Friday, December 28, 2018

The Cost of Youth Sports -- Can Your Wallet Compete?

Last month, Derek Thompson, a 32-year-old writer for The Atlantic, wrote a youth sports article which asserts that expensive travel leagues siphon off talented young athletes from well-off families and leave everyone else behind. Mr. Thompson's writing was interesting and although my youth sports days were completed long before Mr. Thompson was ever born, I do appreciate his perspective on the state of youth sports in America. Having raised four children who were all involved in youth sports (gymnastics, track and field, soccer, baseball, volleyball, basketball, tennis, cross country running), I would agree with Mr. Thompson's view that the state of youth sports in America is either booming or suffering, depending on which box score you’re looking at. He notes that to get a clearer picture, you just need to "follow the money... or follow the kids"

Kids’ sports is a nearly $17 billion industry. However, the share of children ages 6 to 12 who play a team sport on a regular basis declined from 41.5 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2017. Mr. Thompson wrote, "The decline of youth sports participation is the sort of phenomenon that seems exquisitely tailored to exacerbate fears about the state of American childhood. One might suspect that the falloff is the result of children gravitating to video games, television, and other electronic distractions that don’t require an open field or a court. Perhaps athletics is just another legacy institution that can’t compete for attention anymore, like church, community centers, and bowling leagues. But dig into the numbers, and a more complex, two-track story emerges. Among richer families, youth sports participation is actually rising. Among the poorest households, it’s trending down. Just 34 percent of children from families earning less than $25,000 played a team sport at least one day in 2017, versus 69 percent from homes earning more than $100,000. In 2011, those numbers were roughly 42 percent and 66 percent, respectively."

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog may be thinking... 'I think I've already read about this here.' Well, it is true that in July 2016 I wrote about youth sports struggles, and youth sports referees in April 2018. In fact, in August 2016 I even wrote about school sports fees and the impact of pay-to-play on participation numbers. However, Mr. Thompson's writing in The Atlantic isn’t a story about American childhood; it’s about American inequality. It's a story about a "classist system" -- the travel-team talents and the local leftovers. Mr. Thompson sums it up by writing, "In short, the American system of youth sports -- serving the talented, and often rich, individual at the expense of the collective -- has taken a metal bat to the values of participation and universal development. Youth sports has become a pay-to-play machine."

Well-off parents dedicate so much time and money to kids’ sports partly because of the college system, which dangles tantalizing rewards for the most gifted teenage athletes. In the 1990's, Division 1 and Division 2 colleges distributed about $250 million a year in full and partial scholarships to student athletes. Today, that figure has exploded to more than $3 billion! So, what do some wealthy parents do? As soon as their children enter second or third grade, they do whatever is needed to get them on youth travel teams, which will set them up for middle-school travel teams, which will then set them up for high-school athletic excellence -- which will ultimately make them more competitive for admissions and scholarships at select colleges.

I would encourage you to read the full text of Mr. Thompson's article in The Atlantic.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Most Miles Anyone Has Ever Run and Bicycled in One Year



We're nearing the end of another year and avid long distance runners are adding up their total mileage for the past 12 months. There are many runners who set mileage goals at the start of a new year and then run through all sorts of conditions in order to try and cross their year-long finish line and reach their mileage target. Several years ago, Rob Young of Great Britain claimed to have run 10,000 miles in a single year (or an average of 833 miles per month -- or slightly more than 200 miles per week). However, Mr. Young's claim has been doubted by many, particularly after he was accused of cheating during a world record attempt at the run across America in 2016. This year, Pete Kostelnick of the U.S.A. appears to have actually surpassed the 10,000-mile mark for one year's worth of running, his Alaska-to-Florida run in 2018 certainly helped by contributing about half of the total mileage.

Personally, I have never run more than 6,000 miles in a single year, and that was well over a decade ago. I've never been one to set an annual mileage goal, whether in running or bicycling. And yes, there are cyclists who also set mileage goals each year. For instance, last year Amanda Coker, age 24, rode her bike the equivalent of almost four times around the Earth -- and she did it all on one stretch of road! She biked the seven-mile loop around Flatwoods Park in Tampa, Florida, almost every day for one year, to the tune of 13 hours and an average of 236.8 miles per day. That’s a total of about 86,500 miles. And for those doubting this is possible (you’re not alone), the Guinness World Records have already recognized her as the new record holder.

Beginning at 4 a.m. every morning, Amanda hopped on her bike and logged miles. On her slowest day, she clocked 55 miles -- and on her best day, 302 miles. Perhaps more impressive than the miles she logged is the fact that she accomplished it just six years after a near-fatal accident. In 2011, Amanda and her father were riding their bikes when they were struck from behind by a car. Amanda flew more than 50 feet and suffered a traumatic brain injury, spinal injury, broken leg, and lacerations. Her father suffered a fractured spine. The accident took Amanda out of cycling, but not for long. In 2015, after increasingly rigorous training rides, she biked 2,935 miles across the United States. And now, she has biked more miles in one year than anyone else has... an amazing 86,500 miles.

You may not be aiming to run 10,000 miles next year, or bike over 86,000 miles... but do make sure to get in regular activity to enhance your fitness!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Most Successful People Don't Set Goals

A few months ago, Jennifer Cohen wrote an article for Forbes magazine, and she titled it, "The Most Successful People Don't Set Goals -- They Do This Instead." The title caught my attention because I've always considered myself a goal setter. With the new year quickly approaching, there are countless people setting goals for 2019. Today, I want to share with you the writing by Ms. Cohen and perhaps you'll find value in her thoughts... and something to take with you into the new year.

The Most Successful People Don't Set Goals -- They Do This Instead...

Setting goals without setting intentions is a waste of time. While setting goals is fixated on the future, setting intentions keeps you grounded and present in the moment.

In order to achieve optimal success and stay in alignment with your values, your goals should be accompanied by daily intentions. Setting a goal is black and white -- you either achieve it, or you don’t. Intentions, however, come from a growth mindset, and they set the standard for how you live and act, regardless of whether or not you achieve a set goal. The big difference here is that intentions are rooted in values, not external outcomes, and they keep your attention in the present, not the future. While accomplishing goals everyday may not be feasible, intentions are flexible and ever-changing, leaving you plenty of freedom to re-evaluate.

Setting intentions can be like preparing for a big meeting. You don’t know if the meeting will go as planned, but you get your ducks in a row anyway. In this scenario, you could set an intention that regardless of how the meeting goes, you will be receptive, flexible and will easily be able to resolve anything that comes up. If you keep this mentality throughout the day, you can feel confident that you held true to who you are, regardless of the meeting’s outcome. Setting intentions allows you to actively participate in living out your values in each and every moment.

As Murphy’s law states, anything that can go wrong, will. Some days, that means spilling your coffee and running late to the office, and other days it might look like bombing a presentation. As this well-known law says, issues and unpleasant circumstances will arise. But what you don’t want is a domino effect where one negative situation turns into a whole day that follows just like it. When you set intentions, you are more equipped to hold yourself accountable, and stay on track no matter what comes your way.

Intentions are powerful and setting them allows you to stay aligned with who you are and how you want to live. These same intentions also serve as reminders of the bigger picture and your personal values.

