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 Christian... and for the past 41 years I've been a Baptist. 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