Friday, May 10, 2013

The Top 10 Things I Learned While Running That Have Nothing To Do With Running

"There is no such thing as a 'self-made' man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success."

Well, race day is officially tomorrow!! Hard to think this day would ever come. I didn’t really keep up with the blogging like I had planned but I wanted to wrap it up by saying thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way. My pals at WGVU and the coaches at Gazelle Sports have been instrumental in my success. And of course I could never have made it this far without the support of my friends and family. I never thought I would hear myself say this, but I actually feel ready to take on the race and am really excited! I’ve had so much fun I even publically committed to running a full marathon in October (Yes, I have in fact lost my mind). I do hope to keep up the bogging on behalf of WGVU Engage to keep you updated on the scholarship fund and everything else we are working on.

The scholarship fund is just starting to approach the $12,000 mark which is amazing when you think we were only around $1700 when we started. There are some other events coming up that will help to fund the remaining amount which I will be sure to tell you about in upcoming weeks!

For now I would like to leave with you some of the things I have learned along this journey. . .

The Top 10 Things I Learned While Running That Have Nothing To Do With Running:

10. If it scares the hell out of you, do it. . .whatever it is. Life is too short to be scared.

9. You will never get anywhere if you stay in your comfort zone. How do you expect to learn and grow if you just do what is easy. Life is not meant to be easy, it’s meant to be lived. Although they go fast, God willing, we have a lot of years, why waste them doing what’s easy and normal. Jump out of the box and live a little.

8. Experiences are worth so much more than things. I used think a new shirt or shoes could make me happy. . .and they can. But climbing a mountain, sitting on the beach with a friend, or running along the river can bring me genuine joy. Happiness is good. Deep down, radiating joy is better.

7. Don’t forget the past but don’t dwell in it. Your past is a part of you and as soon as you can accept that, you can move on.

6. Sometimes other people see something in you that you just can’t see yourself. Believe them. And if they give you a compliment, say thank you. We are our own worst enemies and sometimes we really need to see ourselves through someone else’s eyes to gain prospective.

5. Just keep going. When you think you can’t keep going, do it anyways. Cry, scream, yell (hello mile 14) but keep going. What’s at the end is so much more than what you are experiencing in that particular moment.

4. You are the one living your life. You have to deal with your choices on a daily basis. Don’t let what others expect of you to force you into something you don’t want. Maybe your decisions don’t make a lot of sense to the rest of the world. Well, the rest of the world’s decisions don’t always make a lot of sense either.

3. Relax. Seriously, we all need to slow down, take a deep breath and relax a little. Not everything has to happen this minute and the world will not end if you don’t get exactly what you want the minute you want it. In general people are in a hurry, uptight, and cranky. Just relax. So you have to wait an extra minute for your coffee or for a train to go by. Enjoy the sun or start a conversation with the other person waiting. Not everything needs to be a big deal.

2. What you get out of your body is a direct reflection of what you put in it. I don’t think we take nutrition seriously enough. I’m not talking about dieting or counting calories. I’m talking about really knowing what you are putting in your body. It not only affects your physical well being but your mental as well. We are made to eat food, not chemicals or processed junk that resembles food, or pills that are full of who knows what.

1. You cannot get through life alone. I used to think I could do everything myself and I actually had myself fooled that that’s the way I liked it. Well, that’s just not the way it works. If you want to get further and you want to enjoy the journey, you have to let others in. And it needs to be in a genuine, authentic manner. Let people see the worst of you, let them see the best, and let them help. People aren’t as judgemental as you think and if you are willing, they can better you in a way you never imagined.

OK so maybe I have 11 things. My final, and what I think is most important, thing is to really live life with a purpose. Between talking about why the scholarship is so important to me and training for the run, I have really learned to make each moment count. We can float around day to day doing whatever is needed or we can set out to do something great. Everyone should be passionate about something. Passion makes the days worth waking up for and purpose makes the tedious worth doing. Our passions and purposes might change day to day, year to year but those are two things that can really make everything  else worthwhile.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

We all have a story. .

Apparently it has been well over a month since my last post. Who knew it was already March!! I swear it was just 2012. Since my last post, I have made HUGE progress on the running front. I am up to 8 miles!! (And technically I ran closer to 9 this past weekend, but spent a mile of it rescuing a lost puppy so it doesn't totally count). The running group has been AMAZING. If you're thinking of joining a group, you absolutely should. I would not be as far as I am without them. So onto the good stuff. . . .

In the next week or two I'm going to be sending out some info to my friends and family about the LZ Michigan scholarship, my run, and why I'm doing what I'm doing. This is something I wanted to do a while ago, but I've been finding it hard to put into words exactly why this is so important to me. Obviously the running part has a lot to do with my health but why am I so passionate about this scholarship? I've decided it's not the scholarship itself I'm passionate about, it's what it represents. Yes, I believe everyone deserves a shot at an education and to be able to give a veteran or their family member a chance at that is a great thing. Like I've said before, if all it takes is this run to raise enough money to give that to one of our Veterans, then my time, sweat, and energy is absolutely worth it. My passion for the scholarship though, really goes back to the LZ Michigan event and the effect it had on myself, my family, and countless others that day. It was something I wish every Veteran, friend and family member could have experienced. It was supposed to be a one day "Welcome Home", but was so much more than that. It brought about a whole new understanding for us non-veterans, and it brought some healing to those who fought in Vietnam. Unless you were a part of it, no one can truly understand what those men and women went through, but a lot of us have seen the affects it had on those who came back. . . .

You can read all you want about PTSD and the effects of war on an individual but you will not get it until you live it. It's something that weaves it's way into every day life but is so hard to understand. It affects the person dealing with it and their friends and family. It's not something you can take a magic pill and make disappear. It's something you have to accept and learn to live and deal with. My family learned to live and deal with it like so many others.

My family taught me that no matter what, you don't give up on each other. For every bad day, there is always a good one, and as easy as it would be to walk away, you don't. Life isn't easy and it isn't fair. But it is good and it is a gift, and it's so much better to go through with the ones you love. As a kid it's really hard to comprehend all of life's events, but as an adult, I'm grateful for some of the things we went through. I wouldn't be who I am today without my past, and as a family, we wouldn't be where we are. Life isn't meant to be easy. If it were, what would be the point? You can sit and feel sorry for yourself or you can learn and grow and move on. I think the LZ Michigan event helped all of us to move on. Maybe I'm overestimating the effect it had on everyone else, but for me, it changed my life. The conversations I had, and the moments of emotion I witnessed are in my memory forever. 

So that is why I'm running. Maybe not the most eloquent words and lacking a lot of detail, but it's from the heart. Some people will get it, some won't and that is OK. We all have a story and this is just a small part of mine.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Just Do It

I've recently had quite a few people ask how my training is going so I wanted to take some time this week to talk about that and the things I've learned along the way. I've really only been “training” since October but it would take an entire book to tell you everything I've learned thus far. I can tell you most of what I've learned has absolutely nothing to do with the physical activity of running itself.

When I got serious about all this last year and started really focusing on running, I was running/walking on my own anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, 3 - 4 ish days a week. I knew I would be joining a running group starting in January so my main goal was to more or less be able to run and not look like a total fool my first day with the training group. Holidays came and of course eating and socializing took precedent over everything else so I pretty much did nothing the second half of December. Then the new year came and so did the informational meeting for the training group put on by Gazelle Sports. Let me tell you, I have never wanted to run out of a room so fast in my life. There were probably 40 people there, all of whom seemed to know each other and all of whom clearly knew how to run. Don’t get me wrong, they all seemed like very nice people but I was nothing short of petrified. . .like literally almost had to leave and throw up. As confident as I am now, it took me right back to grade school when you had to run with everyone and I was always the last one done with other kids laughing at me (clearly I have unresolved issues from the past. .who knew).

Regardless, I filled the paperwork out right after the meeting and signed myself up. Face your fears head on right? I had a boss not too long ago that was huge on pushing people past their comfort zones, and I think I finally get it. You really will never get anywhere if you don’t. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being comfortable and happy where you are but if you have bigger dreams and that feeling like you could do more or be more, you just have to do it. It’s scary hard, and apparently makes me physically ill, but beyond worth it.

The night before our first group run I barely slept I was so nervous. It sounds ridiculous that I was so scared to simply run with other people, but I was, and I know there are a lot of other people who understand that. I got to our meeting spot around 7:45 (I still don’t understand why these things can’t start at noon) and was so grateful to see a pace leader with a sign that said 12 minutes and up. I started looking for the “and up” group and to my surprise I wasn't the only one! There were 4 or 5 of us and our amazing leader Katie who instantly put me at ease. For some reason I thought it would be a group of people who run 5 minute miles and go 10 miles a day but it wasn't at all. Even the people who were significantly faster than us were so kind and supportive. We did a 3 mile run that day and I left thinking “that was fun!” and “maybe I can actually do this!” As much as I've told myself I can do this since the beginning, there’s always that stupid voice in your head that says you can’t. I don’t know that I've shut that voice up for good, but it’s well on it’s way out.

