Sunday, February 10, 2019

Rise in Love

For the week of Valentine's Day...

Rise in Love


Over time,

we come to understand

love’s true nature

After years of falling, hurting,

getting back up and trying again

We finally understand

that we do not fall in love

We rise in love

When we rise in love,

it is not a helpless feeling

or an out of control feeling

It is arriving at a new consciousness

Feeling a deep connection with our other

A vibration in the heart radiates throughout the body

We see our reflection in their eyes mirrored back at us

The light in us recognizes and honors the light in them

We find that we want their every happiness, their highest good

We’ve got their back and we want them to succeed in all things

When they suffer, we want to wrap them in healing warmth

Giving to and doing for them brings us great satisfaction and joy

We find our heart more open than ever to receive all of this in return

We don’t wish to attach ourselves to them or hold them on a tether

But to sail or fly along by their side, enjoying the shared journey

Realizing that we are making each other’s lives even larger than before

Physical intimacy can be shared or transcended

The experience of rising in love itself feels far greater, enduring

No hurt results from rising in love

Even if one day there may be a divergence of pathways, and a graceful letting go

But the love shared is everlasting, forever a part of us,

contributing to our continuing evolution

As we continue to rise


Saturday, January 12, 2019


Nine years ago, I began training for my very first Half Marathon. Having it as a goal at that point in my life was therapeutic, as I'd recently lost a brother and my business and was healing from a crippling tennis elbow injury. I was also caring for my elderly mom who had minor dementia. Psychologically, running helped me feel free and "unstuck" and was really helping my body grow stronger. 

I post this now for people who may be considering venturing into long-distance running and marathons/10-Ks as a New Year intention.

I am here to tell you that anyone can do this, if they truly want to, and to cheer you on. I went on to complete three more half marathons before finally taking a break. 

But this was my first experience:  

When I saw the small, gray triangular silhouettes fast approaching in the northeastern sky…I turned off the music on my iPod and raised an arm to point at them.

“The F-16s!” I exclaimed to the runners around me.

In the next few seconds, they roared overhead on their majestic fly-over that signaled the start of the U.S. Air Force Half Marathon. The next thing I knew, I was sobbing…overcome with emotion from everything that had led up to this particular moment in time. The courage it took to become a distance runner this past spring, how running kept me sane in one of the scariest and most uncertain times of my life, the long and grueling training schedule through one of the hottest Ohio summers on record, all the minor muscle injuries I had to patiently treat and rest as my “rookie” body got used to such a workout, and how those jets and airplanes in general were what my hometown is all about. The Birthplace of Aviation.

“Okay, Tony,” I silently said to the spirit of my departed brother, who was the first distance runner in our family long ago. “Be with me today and be my guardian angel of the marathon.”


 The starting gun went off and everyone around me starting cheering. I let out a loud “woohoooo!” and turned my music back on—U2’s “Magnificent,” and began to dance and groove while waiting for the massive crowd to start moving forward. Seven minutes later, I was through the gate and trotting out of the Air Force Museum grounds…working my way around people into the free spaces. I felt the energy and excitement of the runners pulsating all around me and propelling me forward.

Gate volunteers clapped and cheered as we were off and headed up Springfield Street. Under the railroad trestle and out of the shadows, the morning sun shone brightly in our faces. Through my headphones, New Order sung:

I used to think that the day would never come
I'd see the light in the shade of the morning sun…

The playlist was no accident. I had carefully chosen and placed songs with particular tempos, grooves, and lyrics at the precise times I would need them the most.

