Jon Stolpe Stretched

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Thanksgiving Marathon Recap

The race started and finished at the tortoise and the hare statue

As promised, here are some of my reflections on completing this year’s Thanksgiving Marathon in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York City, NY.

As I’ve shared before running a marathon is an ambitious task.  Most don’t just get up and decide they’re going to run a marathon today.  It takes time, energy, and lots of training.  But something I’ve relearned through my experience on Thursday is that you can be a runner at any distance.  People can get so caught up in the “I could never do a marathon” or “I’m not a runner” or “I admire people who can run, but it’s not for me.”  What I loved about Thursday’s race is that runners could choose from a multiple of distances – 5K, 1/8 Marathon, 10K, 1/4 Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, 3/4 Marathon, and Full Marathon.  It was also clear that you didn’t have to be Ryan Hall, Jesse Owens, or Carl Lewis to get out there and run.  There were runners and walkers of all ages and abilities.  I loved it!

Regarding my experience, the day was perfect – sunny and cool.  We arrived at the park in plenty of time to find a parking space at the Van Cortlandt Golf Course.  As we walked through the park, we could see people gathering across a flat open field.  I thought to myself that this is a good sign the course will be somewhat flat.  Was I ever wrong!  As we arrived at the starting line, I grabbed my runner’s bib.  I love that they give all the runners number one for these holiday races.  I stretched out and began to find my place at the starting line.  Before the race started, the race organizer gave some instructions at informed runners that the marathon course had been changed due to the previous two days of rain.  Now, we were running 8 hilly trail laps instead of 4 flatter trail laps.  That didn’t sound too exciting, but there was nothing I could do about it besides get moving.

Coming off the trails for a lap around the field

As the gong went off to start the race, I started my watch and my GPS to track my time and mileage, and I started my marathon journey.  About 1/2 mile into the race, we split off of the flat open trail and turned onto a gradual uphill trail that began to narrow.  Every twenty or thirty yards there was a railroad tie to hop over.  I’m pretty sure they were placed to control erosion, but they became quite an obstacle as the race wore on.  The course proceeded to run up and down through the wooded and sometimes single track trails.  As I popped out of the woods the first time, I was greeted by my own personal cheering section.  It was such an encouragement to see Leanne and the kids throughout the morning as I made my way through the course.  (Apparently, they were the only spectators for the race, and they received many thanks from other runners.)

Bringing me into the finish

Despite the challenging course, I was off to a good start.  I ran the first half of the marathon on pace to finish at 3 hours and 20 or 30 minutes which would have beat my marathon PR by a huge margin.  But…  I kind of knew that this was probably a bit too fast for me – especially on this course.  As the race continued, the uphills became more and more of a challenge.  Eventually, I was walking most of the uphills and trying to run the downhills and the flats.  It’s amazing how the body breaks down over the course of a marathon.  I didn’t quit, but it was a real challenge to keep my body moving as fast as I wanted it to go.  As the laps continued, I also realized that a marathon course that requires this type of repetition is probably not my favorite type of course.

The Gong - The privilege of the finisher

Nonetheless, I kept going until the finish.  My daughter ran the last quarter-mile with me as I approached the finish line.  You could tell that she was proud of her dad.  What more could you ask for in a marathon experience?

If that wasn’t enough, Leanne and the kids reminded me to hit the finisher’s gong after I crossed the finish line.  I collected my finisher’s medal – a 12″ serving fork!  And I signed into the race log book where I entered my time of 4 hours 1 minute 0 seconds.  Years ago, I would have been more disappointed that I didn’t break 4 hours but not this year.  I was happy to run!  I was happy to finish!  And I’m already thinking about the next one!

Slow and steady wins the race

Hope all is well with the Stretched Community!

How was your Thanksgiving?  How did you counteract the calorie intake?


November 28, 2011 Posted by | exercise, experiences, family, looking back, running, thankful, thoughts | 17 Comments

A Quick Marathon Update

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ll provide a more detailed update when I get home, but I thought you might enjoy hearing that I did receive the 12 inch fork finisher’s medal for finishing today’s Thanksgiving Marathon! I finished the very hilly trail course in a time of 4 hours 1 minute. I can’t complain.

Hope you’re doing well today. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

(My 1st post from my Blackberry.)

