Archives For April 2011

Sometimes in life we are blessed to witness greatness.  I remember 10 years ago this month I had the privilege
of being part of a feat that few have accomplished.

Have you ever met someone who ran a marathon a day for 2 months straight?

Well I did.

They all ask, “Why would someone in their right mind do that?”

Well I shall tell you about the great Neil Garrod.

First, a short history lesson.

In 1451, King James II of Scotland persuaded Pope Nicholas V to grant a bull authorizing Bishop Turnbull of Glasgow to start a university.  That act initiated what became Glasgow University.  Flash forward 550 years to 2001.  It was a goal of mine to graduate early from college so I could live and work abroad.  Scotland was a love of mine since visiting a few years earlier and I began preparing for what I could do there.  The possibilities were endless.  I secured a 6 month work visa, packed my bags and moved to Scotland on New Years Day.  I found a job doing finance research for Professor Neil Garrod who was dean of Glasgow’s faculty of law and financial studies.  Soon after working for him he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The conversation went something like this:

Dave: “You want me to do what with you?”

Neil: “Right, drive a camper van with me through Europe for a few months. I’m going to run from Rome to Glasgow.”

Dave: “What?  Wait…Why?!?”

Neil: “Because this is life. Let’s go.”

Dave: “Okay, why not?”

Neil was a serious marathon runner and wanted to find a unique way to celebrate the 550th Anniversary of the university.  He would run the possible path of  where the bull would travel from Rome to Glasgow.
It sounded exciting to me so I embarked on this journey with the British version of Forrest Gump.  I was in charge of driving the camper van so I flew to Belgium to pick it up.  It would take three days to drive down to Rome where the race began at St. Peter’s Square.  I drove through Belgium and made a quick stop to visit Bastogne.  Next, I drove to Dijon, France and then another leg across the Alps passing Mont Blanc and to Genoa, Italy, which rests on the Mediterranean Sea.  It got interesting when the camper van was broken into while I was away eating dinner.  My passport and a credit card were stolen but thank God they didn’t take my Credence tapes (Big Lebowski fans out there?).  I had to quickly repair the driver’s side window with plexiglass and limped my way down to Sienna where I would meet up with Neil Garrod and his family. I was exhausted from that experience so it felt like the ultimate retreat in Sienna.  There we would eat amazing Italian food, drink the best wine and enjoy conversation with people from all around the world.  I think Neil thought I handled the whole robbery situation with calm but the truth is I was freaking out in my head the entire drive from Genoa to Sienna.

On the day the run began in Rome I was able to receive a new passport from the American Embassy and was on my way.  The first few days were spent trying to escape the population centers and get to open road.  The most memorable days were running through Florence/Firenze and then through wine country (Chianti) when Neil ran about 50 km (over 30 miles) in one day.  We went through amazing towns like Sienna, Castellina in Chianti, Donato, Bologna, Firenze, and Aosta.  Somewhere along these roads I cracked the van’s rear bumper and broke yet another window running into the side of an extended gas station roof.  It’s amazing I still am given insurance to this day.

The daily routine would be to wake up at 6am, eat a big breakfast and Neil would run 5-7 miles.  We would stop, eat, and I would ice Neil’s knees.  Following that, Neil would do a couple of afternoon runs.  Every night we would finish it off with a bottle of wine and eat some of the most tasty pasta one would ever dream of.  The routine was difficult but incredibly rewarding.  Observing Neil and his discipline for running only motivated me to run with him. So I joined him most days and built up stamina to go 5-6 miles.  When we reached Aosta near the French border, I left the team and went back to America for my friend Heath’s wedding.  I handed off the baton to another young student who helped Neil finish the race to Glasgow.  It was sad to leave but Neil always made me feel part of the team.  I heard later that the day after Neil finished the 1500 mile run, he flew down to South Africa and ran a 100 mile, 2 days race.  To this day I’m convinced that he is not human.

