Tag Archives: Boston Marathon

Blessed to Receive

A few weeks ago I posted about Michael Johnson’s experience at the Boston Marathon.   As he approached the finish line he encountered two runners helping a distress runner.  He and another runner decided to help as well and the four of them carried the distress runner for several hundred meters towards the finish.

Near the finish the four set him down so that he could finish the marathon on his own.

This encounter was captured on a Twitter account and it became national news.  Michael was interviewed by local media as were the other three assistants.    Their actions were hailed as a model of Boston Strong, people helping others in a time of need.   Michael’s story was worthy of attention.

Upon further reflection, I noticed that the distress runner chose to remain anonymous.  He did not want any media attention.  He preferred not to be remembered as a “runner who needed help.”  Such a choice makes sense, since runners are an independent breed that train and race on their own.  I am guessing he would have preferred completing the marathon on his own, without any assistance.

I thought of him when I ran a recent race.   I ran in the Cemstone Run For Others 10K about a month ago.    I started strong, but at the top of the first hill, I noticed that my heart rate had jumped 40 beats according to my heart rate monitor.  (I have a condition called tachycardia in which my heart rate will suddenly jump 30-50 beats during exercise.  I have consulted with my physician regarding this and continue to run under his supervision).

The start of the Run For Others 10K.

The start of the Run For Others 10K.

My normal practice in this situation is to stop, lie down on the side of the road and within 30 seconds my heart rate drops back to its normal running rhythm.

However this day it did not.  My heart rate refused to drop.   I tried to relax and will my heart to slow but it refused.   1 minute passed; 2 minutes passed. All the 10K runners had passed me and soon the 5K runners/walkers would be coming.  My frustration was all over my face.  I decided to push on and see if it would right itself.  I made it to a water stop, but my heart rate continued at an accelerated pace.   I again stopped and laid down on a green lawn.

As I laid there, one of the volunteers came over to see if I needed help (others had asked before, but I waved them off.)  She  told me was nurse and she listened to my hurried explanation.  She reminded me to take some deep breaths, to calm my mind and to be at rest.  Her calm voice settled me down and soon my heart rate dropped back to normal parameters and I finished the race.

That volunteer reminded me that I need to open to receiving care just as much as being open to giving care.  The story of the Good Samaritan is told to a Jewish questioner of Jesus.  In Jesus’ parable it is the Jewish traveler who is beaten and robbed and so must receive assistance from the “hated” Samaritan.   As a Christian I know that I need the mercy and grace of God.   I forget that God’s mercy and grace often comes through someone else.   Even a race volunteer.

When was a time you received grace and mercy through someone else?

Lord Jesus, give me the humility to receive from others when offered.


Running Boston in Boston

Yesterday I wrote about my running buddies Mike Johnson and Dan Foster running in the Boston Marathon.  Both finished, but Mike’s finish had something extraordinary.  One runner had collapse at the 26 mile marker, less than a quarter mile from the finish.  Four other runners helped him across the finish line; one of whom was Mike Johnson.   Mike is the runner in the neon yellow shirt in the tweet below.


Reminded me of the old Hollies hit, “He ain’t heavy he’s my brother.”  Way to go, Mike!

You can see the series of pictures of this finish at this link.



Running Boston in St. Paul

Today is the Boston Marathon, the premier marathon in the United States.  After last year’s horrific bombing, the marathon has become even more significant. Over 30,000 runners have registered for this year’s race. Two of my running buddies, Mike Johnson and Dan Foster, will be running the 26.2 miles and I am excited for them. A mutual friend Tim Torgerson wrote a great reflection on supporting Mike, Dan and the other runners who will be running today.

Dan and Mike stand behind fellow runners Bob and Gary.  All four have run Boston in recent years.

Dan and Mike stand behind fellow runners Bob and Gary. All four have run Boston in recent years.

Mike J and I were talking on the phone and as we signed off I said, “Good luck at Boston, have fun. I wish I was going to be there with you.” Mike’s response was, “You will be there with me.”

For some reason that stuck with me.

I thought about for the next two days. In reality, because of last year’s tragic events and because it is the way running with friend bond, we really are there.

In some way, we are all connected. That is certainly why this Boston is going to be celebrated like none other. It’s the connection that all marathoners have as we strive to do what a majority of people think is impossible or just plain crazy. In addition to being physically challenging , marathoning is a deeply emotional experience. It’s probably for that reason that most runners can’t just do one!

The most important thing I want to say is Good Luck, Have Fun, Dan and Mike. Enjoy what will probably be the most memorable marathon in your career. You are running for all of us.


Tim Torgerson running TCM a few years ago

Tim Torgerson running TCM a few years ago

I am reminded of St. Paul’s instructions, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Roman 12:15). Today I am rejoicing with Dan, Mike and the other 35,000 runners at Boston.

Lord Jesus, grant strength and hope to all runners this day.

Dealing with Disappointment

2014_boston_registration_newsWednesday was not a good day for me.  I received the following email from Boston Athletic Association.