November 24, 2011 Posted by | exercise, experiences, new experiences, running, stretch, thoughts, unbelievable | 4 Comments

Tomorrow Is Marathon Day

Tomorrow I’m running the Thanksgiving Marathon. I’m ready. I’m excited. And yes, I’m a little nervous. Training for marathon is a long process. I started training back in May or June. It has taken a lot of time and a lot of hard work to get to this point. I’ve logged miles on local streets and trails. I’ve run on trails in Canada. I’ve run the streets of Cape Cod, and I’ve run around Gifford Pinchot State Park. I’ve even run on the boardwalk along the New Jersey shore. I’ve run in the rain, in the heat, in the light, in the dark, and in the freezing cold. I’ve run when I wanted to and when I didn’t want to run. Tomorrow’s race will be the longest run of my training season. And as tough as it sounds, I”m picturing it more as a celebration of the journey. I don’t know for sure what tomorrow has in store, but I’m thankful for this chance to remember that life is a journey and a marathon – it’s not a sprint. Life takes work, and it’s not always easy. So tomorrow I’ll celebrate running, and I’ll celebrate life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

What have you worked hard for in your life? How has life been like a marathon for you? What keeps you going when you don’t feel like you can keep going?

November 23, 2011 Posted by | exercise, experiences, looking back, new experiences, running, thankful, thoughts | 14 Comments

Running Over Mountains

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  I Corinthians 9:24-27

I love running analogies!  As a runner (I think I can say that), I especially resonate with a few of the scriptures that tie running or other sports to living our faith.  The scripture above is definitely one of my favorites.

From yesterday’s post, you’ll remember that I ran over 20 miles on Saturday morning.  I ran the Perkiomen Trail from Green Lane to Oaks, and I finished up my run at the parking lot by Pawlings Road.  If you’re not familiar with the trail, there is a “mountain” in the middle of the trail.  Seriously, Spring Mountain (our local ski “resort”) is 7.5 miles south of Green Lane.  Skiers in our area joke around that it should be called Spring Bump, because it’s not that big compared to some of the ski mountains just an hour or two away in the Poconos.  But I can tell you, that whether it’s a bump, a hill, or a mountain, it’s not easy to run up Spring Mountain.  But it is possible.  I did it Saturday in the middle of my long run.

How did I do it?  That’s a good question.  First, I knew it was coming.  I’ve run every part of this trail several times.  I knew that this obstacle was inevitable.  Second, I stayed focused on one step at a time.  I literally shortened by stride, put my head down, and concentrated on the next step.  Third, I remembered that there was more to come.  I still had 13 miles to run.  I couldn’t let my mind and body give in now.  Fourth, I thought about the prize waiting for me at the end.  Leanne was scheduled to pick me up at 10 AM.  I had to keep going in order to reach my bride.  Finally, I remembered that this run was necessary to prepare me for my upcoming marathon.  How would I survive the marathon if I gave in now.

I think Paul’s running analogy is so appropriate to life (and ties into my running experience this weekend).  First, Paul talks about the importance of going into strict training.  I think this means studying God’s word and finding how it applies to our lives.  Second, Paul seems to point to the necessity for strategy in living out our faith.  Living our faith aimlessly isn’t fruitful.  Third, Paul realized that more was expected of him.  Training wasn’t the end, there was more to come.  There was more preaching and sharing that lied ahead.  Fourth, Paul clearly had the end in mind as he trained to share his faith with others.  He clearly pursued that through his life.  And finally, he knew it would be hard, he knew it would take effort and hard work, and he kept going.

This speaks to me.  I want to run the race of life in such a way that honors God and brings Him glory.

As for my running, my body is still recovering from Saturday, but I’m happy to say that I got back to running this morning.  Just a few more weeks until the marathon!

How’s your training going?  What are you doing to prepare for “the race”?

November 8, 2011 Posted by | exercise, experiences, life, looking back, running, stretch, thoughts, verses | 6 Comments

Running Partner

Jon Stolpe – Facebook Status

Saturday, November 6, 2011

20.87 miles 3 hours 10 minutes 40 seconds. The last 4 or 5 were pretty tough. I definitely could have used a running partner (or FIGILC – Joe will get this). I saw 68 people – 2 whom I knew, 6 deer, and a bunch of dogs. What a beautiful morning for a run on the (entire) Perkiomen Trail!

This was my Facebook status an hour or so after finishing a big run on Saturday morning.  There’s a lot of different things you can pull from the update like the fact that I’m a big numbers guy (who counts people and deer while they’re running?), I must be serious about this running a marathon thing (who runs 20 miles for fun on a Saturday?), or that I was still positive after putting my body through over three hours of pure torture (did you notice how nice it was on Saturday morning?).

But I keep coming back to two sentences in this update.  “The last 4 or 5 (miles) were pretty tough.  I definitely could have used a running partner.”

