Action 410 – Honor Heroes (Mile 21).

I am dedicating each mile that I run in the Pasadena Marathon to another Marine Corps hero who has made the ultimate sacrifice, so that in my own small way, they may be honored, acknowledged, and remembered.

Action 410 – Honor Heroes (Mile 21). I will run mile twenty-one in honor of Staff Sgt. Joshua Cullins. A Marine Reservist called to Active Duty Service, SSgt Cullins was also a Los Angeles Police Department Officer. He had been injured in a roadside blast months before but had insisted on being returned to service as soon as he had healed. His death is a great loss to both the Marine Corps and the City of Los Angeles.

I will run this mile in honor of this fallen EOD warrior, dedicated son and brother. Semper Fi, Staff Sergeant.

Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Cullins died October 19, 2010 serving during Operation Enduring Freedom; He was 28, of Simi Valley, Calif.; assigned to the 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Oct. 19 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

(Photo from North County Times; summary courtesy of militarytimes.com.)

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Action 409 – Dare To Dream.

If there is one thing that I have learned to appreciate about running, it’s the time it gives me to think without interruption. Sunday’s run was no exception. I had over two hours away from my phone, my iPad and my computer. My music played softly in the background and I thought about everything from Marine Corps boot camp formation runs to learning to crochet to why have I never seen this part of San Diego before?!

And then the fun stuff started running through my mind. I’m in a good place right now. I’m enjoying my job with SparkPeople as a Success Story Manager, because finding and promoting members who have made amazing changes in their lives makes me very happy. And I’m having a good time working with the start-up, because I respect the company owner and it’s an opportunity for me to draw on many of my skills. It’s all working out well for me.

But what if? What if the movie that I am in is a runaway success? What if my involvement with the film leads to other opportunities? What if there’s interest in the book I have been threatening to write for years? What if I could actually make a living as a motivational speaker?

Action 409 – Dare To Dream.

Because that’s what all of those things are to me… dreams. But what are dreams if not the biggest and best possibilities of life?

I’m not getting ahead of myself here. I’m just challenging myself to remain open to the next amazing chapter of my life. Because really, anything is possible.

Action 408 – Read The Fine Print.

By the time my husband and I got home from work today, we were both wiped out. Neither of us had any desire to cook, there was nothing in the kitchen, anyway, and we just wanted quick food and a lazy night. I was craving a chicken sandwich, so it was off to Wendy’s.

As soon as I walked in, I saw there big posters announcing new Signature Sides. And the one that caught my eye (and my stomach!) was the Baked Sweet Potato. Yummola!

Action 408 – Read The Fine Print.

Sure, a baked potato is a healthy food. But see that little tan scoop in the photo? It’s a one hundred twenty calorie glob of cinnamon sugar. It can turn a comparatively good meal choice into an exercise in… well… a need for more exercise.

I ate the potato. And I even added a bit of the butter. But it tasted more like cupcake frosting than butter and I tossed most of it out.

I try to make good food choices when I can, and tonight, the better choice was avoiding the calorie bomb and enjoying the delicious baked potato just as it was.

Action 407 – Deal With The Pressure.

I heard back from the Race Director at the Pasadena Marathon. It’s a done deal. I will be running with Bib #1775. And just like that, this is all happening.

Action 407 – Deal With The Pressure.

When I decided to run a second full marathon, I saw it as a personal challenge. Me, my music, and 26.2 miles of willpower and determination. But now, it feels like it’s becoming something bigger.

I’m wearing Bib #1775. Before the marathon starts, I’ll be interviewed by a news reporter. I’ll be posting real time updates to Facebook and Twitter via the RunMeter app. And I will be running with the with the presence of twenty-six different Marines. I feel like I will be anything BUT alone out there.

I’m feeling the pressure. I’ve always slipped quietly in and out of the pre-race expos, grabbing my bib and shirt and a few goodies and heading right out. And I’m used to being an anonymous runner out on a course. This time, though, I’m meeting the race director to get my bib. That feels like a big deal to me. And on the course, I feel like every dollar donated is another set of eyes watching me every mile.

I’m not complaining. I asked for every bit of this attention. And I’m confident that I will rise to the occasion. I will fulfill my original goal of completing the marathon and I will do right by those who donated and, most importantly, bring attention to those who have served and sacrificed.