Start the day right by setting a tone. The secret sauce for having your best day possible is all in how you begin. Set an intention each morning that the day ahead will be a success. For example: I intend to have a clear, level-headed approach to all things I encounter today, and I will not allow any unexpected twists to destroy my positive outlook. Spend a couple of minutes mentally running through your day, and acing it out like a boss. It’s mind over matter here, and as the saying goes: if you visualize, it will materialize. Choosing good thoughts is just one thing to add to your morning routine, but there are many others that can get your blood flowing and lift your spirits.

Respond, rather than react. Bring intention to your reactions and practice response-ability. This idea comes from a quote popularized by the influential author Stephen R. Covey that says, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” If you set an intention for how you would like to handle difficult situations, you can purposefully respond instead of react. Emotions are at the center of your reactions, but if you play an active role in the moment, you can avoid reacting out of anger or disappointment. Even though it can be frustrating when a colleague cancels on your meeting last-minute, it isn’t worth your peace of mind. Take control of your attitude by setting intentions and don’t relinquish a positive mentality for something that can easily be let go of.

Physical movement is a game changer. I’m constantly promoting exercise for its countless benefits such as it’s ability to reduce stress, improve circulation, and even deliver a self esteem boost. Whether it’s a morning jog, afternoon hike or an evening workout at the gym, being physically fit leads to becoming mentally fit. There’s nothing more intentional than taking care of the mind-body connection and putting your mental health at the top of your priority list. The correlation between fitness and highly successful people is no coincidence either.

Tone setting makes all the difference, practicing response-ability can help you feel good about your decisions, and physical fitness is the pick-me-up you benefit from every single time. We can’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose how to respond to it. Keep your cool and set yourself up for success by setting intentions for your day, your relationships and your life.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, December 21, 2018

In The Quiet Corners of Your Heart -- What Do You Believe?

Pew Research Center recently conducted a national pole in America to find out what Americans mean when they say that they "believe in God." One-third of Americans say they don't believe in the God of the Bible, but that they do believe there is some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe. A little more than half of Americans say they believe in God "as described in the Bible." And one-in-ten do not believe in any higher power or spiritual force.

The survey questions that mention the Bible do not specify any particular verses or translations, leaving that up to each respondent’s understanding. But it's clear from questions elsewhere in the survey that Americans who say they believe in God "as described in the Bible" generally envision an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving deity who determines most or all of what happens in their lives. By contrast, people who say they believe in a "higher power or spiritual force" – but not in God as described in the Bible – are much less likely to believe in a deity who is omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent and active in human affairs.

Overall, about half of Americans (48%) say that God or another higher power directly determines what happens in their lives all or most of the time. The survey found that three-quarters of American adults say they try to talk to God (or another higher power in the universe), and about three-in-ten U.S. adults say God (or a higher power) talks back.

The United States is a country of differing opinions and beliefs. Yet, no matter what corner of the world you live in there are people who believe in things that you may not believe in yourself. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 31 percent of Americans pretend Santa will visit on Christmas Eve or Day. By comparison, 72 percent recalled participating in that activity in their childhood. Certainly, the holiday anticipation of Santa Claus delivering toys to girls and boys on Christmas Eve is decreasing in popularity with each generation. An AP survey of U.S. adults found that 84 percent had believed in Santa at some point during their childhoods, and the average respondent stopped believing at 9 years of age. However, there are those who still choose to believe. Just last week, a poll of New Yorkers asked "would you say you believe in Santa Claus or not?" Surprisingly, 31% of respondents said they do believe in Santa Claus.

Regardless of age, there are people who believe in fairy tales, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter bunny, unicorns, and more. Some would view such people as not being in their right mind -- or crazy. Some, however, may view such beliefs as non-harmful and perhaps even a positive thing in a world where there is so much struggle, harm and conflict.

A couple of months ago I read an article titled, "Five Reasons To Stop Reading Your Children Fairy Tales." The article describes stereotypes that are supposedly promoted by fairy tales that are said to be damaging to children, including:
  • Women are passive damsels who can only be saved by men;
  • Marriage is the ultimate reward;
  • Lack of racial/physical/sexual diversity;
  • Female characters are either bound to the home or they’re evil step mothers/sisters/witches;
  • The promotion of outdated ideologies.
I'm the father of four adult children, and the step-dad to four other children -- two of whom are still minors (ages 10 and 13). I read fairy tales to my own daughters and am pleased to say that they have grown into well adjusted, highly educated, professional-working women. They don't go through life believing that they have to be 'passive' and/or 'saved by men.' They understand the blessings of marriage and are not going through life with unrealistic and/or outdated ideologies. It seems to me that there are more and more people in the world who are trying to cast a dark cloud over those who may believe in things that are different than what they believe in. Rather than respect a person's right to believe, they reject, they criticize, they ostracize, they belittle, and they stand on a soap box to shout to the world why others are wrong and they themselves are right. And we wonder why there appears to be conflict around every corner today?

It's Christmas. We are in the most special, meaningful, uniting season of the entire year. It's a time for us to count our blessings, cherish our relationships, and build each other up... even while the world around us seems to be eroding. We were all born with the right to choose what we will believe in. If you want to truly share your thoughts about what you believe in and why it is that what you believe in is so good, just live your life... live your beliefs... and let your actions do the talking. We live in an Internet-driven, social media world where everyone wants their face seen and their voice heard. My advice to you this Christmas season is to forget about a WORLD-Wide-Web audience and just aim to be a positive example in your own neighborhood, sharing a kind thought with others and letting your beliefs shine through your own life and actions. Have yourself a Merry Christmas!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Man is Running on a Treadmill in a Texas Garage Walk-in Freezer

A few days ago, a Texas man was featured in Runner's World online. The man states that on November 16, 2019, he will attempt to become the "first person in history" to run the northernmost 300 miles of the Dalton Highway in Alaska. As seen on the History Channel show "Ice Road Truckers," the Dalton Highway is the longest stretch of unserviced road on the North American continent. It's mostly made up of gravel and dirt and stretches across desolate Alaska wilderness. There are a couple of things that caught my attention about the planned run by this Texan.

He is training on a treadmill located in a walk-in freezer that he has placed in his Texas garage. He says that the freezer not only helps him acclimate to freezing temperatures, but also allows him to test equipment he will need on the highway. He calls the freezer "BOCS" (Big Ol’ Climate Simulator). He wants to complete the 300-mile Alaska run in 9 days (which would be a 33-mile-per-day average) and he will have a support crew accompanying him -- including medics. The attempt is being described as "the most taxing and dangerous run" that he's ever attempted. So, his adventure will take place November 16-25, 2019. Having grown up in Alaska, I can tell you that the Dalton Highway -- which is north of Fairbanks --  was once called the North Slope Haul Road and was built as a supply road to support the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in 1974. The road carries a couple hundred trucks daily and over 100 miles of it is paved. Also, the average November high temperature for the Dalton Highway Recreation Management Area, according to Weather.com, is 5 degrees with the average low temperature being minus 16 degrees. Having run regularly in both Alaska and Montana at such temperatures, I can tell you that running in temperatures hovering 10 degrees or so on either side of zero is not as 'life threatening' as the Texan describes. With respect to possible wildlife that he may encounter on the Dalton Highway, he'll have a support crew with him for protection and any bears that are not already heading into hibernation will likely not give him a second glance.

What is most important to note is the fact that the Texan featured by Runner's World magazine will not become the first person to cover the Dalton Highway on foot. In fact, it has been done several times -- even by a guy on crutches walking all alone in winter! Also, every year there are bicyclists who traverse the Dalton Highway... in the summer when the grizzlies are not hibernating!

The photo accompanying this blog post is Daniel Johnson-Utsogn of Norway, pushing a children's bike trailer full of his belongings along the Dalton Highway in the final days of a four-year-long walk from New York City to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The photo was a part of an NBC News story. The 23-year-old adventurer said he walked more than 25,000 miles through 49 states. During his adventure he didn't update a blog, own a smartphone, nor does he intend to write a book. Daniel is a 20-something adventurer/photographer who describes his walking lifestyle in this manner at his photography website:
"Hi, I’m Daniel. Chronic dirtbag traveller and modern day vagabond. My love affair for the open road began when I was only 19 years old. Born and raised in Norway, I graduated high school in 2013 and quit my job to start a walk across America. The walk lasted four years and took me through some of the most beautiful and wild places in North America and has greatly influenced who I am today. My nomadic lifestyle has mostly moved along at 4 mph., and I've found it immensely addictive. Like the moth to the flame, I can't seem to help myself. The mountains have become my mouthwash and the valleys my methadone. A conquistador of the useless, I keep pushing my limits, always searching for meaningful moments through a meaningless process. I wore out 17 pairs of shoes during those four years, walked 25,000 miles and never once allowed myself any means of transportation to further advance my walk. It all ended in Alaska’s Arctic on September 13th, 2017. My wanderlust and affection for the open road and the American West naturally bled into landscape photography. It is through my lens I wish to inspire others to get out and explore and appreciate the natural world around them."
There have been other adventurers who have also traversed the Dalton Highway on foot (for instance, do a Google search of Cargo Harrison's 14,000-mile journey), and most did not have a support crew as the Texan intends on having next year -- and several who have already accomplished the feat have averaged more miles than the Texan intends on doing. Sometimes, I shake my head over planned undertakings that Runner's World magazine chooses to promote. The Texan is running on a treadmill in a walk-in garage freezer talking about a 300-mile run he wants to do one year from now -- one that he says nobody has ever done. Runner's World magazine actually committed ink to that. I've been reading Runners' World magazine since 1978 -- yep, that's 40 years. It is with four decades of reading that I finally say -- come on Runner's World! Do your research and you'll find that this Texan's Dalton Highway goal has already been done -- solo -- and the people who have actually accomplished such things are definitely worth some ink!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Ho, Ho, OH! -- America's Santa is Morbidly Obese!



Christmas is one week from today! For the two children in my home (ages 10 and 13), it is indeed an exciting time -- and it's exciting for Kelley and I also! We're nearing the end of another year and I'm pleased to say that our family is in good shape. The girls are active in dance classes and we adults aim to take care of ourselves so that we can keep up with the energy and pace requirements of our jobs, maintaining our home, shuttling kids to practices and events, and all the rest that comes with a busy working/parenting schedule. Yet, with the holidays comes a little weight gain. Some statistics say that the average American gains 6 to 8 pounds during the holidays, but the more realistic figure is just a couple of pounds.

A couple of pounds doesn't sound like a big deal; however, studies suggest we don’t take it off -- ever! That means we enter each year a couple of pounds heavier, which can add up over the decades. And research suggests that if you enter the holiday season already overweight, it’s likely you’ll gain even more. I thought about making this blog post about ways of keeping the extra holiday pounds off (such as: staying active; limiting intake; getting enough sleep; and so on). As I thought about it, I decided that most people already know what they SHOULD do, but their failure to do what's needed is often simply a choice.

Many people choose to sit on the sofa instead of going for a walk. Many people choose to go back for a second serving rather than exercising self control. Many people choose to stay up until late into the night rather than getting quality sleep and maintaining a healthy schedule. In many ways, any weight you put on during the holidays is by choice. You can also choose not to put on weight. While it is true that the American image of Santa Claus is of an overweight man, we should not believe that such obesity is acceptable... particularly in a country where obesity is a growing epidemic.

In my opinion, Jesus is the reason for the season. However, it is true that many people focus on the overweight figure of Santa Claus. Most American children can tell you what Santa looks like: "chubby and plump" with "a round little belly" that shakes when he laughs "like a bowl full of jelly." That’s Santa as described by Clement C. Moore, author of the classic poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" -- also known as "The Night Before Christmas." Moore’s 1822 poem helped to shape Santa. The Coca-Cola Company has also played a role in shaping Santa. Since the 1920's, it has used portraits of Santa in its advertising -- the most famous images drawn by a Michigan illustrator who used Moore’s poem as inspiration. Coca-Cola seemed to change Santa from pleasingly plump to dangerously obese.

Based on flight profile data gathered from over 50 years of North American Aerospace Defense Command's (NORAD of U.S./Canada) radar and satellite tracking, NORAD concludes that Santa probably stands about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs approximately 260 pounds (before cookies). That would mean that he has a body mass index of 41, and anything over 40 is considered "morbidly obese."

Prior to the 19th century, Santa was quite fit, as he still is in other countries even today. At a display of global Santa figures in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, called "Spirits of Giving From Around the World" (an exhibit of life-size Santas and original paintings), only the American Santa is obese; the weight of Santa figures in other countries is nicely proportional with height, and some can even be called athletic. In many countries, Santa doesn’t make reindeer haul him around, but rides a horse or walks from house to house. These depictions are more in keeping with the real St. Nicholas, the fourth-century bishop who was the inspiration for the modern Santa Claus and whose remains were analyzed in 1957. The examination revealed a man of average height (nearly 5 feet, 6 inches) and slender-to-average build, with a waist of about 34 inches. His teeth indicated a diet that was mostly vegetarian. Clearly, he was not a man who was chubby and plump with a belly that shaked like a bowl full of jelly when he laughed. And, it would seem he preferred a salad over cookies.

The name "Santa Claus" is the English form of the Dutch name for St. Nicholas -- Sinterklaas. The historical St. Nicholas was a godly man known for his charity and generosity. According to the best estimates, Nicholas was born around 280 AD in Patara (a harbor city in modern day Turkey). He later became bishop of Myra in modern-day Turkey. Nicholas died about 343 AD on or near December 6.

Enjoy the goodies of the holiday... in moderation. Get rest, get steps in, and if your belly starts to look like a bowl full of jelly, you may want to consider ringing in the new year with a gym membership!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, December 17, 2018

Older Than a Grinch, but Younger Than a Red-nosed Reindeer!

This past weekend, Kelley and I took Hannah and Kyndal to see the latest Grinch movie that is in theaters. It was a well done version of the five-decades-old story and all of us enjoyed it. At one point in the movie, the Grinch says, "I'm 53 years old, so Christmas has changed a lot from what it was when I was a little Grinch." Hannah leaned over to me and said, "You're as old as the Grinch!" That made me chuckle, but later -- as I thought about the fact that I was born in 1965 -- I realized that I'm the same age as a few holiday classics. For instance, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "The Sound of Music" were released in 1965. Also, Burl Ives' album "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" hit record stores in 1965. There were also some classic games that were released in 1965, such as "Trouble" and "Operation." So, 1965 was a pretty good year for the birth of classic holiday entertainment!