We've had one other group run so far and while it wasn't easy (run to the hill, run up the hill, down the hill, up the hill, down the hill, up, down, up down, then oh yeah, still gotta run back) I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the time I spent with new friends, I enjoyed the feeling of pushing myself, I enjoyed hearing other people tell me good job, and telling others the same. After just 2 runs, I can say with 100% certainty I would not be able to reach my goal of running the 25K on my own. I need the help of other people and there is nothing wrong with that.

I really can’t say thank you enough to Bridget, Michelle, and Cortney from Gazelle and to Francine with the Grand Rapids Running Club. I know you probably don’t think much of it but the emails and kind words hear and there have really meant a lot to me. If anyone out there is thinking of joining the LZ Michigan 25K team let us know. And if you think you can’t . . .tell that little voice to shut up and just do it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year!

Hard to believe it's already 2013! I wanted to share a quick update on where we are at with the scholarship fund. Thanks to all of you, the fund currently sits at $6910.66! We received every last dollar of the $1000 matching money. . . . what a great way to kick off the new year! Now if you do the math, we still have a long way to go. $23,089.34 to be exact. And approximately 6 months to do it in. Certainly sounds like a lot but we are on the right path and heading in the right direction. 

With the new year comes all sorts of new projects, goals, resolutions, and WGVU's 40th Anniversary! We have some great things coming your way and some amazing opportunities to get involved. Along with a lot more on my personal journey to run a 25K, get healthy, and raise $30,000, I'll also be sharing with you everything else the Engage Committee is working on. There's a lot more to us than just this scholarship, even though that is my personal focus and the reason I'm writing the blog. 

If you ever have questions for us or want to be involved please let us know! The point of our committee is to engage with the community so we love it when you talk back. Send a message here, go to the website (, chat with us on Facebook (, whatever you feel like! As I share more about myself, I welcome you to share your stories with me, ask me questions, give me advice, ask me for advice (at your own risk), anything you want. 

Personally, I am super excited for the new year; for new challenges, for new opportunities, and new experiences. I know there is a lot of uncertainty in people's lives right now, but we can choose to focus on the positive and choose to do the best we can with what we've got. I happen to think we've all got a lot more going for us than we give ourselves credit for.

I'd like to leave you with a video clip kicking off WGVU's 40th Anniversary. We can't wait to spend 2013 celebrating with YOU!

Watch the Video Here!

If you are interested in supporting the scholarship you can go online here to make a tax deductible donation:

If your business is interested in being a sponsor please contact us at

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We Can Do This!

While I have clearly been slacking on the blogging, rest assured I have not been slacking on the running! The blog posts will probably be fewer this month with the holidays coming up, but once January hits I will be back to posting once a week. And in the true spirit of giving this time of year, I am going to be asking for money in the following post (fair warning) :) 

I have talked about why I'm running and there will be more of that to come but I wanted to touch on the basics here. We need money. Right now the endowment fund sits at $2,225.66. We need to raise $30,000 by June 30th, 2013. That means we have $27,774.34 to raise. That is a HUGE undertaking. I'm not backing down from running 15.5 miles and we're not backing down from raising that money. I can't learn how to run that far without help and we certainly can't raise that amount of money without your help. 

I mentioned in a earlier post that financially my family isn't in a position to donate large sums of money and we aren't asking you to either. Yes, we will need some big donors to make this happen, but I truly believe in the power of individuals coming together to make something bigger than their individual parts. If you can only afford $5 but feel this is a worthy cause, then donate $5. It means something and it will help. If you can't afford that then don't donate anything but share this post with your friends. It truly is that easy to make a difference in someone's life. 

Right now we have a gracious individual who has stepped up and offered to match all donations made through December 13th up to $1000! I think this is the perfect way to kick off our fundraising efforts. It goes to show how important $5 can be when, through others, it can turn into $10 or $10 can turn into $20. That's the power of a community coming together to do something good. 

