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Road Rules: Ruminations from an Average Runner


Everyone who runs has a story. Something happened or someone inspired them to lace up their shoes and hit the trail. My story begins like many stories, I started, ran for a while, then lost interest and quit. I played that story when we lived in St. Louis then in Ft. Worth. I probably stuck with it a little longer when we lived in Arkansas, but those are just interchangeable geographical settings to the same tired plot.

During the years I put on a pound or two…or fifty. I felt terrible about myself and my appearance. As I ate ice cream each night before bed I reviewed my good intentions and made promises to myself that went largely unmet. Did I mention I meant well? Anyway, it all changed on my 46th birthday. It was Sunday morning, and I stood to preach. I don’t think I was more than five minutes into the talk when I began to feel dizzy. I was short of breath and felt my face go flush. Then everything went white. I started to go down and grabbed the pulpit to steady myself. Before I knew it, several people rushed the platform, including two nurses and the fire chief. I was conscious but really tired. I just couldn’t stay awake. A member called 911 and my Associate Pastor dismissed the congregation, after making sure we collected the weekly offering. That move was a stroke of genius (no pun intended) and he was rewarded appropriately. Anyway, back to me.

Within moments the EMT’s arrived and did whatever diagnostics they do when fat pastors go down in the middle of church. They loaded me on the gurney and wheeled me down the center aisle of the sanctuary. Just like a casket. As I was rolled out I saw the faces of concerned members of the congregation. I saw my children look in disbelief. The look on their faces is one I’ll never forget. I was loaded into the ambulance, listening to my wife promise me she would meet me at the Emergency Room. I remember praying that she be able to find it. The ambulance was cold and I kept wanting to sleep. The attendant who rode in the back with me kept encouraging me to stay awake while he “called me in.” I didn’t make out everything he said, but it sounded something like “middle aged white guy, pretty husky….no check that…really husky…not sure what happened to him…but he’s really, really husky.”

We rolled into the ER and a team of doctors and nurses came in with wires, plugs, and needles. Alongside the battery of tests came a battery of questions; questions like “How old are you?” and “How much do you weigh, really?”

The big test was the CT Scan of the brain that the doc ordered to see if I had had a stroke. The test didn’t take that long, but waiting for the results of the test that seemed to take forever. While I waiting I talked with my those who came. My wife found the ER with no problem, although I think there was some confusion as to whether or not I was her husband or her father. But once the nurses figured it out she came in. The quick thinking associate who thought to take the offering wasn’t content to rest on his laurels. He went over the top and brought my son. My friend Scott took care of my daughters and then came down. So we waited together and talked.

When the doctor came in he had good news: no evidence of stroke. He didn’t say it, but he was thinking about how fat I was. He asked me if I could get up and step on the scale. The scale was one of those official scales. It wasn’t like the one at my parent’s house that is blessedly off five or ten pounds. This one told the truth in spades.

The doctor asked some questions, and ordered a sleep study. The result of that story was that I had sleep apnea. I was fitted with a CPAP machine and for the last two years have slept great. It honestly changed my life!

The straw that broke the camel’s back, though, was the wellness evaluation held through my wife’s work. It provided participants with simple tests that measure health and wellness. They checked my pulse and my blood sugar. They also checked my Body Mass Index (BMI). As I walked over to that station, I nervously laughed and said the nurse, “You know, my mother always said I was ‘big-boned’.” She didn’t share in my humor. Since my ER visit I had lost “a couple of pounds,” but couldn’t believe that I would score in the obese category. Easily. Not even close. Deep down I knew that it wasn’t funny, nor was it a laughing matter.

Everyone has a story behind why they run. That’s mine. What’s yours?

Categories : Running

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