However, I must share that the new Grinch animated movie is slightly inaccurate. The Grinch is actually 52 years old, not 53 as stated in the latest version of the Grinch tale. "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" was first released in 1966, which would make me one year older than the Grinch. At least I can take comfort in the fact that Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is one year older than me!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

U.S. Poll Results Regarding Church Attendance at Christmastime

LifeWay Research polled 1,000 Americans and found that six out of 10 typically attend church at Christmastime. However, among those who don’t attend church at Christmastime, a majority (57 percent) say they would likely attend if someone they knew invited them.

According to the research, Americans living in the South (66 percent) and Midwest (64 percent) are more likely to attend church at Christmastime than those in the Northeast (57 percent) and West (53 percent). And throughout the U.S., more women than men are likely to attend Christmas church services (66 percent vs. 56 percent). Those who attend church most frequently throughout the year -- once a week or more -- are the most likely (91 percent) to say they will attend church at Christmastime.

Younger Americans are less likely to participate in a service or Christmas mass than their elders. Fifty-three percent of those 18 to 24 say they attend church at Christmas, compared to 68 percent of those 65 and older and 67 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds.

Here are some of the poll results:


Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The First Running Shoes Were Created 153 Years Ago -- in 1865.

One of the earliest examples of running shoes is at the Northampton Museum in England. The shoes look like someone hammered nails through a pair of Oxfords. It's believed that the leather shoe was likely used for cross-country running. It represents the earliest spiked running shoe made on a production basis. Northampton was the center of the British shoemaking industry.

The design bears a definite relationship to early cricket shoes. The low cut design is of all leather construction. There are three spikes under the forefoot and one under the heel -- which suggests that the shoe was used as a distance running or cross-country shoe for dirt/grass surfaces. It incorporates a broad toe band, which is a separate piece of leather, sewn into the welt of the shoe to add lateral stability.

I started running in 1976. It wasn't until 1980 when I would begin running long distances as a member of my high school varsity cross country team. Wow, that was 38 years ago! I remember well my first pair of running shoes -- the Brooks Vantage Supreme. They were two shades of blue, with a yellow color added, and received a 5-star rating from Runner's World magazine. Those shoes carried me to the 1980 Alaska Region IV Cross Country Championships -- the year when my best 3.1-mile time was 16 minutes, 45 seconds (or a 5:35 average mile pace). That time would have given me 12th place overall at the 2018 Alaska State Cross Country Championships.

I wonder how fast I could have run in the 1865 Northampton shoes!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, December 7, 2018

Would You Name Your Baby After a Healthy Food? Some Parents Are!

The parenting website BabyCenter.com recently released its report on baby name trends in the United States. The report is based on hundreds of thousands of names that parents chose and provided to the website annually. Each year, about 4 million babies are born in the United States.

This year’s findings suggest that parents are increasingly inspired by the wellness movement. Names related to spiritual practices, like yoga or meditation, (such as "Peace," "Harmony," and "Hope") have risen in popularity, and so have names tied to healthy food trends. For girls, parents are increasingly picking names like Kale, Kiwi, Maple, Hazel, Clementine, Sage, Saffron, and Rosemary. Names like Saffron, Sage, and Hazel are also on the rise for boys.

With 2018 drawing to a close, here are the top 10 baby names for 2018 from BabyCenter.com -- which compiled this information from more than 742,000 parents who shared their new baby's name with BabyCenter.com in 2018. The names are listed in order from most popular to least popular.

GIRLS

  • Sophia
  • Olivia
  • Emma
  • Ava
  • Isabella
  • Aria
  • Riley
  • Amelia
  • Mia
  • Layla

BOYS

  • Jackson
  • Liam
  • Noah
  • Aiden
  • Caden
  • Grayson
  • Lucas
  • Mason
  • Oliver
  • Elijah

And to end this post, I'll share that in 2016 the name "Carrot" was on the rise for boys, but then nose-dived in 2017. However, in 2018 it has seen an increase with 8 boys out of every million being named "Carrot." If any of them grow up to be a doctor, they might often be met with the question... "What's up, Doc?"

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Why Are Wedding Rings Worn on the Fourth Finger of the Left Hand?



Earlier this year, I married the most wonderful woman in the world -- Kelley. We exchanged vows and wedding rings in front of family and friends. As I was in my office today, I looked down at my wedding band and smiled. I love wearing this symbol of the love and commitment that Kelley and I share. Did you know that there is actually a historical reason as to why most people wear their wedding band on the left hand ring finger?

The wedding ring tradition dates back to ancient Egypt, as archaeologists have found evidence in hieroglyphics that brides would wear a ring. The Egyptians, who first started wearing wedding bands as a symbol of eternity, believed there was a delicate nerve that ran from the fourth finger all the way to the heart. Of course, we know now that the heart is an organ for pumping blood, but back then it was thought to be the center of our emotions.

Ancient Greeks and ancient Romans also slipped wedding rings on their left ring fingers for a similar reason. They believed a "vein of love" (vena amoris) ran from that finger to the heart. Even though that vein and nerve don’t exist, Western countries have continued the ancient tradition. However, in some other cultures the wedding ring goes on the right hand.

Traditionally, women were the only ones to wear wedding rings. Men didn’t join in until the early 20th century. During the World Wars, soldiers would wear wedding rings as a means of remembering their loved ones. It was only after the Korean War that male wedding bands took on the sentimental value they have today. It was then when the creation of matching wedding rings increased and designs specifically for men came about.

Yes, I love wearing my wedding band and it is truly a symbol of the eternal love and commitment that Kelley and I share.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Effectively Treat a Muscle Injury or Sprain -- The Benefits of Icing!

As the temperature begins to drop in many areas with winter blowing in, it seems like a fitting time to post a writing about the benefits of icing an injury. It won't be long before there is a rise in incidents of sprained ankles/knees from slipping on ice, or strained muscles from shoveling snow. The benefits of icing are greatest within the first day or two after sustaining an injury. Apply a bag of crushed ice, a bag of frozen veggies, or an ice pack to your injury. It will help relieve pain and prevent swelling by decreasing blood flow to the area.

R.I.C.E. is an acronym that many sports trainers and athletes use to remember how to treat a minor muscle injury. It stands for rest, ice, compress, and elevate.

Resting is one of the most effective ways to start your healing process. Your injured muscle will be weak and vulnerable to further injury, especially in the first few hours. Take a break from moving it to help it heal.

When it comes to icing, avoid frostbite by never placing the ice directly on your bare skin. Instead, wrap it in a thin cloth or towel before applying it to the injured area. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and allow your skin to return to normal temperature in between icing. To maximize the benefits of icing, ice three times a day with at least 45 minutes in between applications.