I guess that would be expected.  After Saturday’s experience and the soreness I’ve been dealing with since, I’m not sure the body was meant to run this long.  For me, Saturday’s run was such a great reminder that we need people in our lives who will “run” the tough miles with us.  Life will not always be easy.  We will face times in our life when we want to give up, when we doubt ourselves, when we feel like we just can’t go on.  These are the times when we need people who can push us, encourage us, and maybe even carry us.

While I didn’t have anyone with me for those last few miles on Saturday, I did have the anticipation of seeing my wife at the finish – that thought definitely helped.  When it comes to the rest of life, I know there are people in my life who will “run” the tough miles with me.  I’ve experienced this.  When my wife and I went through tough times last year, we had family and friends who surrounded us with meals, prayer, and all kinds of support.  I’m so thankful for these “running partners” in my life.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:12

How about you?  Do you have any “running partners”?  Who’s got your back?  Who in your life will “run” those tough miles with you?

November 7, 2011 Posted by | exercise, experiences, life, looking back, running, stretch, thankful, thoughts | 11 Comments

It’s Official – I Signed Up For A Marathon

Last week, I mentioned that I was toying around with the idea of running a marathon in the near future.  On Saturday, I signed up for The Thanksgiving Marathon that takes place on Thanksgiving morning in the Bronx, NYC, NY.  So naturally, I kept up with my running over the weekend to stay on track for being ready for this target race.

Saturday, I ran 5 quick and easy miles on the beloved Perkiomen Trail.  It felt good!  And it was beautiful to run on a section of the trail that I haven’t been on for a while.  And then Sunday morning before church, I ran 18.7 miles (again on the Perkiomen Trail).  Overall, the run went very well.  I definitely ran more quickly than I should have, but it felt fine up until the last two or three miles.  I think I’ll need a day or two for my legs to recover from this run.  Going up and down stairs isn’t meant to be such a challenge.  My legs better recover soon though, so I can get back to training for the upcoming marathon.

So our family is starting to plan our trip to NYC.  We’ll miss seeing members of our extended family over the Thanksgiving holiday, but I’m sure we’ll have many new exciting memories as we embark on this adventure.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?  Do you have any fun, crazy, or interesting traditions?

October 17, 2011 Posted by | exercise, experiences, family, new experiences, running | 6 Comments

Marathon? I’m Thinking About It

If you’ve been following along for a couple of months, you may have realized that I’ve been running lately.  In September, I ran the first ever Perk Trail Half Marathon – A Race To Remember (by myself).  The past couple of months, I’ve had the privilege of running with a couple of friends as they’ve pumped out a couple of their longer training runs in preparation for their marathons.  One of my good friends just ran his first marathon last weekend, The Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA.  And another friend is getting ready to run his first marathon in a week or so, The St. Louis Marathon.  Running with these guys has made me realize that another marathon may not be so far off for me.  I’ve run over 17 miles and still felt great (or as good as can be expected after running 17 miles).  So why not consider a marathon myself?  That’s a great question.  So…I started looking around for a marathon to run either in late fall or early spring or maybe both.

I could run the first ever Bucks County Marathon on November 20th.  This one looks attractive, because it’s relatively close to home, it’s a certified course, and it’s all trail.  I’m just not sure I want to pay the entry fee to be part of this inaugural race.  Also, I’ve already run a marathon in Pennsylvania.  If I’m every going to run one in each state, I don’t want to waste my marathon effort running a second marathon in the same state.

I could run the Rehoboth Beach Marathon on December 10th.  This would be in Delaware, so it would be a different state than my previous two marathons.  It looks like a well established race on a certified course.  It’s a possibility.

I could run the Ocean Drive Marathon in New Jersey.  This March 25th race starts in Cape May, NJ and ends in See Isle, NJ.  This point to point race could be pretty scenic as it runs 26 miles up the Jersey coast.  I have to wonder what this winds are like on this course.  This could definitely be a possibility for the spring.

As I was doing my research, I came across a unique marathon possibility.  The Thanksgiving Marathon on November 24th takes place in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York City, New York.  The race isn’t certified, but I don’t think that matters to me.  The race doesn’t have any aid stations, but I could carry my own water and food.  The race doesn’t come with any fancy T-shirts or running expo.  But the race is FREE!  You just sign-up, show-up, and run.  For finishers of this race which takes place Thanksgiving morning, a 12 inch engraved fork is your reward along with the satisfaction of knowing you earned the calories that you will consume for this year’s Thanksgiving Day meal.  I haven’t signed up yet, but I’m definitely thinking that this may be the one.

What do you think?  Anyone interested in joining me?  Are there any other marathons that I should consider?

