MEMORIAL DAY 12K & 5K – Run, Walk &Roll

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

THE RACE BEFORE US is presenting the 1st annual Memorial Day 12K/5K Run – Walk – Roll, benefiting America’s wounded veterans through Families of the Wounded Fund, Inc. Please consider volunteering to help with water stops, race marshaling, registration, and many other fun tasks.  Bring a whole group from work, school, church, or other organization.

Please follow this link:

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0e4daea62ca6f49-virginia

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For more information about the race or to register to “run, walk, or roll” please follow this link:

http://rvaraces.com/training/

from:  The Race Before Us

Bruce & Dan

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THANKSGIVING DAY PIPELINE RUN

The Race Before Us and Coach Dan invite you to join us tomorrow – Thanksgiving Day – for our Thanksgiving Day Pipeline Run. This is the 3rd year of this event and it continues to grow. This is a fun 10k walk/run event that starts / ends in the parking lot across from Browns Island. We run along the edge of Browns Island, cross the Pipes that run next to the island, run along the flood wall, cross the 14th Street Bridge, back across the flood wall to the Mayo Ruins, climb the ruins (or you can go around), and continue through the woods to Belle Island, then cross the footbridge back to Tredgar where we start. There are plenty of coaches guiding you along the course so you will not get lost. If you have not done this run before, I encourage you to do so since it is a unique way to see parts of Richmond that most people never see.

Here is more information on this run:

Meet: Parking lot across from Browns Island, on Tredegar Street next to the Civil War Museum.

When: Thanksgiving Day, November 27, at 7:00am

Distance: 5 mile loop or 6 miles (depending on if you decide to run around Belle Island)

Cost: Free, but please consider bringing a non-perishable food item, which will be collected and given to the food pantry at Gayton Baptist for distribution to the needy.

Registration: Not needed – just show up. There are no race bids, t-shirts, or anything fancy for this walk / run. You are simply joining a group of runners/walkers in Richmond to begin your celebration of Thanksgiving….plus this allows us to eat a little more on Thanksgiving day without the guilt!

Below are photographs from last year’s run.  See you tomorrow!

Coach Dan and Bruce

Coach Dan and Bruce

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NEW! – The Race Before Us on YouTube

MY CAMINO – the Video (The Camino de Santiago)

[Editor’s Note: I have still not posted fully the entire trip from southern France to Santiago, Spain, but there is now a video slideshow of the trip.  The slideshow features just 15% of my 2,000 photographs taken over 30 days on the Camino de Santiago.  Accompanied by the music of Steven Curtis Chapman, James Taylor, Alison Krauss and Gordon Lightfoot, the photographs move chronologically until the trip along the Camino ends at the Cathedral de Santiago and at the “end of the earth” at Muxia and Finisterre.]

 

CLICK ON THE PHOTOGRAPH BELOW TO WATCH

MY CAMINO - THY CAMINO:  The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

MY CAMINO – THY CAMINO: The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

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Giving from the Heart

[Editor’s Note – Below is post from “Coach Dan,” who is instrumental in The Race Before Us, Inc.’s efforts to encourage others to develop physically and spiritually through running and Christian apologetics.  Bruce will be back soon to finish his series on the Camino de Santiago.]

 

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’  Acts 20:35 (NIV)

When I was a child, my grandmother would often say to me: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I’m not sure if that is what drives me to give back today, but I know it had a profound influence on my motivation. Several years ago I started a group in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, that helped homeless people prepare for a 10k race. When I first started this group, I did not know what to expect since I had no experience working with the homeless. I just knew I had to do something to help after reading a story about a young lady in Pennsylvania that did something similar. I was so touched by her story that I began taking note of the homeless people I saw on my weekend runs through the streets of downtown Richmond. I knew I had to help.