An elastic bandage wrapped firmly around your injury can help minimize swelling by creating compression and preventing the buildup of fluid. It can also help ease pain by keeping the injured area somewhat immobilized. The bandage may not be enough to immobilize the injured area entirely, but it will provide some support and remind you to keep it still. If the bandage causes tingling or numbness, remove it and rewrap it more loosely. It shouldn’t be so tight that it causes discomfort or interferes with your blood flow. Even gentle compression can help keep fluid from collecting around the injury.

Elevating an injury above the level of your heart will helping minimize swelling by allowing fluid to drain away from the area. If you can’t raise it above your heart, try to keep the injured area at the same level as your heart or close to it. If you suffered an injury to your buttocks or hips, you should try lying down with one or more pillows wedged under your buttocks and lower back to help lift it.

The day after suffering an injury is often the most painful. Swelling will likely be at its worst a few hours to a couple of days after your injury occurred. Bruising will continue to develop for the first few hours and may be very noticeable the next day. Continue using the R.I.C.E. treatment method for the first 48 to 72 hours after your injury. During this time, you should keep the injured area wrapped with an elastic bandage, elevate it when you can, and apply ice every few hours. During the first three days following a muscle strain or sprain, don’t apply heat to the area. While it may feel soothing, heat can increase circulation and worsen swelling. Think to yourself... ice is nice!

Keep in mind that you can also perform an "ice massage." Apply ice directly to the injury and move the ice frequently, not allowing it to sit in one spot. Many athletes will perform an ice massage where they use a frozen block of ice and massage into the area of discomfort, to prevent prolonged direct contact of the ice to one specific location.

Here are some tips for icing:
  • Use a Ziploc bag with ice cubes or crushed ice. Add a little water to the ice bag so it will conform to your body.
  • Keep paper cups filled with water in your freezer. Peel the top of the cup away and massage the ice cup over the injury in a circular pattern allowing the ice to melt away.
  • Use a bag of frozen peas or corn. This option provides a reusable treatment method. However, once used for icing, the defrosted food should not be eaten if you return it to the freezer to use again!
  • There are many products sold that can be reused to help you ice an injured body part. Many of these are designed to conform to a specific part of the body.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, December 3, 2018

Reached Another Milestone in Blogging -- My 300th Blog Post

After deleting a blog I maintained for about 5 years, and taking several years off from blogging (2011-2015), I started again in 2016. Since then, I've averaged about 100 writings per year at this blog. Today, I am posting my 300th writing.

I didn't even realize when I hit the 100th blog post back in 2016. It just wasn't something I was paying attention to. In 2017, I posted a writing about reaching the 200th blog post mark. In that post I shared a little about my writings and about who reads this blog. So, now I'm at the 300 mark and feel as though I should write something significant for this milepost. I've been scratching my head on this!

I guess what strikes me most is how much my life has changed since I started writing this blog in June 2016. Back then, I was dating a wonderful woman named Kelley, who is now my wife. Back then, I wasn't a step dad -- and today I am. Back then, I was renting an apartment after having moved 18 months earlier from Montana to Indiana, and today I own a beautiful home with my lovely bride. Back then, three of my four children were adults -- and today all of them are. Back then, I was still an ultramarathon runner -- and today I am retired from pounding my body into the ground. Sure, there are lots of changes that have taken place in my life since I started writing this blog again in 2016... and I am blessed in countless ways.

Initially, this blog focused on health, nutrition and fitness topics. You'll see that now I focus more on family, faith and fitness. Yes, the 'focus' of this blog has changed a little over the years, but I do believe that the topics that I choose to write about do resonate with some people. According to my stats, I am still having daily traffic to this blog from readers around the world. For instance, in just the past month I've had readers from the USA, Russia, France, Ukraine, Canada, Germany, India, Sweden, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Portugal. I don't write every day, but I try to post 8 to 10 writings per month -- on average. Also, my website (paulstaso.com) continues to get daily traffic and I acquire additional blog readers who click on the blog link at my site.

I'll keep writing, and I hope you'll keep reading!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso


Friday, November 30, 2018

Google's Global Street-View Trekkers and High-Tech Cameras

This morning, I was on Google Maps to locate an office that I had to go to for a job-related task. I used the street-view option and in the reflection of office glass I saw a Google street-view trekker. For those of you who don't know, for many years Google has used both vehicle-mounted cameras and pedestrian-carried cameras to expand the views available through the Google Maps platform. Here is what I saw this morning:


Wondering how you can be like the guy in this photo? Well, if you like hiking and photographing exciting places around the globe, Google has a proposition for you: You can sign-up to borrow one of the company's Trekkers -- special camera-equipped backpacks that act as a personalized version of Google's Street View cars. It allows the wearer to automatically capture a 360-degree view of their surrounds as they move. Google previously only let select employees and a few third-party organizations take the Trekkers out to scenic places, including the Grand Canyon and the Canadian Arctic. However, the company is giving any third-party organization the chance to apply online to use the Trekker backpacks.

Please note that Google isn't about to hand out its Trekker backpacks to just anyone. The company describes some specific qualifications in its online application for the Trekker program. You may want to view Google's upbeat video ad promoting the Trekker loaner program.

The Trekker backpacks have been used at various street and trail locations -- including the Arlington National Cemetery. Its even been strapped to the back of a camel to capture the Arabian Desert. Want to know when the next Google Street View car or Trekker is coming to your neighborhood? Click here to find out!

This technology has come a long way since I ran across America in 2006. Back then, it was in its infancy and the street-view option didn't even come into existence until the year after I completed my coast-to-coast run. Now, you can virtually visit locations via Google Maps technology before you actually get there!

I must admit... I'm glad I ran across America before this technology was available. I couldn't "see ahead" on my route by looking at street-view images on my phone. That made my 15-state run more of an adventure. Also, I'm glad that the area where my home is located hasn't had any Google cars or Trekkers go by. I'm in the shrinking minority of homeowners who haven't had their residence captured by Google's street view cameras. I'm sure someday I'll see a Google car or Trekker go past my mailbox.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Will The Original "Marathon Man" Please Stand Up... or... Sit Down.

I first entered the world of running in 1976 at the age of 11, when the running boom was underway in America. In the 42 years since, I've heard the term "Marathon Man" applied to countless runners. Some marathon runners actually use the title "Marathon Man" when referring to themselves, such as Dean Karnazes, Trent Morrow, Bill Rogers and Rob Young. Although I've covered the marathon distance literally hundreds of times while running across states and countries, I've never actually called myself "Marathon Man."

During my 40 years as a runner, I never gave myself a title. In the early days I was a sprinter and hurdler, and then moved into the 5K and 10K distances, and eventually the 26.2-mile marathon distance... before jumping into ultra-marathon distances. I never felt the need to give myself a title, like "10K Guy" or "States Runner." I just put one foot in front of the other as "Paul Staso" -- which seemed right since that's the name my parents chose for me in 1965.

So, who is the original "Marathon Man?" Well, there is the 1976 movie titled "Marathon Man" which is a suspense-thriller directed by John Schlesinger. Actor Dustin Hoffman plays the role of a history Ph.D. candidate obsessed with running who gets placed unintentionally into a nightmare world of international conspiracy involving some stolen diamonds. He ends up being abducted by criminals and eventually escapes by running... thus the title, Marathon Man. Hoffman, a method actor by trade, got so prepared for the character he played that he lost 15 pounds after running up to four miles a day to get in shape for the role. Producer Robert Evans claimed that Hoffman would never come into a scene faking the heavy breathing required, and that he would simply run half a mile right before director Schlesinger yelled 'action' to make the scene more believable. However, I'm unable to find any record that actor Dustin Hoffman has ever actually completed the marathon distance. So, in the world of modern-day running he is not the original "Marathon Man."

