Monday, October 8, 2012

When God grins...

I am a big fan of synchronicity and oddity. There are moments that happen in people's lives all the time that are beyond mere chance. Yet, the pattern connecting those moments and the ones leading up to-and perhaps following-are so disjointed it baffles the brain. This past weekend I had a series of events unfold that fall into this category. If you know me well you have probably heard me lament how boring and predictable my life is. And, yet, if you know me well, you know probably also know that bored lament is total nonsense. I have so many odd things happen to me it really is amazing. I try, when I am clear minded, to record them for posterity, but, often don't catch them in time. In this case, I am going to write about this past weekend to remind myself, my life is a little less ordinary than I like to think.

Being a former distance running geek I used to visit, and, really, still do visit, a website, called It has a lot of great, up-to-date news on the sport as well as a forum. Now, the forum is really like a bar where people hang out. Everyone has their corner of the bar and it can be a bit of a rough and tumble place. Nonetheless, it is home. Earlier this year I started a new thread to record my progress towards getting back into running shape. I wanted to try and see if I could run 20 minutes for 5 kilometers and figured I'd track my return to fitness for other cancer survivors to see. Now, I started this thread before I relapsed and before my bones really started failing me, so, it was really with the hope of becoming a competitive runner again.

After a few months I got a random email from a guy named Ken Martin regarding cancer and exercise. As it turned out, Ken is a former elite distance runner who still is passionate about the sport and, having developed cancer himself, began to research the benefits of exercise and cancer. In my case, I was just a guy with cancer and he felt he could share some info to help me out. Here's where it gets fun. In 1990, I read an article about Ken in Runner's World, a magazine dedicated to the running community at large. At the time I was a slow, highly motivated high school runner who wanted to get better and was willing to do anything to do it. I contacted Ken about remote coaching to see if he would help me and he promptly turned me down as I was still so young and he felt my high school coach would be sufficient. That was that, and, I never got in touch with him again.

Well, lo and behold, I realized that this was the same Ken Martin and I told him about this. We both thought it was a quirky coincidence and just kind of shook our heads. Neat, right? As we kept in touch and I learned more about Ken, I found out his is working to create a fund to help researchers explore the relationship between cancer and exercise physiology. Both of these areas are of immense importance to me and I felt an immediate call to action. I offered to help Ken out however I could and we continued to go back and forth via email. Finally, Ken mentioned he was planning on coming down to Dallas and wanted to meet me and the family. I was excited about the prospect, so, we penciled in some dates and worked to find a time to get together.

I am always looking for ways to help out with meaningful causes and Ken's definitely is one. So, I had two avenues I wanted to look into: 1) a CBS reporter who had interviewed us about the cancer cluster and 2) Weldon Johnson, the owner of, who happens to live about an hour away. After I reached out to both the reporter and Weldon I got Weldon to agree to come out and interview Ken regarding his work. This way, I figured we could spread the word about what Ken is doing and get news out. Plus, Ken is attempting to break the over 50 men's mile world record to draw attention to his fund. He figures, if he, a stage IV cancer patient, can break the world record why should other people not look towards exercise as a legitimate means of a incorporating exercise into therapy. Things were starting to come into shape.

Now, here's where it gets even cooler. Ken had invited a friend, Aaron Ramirez, an other retired elite distance runner, to come up and hang out. Aaron was a 1992 Olympian at 10,000m, former NCAA champion in cross country, sub-28 10k runner, 13:20 5k runner. In short, a beast. Aaron lives in south Texas these days and, as one of Ken's old training partners, saw it as a good chance to catch up with an old friend and just enjoy the weekend. So, Aaron flew in and hung out with Ken and I for the weekend. To take it up a notch, I remembered, on Saturday morning, right before the guys came over to the house, that I drew a picture of Aaron in high school for art class. Here is the picture I drew.

Now, what's even cooler is that I thought, at first, the guy in the background, was Ken. I would have been so blown away if this picture I drew in 1990 was the same two guys who showed up in my house in 2012 through this totally unrelated set of events. As it turned out, the second guy in the picture was not Ken. Nonetheless, what are the chances I would have drawn this picture, and, 22 years later Aaron shows up at my house? Impossible statistics.

So, Friday night Ken, Aaron and I had dinner and Thai Frisco. We just chatted, hang out and had a good time. Saturday afternoon, we all went to the house and had Weldon come over to do his interview. We talked for a while and I am eager to see what he ends up using for the interview, but, it was cool. Kerri, my dad and Page went to the track to watch Ken do a workout. As it turned out, it was a horribly cold, windy day. Ken still got in a great workout, but, it was a little altered from what he was hoping to do at first. One of the fun parts was Page "racing" Ken. She headed to the 50m mark on a straightaway while he did some 200m repeats. As he closed in she ran with him and, honestly, kept up. Now, he was running 30-31 second 200m pace and she really kept with him. That's some serious running for an 8-year old! I encouraged her that Ken told us later, "Page is fast." You don't get a lot of endorsements from former professional distance runners as an 8-year old girl. It was a special afternoon.

Once we finished the workout the guys headed back to their hotel. We went to the house warmed up, got dressed and Kerri and I met Ken and Aaron for dinner at Posado's. We had a good time talking, listening to Ken share his ideas and his story leading up to where he is at now. It really is fascinating to hear what sort of ideas and work he has in mind. I am very excited about the prospect of what sort of work his fund will lead to down the road and that is largely why I am in such strong support of his efforts. Needless to say, I look back and, on Sunday morning, the guys joined us for church, to see a really amazing weekend. Things like this don't just "happen". My life really is blessed in some unusual ways. My kids got to meet an Olympian and three amazing distance runners. But, more than that, they got to see these guys are just like the rest of us. Just as I experienced, as a kid, unusual events, I want my kids to understand, life is what you make of it. Sure, we could be shy and think, "Oh man, these guys would never want to talk to us." Or, we could reach out an take a chance. I did, and, thanks to that, had one of the coolest weekends I've had in a long time. It really was a special memory I built with new friends and family. Thanks God for letting me see you grin.

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