After doing some research and speaking to several great organizations that help support the homeless in Richmond, I found a void that needed to be filled. I approached the YMCA and asked if I could use its facility to create a running group for the homeless. The “Y” had a lot of questions and I had few answers, but together we decided to jointly move forward to create a program called “Keep it Movin.” That first year we recruited 23 people to train for their first 10k race. I was touched by this group in more ways than I can recall.   Seeing people who were struggling just to get by, who were willing to show up week after week to train was more than I expected. More importantly, seeing the spirit they displayed each week and their eyes of determination gave me strength to recognize a stronger faith. It also touched others in the community, too. Countless friends and other runners in the community donated shoes, clothing and many other things to help support this new cause. Even businesses contributed to this worthy cause with donated registration entry fees, new shoes, and even race shirts. I was touched by the generosity of so many in Richmond that helped start this program in 2010. I am proud to say that this program is still going strong in the Richmond area. Through some great volunteer coaches, I have seen firsthand how we helped the homeless in our area.

Jackee being fit for new running shoes

Jackee being fit for new running shoes

So, when we think of generosity, I’ve learned it is not the size of the gift or the nobility of the cause. It is doing something first hand where you can see the result. Helping someone who needs it can be so rewarding. We might call someone “generous,” who contributes a modest sum to a charitable cause to promote the good of society.  But I believe Jesus measures generosity by the condition of the giver’s heart.  The apostle Paul said that even the most lavish donations are empty acts in God’s sight if the giver’s heart is hardened toward him (1 Corinthians 13:3).

Last month, we created a half marathon (13.1 miles) training program (through the YMCA) for our community in the far west end of Richmond. We reached out to the homeless community and I’m proud to say that we have 5 homeless people training in our program to complete their first half marathon race. Our half marathon training program is about 100 strong and when I look out into the crowd each week, it gives me joy to see these special people on the team. No one is called out for who they are or aren’t, we are just a group of runners working together to achieve the goal of finishing the race!

Darius gets new running shoes

Darius gets new running shoes

The Race Before Us organization has been instrumental in helping us provide shoes and clothing for the homeless. Two of the five runners in this group are high school kids and it is touching to see them put on a pair of new running shoes for the first time. Enjoy the pictures below. Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces after receiving a new pair of shoes is priceless.

Coach Dan

Coach Dan Blankenship

Coach Dan Blankenship

 

 

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MY CAMINO – Leon

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[My apologies if you received this already, but although it was posted, no regular recipient I spoke with had received it today.  So I am re-posting in hopes that the auto-emails will work this time.]

Not only is the 17 km walk (10 miles) into Leon considered the “one place on the Camino where you might want to take the bus,” but precipitation was in the forecast. So my goal was simply to get to Leon as quickly as possible to avoid rain. As billed, the walk was ugly and industrial, but for some reason I was among a fairly large contingent headed into the cathedral city. I finally met a couple from Brazil, who I had seen almost every day for the prior week (and I would see almost every day until Santiago – and we finished within a couple of hours of each other). I hopscotched with three from Ireland and saw my two French buddies a few times during the otherwise uninteresting walk to Leon. (The Frenchmen had spent the night with be in Hontanas and I had seen them the next evening in Fromista and two days later in Mansilla – its just the way of the Camino).

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Despite the forecast, by 9:30 it’s partly sunny. Trying to counteract the ugly walk along busy roads, I listened to a Tim Keller talk about the “fruit of the spirit” and a variety of tunes by Bruce Hornsby, James Taylor, and Alison Krauss. Although the walk was billed as flat there was one really good hill climb after 11 kilometers. As blessed as I am, the sun came out as I made my way to the city center. Arriving right around noon, I marveled at the cathedral as I stood before it in its large, entrance square. Thinking that I needed a photograph of me before the grand church I spotted a young man who looked American to me and asked if he’d mind taking my photograph. With that request I was introduced to David – a medical student from Michigan. (I did not see David again in Leon, but little did I know then that David would play a prominent role in a number of my future days on the Camino.)