Trent Marrow, age 45, owns marathonman.com and claims to have run more marathons than any other person on the planet across all 7 continents in one year and states that he has now run more than 300 marathons over the last 10 years. Could he be the original "Marathon Man?" There's also Dean Karnazes who has run across America as well as completed 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days. Both of these guys refer to themselves as "Marathon Man."

The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, the Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon (in which he had just fought), which took place in 490 BC during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It is said that he ran the entire distance, a 'marathon' of 26 miles, without stopping and then burst into the assembly exclaiming "WE HAVE WON!" -- before collapsing and dying. I believe that Pheidippides will forever be the original "Marathon Man."

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Health Benefits of Tears. Have You Had a Good Cry Lately?

I know precisely the last time I cried. It was earlier this year when I got married. I couldn't hold back the tears as I recited my marriage vows... and I cried again the next day as I said goodbye to my adult children who live out of state. The vow tears were of complete joy for finally arriving at a time in life that I had long dreamed of -- marrying my best friend and the love of my life. The goodbye tears were of deep love for my children and knowing how much I would miss them.

I remember the first time I saw my father cry. It was in 1982 when he told me and my siblings that my mother had cancer. I was 17 years of age. I recall that as I was growing up, my father did not openly show tears to his children. However, the thought of possibly losing his wife -- my Mom -- brought his eyes to the tearful tipping point. To the relief of my entire family, my mother beat cancer and continues to enjoy life by my Dad's side -- both of them in their 80's. I recently read an article in Psychology Today about the health benefits of tears and I want to share some of that information with you.

Tears are your body’s release valve for stress, pain, sadness, grief, anxiety, and frustration. Also, you can have tears of joy, say when a child is born or tears of relief when a difficulty has passed. Personally, I am grateful when I can cry. It feels cleansing... a way to purge pent up emotions so they don’t take root inside of me. It has been said that for both men and women, tears are a sign of courage, strength, and authenticity.

Like the ocean, tears contain salt. Our bodies contain a cup of salt, In fact, every cell in your body contains salt. Tears protectively lubricate your eyes, remove irritants, reduce stress hormones, and contain antibodies that fight pathogenic microbes. Our bodies produce three kinds of tears: reflex, continuous, and emotional.  Each kind has different healing roles. For instance, reflex tears allow your eyes to clear out noxious particles when they’re irritated by smoke or exhaust. The second kind, continuous tears, are produced regularly to keep our eyes lubricated (these contain a chemical called "lysozyme" which functions as an anti-bacterial and protects our eyes from infection). Tears also travel to the nose through the tear duct to keep the nose moist and bacteria free. Typically, after crying, our breathing, and heart rate decrease, and we enter into a calmer biological and emotional state.

Emotional tears have special health benefits. Biochemist and "tear expert" Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis discovered that reflex tears are 98% water, whereas emotional tears also contain stress hormones which get excreted from the body through crying. After studying the composition of tears, Dr. Frey found that emotional tears shed these hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress. Additional studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and "feel-good" hormones. Essentially, crying makes us feel better, even when a problem persists. Don't hold those tears back!

My eldest daughter recently told me that I've gotten more 'soft' as I've aged... that I'm more open to crying. I admit that she is right. I don't recall crying much as I grew up. I had loved ones depart, but didn't shed many tears along the way. I'm now 53, but it has probably been within the last 10 years that I've gotten more comfortable with tearful emotions.

In my opinion, it's good to cry... it's healthy to cry. It helps to emotionally clear sadness and stress. Crying is also essential to resolve grief, when waves of tears periodically come over us after we experience a loss. Tears help us process the loss so we can keep living with open hearts. Otherwise, we are a set up for depression if we suppress these potent feelings.

Don't be ashamed to cry. Instead, embrace it as a strong emotional release.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Glad to be Alive After Near Head-on Collision

I've lived in Indiana for 4 years and have seen the aftermath of numerous car and truck accidents. Based on recent statistics, around 800 people per year die in Indiana from car accidents -- and each year there are approximately 52,000 people in Indiana who are injured in collisions. Yesterday, I was nearly included in the statistics for deceased.

I was driving home after work and was on Highway 24, a divided highway with two lanes heading east and two lanes heading west. The median was fairly level grass extending about 50 feet. I was about 10 miles from home. Below is a picture of the area I was in at the time when I thought I may not survive what appeared to be a probable severe collision.


I had been in the inside lane behind a semi truck that was traveling at approximately 52 miles per hour. It was a 60 mph zone. Although it was a chilly November day, the road surface was dry and there was daylight. I moved into the outside lane to pass the semi truck and two cars behind me did the same thing. I was on the left side of the truck passing at about 60 mph when I saw on the curve ahead a car in my lane coming directly at me. He was on the wrong side of the highway!

When two vehicles are approaching each other at highway speed, the gap closes quickly. I had a semi truck to my right, two vehicles directly behind me (and those drivers likely didn't even see the car coming at me), and a grassy median to my left. Upon seeing the oncoming car, I immediately started to flash my high beams at him to get his attention. I also moved as close as I possible could to the semi truck, my passenger side mirror being only an inch or two from the truck. I didn't want to put on my brakes due to the cars immediately behind me, but I did get my vehicle to the same speed of the semi truck.

The oncoming driver moved slightly toward the median and just barely missed the front corner (driver's side) of my car as his passenger side tires were starting to touch the grass of the median. It was nearly a deadly head-on collision. I never saw the driver because I was too focused on the location of the vehicles around me. After seeing the vehicle go by, I moved a couple of feet off of the semi truck and glanced in my rear view mirror to see that the two cars were still behind me. I then looked in my side mirror as I was going around the curve on the highway and saw that the car which almost hit me had slowed and was rolled onto the grassy median of the highway. I'm guessing he figured out that he was on the wrong side of the highway! It was an extremely dangerous situation and had we struck each other head on it would have likely resulted in numerous deaths, particularly since there were two vehicles behind me and a semi truck next to us.

I have no idea how that person got onto the wrong side of the highway in broad daylight and didn't realize until nearly colliding with me. I've been driving for 37 years and have never had such an encounter happen. I was thankful that the semi truck driver didn't swerve, but rather maintained steady position and speed.

Pay attention out there! You never know what might be coming around the next bend in the road!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

What Do People in the 50 U.S. States Enjoy For Thanksgiving?

The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. The feast lasted three days, and it has been said that there were 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims in attendance.

Today, many Americans view Thanksgiving as a time for spending time with their family, and to remember to be thankful for what they have. Thanksgiving is also a time to eat… a lot! According to estimates by the Calorie Control Council, Americans take in 3,000 to 4,500 calories at their Thanksgiving celebrations. Depending on age, weight, and gender, most people should have somewhere between 1,600 and 2,800 calories daily. Is it possible to have a full Thanksgiving meal with less than 2,000 calories? Sure it is!