The next stretch through Huffman Prairie was my favorite phase of the race. We ran a couple of miles through a cool, shady, and tree-canopied trail. Runners and walkers of all shapes, sizes, and in multiple colors wove in and out of one another…there were even a few wheel-chair runners and G.I.s doing the marathon in camouflage uniforms and laden with a heavy backpack. Wow. I could tell that everyone was feeling comfortable and running at a sensible, steady pace. Somewhere to the left of us stretched the long, flat field where the Wright Brothers once experimented with their first biplanes.
We passed our first water and Gator-Ade station where a volunteer rock band was wailing away on some loud and driving tune. I laughed to myself, thinking how disorienting it must be for a band to be rocking out so early in the morning—when they’re used to closing bars at 2 a.m. and sleeping in till noon. Perhaps they pulled an all-nighter.

The next phase of the race took us through Area A of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Grassy green spaces gave way to the perimeter road that eventually took us along the flight line and through sections of the golf course. Now Michael Franti was urging me on:

            Everybody ona move (la la la)…everybody let’s move (la la la)
            And you don’t stop, and you don’t quit, and you don’t stop…

Dear God in heaven, Skeel Avenue never seemed so LONG when I used to drive down it on my lunch hour, during my years of federal employment in a building nearby. Now it stretched out endlessly before me, only to be conquered one footfall at a time. Half way down it, I glanced up toward the Officer’s Club, where I used to go swimming as a child (my dad was a civilian, but ranked high enough to enable us to enjoy the facilities), and thought how very long ago that was.

Finally we ascended from the hot concrete to the lovely, tree-shaded housing area of generals and other high-ups in the military. People sat in lawn chairs in their yards or along sidewalks cheering us on. Little kids held out their hands to high-five the runners as they passed. I came upon a team of female runners with purple shirts that read: “Over 40 and kicking asphalt.” Of course I had give them a loud whoop.

The route got a little creative as it wound through homes and buildings…even going in a complete hairpin turn at one point…before proceeding out to the exit gate and ramp that led to I-675…where we merged with the full marathon runners coming in for their final leg from Fairborn.

I smiled to myself when all the runners around me stopped and walked up the ramp to the overpass. It was long and steep, and we knew we had to reserve what energy we had left for our big finish. And it was beginning to feel really hot with the sun overhead. Only the seasoned veteran marathoners trotted up slowly, but they were sparse…and I suddenly remembered a t-shirt I’d seen on sale at the Expo that said: SLOW IS THE NEW FAST. Hee hee!

A young G.I. stood near the top of the ramp and cheered us on, “You’re almost to the top. You can see it from here. Way to go!”

Finally a downhill and back to running! Bono sang to me:

            Oh…you…look…so…beautiful tonight – in the city of blinding lights     
We left the overpass and headed up the road that runs behind Wright State University—my alma mater. I passed the daycare where I did part of my student teaching over a decade ago. WSU was supposed to be a huge spectator area, but there weren’t as many people as I thought, and none of them were my sister Carol—an experienced marathon runner who had come up from the Cincinnati area to support me on my big day. Oh well…onward and upward.

Upward indeed! GAH!!! Another sloping hill. I decided to run it. I was tired of stopping to walk—this was getting ridiculous. Newly refreshed from a Gator-Ade station (it’s amazing how a few gulps of that nuclear-looking elixir can perk you right up…that, and Blok energy gels, which I was popping into my mouth a little more frequently now that my energy seemed to be dwindling) and the Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These” encouraging me…I got to the top and saw my sister waiting for me on a curb, looking all smokin-hot in her purple tank top and sunglasses. I shouted her name, pointed at her and ran straight for her—and she finally saw me and came running up to give me a big squeeze and swish her hand on my back.

“Lookin’ good, Alex, lookin’ good! You’re doing great! Keep going, you can do it! You’re almost there!!!”

I was so happy to see her, but the hill had taken most of my breath. I giggled deliriously and rasped out my thanks and stopped to walk for a little before she released me back into the flow of runners and called, “See you at the finish line!”

Oy. I was getting tired.

But wait, what’s this?  Along Kauffman Avenue—the last long stretch before heading back to the museum—a huge group of volunteers lining the road provided comic relief! Their theme was “Welcome to the 80’s.” There were posters of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, Rubix cubes, and lines from the movie Top Gun. Two guys in wigs (one blonde with a “Let’s Get Physical” exercise headband around it and the other a long, black mullet) stood high-fiving runners. “You guys rule!” I yelled at them as I ran by.

