Jon Stolpe Stretched

What's S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g me now?


My wife did it!  She surprised me for my 40th birthday with a party at our house on Saturday night.  And yes, I was surprised.  She sent out invitations, contacted friends, went food shopping, and coordinated the surprise plan with our neighbors, our family, and other friends.  Nobody dropped a clue.  I showed up at our house Saturday night after a day of making Korv (a Swedish Christmas sausage) expecting to take a shower and head out with Leanne and a couple of friends to celebrate over dinner.  When I walked in the house, I was greeted with a house full of friends.  It was such a wonderful opportunity to touch base with some people who mean a lot to me.

There were many highlights to this evening, but I wanted to share a particular detail with The Stretched Community.  One of our good friends, Amy Sullens, made a cake for the party.  Amy did an incredible job representing me on the cake.  On top of the cake was a running shoe (that looked quite realistic).  The shoe obviously represents my running interest.  The Happy 40 Birthday sign on the front of the cake looked just like a runner’s race bib.  On the left side of the cake was a tent and a campfire which represents my love for camping and a couple of camping traditions that go with me each year.  There were two chickens on the back of the cake.  Yep, I still have a couple of chickens.  And finally, the right side of the cake boasted a laptop computer with Stretched by Jon Stolpe on the screen.  My blog made my cake!

All this, and the cake was delicious!

What four things would go on your cake to represent you?  They can be fun things, or you can choose to go deeper.

(If you’re interested in cakes like this, you should check out the Cake Art by Amy Facebook Page.)


December 13, 2011 Posted by | birthday, blogging, camping, chickens, looking back, running, stretch, thankful, thoughts, unbelievable | | 24 Comments

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

Hitting My Stride

As a runner, there are times when I am running where everything flows.  My breathing becomes controlled.  My pace feels good.  My legs and the rest of my body feel good as they move in concert.  These are the times when I know I’ve hit my stride.  It just feels right.  This feeling doesn’t always last for the rest of the run, and sometimes it comes and goes as I run against strong head winds or I turn the corner and face a long hill.  But it’s nice while it lasts.

As things have been developing at work, at home, at our kids’ school, and even here on the blog, I have recently had a feeling of peace – a feeling that I may finally be hitting my stride.  I’m a little afraid to say that for fear that I have somehow jinxed myself.  And I do realize that there will be things that come along that throw me off my stride – that throw me out of rhythm – and that’s okay.  I just wanted to celebrate this moment.

What can you celebrate today?

September 16, 2011 Posted by | life, running, thankful, thoughts | 4 Comments

Full Moon Reflection

This morning, I hit the pavement at 5AM to get an easy 3 miles in to start my day.  Normally, it would be almost pitch black at this time of the day, but not this morning.  Today, I ran as if it was daylight thanks to the sun’s light reflecting off the full moon.  You could actually see my shadow quite clearly as I ran away from the moon.  And the picture above from my iPod doesn’t do the moon justice.  It was like a bright white beach ball hanging in the sky.

I’ve always had a fascination with space, so as I saw the moon this morning.  I couldn’t help but wonder how bright the moon’s reflection must appear in space.  The interesting thing is that the moon only displays a fraction of the brightness that comes from the sun.  Yet it is still beautiful and it can still show the way and it still gives hope for the new day sun.

This kind of makes me think about Moses after he had the chance to see part of God.  Moses’ face glowed.  In fact, they had to use a cover to hide the brilliance of his face.

As Christ followers, we are called to be like the moon.  We are called to reflect the light of the Son.  We have an opportunity in this broken world to reflect God’s light and spread the hope of Christ to an otherwise dark world.  A great reminder thanks to a morning moonlit run.

So there you have it…some of my thoughts from my 3 miles this morning.  By the way, the legs were a little stiff after Sunday’s run, but it was good to get back to running.

What do you think of when you see the moon?

September 13, 2011 Posted by | running, thoughts | 8 Comments