People have dealt with far more and handled it with grace and ease. I can certainly handle this.

Action 406 – Run This Town.

I’m a guy who moved around a lot as a kid and then joined the Marine Corps out of high school, so I’ve never really felt all that connected to any one place. But I’ve been here in San Diego since December 2000, and I’m building more and more links to this place. And yesterday, more than one them popped up on my radar.

Action 406 – Run This Town.

As I headed north on the freeway, I could see the ocean as I looked across the coast highway and saw where my third leg of Ragnar SoCal ended last year. As soon as I got to the Del Mar Fairgrounds, I saw the Arena where I ran the Del Mar Mud Run.

At the top of the highest hill I ran yesterday, I noticed a trail where I hiked around a while back. Looking down towards the ocean, I saw La Jolla Shores where I learned to scuba dive.

And finally, running towards the finish line, I ran the Cove where I went snorkeling with friends.

Yesterday, it really clicked with me. This amazing town is my home. And every adventure I have here builds one more link between me and San Diego. It’s a great feeling to finally feel settled and connected to a place.

These days, I really do run this town.

Action 405 – Get Some Sole.

There are many things that reinforce the idea that I am a runner. The ever larger stack of race bibs, for example.

Today, though, my affirmation comes in the form of running gear.

Action 405 -Get Some Sole.

Yep, it’s time. I run in Brooks Trance 10 shoes. I love the fit and the feel, and I have no problems no matter how far I run. I alternate a pair of orange with a pair of blue.

But it’s been over a year, and I need new shoes. So I logged on and found a cool silver pair that look like these.

I’m definitely a runner when I get all giddy about an expensive pair of new shoes… and they’re only going to be worn when I am out working up a sweat. I guess there’s no denying it now.

Action 404 – Experience A Different Race.

As promised, after I finished my running the La Jolla Half Marathon today, I stayed behind to cheer on everyone who finished behind me. Mr. Run Jester Run, Ed Ettinghausen, gave me a heads-up about what to expect.

You want to know a little secret? The satisfaction that comes from being there at the finish and cheering each runner in is rewarding beyond what words can describe. Every time someone thanks me for being there for them, I think to myself, “No, I should be thanking you!” You’ll see. I’m warning you, it’s addicting.

Action 404 – Experience A Different Race. And I really did. As I wrote on a status update today, if you want excitement, watch the winners of a half marathon. If you want to see pure emotion, watch the last finishers across the line.

I did that today and it was amazing. I saw experienced runners that, I imagine, were recovering from injuries and were way behind their usual pace. I saw first time runners, many at the beginning of their physical fitness journey, struggling to keep moving. And I saw more than one runner being carried, literally, arms wrapped around the shoulders of two other runners and all moving together towards the finish line.

I cheered for every single one of these runners. And the reactions were often very similar. First, denial. They didn’t think the cheers of “Good job, runner! You can do it!” were for them. When they realized the cheers and clapping was for them, they tried to see who was cheering without being obvious. Then we made eye contact and my cheering continued. “You’re doing great, keep going!” And then, the best reaction imaginable. A big, wide smile crossed their face and they waved and said, “thank you!

I understand what Ed was saying about this experience being addicting. I got to see the faces, one after another, of people truly giving everything they had to run down a goal. And for a moment, they knew what it felt like to have the crowd cheer along as they made their way to their finish.

And one other thing I noticed. At first, I was one of many cheering fans. People were waiting for their own runners, so they were happy to clap and yell and support those coming in. But once their person ran by, they left the course and headed over to meet up with them. And soon, it was a very different situation, with very few people standing and cheering. But, as groups of people walked by on their way back to their vehicles, they responded to my cheering a lonely runner by adding their voices. My yelling called their attention to a late finisher, and they cheered, too, as they went by.

Again, Ed, I get it. I was one voice, but that one voice gave other people permission and encouragement to add their own. Positive reinforcement and public support really is contagious.

I share this experience not to make myself the hero, but to thank Ed for inspiring me to do this. I walked away from today’s event feeling like I had experienced a whole new type of race. For a few of them, at least, I know I made a difference.

And there are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of hours.