The Kandahar Marathon: Week Thirteen

The Kandahar Marathon: Week Thirteen

“The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”

~Luke 10:37 (NIV)

It had been a while, quite a long while, actually, since I had opened a Bible to read it. As a World Religions teacher, my focus on religion has been largely academic lately, and as a person with a much stronger background in Christianity than in other faiths, most of my time reading on religion is spent in the Talmud, the Quran, and delighting in the often mind-boggling wisdom of Buddhist koans.

When “Donation of $1037” appeared in my inbox from FanAngel the morning after I published my week twelve blog, lamenting my anger at the situation with the house for refugees, it got my attention. I reread it several times in the early hours of the morning, suspecting I had misunderstood—it’s an odd number, after all, and also a rather large one. Only when I read the contents of the email itself, in which my former student from nearly two decades ago referenced the Gospel of Luke, chapter ten, verse 37, did this tremendous act of generosity set in. The parable of the Good Samaritan. On the treadmill, I allowed this momentum to push me, and my scheduled three-mile recovery run evolved rapidly into five.

At school, kids kept asking me what was going on with the Afghan families. I kept telling them I didn’t know, but that we were working on it (which is true). It turned out the families hadn’t signed a lease, and that because we attempted to make it clear that they had options other than to live in squalor, they were at least reconsidering moving into the dilapidated home. I still burned with anger, but I was working hard to channel it into good things, into energy, and into change.

Tuesday morning, in the relative warmth of high thirties, my eight-mile hill workout turned into ten, as I trotted up and down the rolling inclines that surround my neighborhood on all sides, twice lapping the park, twice tackling the mountain titled “big nasty” by one of my runners last summer, and all the while breathing hard and enjoying being outside, taking it all in. It was still dark when I finished, and I cooled down on the bike for a few minutes before getting ready for school.

Early in the afternoon on Tuesday, I received an email informing me that I had been passed over for a fellowship I was hoping to receive, a fellowship that would have come with grant money to do research on the Siege of Sarajevo this coming summer. Not twenty minutes later, I got a phone call from an unknown number. It was the agency that offers the fellowship, telling me that someone had turned it down. They were calling to ask if I was still interested. Of course I was. I told my wife and a few close friends, emailed my friend and translator, Adi, and spent the next morning on the treadmill, running five easy miles and watching the first half of a documentary about the Siege of Sarajevo. That morning, an email came in from Cindy, informing me that the two families we are working to house have had their Air BnB’s extended another month, decreasing the urgency and assuring us that they’re safe and comfortable. This was a relief, and one I gladly passed along to my students, who remain eager to assist them.

Thursday morning, I got in a 10K plus .2 on the treadmill to round out the month at 203 miles, the most miles I’ve ever run in a single month of my life by far. In the background, the second half of a documentary on the Siege of Sarajevo, and my thoughts are consumed now by the idea of moving there this summer. I reached out to friends in Bosnia—and elsewhere—to begin making preparations, and ensured that my friend Adi will be available to serve as my translator while I do my research. It’s going to be a terrific summer. From a running standpoint, being abroad isn’t ideal, perhaps, though as it comes on the heels of a full marathon, I’m choosing to look at July as a recovery month and willing to let my mileage dip as a result. I can’t wait to run along the banks of the Miljacka River again.

March was a heck of a month. In addition to increased lifting and spinning, I ran 203 miles. Here’s how it breaks down:

March 1: 5 miles at an incline of 2, 10 minute pace

March 2: 6 miles

March 3: 6 miles at race pace (8:57)

March 4: off

March 5: 8 miles

March 6: 13.1 miles

March 7: 5 miles

March 8: 6 miles of hills

March 9: 4 miles

March 10: 6 miles at race pace (8:57)

March 11: 14 miles

March 12: off

March 13: 6 miles

March 14: 4 miles

March 15: 6 miles of hills

March 16: 4 miles

March 17: 9 miles at 8:37 pace

March 18: off

March 19: 5 miles

March 20: 14 miles

March 21: 5.5 miles

March 22: 7 miles of hills

March 23: 5 miles

March 24: 8 miles (8:57)

March 25: 10 miles

March 26: off

March 27: 20 miles

March 28: 5 miles

March 29: 10 miles of hills

March 30: 5 miles

March 31: 10K +.2

Total for March: 203 miles! Woohoo!

I’ll admit that the pains in my feet have not subsided entirely. When TJ asked me to run Friday morning I was enthused at first, but the protests from my feet echoed in my mind; skipping a rest day was unwise to put it mildly. Reluctantly, I did not run Friday morning, but did some core work and spent an hour on the Peloton casually moving my legs in a circular motion.

Saturday I again felt fresh—its amazing what those rest days do for a runner. I was assigned five miles but couldn’t help myself and ran seven, enjoying the fresh air and the chirping of the birds who are noisily returning now that the weather has begun to improve. Sunday morning I did everything wrong. I was scheduled for a long run, which is typically untimed and just about getting miles in. With that in mind, I paid no attention to what I was eating, stayed out late the night before at a Broadway musical (Hadestown—I recommend it!), didn’t fuel well in the morning, forgot my gel packs for the long run, carried no liquid, and didn’t bother to take music with me…and yet I felt great.

On a long run like that, I usually shoot for around ten-minute miles. It’s just about building that base, and I have my “race pace” days and speed work days to make up for it. As regular readers know, I usually run an 8:57 for my race pace days, the goal being a sub-four-hour marathon in June, and a huge PR.  I hit my first mile at a fast 8:29 but thought little of it. Most runners go out fast. But the longer I ran, the more I realized I felt strong despite being ill-prepared. 8:19, 8:31, 8:11, 8:14, 8:20. I had no reason to slow down, but I did want to get back and watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince with my kids, so I just kept ripping off the fast miles. I ran through a herd of deer that were standing on the trail in the early morning light, watched the sunrise through the clouds, and enjoyed a light sprinkle of playful rain upon my face. I ran mile fourteen at a 7:57, and ended my fifteen-miler feeling amazing, and having averaged 8:16’s the entire time. It made me start to wonder if I was selling myself short with the 8:57 pace. Maybe I want to pick it up a bit? Then again, the difference between fifteen and twenty-six is a cavernous eleven, an eleven that will feel like twenty if not a hundred. We’ll see how I’m feeling in a few more weeks.

Ever since the donation had come in early in the week, I’d been thinking about the parable of the Good Samaritan found in the Gospel of Luke, Ch. 10. “Love thy neighbor” is so easy to say, so difficult to do, especially when one considers that “neighbor” properly understood means, well, everyone. Love everyone? Yes. As Luke teaches, have compassion, show mercy, and love everyone. “Go and do likewise,” urged Jesus. I allowed the emotions that came with rereading this passage for the first time in many years to move me, and move me they certainly did. Yet again, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude.