A timed event, where runners run around a fixed loop and count how many loops they can do within the given time frame, is easier to do than a distance race. For example, I only had one major aid station and an unattended water/electrolyte stop halfway around. Furthermore, more people could participate as I made different time divisions: 6, 12, and 24 hour plus a 3-hour kids division!

A total of twenty-two people participated in the  – some were brave enough to travel from other parts of Thailand to participate in this inaugural event. Most people started on Friday evening, but a group of women opted to start on Saturday morning. I was delightfully surprised to see that they were Mennonite! One does not normally associate ultra-endurance events with such groups of people, but they love sport and there are plenty of athletes among them! I love it when people break the mold, break stereotypes and go for it!

The Mennonite women!

The most common question people asked me was, “Do you sleep at all during the 24 hours?” I actually did not know the answer to that. I had never run at night before, let alone all night, and then continue through the next day. Normally, I am NOT a night person – sun goes to bed, I follow close behind – so I was surprised at how NOT sleepy I was through the night. I don’t know whether it was the constant physical activity or just being hyped up about the event, but I never had the urge to lie down and close my eyes. I did take some caffeine, but not nearly enough to account for the alertness.

Amazingly, it didn’t rain as much as it could have as it is the middle of rainy season here. It rained early (about hours 2-3) and so I had to change from my regular shoes into my “miracle shoes” (the ones with 1400 miles on them – one of the kids named them) early on and ended up running most of the race in them.

Faith ran in the 3-hour kids division, then stayed all night, and all the next day to crew the runners! She also ran extra laps as a pacer with runners to support them. A budding ultramarathoner right here! She and her friend Adrianne were a jou I’m so proud of them!

Except for changing my shoes and socks after the rain stopped I never sat down. I didn’t even stop except for the brief hiatus to grab a drink or a bite to eat through the aid station marking each lap. I also took some brief time outs to award medals to participants as they finished – the race director’s privilege!

I suppose I could keep better track of what exactly I ate but generally it was a lot of watermelon, bananas, super-charged peanut butter balls, protein shake + coffee mix, Clif bars, and, the ultramarathoner’s surprise fuel: Coca-cola.

I started my 37th loop at hour 18. Seemingly suddenly, the level of pain that one normally endures at that point in a race jumped a few notches and I was no longer able to run – at least with a decent gait. I decided it was finally time to take a break, perhaps 20 minutes? I could do that and still make 100 miles. However, as I sat down my friend immediately noticed my angry red and very swollen ankle. I took one look and knew I was done – no amount of will to finish could override what I knew as a doctor: I needed to stop immediately or perhaps risk greater damage. I was not disappointed (another surprise)! I had done well and I needed to live to run another day. Besides, 137km (85.1 miles) in 18+ hours is not too shabby, and this was just a practice run for my first 100 miler in September!

Three of the 24 hour runners made it the full 24 hours and Brian cranked out 101 miles in just under the time!

Ajarn Dee, a statistics professor, is in my Bible Study and she came out to cheer me!

Although the event itself was not a fundraiser, I asked people to give towards my personal run and pledge a monetary amount per kilometer/mile run. Amazingly, I raised a total of $880 for my project Relentless!

Lessons learned:

  • I did not have the strength training in my legs that is needed to sustain my legs for such a long distance. Partly because I had been rehabbing some tendinitis in my knee in the weeks prior. Strangely, the knee didn’t bother me at all (argh).
  • I have a much better understanding of what it really takes to excel at such events, especially long distance road races, such as Badwater.
  • I can “DNF^” with dignity and for good reason.
  • I learned a lot about race-directing in Thailand and look forward to next year’s event!

I think everyone who participated or volunteered agrees that the event as a whole was a HUGE success and we are already planning one next year!

THANK YOU:

Sunday brunch celebrating with good friends – runners and volunteers!

Ryan, Richard, Ray, Heidi, Caleb, Henry, Ben, Faith, Adrianne, Karl, Ron, Connie, Sai, Jume, Rhea,  Jung, Atsuyuki-san, Ajarn Dee, and all the other people who came out to cheer and help! You guys have NO IDEA how grateful I am for all your support and help in the prep and putting this on. Atsuyuki-san says it was the attitude of the people involved that made this one of the best races he has ever attended!

For a slideshow of photos from the event, please visit this link. You can also visit the Facebook album. IF these links don’t work, please let me know!

*cha-bu-duo: Mandarin for “close enough” and also the name of an annual 10k in Shenyang, China that I organized in past years. The 4th Annual run happens 1 September!

**ChUG: Chiang Mai Ultrarunners Group

^DNF: did not finish


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Run for 24 Hours of Justice

Dear friends – just a reminder that the Huay Tung Tao Trek 6/12/24 hour Endurance Run is just 10 days away! I’m making this an opportunity to raise funds for RELENTLESS by asking people to pledge a monetary amount per mile (or kilometer) that I run. More details can be found on this earlier post. Whether or not you donate, please do think of me and my friends as we push ourselves to the limit for a good cause!

HTT Trek flyer


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For The Boys

Relentless

Last week we had another clinic – this time with Urban Light in Chiang Mai. As my friend at Urban Light has beautifully written, it was “more than just a medical clinic”. I highly recommend that you click over to his blog to read what he had to say about the day.

We saw 14 of the boys who regularly participate in the activities at the Urban Light center. The “clinic” was held at the center during the hours when the guys are normally hanging out, learning English, working or playing at the computer, etc. Some of the guys also participate in a baking class (at another site), learning kitchen basics, baking techniques, and other life skills.

The clinic was of course to be a way to bring health care to the boys who don’t normally have any health care: they have no money, they may face discrimination, and seriously…

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