in less than 12 hours, i will run my first marathon ever! only one day in all my 40 years will i be able to say that. i came across a great idea in an article i read a few weeks ago about getting to the finish line of a marathon. i’m dedicating each mile to an individual, organization, cause, or family member. i believe this will not only make the time seem to pass by, it will also help me dig down deeper than i will think I can, knowing it on somebody’s behalf. here’s who each mile is dedicated to.
mile 1: there will be plenty of excitement in the opening blocks, so my first mile will be a time to take everything in, find a good rhythm as i begin to warm up, and enjoy the rapidly passing sights (sprint center and kansas city power & light among them) along grand ave. from 22nd to 12th.
mile 2: as i round the corner from 12th onto baltimore and head into the crossroads arts district, I will pass by Christ community’s downtown campus. to my friends who will be cheering from there, led by the skillful hands of pastor gabe, this mile’s for you.
mile 3: this will be the first challenging hill of the course, from union station up the hill to the liberty memorial. i will run this mile to honor the families of primitivo garcia elementary. jacob’s well has a community partnership with this kcmo public school on the beautiful westside.
mile 4: another quick but steep hill awaits as i head south on wyandotte toward 31st. I run this mile for a friend, brian, who has been battling multiple myeloma for several years.
mile 5: heading south on main, i will run this mile on behalf of mission adelante. founded by fellow manhattan high grad jarrett meek, this cross-cultural ministry of relationships focuses on latino and bhutanese neighbors in kansas city, ks.
mile 6: as i journey through westport, i’m dedicating this mile to jacob’s well, specifically its youth ministry. thank you for all you do to be a faithful presence for Christ and for peace and justice, in midtown and throughout the city. you have blessed my life more than you know.
mile 7: the path down roanoke parkway towards the country club plaza takes me by the intersection i monitored during last year’s marathon, which is where i decided to go for the full marathon this year. i run this mile for youthfront, the defining and transformational organization in my two-plus decades in youth ministry. thank you, thank you, thank you for 70 years of helping young people develop into men and women of God.
mile 8: as 47th street becomes cleaver ii blvd., i’ll see some awesome kc sights… the jc nichols fountain, the nelson-atkins museum of art, and of course, gates bbq. this mile is for n2life project, a mentoring organization for those emerging from incarceration. it’s led by a friend named art.
mile 9: some more lesser-known fountains make this mile a great double-back across the plaza. i dedicate this mile to one of the most courageous and Christlike men i’ve ever met, canon andrew white. called the “vicar of baghdad,” he pastors st. george anglican Church in one of the most volatile places in the world. he is also battling multiple sclerosis through often painful stem cell treatments. his foundation for relief and reconciliation in the middle east promotes peace through the very difficult waters of religious differences. you have my support, admiration, and prayers.
mile 10: as i head north of brush creek and go by the awesome shops and restaurants of the plaza, i’ll be thinking of brian boyd. he was one of those rare students in youth group that everybody knew and loved, even when he drove us crazy. this shooting star trailed brightly, but left our skies on may 17. he would have turned 22 a couple weeks ago. to every member of the precious boyd family, this mile is for you.
mile 11: this mile loops out of and back into the plaza, by way of the pembroke hill school campus on ward parkway. i can’t share much on this one as i don’t exactly have permission, but a parent of a friend is struggling with some health concerns, and i’ll be running for them.
mile 12: this one is difficult terrain, although it’s through some beautiful neighborhoods. the hills on sunset drive gave me bad dreams for a few weeks. i run this mile for little isaac hilker, better known as fight, ike, fight. he has spent the majority of his 2-some years fighting for his life; he was diagnosed with acute infantile lymphoblastic leukemia before his 1st birthday. i got to meet ike’s dad at packet pick up tonight. it was a humbling experience for both of us, and i look forward to a possible wave from the man himself somewhere along mile 17.
mile 13(.1): as i reach the halfway point, I’ll be going by loose park, the site of several gorgeous kc landmarks and a piece of the historic battle of westport. this mile is in memory of my two grandpas. george burden, a member of the greatest generation who was part of the support crew following d-day, passed in 1995. from richard yeagley, who passed in 2008, i gained a love of the hymns of the faith. thank you.
mile 14: i’ll head further down summit drive and angle back toward ward parkway. this mile will be on behalf of the pokot tribe in asilong, kenya. jacob’s well has a rich relationship with this people, and over the years an aggressive nomadic tribe has been transformed into one who need not fight over or make long journeys for clean water. currently, a secondary school is being constructed to further the opportunities for the children of pokot to end the cycle of poverty.