Goals like this are great for keeping us focused and moving forward.  But it doesn’t have to be a marathon or hiking up Mt. Everest or swimming across the Gulf of Mexico.  I’ve been inspired by many who are pursuing their own C25K goal (Coach To 5K).  Whatever it is, set a goal.  Go after it.  You can do it!

So what’s one of your goals?  What are you doing to pursue it?

October 12, 2011 Posted by | exercise, experiences, new experiences, recreation, running, thoughts | 4 Comments

Race to Remember Recap


Yesterday, I ran the first ever Perk Trail Half Marathon.  Okay, it wasn’t an official race.  It was my own crazy idea that I shared last week.  The race gave me a goal to help me get into shape but it also gave me a way to remember the 10th anniversary of September 11th, 2001.

As I ran, I spent each of the 13 (actually 13.1) miles thinking and praying for a different group of people or things which were tied to 9/11.  I wrote these things on my arm as a reminder.  As I approached each mile, I would pray on a more general basis for the first half of the mile.  For the second half of the mile, I would personalize it by concentrating on specific people in my life:

1 – Leanne

2 – Hannah & Isaac

3 – Greg Bonderanko, Jim Callahan, Bruce Beck, junior firefighters from our scout troop

4 – Heather Roulle, John D’Orazio, Shannon Clark, Mike C.

5 – Mike G., John Rizzuto, Evan Flora, Tom Williams

6 – Barack Obama, Joe Biden, senators, Congress, state governors

7 – U.N., NATO

8 – My neighbors, Joe Giunta

9 – Mayor Bloomberg, Brian Willem, Forefront Church

10 – NCC, Journey’s Crossing

11 – Christ’s Church of the Valley, my parents as my dad just started at a new church

12 – tough work relationships

13 – Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan

It was a powerful experience to give these things to God as I passed over each mile.  It was freeing to release these people and worries to the One who cares so deeply for us.

I also had a couple of interesting and unexpected happenings related to the Race to Remember.  I guess I wasn’t shocked when I started the “race” on my own despite my invitation for others to join me. For one, it was early in the morning (7AM), and most people were probably still in bed.  Secondly, my last-minute idea really didn’t give a lot of time for people to prepare and commit to running 13.1 miles.

The first amusing happening came at the first half mile marker when a cat jumped on the trail and started running with me.  I’ve had dogs run with me before, but I’ve never had a cat try to run with me.  Honestly, it was a bit freaky as the cat stayed with me for several yards.  When the cat finally realized it couldn’t keep up, it stopped and started meowing loudly at me.  I smiled as I continued running thinking that this cat was my first cheering section of the day.

The second interesting happening occurred five miles into the “race” when I caught up to Dave, a man who used to go to our church.  I almost ran past him until I realized who he was. I asked him how far he was going and he said a few more miles, so we ran together for about two and a half miles catching up on running, our kids, and their new church.  It was a great, unexpected diversion in the middle of my run.

After I left Dave, I continued back on the trail towards home.  As the miles wore on, I could feel my legs starting to grow tired.  With about three miles to go, I saw another familiar face.  Scott, a friend from scouting, was waiting for me and ready to run the final three miles with me.  Apparently, he read my blog and was inspired to come out and run with me.  It was another great diversion at the perfect time.  As we clicked off the final three miles, we talked about our boys who are in the same class in their first year of middle school.  We talked about September 11th and our plans for the day.  And we enjoyed each other’s company as we talked about various other things.

When we finished (and I caught my breath), Scott asked if we should pray.  It was a perfect way to end the Race to Remember.  In addition to praying for the things written on my arm, I thanked God for the reminder through Scott and Dave of those who had “run” alongside my family over the past year at just the right time when we needed a meal, a prayer, or even just a friend to talk with.  I will never forget the “race” yesterday and the reminders of God’s faithfulness and of hope for the future.

I’m looking forward to running the 2nd ever Perk Trail Half Marathon – Another Race to Remember next year.  Who’s with me?

What did you do yesterday?  Did you do anything to remember the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001?

September 12, 2011 Posted by | exercise, experiences, life, looking back, running, thoughts | 9 Comments

Running Inspiration – Let Us Run With Perseverance The Race Marked Out For Us

Hannah finishing a race a few years ago.

Yesterday, I posted some tips for those who are thinking about running a longer race for the first time.

As I was processing this post, I was thinking about things that inspire me in my running and in my life.  For example, I’m inspired when I hear stories of people overcoming adversity to reach new heights.  I think that’s why I like movies like Radio, Remember the Titans, and The Blind Side.