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I checked into Boccalino Hostel and cleaned up. I had a good half of a day to explore, which is just what I did. The city is believed to have been settled as early as 29 B.C. as part of the Romans efforts to protect the shipment of god out of Galicia to the west on its way to Italy. Leon has an interesting history of being run over and conquered and re-conquered by Muslims, Visagoths, Asturians and others. Just about the time that Santiago was being recognized as an important pilgrimage detention, Leon was rebuilt and became an important commercial center for the wool trade. That prosperity helped to fund the construction of a grand cathedral.

Leon Cathedral was begun in 1205 and finished in just under 100 years – apparently a record time. Guidebooks explain that its most noteworthy feature is its large stained glass windows, which emphasizes the use of light in the cathedral. One guidebook: “Without a flashy retablo, the cathedral lets the the streaming light steal the show.” There was an excellent audio self-tour that explained the history and architecture, including an extensive and risky, but ingenious renovation (that probably saved the cathedral from ruin) in the late 19th century. I also roamed the city and viewed its major historical and architectural highlights, including the 11th century Basilica de San Isidoro (“one of the premier Romanesque structures” in all of northern Spain, which was commissioned to house relics returned by Muslims after being defeated in the Reconquista), the more “modern” (19th century) Casa Los Botines, the Cathedral’s museum and Cloister, and the ancient city walls.

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Incredibly, as I cut through a square to return to my hotel I heard “Bruce! Bruce! off to my right. And in typical, but amazing Camino style, there was Frida, Lynn and Jen finishing a late lunch at an outdoor café. I sat with them and caught up on everyone’s journeys – and I heard “the rest of the story” about George’s boots. (I had not seen Frida or Jen since the rainy morning after Hontanas and I last saw Lynn early in the morning at Carrion as we both stood by the front door to the hostel that was locked and keeping us from starting our day’s walk.) Jen had just replicated one of the events in The Way – the movie about the Camino de Santiago starring Martin Sheen. Like Sheen’s character in the movie, after growing tired of hostel living, Jen treated the three of them to a night or two in the Parador – a five-star luxury hotel just outside the city center and on the route as the Camino starts to leave Leon. (I would pass right by it very early the next morning as I started my trek to the next destination. I assumed Frida, Jen, and Lynn were sleeping in, so I dared not stop.)

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MY CAMINO – Leon

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Not only is the 17 km walk (10 miles) into Leon considered the “one place on the Camino where you might want to take the bus,” but precipitation was in the forecast. So my goal was simply to get to Leon as quickly as possible to avoid rain. As billed, the walk was ugly and industrial, but for some reason I was among a fairly large contingent headed into the cathedral city. I finally met a couple from Brazil, who I had seen almost every day for the prior week (and I would see almost every day until Santiago – and we finished within a couple of hours of each other). I hopscotched with three from Ireland and saw my two French buddies a few times during the otherwise uninteresting walk to Leon. (The Frenchmen had spent the night with be in Hontanas and I had seen them the next evening in Fromista and two days later in Mansilla – its just the way of the Camino).

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Despite the forecast, by 9:30 it’s partly sunny. Trying to counteract the ugly walk along busy roads, I listened to a Tim Keller talk about the “fruit of the spirit” and a variety of tunes by Bruce Hornsby, James Taylor, and Alison Krauss. Although the walk was billed as flat there was one really good hill climb after 11 kilometers. As blessed as I am, the sun came out as I made my way to the city center. Arriving right around noon, I marveled at the cathedral as I stood before it in its large, entrance square. Thinking that I needed a photograph of me before the grand church I spotted a young man who looked American to me and asked if he’d mind taking my photograph. With that request I was introduced to David – a medical student from Michigan. (I did not see David again in Leon, but little did I know then that David would play a prominent role in a number of my future days on the Camino.)

IMG_1811IMG_1818

I checked into Boccalino Hostel and cleaned up. I had a good half of a day to explore, which is just what I did. The city is believe to have been settled as early as 29 B.C. as part of the Romans efforts to protect the shipment of god out of Galicia to the west on its way to Italy. Leon has an interesting history of being run over and conquered and re-conquered by Muslims, Visagoths, Asturians and others. Just about the time that Santiago was being recognized as an important pilgrimage detention, Leon was rebuilt and became an important commercial center for the wool trade. That prosperity helped to fund the construction of a grand cathedral.

Leon Cathedral was begun in 1205 and finished in just under 100 years – apparently a record time. Guidebooks explain that its most noteworthy feature is its large stained glass windows, which emphasizes the use of light in the cathedral. One guidebook: “Without a flashy retablo, the cathedral lets the the streaming light steal the show.” There was an excellent audio self-tour that explained the history and architecture, including an extensive and risky, but ingenious renovation (that probably saved the cathedral from ruin) in the late 19th century. I also roamed the city and viewed its major historical and architectural highlights, including the 11th century Basilica de San Isidoro (“one of the premier Romanesque structures” in all of northern Spain, which was commissioned to house relics returned by Muslims after being defeated in the Reconquista), the more “modern” (19th century) Casa Los Botines, the Cathedral’s museum and Cloister, and the ancient city walls.

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Incredibly, as I cut through a square to return to my hotel I heard “Bruce! Bruce! off to my right. And in typical, but amazing Camino style, there was Frida, Lynn and Jen finishing a late lunch at an outdoor cafe. I sat with them and caught up on everyone’s journeys – and I heard “the rest of the story” about George’s boots. (I had not seen Frida or Jen since the rainy morning after Hontanas and I last saw Lynn early in the morning at Carrion as we both stood by the front door to the hostel that was locked and keeping us from starting our day’s walk.) Jen had just replicated one of the events in The Way – the movie about the Camino de Santiago starring Martin Sheen. Like Sheen’s character in the movie, after growing tired of hostel living, Jen treated the three of them to a night or two in the Parador – a five-star luxury hotel just outside the city center and on the route as the Camino starts to leave Leon. (I would pass right by it very early the next morning as I started my trek to the next destination. I assumed Frida, Jen, and Lynn were sleeping in, so I dared not stop.)

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MY CAMINO – Finishing the Meseta

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In many respects the great cathedral cities of Burgess and Leon serve as bookends for the meseta on the Camino. It starts almost immediately as you leave Burgos and you “feel” that left the meseta after suffering through the long industrial entrance into, and exit from, Leon. (Technically, it would take one more day before the meseta was behind me as the pilgrim catches a final look at the broad, flat agricultural plain during the second half of the day after leaving Leon).  While I enjoyed this region more than I thought I might based upon some early warnings, nonetheless there was a sameness to the relatively flat terrain with massive wheat fields and big sky.  But for the occasional town or village, monotony may have developed.  The last two days in the meseta illustrate this well.

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After my “nero” day in Carrion, I targeted a 40 kilometer day, so I was planning to get a particularly early start, but was again locked in at the albergue until 6:30 a.m.  Yet, I was still out before sunrise. The route this day is on the Via Aquitana – a restored Roman road. Yet, this stretch is one of the longest on the Camino without relief or services. The day’s walk was again more challenging from an aesthetic standpoint – a hard dirt path alongside a roadway with little scenery. The intermediate towns of Calzadilla de la Cueza, Ledigos, and Terradillos de Templarios (this town once was home to a 13th century church belonging to the Knights Templar) provided a respite from the sameness of the hike, but they seemed to be very aged and tired. Many homes and other buildings were made of only mud and straw (“mudbrick”) and, of these, many were dilapidated and many were closed, especially the churches in these towns.

“Ricky”, who I had met five days earlier when he had started his Camino in Burgos, and I past one another a few times this day as it seemed as though when I stopped for water or lunch he’d walk by and then I’d do the same. (Ricky asked we call him by that name because he knew we’d have trouble pronouncing his real, Japanese name.) We spoke little that day, but always exchanged a vigorous wave. (Who knew then that we’d walk together 5 days later and we’d finish in Santiago the same day.) I saw few other pilgrims, except a number on bicycle. The monotony of the landscape did provide a good atmosphere for solo, contemplative walking, which can be good for the soul.

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With an ambitious goal that day, I walked later than most days. The sky had turned overcast, which didn’t help my impression of Sahagun (my planned destination) as I climbed uphill and crossed over train tracks into the town around 5 p.m.  Somewhat like most of the towns and villages in this region, Sahagun exhibited a past that spoke of significantly more prominence and importance than the modern day.

Sahagun looked and felt old, grey, and tired. Yet, it was a most vigorous city in the medieval times.  King Alfonso VI was educated there and reared the area after defeating his brother for control of the monarchy.  The city was the center of development by the Benedictines of Cluny, which controlled over 100 monasteries.  The town has various remnants of its past, particularly some diverse architectural styles (including significant Islamic influence from the Moors that resulted in what is now called the “Romanesque-Mudejar” style.

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Arriving a little later than usual and seeking to get another early start (and a little privacy is good for the soul sometimes), I stayed in a simple hotel, named, perhaps not surprisingly, Alfonso VI.

The next day was very similar.  Out early for a 37 kilometer day with the town of Mansilla de las Mulas as my targeted destination for the night.  The route started out pleasantly as I crossed over a river (“Rio Cea”) on a bridge first built by Alfonso VI and walked through a grove of poplar trees, but soon the path returned to a flat, dull route on a hard dirt trail along side a road with a similar 17 kilometer section with no water or services.  The guidebook does say that this stretch is “one of the best sections of Roman road in all of Spain.” Perhaps it was, but it was still flat and dull with no water or other services.

The path into Mansilla was flat, unlike the fairly typical situation where the approach is often uphill to the town or village (presumably for defense purposes in the middle ages). The entrance to the town immediately signals to the traveler that time has not been as unkind to Mansilla as it has to a large number of the meseta towns.  A pretty square with statutes and a water fountain welcomes pilgrims. Remains of the 12th century fortifications can be seen here as well just beyond the square. (In fact, a walk through Mansilla reveals that over half of these ancient walls still remain.) Although it has lost five of its six 13th century churches, the town seems to have modernized with the times.  Mansilla also has an excellent albergue, excellent private hostels/pensions, and some good restaurants as well as most any services (supermarkets and ATM machines) a pilgrim may need.

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Having reached Mansilla, I knew I had substantially completed the meseta.  It had its pros and its cons.  There was beauty to the starkness and the accompanying “big sky” country and the flat terrain meant that 40 kilometer days were possible.  On the other hand, time has forgotten much of the region and there was a sadness to many parts of the mudbrick villages and farming communities.

All that said, now having walked through it for 4 or 5 days, my experience in the meseta recalls another writer’s description of this region that not only do I find accurate but is said better than I could say:  “The Meseta is sparsely populated. The scattered, earth-coloured villages are often camouflaged in the open plain, and only a church tower – or nowadays a grain silo — identifies their location. With mechanization of the land, many of the villages are now abandoned or inhabited only by older people, the younger set having either emigrated or moved to the large towns in the 1960s and 70s in search of work.”

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The final “bookend” to the meseta is the important city of Leon. While the guidebooks tell us that Pamplona has the largest population of any of the cities along the Camino, my sense wad that Leon was certainly the largest city. But before getting a chance to see its famous Gothic cathedral and other interesting sites, I still had to cover almost 18 kilometers from Mansilla.

Once again I was out walking before the sun rose and the day was beautiful. That said, the following description of these 18 kilometers into Leon is probably all that needs to be said further:

“If you were going to skip one day on the camino, this would be it. Much ahs been done to improve the safety of the pilgrim approach to Leon, with pedestrian bridges and overpasses, but the route still involves a lot of industrial walking.”

With a good, cool morning and flat (albeit visually unappealing) terrain, I was able to arrive in Leon by noon and enjoy a half of a day off and to see much of the city.

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