My goal, other than raising the money and running the race (you would think I'd stop there), is really to spread awareness. I want people to be aware of the sacrifices our Military men and women make and I want people to understand how important it is we support them and take care of them. It's not a political statement and has nothing to do with agreeing or disagreeing with our government. It's about people and about being a community that our Veterans can be proud to come home to. We need them and they need us, simple as that.

If you are interested in donating you can  CLICK HERE to donate online. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for the race or have an idea on how you or your business would like to get involved please contact WGVU directly at 616-331-6666 and ask for Tim!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another Reason to Run

I'm a little late posting this week but I have a good excuse. . .I've been running! I even ran in the snow the other evening!! Never in a million years would I think I would be the crazy person outside running in the snow. Surprisingly it really wasn't that bad. Guess we'll see how I feel when there is real snow and ice on the ground!

In my last post I talked about LZ Michigan and I will come back to that in future posts but I wanted to share the second big reason I'm doing this run. Like I mentioned before, the Engage Committee has 5 areas of focus and this run really impacts all 5 areas. One of our focuses is Health and it really is the second half of why I'm running. Now to learn more about me than you ever wanted to know. . . . .

For the most part, I have always been overweight. I was the fat kid in school who couldn't run a mile. It wasn't that I was completely unhealthy, we always ate well at home, I just didn't love physical activity and was naturally larger then the average kid. Unfortunately when you're a an overweight kid, other kids like to make fun of you. I can remember wanting to lose weight as early as 2nd grade and not a single day has gone by since then that I haven't thought about my weight. It's been an up and down struggle my whole life. I've tried every diet, program, and even some pills and nothing ever seemed to work. I learned not to take everything other people said to heart, but adults are often crueler than kids and it's really hard to not let them get to you. 

I managed to lose a decent amount of weight in college and keep most of it off for a few years. About 6 years ago it started creeping back on and a laundry list of other health issues starting popping up too. It wasn't all at once so it took a while before I realized there was something really wrong with me. I was working out and actually training to run my first 5K but I kept gaining weight. Along with that, I was constantly exhausted and had some very severe stomach issues. Looking back I can definitely say I was suffering from some sort of mild depression as well, and I think any of my close friends and family would agree with that. After a few years, a lot of doctors appointments, and what felt like hundreds of little tubes of blood being drawn I was finally diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Celiac is an auto-immune disorder which affects your intestine. There's no cure, and not a lot of solid information on why it can suddenly appear when you've had no previous symptoms, but it's easily manageable by eliminating gluten from your diet. Now I'm not sharing this with you because I'm promoting a gluten free diet, in fact it's not an effective diet if you're simply trying to lose weight, but because this is when I realized how important healthy eating is and when I decided I wanted to change my life around. Once you stop eating chips and fast food, you start realizing how amazing a salad or piece of fruit can taste and how much better you can feel. And once you start feeling better on the inside, you want your outside to match.

As I started feeling better I got back into working out and lost a small amount of weight. Somewhere along the way I had an epiphany that I really don't need to lose the weight. I am healthy according to every cholesterol and blood pressure test there is, but I think losing the weight would be a big step in my journey. It's something I have wanted to do for over 20 years, the only difference is this time I want to do it for myself.  I knew signing up for the 25K would force me to incorporate exercise into my every day life and that's what I want. I no longer want to lose weight and be done. I want to live a healthy, active life style until the day I die. When I have kids, I want them to learn early on how to be healthy and active and happy. I want to be a role model for others like me who have never been able to get away from that inner fat kid and don't think they can do it. If you are healthy, I promise that you will live a happier, more fulfilling life. You will want to, and be able to, participate in life instead of sitting on the sidelines. You don't need to be thin to be healthy but you need to feel good about yourself and take care of your body. We only get one chance at this, why waste it? 

With obesity, particularly in children, becoming such an epidemic now is the time to start having these conversations and getting out there to set an example. The goal of our Health Committee is to educate people and provide opportunities for families to learn how to eat well and get active. I'm letting the community in to follow my training for this run because I want people to see anyone can do it. I don't want praise, I don't want to be called an inspiration, in fact I absolutely hate being in the lime light. BUT, I want you to see that if this fat kid can do it, so can you.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What is LZ Michigan?

