Three lonely hours for Water (stories from the Loneliman 38.3): RUN

LonelimanThe Loneliman 38.3 wasn’t so lonelyIt began as an idea to celebrate 38 years, take the place of a cancelled local triathlon race in training effort, and especially incite a cause for celebration: CLEAN WATER! While solo wearing bib #1 for the “race,” the whole family was a solid support crew, the children in Africa were on my mind — in their loneliness fetching unclean water — and the thoughts, words, prayers and donations of so many truly caused me to swimbikerun faster.

Loneliman was a success because you gave!

My race time doesn’t matter as much as the funds raised for World Vision water projects. Be the end of the weekend we had reached $3,917, which provides life-saving clean water for 78 more children in Africa! 

Now we’re fast approaching our initial goal of providing water for 100 children in Africa

Here’s my recap with stories about what transpired as I perspired.

After swimming a mile, and cycling 31.1 miles, it was time to run 6.2 miles to complete 38.3 total in the Loneliman. 

Water is Life

This Spring I spoke to two high school classes about the world water crisis. Mentioned the statistics below, which are hopeful, and many others that were downright discouraging. Reality is harsh.

At one point we discussed water usage in our homes and I simply stated, “We use drinking water in our toilets at home, which is mind-boggling to those who don’t have any water to drink, and no toilets with plumbing!” A student sat up in his chair, leaned forward and asked, “You use drinking water in your toilet? I know we don’t at our house.”

That steered the conversation a bit as we had to come to harsh reality that yes, all this water in our toilets, and showers and faucets is drinking water, or starts as safe drinking water. It gets contaminated by us. While you wouldn’t want to drink from your toilet, the truth is that water comes from the safe place. And it’s all safe and intended for all these uses. (This is on the heels on the Flint, Michigan lead water scandal coming to light.) Imagine if you had no clean water at all. And only about five gallons of unsafe water, which you walked to get in treacherous conditions, every day, without break.

Together we have provided life-saving water for 78 kids in Africa!
Together we have provided life-saving water for 78 kids in Africa! (You can give here.)

These African kids who endure are the true heroes.

Let’s provide for their futures! 

With that story musing in my mind, I headed out for a 10K run (6.2 miles), in the rain. The rain water made the moment so fitting for the cause.

And by now I knew we had reached the days’ goal of providing water for thirty-eight kids. I was stoked!

Quick pit stop, and up the driveway and the running was underway. Settled on a race-pace of 7:00/mi, thinking that would be a goal for the real endurance race in October (half-marathon of 13.1 miles after a 56 mile bike ride). That’s a comfortable “steady” speed pace for training runs, but usually those aren’t after two-and-a-half hours of endurance. The rolling hills took their toll, but goodies along the lonely course were helpful: dropped three bottles along the overlapping run course while finishing the bike course (!).

LonelimanThere’s another aspect of calling this the “Loneliman”: most of my training is in the dark (see actual running photo on right), and almost always alone. It has has to be this way in order to not take away from my commitments to be present with our family and the church. They get my best efforts.

Back to the run: When it’s lonely and you’re tired and depleted, music can be helpful. And the downpour of rain was in full effect. Aches and pains started to surface, that tweaked back didn’t feel so painful as it was stiff. Found my cadence and hit the first two miles both at precisely seven-minutes-apiece. Third mile had rolling hills before the turnaround mark at 5K. Average pace had crept up to 7:05/mi, so had some work to do!

Fourth mile was mostly uphill so found a rhythm and trudged along. Then at mile five, at a known intersection I frequent on runs, I sped up a bit. The utility poles spread aside the road provided incentive: “pick it up … you can stride past that pole.” Then a swift, short descent, and I was ready to push it! Average pace creeping down closer to seven-per-mile; let’s do this!

Hit the pedal and went for it with under a mile to go, a car came close and didn’t give much room, stepped onto the gravel shoulder, and then … BOOM … hamstring cramp stopped me in my tracks. I literally stopped.

Looked down.


And lifted my feet.

Keep going!

In March many of us ran in the Global 6K for Water so kids like Aluoch in Kenya could gain life-changing access to water.
In March many of us ran in the Global 6K for Water so kids like Aluoch in Kenya could gain life-changing access to water.

Seeing the numbers of children is need is helpful, but it’s at moments like this I must dig deep to remember those kids are not just a statistic.

They have names, and we want them to know their Creator and His name, Jesus. He provides for them through us.

Almost there!

Finished the final 6.2 miles of running in 44:10 (7:07/mile), and the whole Loneliman 38.3 in three hours and twenty minutes, including transitions (3:08 swim-bike-run). It was an “okay” pace based on my goals for this swim-bike-run, but a wonderful three hours of meditating on the truth that clean water changes lives(!)

Give Water

Finishing Loneliman

Loneliman 38.3 race time estimations

Part of Something Bigger

There is good work being done and we can see the results! Some of the stats are astounding.

Water Progress

Loneliman 38.3The clean water crisis feels overwhelming when we look at the numbers. We have no concept of 663 million. So hopefully this visual helps. The main point: we’re making progress!

In the last five years 221 million people have gained access to clean water.

That’s a 25% decrease in 5 years!

When we think of it that way, we can see that ending this crisis in our lifetime is a reality.

Why do this?

When I mention training hard for running and triathlons, I get a few responses:

  • Why would you do that?
  • I could never do that!
  • I want to do that!
  • How can I do that too? 

IMAZ 70.3It’s kinda like a progression, going from dismay to curiosity to hopefully joining the mission of changing the world. You need not take a step running in order to contribute to ending the global water crisis. I know my little contribution is small, yet it’s significant. So we keep on going. I care and so I run and tri. 

Races like the Loneliman 38.3 (and later an Ironman 70.3) can shine a light on selfor … on a greater cause. Providing life-changing water! 

I’m convinced too many of us have too small of a vision for our lives. And while it may not matter if anyone remembers who I am after I’m gone to be with Christ, the impact of one life can have a ripple effect. This is grace-driven effort, to get caught up in the glorious work of Jesus in the world, and to set aside comforts and control for His work in people’s lives. This cause chose me, I believe, because the Father wanted me to move from apathy and self-interest to engaging with the needs of the world. I need it more than it needs me. The crisis can be averted, our apathy can be overcome! (To borrow a line from Mumford and Sons, “If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won!” Yes indeed. Have repeated that line a thousand times running and cycling up hills.)