mile 15: some gorgeous scenery awaits along ward parkway, including the iconic meyer circle fountain. i run this mile for my many friends who pour their lives into troubled young people in the missouri division of youth services. while it’s now a part of my history, i feel like dys has ruined me for conventional school – in a good way. there’s nothing that surprises or shocks me, and i can handle just about any situation without losing my cool. i even find myself wanting to call circles and listen-ups! to all my friends in the trenches with the kids nobody else can handle, this mile is for you.
mile 16: as I make the turn from ward parkway onto 75th, i will be as far away from the start as I will ever be – it’s all return trip from there. this mile is for cherith brook catholic worker, an intentional Christian community in northeast kansas city. from their blog: “our daily lives are structured around practicing the works of mercy as found in Jesus’ teachings. we are committed to regularly feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, visiting the prisoner and the sick in the name of Jesus.”
mile 17: from 75th onto wornall, the waldo area beckons (i’m sure I’ll smell waldo pizza by this time of the morning). this mile is in memory of my uncle rick. the day before thanksgiving last year, we found out he had passed after an extended illness. you couldn’t ask to know a greater guy. my aunt and all of us miss him dearly.
mile 18: although i’ll miss being on the softer surface of the trolley trail, the journey on wornall and then brookside blvd. is gorgeous. true story: running has allowed me to quite literally see things i never would have if i were in a car. one such landmark is the beautiful brookside campus of Christ community. on one long run, i was on the trail, looked up at a really cool steeple and thought, “wow. what a cool steeple.” then I looked down and saw the sign. oops! pastor bill and company, this mile is for you!
mile 19: this mile takes me through rene’s childhood neighborhood, with its corner drugstore and ice cream shop. i’ll be running it on behalf of my friends ben and jolynna. this amazing pair have become a forever family for six of the most precious kids you’ll ever meet. their daughter had a crucial surgery last week, and i hope you’ll join me in praying for swift healing.
mile 20: as i head east again on volker, passing more of those awesome kc fountains, i’ll be running for new roots for refugees. started by catholic charities of northeast kansas in partnership with cultivate kansas city, new roots helps refugee women start their own small farm businesses growing and selling vegetables. good for these families, good for kansas city, and showing the Father’s heart for the alien and the stranger, the fatherless and the widow.
mile 21: as I loop back around and cross “east of troost,” my awareness will turn to the uncomfortable reality that kansas city, although beautifully diverse in many positive ways, remains divided and scarred by racism in many other ways. as part of our jacob’s well institute on race’s role in the Christian identity, i have been pondering that “in order for there to be meaningful dialogue, fear, whether of anger or isolation, must eventually give way to risk and trust” (beverly daniel tatum, “why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?”). such dialogue will not be easy or instant, but i hope to play my own part.
mile 22: at the end of this mile i’ll have gone as far as i ever have before. the journey through hyde park is dedicated to my amazing wife rene. she has supported me in every way imaginable along this journey, from waking up early on saturdays to take me to my run routes and bring me extra gatorade, to telling everyone who’ll listen about why i run. thanks, my love!
mile 23: as i turn onto harrison parkway and into central hyde park, i’ll also be making the push up the last major hill of the course. it was a conversation with my new friend rob that inspired my per-mile dedications. i met rob when i was going to start a brief long-term subbing assignment for him so he could get top-notch care for his 9-year-old son eli. eli has a condition called eosinophilic esophagitis, which is allergy-related and prevents him from being able to eat or drink orally. as i got to know rob, we became quick friends and found we share many things including a love of distance running. rob said his “wall” was the 23rd mile of his first marathon, and if i’m going to bonk this is the most likely candidate. but i’m going to keep at it, because eli, buddy, this mile is for you.
mile 24: it is almost all downhill from here! once prosperous and flourishing, the neighborhoods surrounding the paseo produced leaders like walt disney, buck o’neil, and alvin brooks, and it was a postcard-worthy sunday drive. since 1998, the hope center (thc) has been serving this forgotten, impoverished east side area. currently they provide a thriving youth ministry and health clinic, and future plans include a charter school, housing development, and community church. i’ll also run this mile in memory of matt nagel, thc’s operations director who tragically passed away last year from a stroke.
mile 25: this last stretch on the paseo is rich with not just kansas city, but american history. the paseo ymca was the birthplace of the negro national league, and is now the buck o’neil education center. The 18th & vine jazz district even holds a memorial to charlie “bird” parker. this mile also affords a breathtaking view of the kc skyline. i run this mile for communities creating opportunity, a faith-based initiative with more than 35 years of helping make our neighborhoods better through grassroots action.
mile 26(.2): by now i might as well be floating on air, because i doubt i’ll be able to feel my legs anymore. the final 1.2 is for me again, but my heart will be overflowing as i think of the support and encouragement i’ve received, especially in these final weeks. i run because i can. i run for those who cannot. as eric liddell famously quipped, “when i run, i feel His pleasure.”