I could write for days about the experience.  Neil kept an extensive diary during this trip and you can read it all here.

During the Mega-run I grew up a bit.  I made the effort to embrace adventure, took some risks, and understood how to lean on God when I was lost.  What changed me most of all was learning to embrace “spontaneous experiences” that God puts in front of me.  I had the choice to stay in Scotland but the Mega-run was definitely one of those experiences to seize.  Before moving to Scotland I wrote my bucket list and running a marathon was a priority item to attain.

The year after the run,  thanks to the inspiration of Neil Garrod, I finished my first marathon in Chicago.

Thanks Neil.

Be spontaneous my friends.  Chose your own adventure.  Ultimately it is God’s adventure in you.  

There is a handful of movies that no matter where I am in life they just inspire me.  And I learn something new from them every time I watch them.  I think of movies I’ve written about before like Dead Poet’s Society, A River Runs Through It, Big Fish.  In addition, I would also put Chariots of Fire and Finding Forrester in that category.  There are so many more, but the latest reminder on that list is the movie, October Sky. Watch the quick trailer below to get the overview but when I first watched the movie in theater was 1999 and I took the inspiration like anyone one; a young individual trying to go after their dreams.  In this case it is Homer, the main character, and he has the aspiration to be a rocket scientist while growing up in a coal mining community. Oil and vinegar, right?

So what does one learn now?

I focused on the breakdown and re-engagement of the father.  The father-son relationship struggle is the most powerful theme that resonates with me more than ever now because I am a father.  I don’t have a son but I have two daughters and and I still take away the lessons of needing good communication for a healthy family relationship.

I took the time to do some quick research and found that roughly 25 million children grow up without a father in the United States alone.  Thank God men are leading the way to combat this statistic.  There are people I admire like Donald Miller who started up a group to help kids without fathers called The Mentoring Project.  There also amazing organizations like All Pro Dad that exist to encourage dads.

The week after I graduated from high school, I embarked on a Colorado hiking trip with a group of friends and a few of our dads.  I remember asking my dad months before if he could join us.  He was then General Manager of a big company and with it came a the weight of incredible stress.  I knew it would be highly unlikely for him to join but I still hoped he would.  When he told me a week or so later that he was was in, I was ecstatic.  The experience was unforgettable and we talk about it till this day.  Father’s Day took place during our week long hike which made it even more special.  We brought home scars, lost some toenails, even lost some pounds, but ultimately brought home life long memories.

A few months later my father lost his job.  During that trip I learned his boss had a issue with not being able to reach him.  This was before cell phones could get decent reach and apparently it was too much for his boss.  Dad never let me know much about those pressures but it happened.  He lost his job.  There was good in it, though.  It served as a catalyst to push him back into the career he loved, banking.  He served small businesses and remained committed to rebuilding communities in St. Louis until retiring a few years ago.

But he still took me on that adventure.  He understood the risk and most importantly, he was there.

In October Sky, the final scene brings tears to my eyes every time.  The main character, Homer is prepared to launch his final rocket as a thank you to those who helped him.  As Homer spoke to the crowd that assembled, he thanked his friends, his math teacher, his mother, etc.  But last Homer dedicated it to his father who throughout his passion of launching rockets was never there. But this time he was.  His father was there. Alas, his father engaged and the rocket took off.  The scene ends with the father’s arm embracing his son as they watched the rocket soar into the sky.

For my father and I, our rocket took off.  We went hiking and looked up together and saw beautiful mountains.  God’s country.

You may not have a father in your life.  I can understand that the pain may be deep.  But you have the opportunity to build upon it and be the parent you’re meant to be. If you don’t want to be a parent you can still help those who need one.

We can do it together and start by being there.

Ditching the Pacifier

April 11, 2011 — 12 Comments

The past few weeks my lovely wife Brooke and I have been talking about a strategy to get rid of “The Pacifier”.