Thank you for submitting your application for entry into the 2014 Boston Marathon. Regrettably, we are unable to accept your application due to field size limitations and the large number of applications we received from Qualified runners.

Name of Applicant


Age on 4-21-2014

Submitted Qualifying Time

John Keller




Entries from applicants in your age group were accepted through and including the time 3:53:22.

So I missed the cutoff by 32 seconds. (This new cut-off was due to the large number of registrations for next year’s marathon after the bombing in 2013.  In a normal year, I probably could have registered without any problem, since the standard Boston Qualifying time for my age group is 3:55:00. I wrote about this dream in a previous post: Marathon Dreams

Needless to say I was disappointed.  Ever since I completed my first marathon in 1999, I have had a goal of running Boston.   It is the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the country. The very act of qualifying is a challenge.  A runners needs to run a marathon under the qualifying time within 18 months of Boston.  I did qualify in 2005 but a running injury kept me from running in 2006.  I was able to re-qualify in 2012, but as it turns out, not quite fast enough.

I felt  sad and dejected on Wednesday as Boston slipped again beyond my reach.  I felt anger at the circumstances that prevented me from accomplishing my goal.  I wondered if I had the mental, physical and spiritual reserves to go through the rigorous training necessary for me to run another qualifying marathon, in hopes of running Boston in 2015.

But I also took time to reflect about my “attachment” to Boston.  Perhaps I have over invested emotional and spiritual value into a simple race.  I have been reading, Anthony De Mello’s Awareness. He states that we are programmed by social conventions to think that our happiness is dependent on outward circumstances.

When we were young, we were programmed to unhappiness. They taught us in order to be happy you need money, success, a beautiful or handsome partner in life, a good job, friendship, spirituality, God — you name it.  Unless you get these things, you’re not going to be happy, we were told. Now, that is what I call an attachment. An attachment is a belief that without something you are not going to be happy.  Once you get convinced of that — and it gets into your subconscious it gets stamped into the roots of our being — you are finished. (P 134)

I am coming to realize that my fixation on Boston may not be healthy for my overall spiritual health.  It can become an idol that distracts me from my true calling to seek after Jesus.

let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,  Hebrews 12: 1-2.

 I may or may not train for another marathon. If I do, it will be because I enjoy the challenge and rigor of training in the moment.  The goal is to be alive today, not obsessed about some future achievement.

How have you dealt with disappointment in your life?

Lord Jesus, you have been, are and forever shall be the real prize.


Running After Boston

Boston CupYesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon had repercussions throughout America, especially within running communities. The Boston Marathon is the most prestigious marathon in our country. Many marathon runners yearn to run it; I have had it as a running goal for more than a decade.  My office coffee cup is a gift from a running buddy who ran Boston eleven years ago.  Last fall at Twin Cities Marathon, I was finally able to qualify for Boston in 2014.

Yesterday I was tracking on-line my friends Mike Johnson and Dan Foster as they ran the marathon. (Runners carry a timing chip which charts their progress as they cross timing mats along the course.) Mike and Dan were moving along the course nicely. It was cool spring day, a good day for running. Dan finished the race in 3:28:57, a great time on a challenging course. Mike was further back; his training for the marathon had suffered from a variety of issues. I noted that he had complete 40K in 4:25:47 and was less than 2 miles from the finish. This was at 2:46 pm.

When the bombs went off, Mike was only a half mile from the finish. Here is what he wrote on his Facebook page

I was about a half mile from the finish when everyone ahead of me was stopped. The spectators around us said they heard two explosions near the finish line area. I asked the spectator that first told us about the explosion if I could use his phone and I was able to connect with Zanny (his wife) right away. I am so glad I was able to do that so she wouldn’t worry.

Later Mike was able to reconnect with Dan and both are now recovering: physically, emotionally and spiritually. Like so many in the world, Mike and Dan are praying for those victims who were injured or killed in this terrible event. Events like this show us the depth of human sin and wickedness and push us to reflect on life’s meaning.

I remember writing to my running friends the day after the 9/11 attacks that I planned to run that day. On the day of the attacks I was too upset to run, but I decided that I could not let the terrorists “win a disruptive victory” and deny me the routine of solace and prayer. I ran that day praying for those who had died, praying for the responders and leaders, praying for our nation, and even praying for the terrorists who cause such evil. After all Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

I plan a similar run today (though it will be more a walk due to my sprained ankle). I will reflect on ways that I can be God’s agent of peace, hope and love for the world. The tragedy of Boston places a media spotlight on the evil that human beings can cause (as well as the tremendous response of dedicated care from first responders). Yet this tragedy will not turn me away from the ultimate source of hope and renewal: Jesus Christ. His cross and resurrection is the paradigm through which I see all such tragedy. Even when humanity killed God’s Son, God brought new life: the resurrection.

In the fall I plan to register for Boston, train and run it next April. I am confident that officials will find ways to improve security, though no one can make it absolutely safe. At the start the marathon will have a moment of silence to remember those killed and injured. Then the race will start and runners will do what they do: run. I plan to be one of them.