Week 2 already?? Yikes, this run is going to come up quicker than I would like to think! I had the privilege of meeting two wonderful women from Gazelle Sports this evening who have graciously volunteered to help me out with training and learning the ropes of how to be a runner. We started chatting and one of the first questions they asked was what is the Engage Committee and what was LZ Michigan? I've been so excited about the number of people who have volunteered to help with this undertaking that it never occurred to me that some of these people might not even know who we are or why we're doing what we're doing! So here are the basics:

The mission of the WGVU Engage Committee is to extend the outreach of WGVU through local events and programs in an effort to better serve the community. You can learn more at our website ( but more or less we look for ways to be actively involved in the community through a variety of events.

LZ Michigan was an event that actually took place prior to the creation of the Engage Committee. Not an easy event to describe but directly from the LZ Michigan website: 

This summer, WGVU TV will broadcast Vietnam War Stories, a 3-part documentary produced by Wisconsin Public Television. While recording more than 100 interviews for the series, producers kept hearing the same comment from many of the veterans: they weren't welcomed home after grueling tours of duty 40 years ago in Southeast Asia.
On Saturday, July 3, 2010, they finally got that "Welcome Home," when WGVUGrand Valley State University, and the West Michigan Whitecaps, in conjunction with the broadcast of Vietnam War Stories, presented LZ Michigan. (LZ is an abbreviation for "Landing Zone," military slang for a helicopter clearing where supplies or troops are landed.)
The LZ Michigan event at Fifth Third Ballpark honored and welcomed home Michigan's Vietnam War Veterans. This statewide effort culminated in a day of recognition and celebration of their service and sacrifice, for veterans, their families and the public. The event was not political or military. It was the community's expression of thanks, support and welcome for the men and women who served in Vietnam.
The July 3, 2010 event, LZ Michigan, featured a special evening celebration inside Grand Rapids Fifth Third Ballpark, which honored and thanked our community's Vietnam Veterans.
The ceremony honored those who were killed in action, those still missing and unaccounted for and the surviving vets, many of whom continue to suffer from injuries incurred in Southeast Asia.
The event featured speakers, recognition, musical entertainment and videos from the premiere of the Vietnam War Stories documentary, and closed with fireworks.

Any profits from LZ Michigan were to go into an endowment fund that would provide a scholarship to a Veteran or Veteran's dependent to assist with the cost of attending Grand Valley State University. Like I mentioned in the last post, we were far from making enough money to start this endowment fund. 

Now the fun part, where do I come into all this??

I learned of the LZ Michigan event because a family member worked for Fifth Third Ballpark at the time. My dad is a Vietnam Veteran so it seemed like a fitting event for me to volunteer to help with. I went to a few committee meetings and was completely blown away by the passion these people had for this event and for supporting our Veterans in general. I really didn't know anything about WGVU. I knew what PBS was (who doesn't love Sesame Street?!) and that they had something to do with radio but that really was it. I wasn't too concerned with any of that anyways, I was here to help with LZ Michigan. I'm really not even sure how to put in words how amazing the planning of LZ Michigan was, let alone the actual event. As time went on, our volunteer committee grew and grew. I truly couldn't believe how many people were willing to give of their time and resources to make this happen and they were doing it for families like mine. 

The day of the event came and it was mind blowing. We had the big map out where Veterans could write their name of where they served in Vietnam,. We had the traveling wall where they could find the names of fallen comrades. We had the Patriot Guard Riders. We had military vehicles, food, music, fireworks, and we had hundreds of Veterans who finally got the Welcome Home they were denied so many years ago. It's really hard to explain an event like this but to see men in their 50's, 60's and older in tears because they had been waiting for a moment like this their whole lives is something you will never forget. 

The war was not something we ever really talked about in my family. My dad fought in Vietnam but that's pretty much all I knew. I knew there were plenty of emotional scars from that time but like so many others it was something that was buried away and easier to not deal with. LZ Michigan offered these men and women a day to talk freely to one another and to their families and to realize that none of them are alone. It allowed conversations to take place and wounds to be heeled. It was something that you really can't completely grasp if you weren't witness to it, but trust me when I say it was life changing for a lot of people and it's something that, as a community, we can not let die. 

This is why I am running. We need to keep this event alive, and as a committee we want to expand LZ Michigan to include all Veterans. We want to continue to put on events and find ways to reach out to our Veterans and give something back to them. This weekend is Veterans Day and I would encourage you to do something to say thanks. The Grand Rapids parade is Saturday morning starting at 10am downtown. It's the perfect opportunity to show appreciation and respect for our soldiers. My personal challenge to you is to find a Veteran or active member of the Military and have a conversation. You would be amazed at the impact a complete stranger can have on your life if you take the time to listen.