Duh duh duh…

Yes, any parent out there knows exactly what I’m talking about.  The pacifier is just about the best and worst invention created for a young child.  We have a 19 month and recently turned 3 year old.  We knew that if we tried to get rid of these things both would need to do it at the same time.

No turning back.

Truth is we have been trying to do this ever since our oldest was 17 months old and our youngest was born.  It just didn’t stick. They love their pacifier.  It soothes them.  I get it. I like a nice cup of java every morning because it does something similar to me. Our girls call the pacifier a “Bobby” anyway.  We keep asking “Who is this Bobby?!?!”  Can we punch this kid because we hate this thing you so eloquently call ‘Bobby’?” Our oldest girl just picked up the name “Bobby” from a friend of hers.  It has stuck.  (In the future I sure hope she doesn’t date some guy named Bobby because I’ll immediately dislike him.)   Nevertheless, I read here about 150 other variations of names that kids call them.  I hate them all and you should too.

As suggested by some friends (I think), we bagged up all of the pacifiers in our house and took them to a toy store.  We promised the girls they could exchange their pacifiers for a baby doll of their choice. We tipped off the person at the cash register that we’d do this and when we made the “exchange of goods” the girls had no problem whatsoever.  But we knew once nap time would come all hell would break loose.  Oh and it did.  The house became like “Nam” as portrayed in the movie Apocalypse Now.  It’s been pure psychological warfare since with lots of crying.  The kids scream out for their beloved “Bobby” and we fight the urge to give in.  When faced with stressful situations like this I get a little bit like Clark Griswold and well…lose it.  If it weren’t for Brooke’s patience with me (her other man-child husband), I don’t know how else we would get through.  Brooke and I have been committed to this so despite the kids’ screaming fits we’ll get through it.  Last but not least, we prayed for strength and lots of it.  God has delivered.

It has been almost 3 days since “Ditching the Bobby” and all is quiet on the Western Front.  We suspect that most of this week they will still ask for it.  It’s a lesson in life I suppose.

I pray that our oldest girl doesn’t lose her naps because of these but this is all part of the growing up experince. She’ll get through it as will we.

My advice to other parents out there.  You’ll make it through. We all will.

Here are the Top 10 Caddyshack Lines you will hear around the office today.

1.  You’re the keynote speaker at a trade conference and your competitor yells out…

“Miss it Noonan! Miss it!”

2.  You develop this amazing new product and share it with your group. Someone comments…

“Oh, this is the worst-looking hat I ever saw. What, when you buy a hat like this I bet you get a free bowl of soup, huh?  Oh, it looks good on you though.”

3.  The college intern walks into a brainstorm meeting, throws out a good idea and says this…

“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac… It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!”

4.  You’re on a sales call and you hand the client an invoice for the services. The client says…

“Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.”

5.  You’re at the vending machine wondering what to get and someone walks up and says…

“How about a Fresca?”

6.  You’re receiving some coaching from your boss about a difficult situation at work.  The conversation goes like this…

Boss: You take drugs, Danny?
You: Every day.
Boss: Good. Then what’s your problem?
You: I don’t know.

7.  You’re totally screwing up a presentation to your team…

“Just be the ball, be the ball, be the ball. You’re not being the ball Danny.”

8.  Your client walks into your office, takes a look around.  The conversation goes like this…

Client: This your place, Carl?
You: Yeah, whatta ya think?
Client:  It’s really… awful.
You: Well, I got a lot of stuff on order. You know… credit trouble.

9.  A friend just bombs a TPS report they turn in and are looking to you for support.  You say…

“You’re not, you’re not good, Al. You stink.”

10.  You arrive at the hotel during a business trip.  You ask the receptionist “This place got a pool?”  Your friend next to you says.

“Pool and a pond… Pond be good for you.”

Bonus: You and your co-worker are about to go on a sales call and the conversation goes like this…

Your friend: You’ve got to win this hole.
You:  I kinda thought winning wasn’t important
Your friend:  Me winning isn’t. You do.
You: Great grammar.