And then just ahead of them were the Nerds! Complete with tape across the bridge of their birth-control-glasses, pocket protectors, flood pants, and painted on zits. I laughed some more and high-fived them before struggling up to the intersection of Kaufmann and Rt. 444.

At Mile 11 I began to hit the dreaded “wall”—just like I had in my high miles training. I somehow thought the magic of marathon day would make it all better, but I found myself walking more than running. Didn’t I eat enough carbs and protein? Didn’t I keep an even pace in the beginning so this wouldn’t happen? The words my sister had told me that morning came back to soothe me: “Whenever you feel yourself tiring, just tell yourself, ‘I have a strong, courageous body.’”

The Foo Fighters, as well, wouldn’t let me worry about it.

            Done, done, and I’m onto the next one
            Done, I’m done, and I’m onto the next one…

All I had to do was finish.

Nearing the Air Force Museum grounds once again, I reached Mile 12. Only 1.1 miles to go. I’d wanted so badly to run that final mile, but the energy just wasn’t there. So I walked and then ran and then walked some more. At one point I remember a monarch butterfly floating along with us…flying back and forth over the runners’ heads as though blessing us and trying to give us strength. It was a surreal moment just before the fury. Through the gates was one last hydration station. I passed it up, thanked the volunteers (as I’d done at every other station along the way) and kept going. Volunteers were cheering us on wildly, now. “You’re almost there!!! This is it!”

We had to run down a long U-shaped runway before circling around into the chute. I walked much of it, but didn’t feel bad because others were walking too. We were pretty beat. Nearing the bend in the horse-shoe, I saw my sister with a camera pointed at me.

 “Uh-oh!” I yelled. “I better start running!”

So the shutter clicked, catching me in a worn-out gait…but with the same smile I’d had on my face practically the entire race. I was having such a blast!

She cheered me on one last time, and then tried to run along beside me in the crowd until a bunch of old vintage airplanes on display got in her way.

And then came the “chute.” Droves of people lined it, leaning over the railings searching the river of runners for their loved one. Kids held up “Go Mom!” signs…others had banners with the names of their relatives emblazoned across it. People cheered and waved flags and had all kinds of noisemakers that rang and clacked and whirred and hummed. I could hear the motivational rock songs (We Are The Champions) blasting from the speakers, along with the announcers calling out encouraging things and rattling off the names of finishers, as their micro-chips registered on the computer. And then I saw it.

A white sign stretched across the track ahead, with the two best words a person ever wanted to read on a day like this one: FINISH LINE.

Did I have that blissful look on my face, like I’d seen on all the Flying Pig runners as they came toward me to claim their medals? I was supposed to be looking for friends who were there to watch me finish, but I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from the sign. It was transmitting energy into my body that I couldn’t muster on my own, and propelling me forward. In my haze, I saw someone holding out a sign that said: THIS IS YOUR MOMENT.

Tears filled my eyes.

I raised a fist and cheered as I crossed the finish at 2:36, and as I slowed to a walk again, I nearly passed out from the pressure change in my body. A woman put a medal around my neck and congratulated me (heaviest damn medal everrrr) and I stumbled into the recovery area to catch my breath, stretch out my legs that were already beginning to stiffen, and wait for the blackness and stars I was seeing to disappear.

They had water and Gator-Ade and fruit and crackers and La Rosa’s pizza…and when I was good and rested I took a slice and wandered out into the throngs of people. Miraculously, my sister found me and gave me a big hug…and it felt so wonderful to have a loving support person waiting for me after all that.

Holy crap, I had done it. What started as a daring dream four months ago when I clicked “Register” on the Air Force Marathon website was now a reality. I finally earned that pink “13.1” sticker on the back of my car.

I am a marathon runner.