I’m also inspired by scripture.  The scripture below is a great reminder to persevere and to keep the right focus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3

It is so easy to give up and to lose perspective when we face the challenges of life.  As with my tips yesterday, here are some tips that I have found helpful in keeping my eyes on the prize.

1)  Follow a plan.  God’s Word should be the center of the plan.  I have tried different methods for staying in God’s Word on my own, but I have found that existing plans are most helpful in keeping me on track.  Two plans or programs that I have used recently to help me are and The Daily Audio Bible.

2)  Find some accountability.  Get plugged into a small group or even a one-on-one relationship where you can be challenged with the tough questions like:  ‘Have you spend time in God’s Word this week?’ and ‘Have you lived with integrity since we last met?’

3)  Cross train and rest.  There are some great resources out there to get the most out of your walk.  I use several Bible-based blogs and books to give me a deeper perspective.  Getting to church on a weekly basis is also important.  This is a chance to be fed and to worship on a larger, corporate level.  Also, take time to rest.  We live very busy lives.  We must take time to reflect and to rest.

4)  Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  Get out and live your life.  Make a concerted effort to go about your daily activities in a way that would honor God.

5)  Set goals but learn to be flexible with God’s direction.  I’m a huge goal oriented person.  Setting goals is a great way to keep focused.  But we also need to be alert to the movement of the Spirit.

6)  Have fun and a positive attitude.  God doesn’t promise that this life will be easy, but we have a choice to make.  We can have a poor attitude when it comes to life’s ups and downs, or we can choose to have a positive attitude.

It’s amazing how these things line up with the tips from yesterday.

So what inspires you in running and in life?  What other tips would you add to the list above?


June 30, 2011 Posted by | exercise, life, running, small groups, thoughts | 3 Comments

I Am A Runner

Hannah at a Cross Country Meet in Fall 2010

Yesterday morning, I ran 4 miles on the Perkiomen Trail.  There wasn’t anything majorly significant about this early morning run.  I didn’t feel real fast; in fact, I felt kind of slow as I plodded along.

It was amusing to me that someone from my company called me yesterday afternoon to seek advice about running this year’s Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (it used to be called the Philadelphia Distance Run).  It just makes me laugh that people would look to me for advice about running.  I have run this race four or five times, but’s it’s been several years since I last ran it.  I’ve completed two marathons, and two or three Broad Street 10 Milers.  I can’t tell you how many 5Ks that I’ve run over the years.  Nonetheless, I don’t consider myself an expert.  I’m slow and bigger than most long distance runners (that’s a nice way to say that I carry a little more weight than most if not all decent distance runners).

So what did I tell him?

1)  Get into a training program.  Whether it’s a runner’s group at the YMCA or like Team in Training or it’s simply an on-line or written plan like one from Hal Higdon, I think these programs can help keep one focused on doing the right mileage and exercise and rest to prepare for a longer race.  I used a modified Hal Higdon plan when I prepared for both of my marathons.  As a numbers guy, I created spreadsheets to help track by progress through my training.  I tracked distance and time, and I tracked details about each of my runs and workouts about how I felt, where I ran, and what the weather was like.  It was amazing to watch my mileage build up from week to week.

2)  Get some accountability through a runner’s group or a friend who’s at your level.  I found a friend to train with for many of my shorter runs, and I asked several people to ride their bike alongside me for a few of my longer runs.  They carried my water and gel packs, but they also provided conversation to distract me when the mileage was getting the best of me.

3)  Cross train and rest.  These are important to build your strength and cardio capacity without overdoing it.  I liked to ride my bike as one of my cross training activities, and I would recommend swimming and lifting as great cross training activities.  I looked forward to my scheduled rest days.  These gave me a chance to recharge.  These are just as important as the exercise days.

4)  Practice hydration and fueling on your longer runs.  I ran with a belt with four water bottles.  I filled one or two of the bottles with an energy drink like Accelerade.  Practicing eating a gel shot or energy bar in the middle of your longer runs.  Find out what works for you and your stomach.  I learned that certain gel packs don’t work with my stomach.  It’s best to learn this lesson while training and not during your race.

5)  Set goals.  A first goal would be to make it through your training and to the starting line of the race.  Next, your goal should be to finish the race.  Then, you can start adding time related goals – overall finish time, negative splits, etc.  Finally, you might want to add a stretch goal that you can go after if you’re really feeling good.

6)  Have fun.  The running community is great – before, during, and after the race.  Talk to other runners.  Find out what works for them.  Ask them about their favorite races.  Cherish each moment.

For not being a running expert, I guess I have a lot to say.

Are you a runner?  What tips would you add to this list?

June 29, 2011 Posted by | exercise, running, sports | 9 Comments