What do Americans like to eat at Thanksgiving? To highlight regional tastes, last November General Mills collected data from top recipe searches on BettyCrocker.com, Pillsbury.com, and the cooking website Tablespoon.com. They compiled the state-by-state findings into a map so we could see what Americans like to eat during the holiday.

It turns out, people in Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware, and North Carolina largely searched for sweet potato dishes, while West Virginians, Ohioans, and Pennsylvanians wanted to make buffalo chicken dip. And oddly enough, those in the landlocked states of Arizona and Wisconsin sought out shrimp recipes.

Proving that some Thanksgiving desserts are relatively universal, residents of six states (including South Dakota, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina, New Mexico, and New Hampshire) all looked for various types of pie. Check out the full findings in the map below.


Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, November 19, 2018

Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

With this being the week to celebrate Thanksgiving, I've been pondering the New Testament words of the Apostle Paul to give thanks in all circumstances. Paul started the church in Thessalonica and within a few months of leaving he wrote the first Epistle to the Thessalonians. You see, after starting that church, Paul joined Silas and Timothy in traveling to Athens from Thessalonica. However, after a short time in Athens, Paul felt the need to receive a report from the new church in Thessalonica, so he sent Timothy back to serve and minister to the new believers there. Paul wanted to check on the state of the Thessalonians’ faith, for fear that false teachers might have infiltrated their number. Timothy soon returned with a good report, prompting Paul to write 1 Thessalonians as a letter of encouragement to the new believers.

Impressed by the faithfulness of the Thessalonians in the face of persecution, Paul wrote to encourage the Christians in Thessalonica with the goal that they would continue to grow in godliness. Paul taught the people that any spiritual growth would ultimately be motivated by their hope in the ultimate return of Jesus Christ. Paul was never interested in simply telling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, because he knew that what ultimately inspired change was a life of consistently walking in the power of God’s Spirit. So, to a group of young Christians with questions and uncertainties, Paul offered words about the hope of Christ’s return, providing both comfort in the midst of questions and motivation to godly living.

One of Paul's teachings was to give thanks in all things. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 he wrote, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." You may be going into this Thanksgiving season focused on troubles in your life and wondering how you can "give thanks" with all that is transpiring. Jesus said that we would all have troubles (John 16:33), and He really understands (Hebrews 4:15). So, how can you give thanks in all circumstances? There’s only one way: look to the joy through Jesus -- salvation through Jesus, a relationship with Jesus, and eternity with Him. As is written in 2 Corinthians 4:17, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." If you accept Jesus and believe in His promises, there is no circumstance that can steal your thanksgiving.

Personally, I am going into this Thanksgiving season with my heart overflowing with thanksgiving for all that I've been blessed with this year -- a closer relationship with the Lord; the joy of marrying Kelley; the gift of being a parent and step-parent; the benefits of  my employment; the comfort of a new home; the peace of good health; and, so much more. God has been incredibly good to me and my family in 2018.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, giving thanks for all circumstances.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, November 16, 2018

Fit as a Fiddle at 53

I'm sure at some point you've heard the phrase, "Fit as a Fiddle." The meaning is to be fit and very well. Of course, 'fiddle' has been the colloquial name for violin. 'Fit' didn't originally mean healthy and energetic, in the sense it is often used nowadays. When the phrase "Fit as a Fiddle" was coined, 'fit' was used to mean 'suitable, seemly,' in the way we now might say 'fit for purpose'. The now common idiom -- "Fit as a Fiddle" -- is used by people to describe their health, or to say that they are in good shape. Why a fiddle? Perhaps due to its shape. I'm not really sure and would have to do more reading about it. Regardless, I'm happy to say that at age 53... I'm as fit as a fiddle!

I recently had my annual physical exam. As always, it was pretty extensive. I'm 5'9" tall, weigh 158 pounds, have a 31-inch waist, and my blood pressure is 118/68. My heart and lungs are healthy. My complete blood count (CBC) results came back great! My cholesterol levels are good; triglycerides levels are normal; lipid numbers are where they should be; thyroid, liver and kidney function normal; blood glucose level is normal; body mass index is normal; and, my Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test was "perfect," according to my doctor. I have never had to take any medications for anything and there is no indication that any medications are in my near future. I do take a daily multi-vitamin, but that's it.

So, were there any recommendations given to me by my doctor? Yes, one. He suggested that I get more fiber in my diet. According to the Institute of Medicine, the average adult only eats 15 grams of fiber per day. Men over age 50 should be getting at least 30 grams per day. I can increase my fiber intake by eating more plant foods -- vegetables, beans, fruit, whole grains, and nuts. These foods are all naturally rich in nutrients, including fiber, and provide all the health benefits that go along with a fiber-rich diet.

Top sources of fiber are: beans (all kinds), peas, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, artichokes, whole wheat flour, barley, bulgur, bran, raspberries, blackberries, and prunes. Good sources of fiber include: lettuce, dark leafy greens, broccoli, okra, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, potatoes with the skin, corn, snap beans, asparagus, cabbage, whole wheat pasta, oats, popcorn, nuts, raisins, pears, strawberries, oranges, bananas, blueberries, mangoes, and apples. So, I'll be increasing my fiber intake and seeing my doctor again one year from now for another annual exam.

After discussing my annual results, my doctor told me, "keep doing what you're doing." He said that it's great to see a 53-year-old man who doesn't have any health issues and who isn't needing any medications. So, I'm as fit as a fiddle!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Path of Faith

If you've followed my online writings since 2005 when I first began sharing thoughts through blogs, you know that I am a Christian. I've even written a Christian devotional for athletes that I hope to have published. More than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians. A little more than half identify as Protestants, about 23 percent as Catholic, and about 2 percent as Mormon.

I am a Baptist and have been since May 1, 1977, when I was baptized by Rev. Jerry Prevo at the Anchorage Baptist Temple in Alaska. I was 12 years of age at the time. More than 100 million Christians identify themselves as Baptist or belong to Baptist-type churches -- 50 million within the United States, making it one of the largest groups of Protestants in the nation.

I've never hidden my Christianity. I earned a Bachelor's Degree in Religion nearly 30 years ago and when I was in my early 20's had seriously contemplated becoming a pastor. Instead, I became a teacher and coach in a Christian school; taught Sunday school lessons at my local church; played my 12-string guitar on the church worship team; and, was a speaker at Christian retreats. My faith has been the foundation of my life and without it I would be lost.

So, as a Baptist... what do I believe? Well, there are many elements of the Baptist Church and I certainly won't write an essay about all that Baptists believe. I can say that the Baptist Church believes in Baptism only after a person has professed Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Baptism symbolizes the cleansing of sins. Some churches use a sprinkling of water as Baptism, but most practice full immersion, where the candidate is fully immersed in water. This symbolizes the disciples’ own baptism as stated in the Bible at John, chapter 3. The practice also stems from Romans, chapter 6, verse 4, which states Christians are "buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." Baptism is not a requirement for salvation and many churches do not subscribe to infant baptism. Instead, Baptism in the Baptist church is a public expression of faith.

Since the origins of the church, Baptists have said the Bible is the only authority for Christian faith and practice. Baptists believe that the Bible is the only authority because it is divinely inspired or has a divine nature. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is an oft-cited example of why Baptists believe strongly in the Bible. The verses say, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible and empowered men to record the truth about God and give directives on how to apply the Bible to the Christian life.

In the Baptist church, the Lord’s Supper, also known as communion, is a symbolic practice meant to honor the death of Jesus. Communion is not necessary for salvation. The practice comes from Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. At the meal, unleavened bread and the wine were served. The bread symbolizes the purity of Christ and the wine (sometimes grape juice) symbolizes the blood of Christ that was shed for his people. The Lord’s Supper is meant as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross -- a time of devotion and prayer. In many Baptist churches, all are able to participate in the Lord’s Supper. However, it is true that different churches have different stances on who can participate in the Lord’s Supper. Some practice "closed" communion which permits only those who are members in good standing of that church to participate. Some practice "close" communion which is similar to closed but also allows others who are members in like-minded churches to participate. The last is "open communion" where all those who are followers of Jesus Christ, who have been baptized, and are participating with proper motives, can participate.

In response to Christ’s call in Matthew 28:19-20 to "make disciples of all nations," many Baptists encourage missionary work and evangelism opportunities. Baptists emphasize that millions of people around the world have not heard of Jesus and evangelism is the mission of sharing Christ’s message. Evangelism has a long history in the Baptist church.

Yes, I am a Baptist... but more importantly, I am a Christian. Praise be to God!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, November 12, 2018

Running Alone From Alaska to Florida -- A Journey of 5,000 Miles.

Recently, Pete Kostelnick ran solo from Kenai, Alaska to Key West Florida. What's next for him? Yesterday on his Strava account he wrote that he hopes to be "back to 24 hour/6 day/100 mile racing." I, like many others, tracked his Alaska to Florida progress online, and he successfully finished the journey after pushing a jogging stroller of gear for a few months. In the early-1990's, before the dawn of the Internet, I too had the idea of running from Alaska to Florida, and actually spent three months developing a route, exploring financing options, and analyzing how to prepare properly. You see, I grew up in Alaska and in 1992 it had been six years since my failed attempt to run across America in 1986 at the age of 21. My parents had previously spent a winter season in Florida and although I had never gotten to that state it seemed like it would be an incredible journey on foot to run from the Alaska wilderness to the Florida sand. Back then, I was looking for something "epic" to embark upon and I put the wheels in motion to try and become the first person to do the Alaska-to-Florida run.

While planning the adventure, I learned that I would actually be embarking on an even bigger and more rewarding adventure in life. I would become a father during the summer of 1993. The idea to run from Alaska to Florida was permanently shelved, although there would be others who would plan the same run -- such as Florida ultra runner David Kilgore, who in 2015 planned to run from Alaska to Florida. However, his plan didn't come to fruition.

One thing that I've learned over the past 53 years is there are not many new ideas in the world of running. However, not all ideas actually transform into action and completion. Although it has been 26 years since I considered a run from Alaska to Florida, it's good to see that the journey was actually accomplished by someone. I always enjoy seeing something accomplished for the first time. I recall this first happening when I was a child and man walked on the moon.

Generally, from 1985 to 2006 I was told that my goal to run across the United States was crazy, stupid, illogical, senseless, and would never happen. I lived with such critical words for 20 years, until I silenced all of them by actually completing a coast-to-coast run in 2006 completely solo. I can tell you this... it is incredibly difficult to mentally silence such critics every single day while training and to actually accomplish what you've been told for 20 years that you would never be able to do. No, I didn't run from Alaska to Florida. I ran from Oregon to Delaware... and then across the state of Montana... and then accomplished a journey run through Alaska... and then ran across Germany... and capped it all off by doing a run that no one had ever done before -- a solo run across the Mojave Desert from the Grand Canyon to Badwater Basin, Death Valley. I had also considered doing a solo run around Iceland, and yes... someone has since accomplished that idea as well.

I've done school assemblies in America and Europe speaking to tens of thousands of children about the importance of health, nutrition, goal setting, and chasing after your dreams. I had nearly 100,000 school children between the ages of 5 and 18 run with me virtually as I did my adventure runs, those students residing in 25 different countries. I was given an award by the Mayo Clinic for my efforts in reducing childhood obesity in America; was awarded by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance for my efforts to promote youth health/fitness; was inducted as the first European PTA Youth Ambassador; and, was a torchbearer for the 2002 Olympic Games -- selected due to my efforts of encouraging kids in fitness. I personally funded 80% of my runs across states and countries and I formed a non-profit organization (The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation) -- through which I gave schools cash awards to fund curriculum items to assist student health. My running was focused on education, inspiration and encouragement.

I don't share that to blow my own horn. It's simply a summary of a portion of my running career... one where most of the mileposts I reached were never seen by anyone.

I'm sure it won't be long before we hear about the next big idea in running. It has been going on for decades -- running a marathon in each U.S. state; running a marathon per day for a year; running the Iditarod Trail in Alaska; running the Tour de France course; running across the Sahara Desert; running around the world; and the list goes on. I don't believe there are many "new" ideas in running. There are, however, ideas that have been dreamed up but not actually brought into reality through time, effort, sweat, strain and determination. To those who pursue the uncommon and unrealized ideas in running, I wish you personal enlightenment as you reach for the mileposts.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Life WAS a Highway... and Now it is a Rest Area!

This year has been the most amazing of my life. My youngest child became an adult; I watched my four adult children blaze paths in their life; I purchased a lovely new home; I married the most beautiful and loving woman in the world; I became a Step Dad to wonderful children; and... finally... entered a time in life where rest, peace and contentment are a regular part of my days. For me, 2018 will always be looked upon as the year when I was blessed beyond my greatest prayers!

Those of you who followed my adventure runs across states and countries between 2006 and 2011 know that the song "Life is a Highway" (written by Tom Cochrane, from his 1991 album Mad Mad World and later performed by Rascal Flatts) is one that I often used in my music slideshows about my adventures. Part of the lyrics are:

Life's like a road that you travel on,
When there's one day here and the next day gone.
Sometimes you bend and sometimes you stand,
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind.
There's a world outside every darkened door,
Where blues won't haunt you anymore.
Where brave are free and lovers soar,
Come ride with me to the distant shore...
There's no load I can't hold,
A road so rough this I know,
I'll be there when the light comes in,
Tell 'em we're survivors.
Life is a highway.

That song resonated with me while I ran endlessly along America's highways and overseas. Back then, life was just one long road and as long as I was out there... away from the darkened door... blues wouldn't haunt me. Regardless of what life threw at me, I knew the road would help me to remember that there was no load I couldn't hold. The road beat me up at times, but at least I was outside the darkened door... a survivor on life's highway. I knew that the road would eventually lead to the distant shore, and I just had to keep reaching for the mileposts to one day get there. Life indeed was a highway back then, but today it is a permanent rest area. I am at peace -- on the shore I longed for -- and am truly content with life.

I'm looking forward to enjoying the holiday season with my family... loving each and every moment. Life is no longer a highway. It is a rest area with no darkened doors, blues or unbearable loads. Yes, the light has come in and I'm a survivor.


Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso