Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Coldest Temperature Recorded in Each of the 50 U.S. States

Every state in the United States has seen temperatures drop below zero, except for one. The only state that has not seen a subzero temperature is Hawaii. The map below indicates the coldest temperature ever recorded in all 50 states, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, the numbers may change today with the extreme frigid weather battering the midwest United States.



Surprisingly, even Florida has seen subzero temperatures when the thermometer dropped to 2 degrees below zero on February 13, 1899, in Tallahassee. This occurred during an Arctic outbreak during which numerous all-time record low temperatures were set, including Washington D.C. (15 degrees below zero); Atlanta, (9 degrees below zero); and Dallas (8 degrees below zero). Flurries were even reported from Tampa to New Orleans during that massive outbreak.

The coldest temperature recorded in Hawaii is 12 degrees at the Mauna Kea Observatory, which is at an elevation of 13,796 feet, on May 17, 1979. Of course, as expected, the coldest temperature in the U.S. was set in Alaska. The mercury dropped to 80 degrees below zero on January 23, 1971 in Prospect Creek in central Alaska, north of Fairbanks. The coldest temperature recorded in the contiguous U.S. is 70 degrees below zero, measured at Rogers Pass, Montana, on January 20, 1954. The oldest record was set on January 22, 1885 on Mount Washington, New Hampshire, the highest peak in the Northeast, when the thermometer dropped to 50 degrees below zero.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

It's COLD Outside! Avoid Frostbite By Keeping These Things in Mind!

I grew up in Alaska and then resided in Montana for 32 years before relocating to the state of Indiana four years ago, so I know a little bit about cold weather. Right now, there is a significant portion of the Midwest U.S. battling cold weather, including northern Indiana. Tomorrow, our forecast calls for a high temperature of -8 degrees (yes, eight degrees below zero!). Our low temperature will be -17 degrees, and that isn't taking into account the windchill factor -- and the wind is expected to be blowing 20 to 30 miles per hour, making it feel like 35 to 45 degrees below zero.

Given the extremely cold temperatures and very low wind chills, frostbite can occur in as little as five minutes of exposure. According to Mayo Clinic Health System, signs of frostbite include:
  • At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling
  • Numbness
  • Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
  • Hard or waxy-looking skin
  • Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
  • Blistering after rewarming, in severe cases
If frostbite happens:
  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible. Remove any wet clothing.
  • Cover the person or area in warm blankets.
  • Avoid walking on frostbitten feet or toes to avoid more serious damage.
  • Immerse the areas affected by frostbite into warm (not hot) water until normal skin color returns. Do not soak the affected area too long (no more than 30 minutes).
  • Warm the affected area using body heat.
  • Do not rub or massage the affected area as this can cause further damage.
  • Do not use anything hot, such as a heating pad, stove, or furnace, to warm the affected area, as these areas are numb and may burn easily due to a lack of sensation.
  • The frostbitten area should be gently washed, dried, and wrapped in sterile bandages and kept clean to avoid infection.
  • Consult your healthcare provider about the use of an oral antibiotic or topical ointment.
The Mayo Clinic warns that smokers are particularly at risk. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means that it can actually tighten the blood vessels -- decreasing blood flow to the fingertips.

Stay warm everyone!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, January 28, 2019

God Could Care Less How Strong My Legs Are!

My career as an ultra-endurance runner reached its pinnacle when I became the first person to run solo across the Mojave Desert in 2011, from the Grand Canyon to Badwater Basin, Death Valley. I accomplished that run at the age of 46, completing the 506-mile course in 17 days. I officially retired from running across states and countries in 2016.

Since my high school days in the late 1970's and early 1980's, I had always worked hard to strengthen my legs so that they could withstand the pressure of intense and extreme running. I would strengthen the muscles of my quads, hamstrings and calves and would aim to maintain an equal balance of strength. As a result, I suffered very few running injuries and was pleased by the strength of my legs.

I've been a Christian longer than I've been a runner, and I started my running career in the mid-1970's. I've always enjoyed reading the Book of Psalms in the Bible, that book primarily being penned by King David of Israel. The Book of Psalms, is generally believed to be the most widely read and the most highly treasured of all the books in the Old Testament. It's a collection of poems, hymns, and prayers. With all of the leg strengthening I did, and all of the running accomplishments I've experienced, I know that God isn't interested in the strength of my legs, but rather in the condition of my heart. Psalm 147:10-11 reads,
"He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legpower of the man. The Lord is pleased with those who fear Him, who hope in His loving devotion."
God does not take pleasure in us because of our achievements or potentialities. He is pleased with character rather than capacity. God takes pleasure in those that fear him (those who truly worship him), in those that hope in His mercy, in those that walk humbly with Him and call upon Him. It is a pleasure to Him to have the guilty, the feeble, the undeserving hope in Him, trust in Him, and seek Him. My legpower doesn't give God pleasure. However, my heart for Him does! God regards humble piety with more interest and pleasure than He does any mere human strength or power.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, January 25, 2019

Some Say Chivalry Is Dead. I Don't Agree, But It Needs Strengthening!

The other night at dinner, my wife, step-daughters (ages 10 and 13) and I got into a discussion about old-fashioned values and chivalry. Both of my step-daughters appreciate the fact that I not only open the car door for their mother, but I do it for them as well. All of them appreciate that I walk side by side with them and don't stride ahead -- leading the way out of reach. I pay for date nights, wash dishes, vacuum, and help with grocery shopping. They appreciate that I'll do the messy and very strenuous jobs around the house, like shoveling snow off of the driveway, cleaning the gutters, or taking out the trash. However, they also know that I am a fading breed and that old-fashioned values and chivalry seem to be nearly non-existent.

Today, I read the following words online:
Chivalry is Dead! At one time, men were allowed to express the way they honored women by doing chivalrous acts such as: opening the door for a woman, pulling out her chair, paying for dinner, and other acts. It no longer lives as these things are offensive to women in the wake of feminism due to the myth of male power, otherwise known as the 'patriarchy.' Men now are floundering in society as they cannot express any genuine acts of true masculinity because it has been branded as 'toxic' and 'oppressive.'
What a sad commentary about the state of chivalry in our world today! Suzanne Venker is a writer who has contributed to CNN, ABC, Fox News, and other outlets. Last year she wrote a piece titled "Chivalry is dead because women killed it." It is worth your time to read that writing. Ms. Venker has written extensively about marriage and the family and its intersection with the culture. She is also the founder of Women for Men, a news and opinion website committed to improving gender relations and to providing support for men. Rather than restate what Ms. Venker so eloquently wrote in her writing I've linked above, I'm going to share some thoughts about my own position on old-fashioned values and chivalry.

I was born in 1965 and grew up watching my father treat my mother as a true gentleman should. Chivalry definitely shined through his acts and words, and I not only observed that through my father's example, but also through the example of other men in the 1970's. During that decade I watched such television programs as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry R.F.D., Little House on the Prairie, and The Waltons. Men in these programs regularly talked about and displayed old-fashioned values and chivalry. From a young age I was exposed to examples of how a man should treat a woman and what it means to be a gentleman. That seems to be lacking in our world today.

The dating website, Match.com, did a survey of today's single women and asked if they believe that chivalry is dead. Sadly, 73 percent responded that chivalry is indeed dead. When asked what kinds of "chivalrous acts" they would like to see modern men do, single women listed many things -- and here are just a few:
  • Sending a quick text throughout the day;
  • Not having his phone at the dinner table;
  • Letting the woman choose the Netflix program to watch;
  • Posting a photo of their partner/date on social media;
  • Paying for the Uber ride; and,
  • Listening to her Spotify playlist instead of his.
Of course, modern technology appears to be at the center of what today's women consider to be 'chivalrous acts.' Paying for dinner, opening a door for her, pulling out her chair, assisting with her coat, and similar acts don't appear to be very important. As the recent match.com survey summarized, "we’d like men to realize that most of us mastered basic motor skills by the age five." Ouch! Overall, 45 percent of the women surveyed said that men were out of touch with modern dating.

I'm so happy to be married to a beautiful, sweet and loving woman who appreciates my old-fashioned values, my gentleman approach, and my acts of chivalry. Sure, I've received some strange looks from guys in the supermarket parking lot when I open the car door for my wife, but I've also received looks from women who are clearly envious of my wife. I believe that in their heart, most women want an old-fashioned man who can be a gentleman. That doesn't mean that those women are weak. It means that they appreciate their man holding them in esteem and wanting to care for and protect them.

Men, look at your wife, girlfriend and/or partner and try just one way this week to be a true gentleman. If you haven't been opening car doors for her, give it a try! Chances are, she will be rather surprised and -- barring a modern-day feminist response -- she may truly appreciate it in her heart (even if she says nothing) and it may be a simple step toward strengthening your relationship. Chivalry isn't completely dead, but it does need to be taught through words and consistent acts. Chivalry, in a nutshell, is courtesy and honor. Certainly we men can show that to the women we want by our side.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Is Being Sick Of Your Job Making You Sick?

I recently read an article at huffingtonpost.com ("the original Internet newspaper") stating that too many Americans are trapped in toxic jobs. Your body may know before you fully do that your job is to blame for your stress symptoms.

You can’t sleep  A few restless nights is not a big deal, but if it becomes a pattern (particularly about things related to work), that may be a sign your job stress has become toxic.

You get headaches  Muscles tense to guard a body from injury. When you see your workplace as a danger zone, it keeps your muscles wound tight. Chronic tension in the neck, shoulders and head can be associated with migraines and tension headaches.

Your muscles in general ache  When your job is toxic, it can put your nervous system constantly on edge. Under a perceived threat, your brain floods your system with adrenaline and other stress hormones. If you are always typing with your shoulders hunched and your jaw clenched, this could be a sign that your job is impacting your health.

Your mental health gets worse  Increased stress can exacerbate existing mental health issues. If you feel like your boss is always out to get you, your mental health pays a price. Unfair treatment at work can cause us great stress.

You get sick more often  If you are catching colds constantly, consider how you are feeling about your job. A large body of research shows that chronic stress can compromise the immune system, making you more susceptible to illness.

You lose interest in sex  How you spend your time reflects what you value. When you bring your work home with you, your relationships can suffer. The American Psychological Association notes that when women have to juggle professional stress on top of their ongoing personal and financial obligations, it can reduce sexual desire. For men, this chronic stress can result in lower testosterone production, which in turn leads to lower libido.

You are tired all the time  This is real fatigue, a deep weariness that no nap or weekend sleep-in seems to cure. Toxic jobs can create a vicious cycle: you’re feeling overwhelmed, because you’re working too long, and you’re working too long because you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Your stomach is acting up  Indigestion, constipation and/or bloating can all be associated with stress, because stress impacts what the stomach digests and can also change our bacteria, which in turn impacts our mood.

Your appetite changes  Your appetite is closely linked to your brain. According to the Harvard Health Letter, under acute stress, your fight-or-flight response releases adrenaline, telling your body to suppress digestion to focus on saving us from a perceived danger. However, under long-term stress your body’s adrenal glands release and build up cortisol, a hormone which can increase hunger. When your job is causing long-term emotional distress, you may turn to food for comfort. Harvard also reports that eating sugary foods may blunt stress-related responses and emotions, which is why they’re often seen as comfort foods ― but that’s an unhealthy habit you should avoid.

What you can do to combat this (without leaving your job)  Take breaks! After your body goes on high alert to defend you from unreasonable demands and bad bosses, you need to give it time off. Outside of the workplace, lean on companionship, exercise, and other pleasures to offset stress symptoms. Also, reframe your negative thinking. How you think can impact how you feel. Try to look more at the positives than the negatives.

If your work environment is simply too detrimental to your health, find a new job. Sometimes you just need to fix the underlying problem and not deal with the symptoms.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Cancer Death Rate in the U.S. Reaches a Milestone

According to a report published earlier this month by the American Cancer Society (ACS), the cancer death rate in the United States has reached a milestone. It has been falling for at least 25 years. Lower smoking rates are translating into fewer deaths, and advances in early detection and treatment are also having a positive impact.

Unfortunately, obesity-related cancer deaths are rising, and prostate cancer deaths are no longer dropping. Of the most common types of cancer in America, all of the ones with increasing death rates are linked to obesity -- including cancers of the pancreas and uterus. Another is liver cancer. Liver cancer deaths have been increasing since the 1970s, and initially most of the increase was tied to hepatitis C infections spread among people who abuse drugs. However, the ACS states that now obesity accounts for a third of liver cancer deaths, and is more of a factor than hepatitis.

Cancer remains the nation’s No. 2 killer (heart disease is the No. 1 killer). The ACS predicts there will be more than 1.7 million new cancer cases in the United States during 2019, and more than 600,000 cancer deaths.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

"In God We Trust" -- But How Many Of Us Really Do?

"In God We Trust" is the official motto of the United States of America. It was adopted as the United States' motto in 1956 and first appeared on the two-cent piece in 1864. A law passed in a Joint Resolution by the 84th Congress, and approved by President Dwight Eisenhower, on July 30, 1956, declared "In God We Trust" must appear on American currency. This phrase was first used on paper money in 1957, when it appeared on the one-dollar silver certificate. Also, the 84th Congress passed legislation, signed by President Eisenhower in 1956, declaring the phrase to be the national motto. In 2006, on the 50th anniversary of its adoption, the Senate reaffirmed "In God We Trust" as the official national motto of the United States of America.

Some groups and people have expressed objections to the use of "In God We Trust" on currency, citing its religious reference violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. These groups believe the phrase should be removed from currency and public property. In lawsuits, this argument has been unable to overcome the interpretational doctrine of accommodationism, which allows government to endorse religious establishments as long as they are all treated equally. According to a joint poll by USA Today, CNN, and Gallup, 90% of Americans support the inscription "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency.

In Judaism and Christianity, the official motto "In God We Trust" is not found verbatim in any verses from the Bible, but very closely in Psalm 91:2, "I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust." However, how many Americans are walking around with currency in their pocket bearing the words "In God We Trust" and they don't actually trust and/or believe in God? Last year, a Pew Research report found that 10 percent of Americans don't ascribe to a higher power at all, and 33 percent believe in some sort of higher power or spiritual force. Finally, 56 percent of the American people still believe in God "as described in the Bible.

I reside in Indiana, and earlier this month Indiana senator Dennis Kruse introduced a bill seeking to place a poster reading “In God We Trust” in every public and charter school classroom in Indiana. The bill, titled “Education Matters,” specifies that the phrase should appear on a “durable poster or framed picture” that is at least 11 by 17 inches, and that the display could potentially be purchased with school funds. This year, Alaska, Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina have already introduced “In God We Trust” bills that would allow the phrase to be placed on public buildings and vehicles.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, January 21, 2019

I've Had Moose Encounters, But One Moment Was Particularly Special

It was ten years ago this spring that I did a 500-mile run through Alaska. While on that journey, I had one of the closest encounters with a moose that I've ever had in my life. I say "one of the closest" because as a teen growing up in Alaska I had a few encounters with moose -- such as walking to the school bus and having a group of moose chewing on low-hanging willow branches about 50 yards from where I and other students stood waiting; and, coming over a cross country ski hill only to find that a moose was halfway in the path and as I skied by I brushed his backside; and, a time when I was running cross country in high school and all of the competitors were brought to a standstill as a large moose stood directly on the path. The encounter I had in Alaska back in 2009 was quite sudden, and quite magnificent.

I was running between Wasilla and Willow, Alaska, and was actually on a walk break, drinking some water. All of a sudden I heard a rustling across the roadway... which sloped down into a valley. A huge bull moose came up out of the brush and stood on the edge of the road directly across from me. There were literally two open lanes between us and nothing more. It was morning and hovering around the freezing mark. I could see the steam of his breath and heard each exhale. He stood there staring at me and my yellow support stroller of gear. I wanted to grab my camera, but was absolutely frozen as I looked at the size and obvious strength of the huge bull moose. His rack was enormous and he could have killed me instantly if he wanted to. After about 30 to 60 seconds of just staring at each other, a car could be heard in the distance... approaching. The moose turned his head and simply strolled back into the brush. I started walking, keeping my eye on where he had gone back into the wilderness. My heart was pumping as though I had just ran a sprint! It was an incredible experience.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, January 18, 2019

My Caribou Encounter in Alaska -- A Memorable Experience!



Yesterday I wrote about my unfortunate experience of striking a deer with my car while on the way to work. Today, I want to share with you one of the most special moments I've ever had with wildlife on the road. It occurred during my 2009 solo 500-mile run in Alaska. I was inside Denali National Park when a herd of caribou started to cross the road in front of me. I stopped pushing my support stroller of gear and just watched them, capturing a few images on my camera. It was amazing to be in the middle of the Alaska wilderness watching these beautiful wild creatures crossing the road just about 50 yards in front of me!

I recall standing there for about 10 minutes, simply observing the herd and remaining as still as possible. After several had crossed the road, there were about four who stopped on the road, several of them staring at me... likely wondering what I was and why I was in their neighborhood! That's the photo I've posted with this writing. I was tempted to try and get closer, but didn't want to have them become defensive. Weights of adult bulls average 350-400 pounds. However, weights of 700 pounds have been recorded. Mature females average 175-225 pounds. Like most herd animals, caribou must keep moving to find adequate food. Large herds often migrate long distances (up to 400 miles) between summer and winter ranges. According to the National Park Service, there are 32 caribou herds in Alaska, with an estimated population of around 750,000 -- slightly more than the total number of people who reside in Alaska.

My caribou encounter in April 2009 is one that I'll always remember!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, January 17, 2019

After Nearly 40 Years of Driving, I Unfortunately Strike a Living Animal

I've been driving for nearly 40 years and in that time I've likely logged nearly a half a million miles on the road. About 90 percent of those miles have been driven in the states of Alaska and Montana, where I've resided for most of my adult life and successfully avoided impacts with deer, moose, elk and other wildlife. I'm fortunate to have an impeccable driving record, and I had never struck a living thing with a vehicle -- until yesterday. That was the day when I would strike and kill a deer on an Indiana highway while going to work.

I've resided in Indiana for four years and the road on which I struck the deer is one that I've driven on every day for 3 1/2 years. I've seen a lot of deer on and near that road, and this year there has been an increase in deer wandering since we didn't get our first winter snowfall here in north central Indiana until just last week. It was 7:15 a.m. and I was about 4 miles from my home on a slick, somewhat foggy, dark morning commute with a mixture of sleet and snow falling at 30 degrees. I was in a 55 m.p.h. zone and the responding officer estimated my speed at 45 m.p.h. based on my tracks and the location of the deer in proximity to my vehicle -- the deer being only about 30 yards behind my car on the edge of the road.

It was a two-lane road between a harvested corn field and a railroad track. I had my low beams on because there was another car approaching me about one-third of a mile ahead. My wipers were intermittent and I had no vehicles behind me. Suddenly, a deer entered the roadway about 50 feet or so in front of my vehicle at a full sprint -- and deer can run 30 miles per hour. The responding officer said that the deer may have been spooked or was being chased, perhaps by a coyote. The deer was darting directly across the road, coming into the road from my driver's side, and directly in front of my vehicle. I was covering about 65 feet per second at 45 miles per hour and the deer entered the road about 20 yards in front of me, which gave me less than a second to respond. I took my foot off the gas pedal, gripped the steering wheel firmly, and struck it directly on the front of my car. You never want to swerve to try and miss a deer with such little time to respond. Suffice it to say, the pictures accompanying this blog post tell the story. The deer died instantly and I was fortunate not to have it fly up and into/through my windshield. I now am driving a rental car provided by my insurance company until my vehicle is repaired.

A recent All State insurance study shows that there are 14,000 deer/vehicle collisions annually in Indiana. Indiana drivers have a 1 in 145 chance of striking a deer and Indiana ranks 27th in the nation of most likely states to have a collision with a deer. After nearly four decades of driving, yesterday was my day to experience an unavoidable collision with a deer. At least I walked away unharmed. Sadly, about 150 people die each year in America from hitting a deer with their vehicle.

So, what's the extent of damage to my vehicle? About $4,000 of repairs needed. The deer impact not only damaged the outside of my vehicle, but also pushed the radiator back, which in turn damaged the air conditioning unit. I should have the repaired vehicle back by the end of the month.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A 1,500-mile Run on the Great Wall of China

There's a book on a shelf in my home office titled, "Alone on the Great Wall" -- written by William Lindesay, a man who has always had a deep fascination for the Great Wall of China. A long-distance runner in his native England, Lindesay set out to run 1,500 miles on the Great Wall.

Lindesay was drawn to make the grueling run because it was "the last great adventure opportunity in the modern world."  He set off in 1986  from the Western part of the wall in Gansu province at the JiaYuGuan Pass from where he would run his way all the way to the East.

The trip was full of trouble and mishap due to bad planning, sickness and the inevitable bureaucracy of China in the eighties. His foreign appearance, and tallness, made him stand out in a China that had very few foreign visitors at the time. Lindesay attracted a lot of attention while running the wall. Local villagers started noticing him and eventually police came to investigate his motive behind the run. He explained and showed his love for the wall, but in vain. He got arrested several times and at some point had to leave the country for awhile.

Lindesay didn't give up and kept going back to China. His persistence eventually paid off and he completed the journey. When all was said and done, it took him more than two years, on and off, to cover the entire distance on foot. At that time, China’s Xinhua News Agency described it as “the most successful foreign exploration of the Great Wall” and Lindesay was heralded a hero. He was awarded the "Friendship Honorary" by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs in China. He also received the "Order of the British Empire" and was decorated by the British Queen Elizabeth II, honoring his effort.

During his journey, Lindesay kept a diary which formed the basis for the book he released in 1991. The book portrays a great appreciation for the people of China and their history. From the soldiers of the imperial frontier; the merchants of the Silk road; and the peasant farmers who wrote messages of encouragement in his diary, Lindesay came to know many people of China who extended a hand of friendship. It is a well-written and entertaining book that should appeal to runners, who vicariously will share Lindesay's experiences. By my last look, the book is available at some online outlets.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Is Your Heart Getting Enough Sleep?

A new study by the National Center for Cardiovascular Research says that your heart needs at least six hours of sound sleep each night to stay healthy. People who don’t get enough sleep increase their risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease (regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits). Not enough sleep can cause atherosclerosis — the hardening and narrowing of arteries — which is the usual cause of heart attacks and strokes.

The study involved nearly 4,000 adults whose average age was 46 and who had no heart disease when the study began. People who slept fewer than six hours a night were 27 percent more likely to have body-wide atherosclerosis than those who slept seven to eight hours. But too much sleep was shown to be problematic as well. Women in the study who slept more than eight hours a night also had an increased risk of atherosclerosis. The study also found that participants with "poor-quality" sleep, meaning they awoke often during the night or had trouble falling asleep, were 34 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, January 14, 2019

Two Siblings, ages 9 and 16, are Running Marathons Globally

A sister and brother in La Puente, California, are competing to set world records by running marathons around the world. Blanca Ramirez, age 16, and her 9-year-old brother Jordan have traveled to all seven continents in their quest, and Blanca already has one record under her belt. At age 12, Blanca became the world's youngest female to run seven marathons on seven continents. Now, she's looking to become the youngest to complete the feat twice!

Jordan has been following in her footsteps. In November 2017, he completed his first marathon in Australia at age 8. After Australia, he ran a marathon in Egypt to cross Africa off of his list. Then he went to Europe, where he ran another 26.2 miles in London. His fourth marathon in Thailand crossed Asia off the list, and he'll head to Antarctica and South America next. Jordan plans to finish his world record attempt on American soil in April. Although Blanca has already run on every continent, she decided to do it again to run alongside her little brother. The 16-year-old plans to complete her second world record at the Los Angeles Marathon in March.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Chaplain's Closet and the Symbolic Shoes of Sacrifice

Nine years ago I did a 500-mile, 19-day solo run across Germany after being invited to do so by the U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools. I ran from Grafenwoehr (in Eastern Bavaria) to Landstuhl (in the district of Kaiserslautern). After completing the run, I was invited to visit the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) -- a military hospital operated by the United States Army and the Department of Defense. LRMC is the largest military hospital outside the continental United States and serves as the nearest treatment center for wounded soldiers coming from Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, it serves military personnel stationed in the European Union as well as their family members.

As I saw wounded warriors and the personnel assisting them, I was truly struck by the sacrifice of our military men and women. I was escorted to the "Chaplain's Closet," which is a part of the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project -- a non-profit organization that provides comfort and relief items for military members who become sick, injured, or wounded from service in the Middle East. The Chaplain's Closet allows all in-patients, out-patients, LRMC liaisons, LRMC nurses, and medical escorts access to supplies. The purpose of the program is to enhance the morale and welfare of troops and veterans by contributing quality of life items.

While at the Chaplain's Closet, I inquired about two shoe bins bearing the labels "left" and "right." I learned that the bulk of the shoes have no mate because the other is being used by someone who has lost a limb. The bins were placed in the Chaplain’s Closet late in 2005, when the hospital had an influx of soldiers injured by roadside bombs in Iraq. Every single shoe in the bins represents someone’s life that has been dramatically altered.

I will never forget looking at those bins of single shoes after having just run solo across Germany on two strong legs. It quickly made me realize that what I had accomplished greatly paled in comparison to what our country's military personnel accomplish each and every day for all Americans. I left the Chaplain's Closet with tears in my eyes, and gratitude in my heart, as I took one last look back at the symbolic shoes of sacrifice.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Life is Gains and Losses, and Not Always in an Equal Amount

In the 1980's, there was a popular bumper sticker that read: "The One Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins!" Malcolm Forbes is the person noted for coining that phrase. Mr. Forbes was an American entrepreneur and avid promoter of capitalism and free market trade who lead an extravagant lifestyle -- until his death in 1990 due to a heart attack, at age 70. He is also known as the publisher of Forbes magazine. At the time of his death, Mr. Forbes' net worth (which he never included in his magazine's annual list of the nation's four hundred richest citizens) was estimated between $400 million and $1 billion... and he possessed many 'toys.'

In the Bible, at Mark 8:36, Jesus is quoted as saying, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" This verse has been interpreted to mean that those who focus on purchasing/acquiring pleasures of this life -- and choose to lose out on salvation and everlasting bliss with God -- are not "rich" eternally. Our focus should not be on acquiring the most 'toys' and going into death feeling like we win as a result of accumulating more than someone else. I don't believe that anyone arriving at the gates of heaven will be asked how many toys they accumulated during their time on earth. Even Matthew 6:19-20 tells us, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven..." Our true 'treasure' in this world is pursuing a Godly life, being thankful for the blessings we've been given (including our salvation), and the gift of family and friends -- whom are priceless.

Like everyone on this blue spinning marble, I've experienced both gains and losses in life, and not always in an equal amount. Life is a mixture of wins and defeats, acquiring and losing, advancements and declines. Each day we gain another 24 hours of experiences, and we lose another 24 hours of life. All of us have a finite number of days to live. The average American man currently has a life expectancy of 76 years, while the average American woman lives until age 81. Should it really be our goal in those years to acquire the most 'toys' possible so that we can inflate our status in a materialistic world and thereby breathe our last breath believing that somehow we are winners? No, I don't believe that is how anyone should go through life.

There are times in life when we experience a loss only to learn later that we gained more from the experience than we actually lost. There are also times when we gain something in life and later realize that the gain was temporary and caused a permanent loss in another area of our life. Life gives us a regular dose of gains and losses. Both gains and losses can be unexpected, short term, long term, permanent, and life altering. They can be brought on by personal choices, poor decisions, ignorance, greed, and more. Gains and losses can break us or make us. They can define who we are or redefine who we should be. They can cause joy, pain, relief, sadness, elation, and devastation. Life's gains and losses are are around every bend on life's road and our reaction to them says a lot about who we are, what we believe, and the road that we have traveled to that point.

Personally, I don't subscribe to Mr. Forbes' phrase of "The One Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins!" I've been traveling life's road for nearly 54 years -- experiencing countless gains and losses along the way -- and based on my experience, faith and convictions, I say that no one wins at life by having the most toys. Rather, I believe that true winners perceive their lives as containing more joys than toys.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Run-commuting's Popularity is Soaring Globally

Social fitness network Strava’s 2018 report was recently released and run-commuting globally has seen a 70 percent increase in popularity over 2017. Globally, run-commuters made nearly 22 million trips in 2018, vs. about 13 million trips in 2017. In the United States, run-commuting was up 56.8 percent in 2018, with a median distance of 4 miles, for a total of 3.6 million trips vs. 2.3 million trips in 2017.

By contrast, the increase in cycle commuting in 2018 was 42.8 percent globally (30.8 percent in the U.S.), though more people cycle to work than run (5.5 million cycle-commuters globally compared to 3.5 million run-commuters). The median distance for cycling commuters is 8 miles.

So, what are the top countries for run-commuting? The United Kingdom and Ireland take top billing, averaging 3.29 weekly trips per commuter. Germany is next with 2.88 weekly trips. In the U.S., Washington, D.C. had the highest average weekly trips per run-commuter, at 3.78, followed by Nevada, at 3.16. North Dakota had the highest increase year-over-year in the number of run-commuters (78.5 percent), closely followed by Mississippi (78.3 percent). Utah had the longest average run-commute, at 4.7 miles. Hawaii, Nevada and New York were tied with an average 4.3 miles per commute.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The People You Meet... While on Your Feet... Out on The Street

The other day, I was thinking about a man I met while on my solo run across America in 2006. His name is Clifford Davis of Columbus, Ohio and he and I crossed paths on a road in northern Idaho as he was cycling 4,300-miles solo across America. Clifford had just retired and was 66 years of age (I was 41 years old at the time). Having loved cycling all of his life, he decided to begin his retirement years with a cross country adventure. I know that he completed that journey and called it a "trip of a lifetime." You can read Clifford's daily journal from that 77-day trip, and see his photos.

When I met Clifford, he was on day 14 of his west-to-east journey, a day that would be 60 miles from Lowell to Powell, Idaho. As I chatted with him alongside the Lochsa River on the morning of July 16, 2006, he told me how impressed he was with my attempt to run alone across America just to keep a promise to some elementary students. Both of us had already journeyed over 600 miles on our respective adventures, and as I saw Clifford ride off around the next bend in the road I knew that I would encounter many people like him. I also recall thinking to myself... 'Wow, that guy is 25 years older than me and he's out here tackling a journey across the country alone. Cool!' Clifford and I didn't keep in touch, but I do know from a little online research that in 2008 he also rode his bicycle 804 miles over the route of the Underground Railroad from Mobile, Alabama to Henderson, Kentucky.

It was just a couple of days after I met Clifford that I would meet Gracie (Sorbello) Cole, a young lady who was nearing the end of an east-to-west cross country adventure on a unicycle! She became the first woman to unicycle across America, and her strength and determination was truly inspiring to me. She and I still keep in touch via social media.

When you set out on an adventure, you never know who you're going to meet. I believe that was one of my most favorite elements of the adventure runs I did across states and countries. You meet all sorts of people... some on their own personal adventure or quest, and others who are just wandering with no particular goal or direction.

I always made time for anyone who stopped me to talk. Those chats lasted anywhere from a few minutes up to about 30 minutes. Some people just wanted a photo or a handshake, while others wanted to know a lot of details. Some hugged me, some prayed for me, and some brought me food and water. Nearly every day I met people on the road... some were adventurers, some were hitchhiking, some were homeless, and some were just wanting to meet me after seeing me on television news or in their local paper. Keep in mind, my 2006 run across America was before the days of social media. I really didn't get much press coverage and if somebody met me and took my photo on the edge of the road, it couldn't be posted to the social media platforms that are in our world today. My encounters with people were brief and not publicized to the rest of the world. In a way, that made my run more personal.

Clifford and Gracie were just two of countless individuals I met while on my adventure runs across America, Germany, Alaska, Montana, and the Mojave Desert. They were an encouragement to me, as were so many others, and I will always look back with fond memories of my brief road-side encounters with them.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, January 7, 2019

Running Away or Running Toward Something -- A Defining Choice.

I know a man who is 5 weeks away from beginning another solo run across the United States. This will be his seventh crossing in 12 years -- and his second within the past year! All totaled, he has already run nearly 20,000 miles back and forth across America, and he'll add another 3,000 miles this spring. He is married, with children and grandchildren, and resides in Sweden. I've had a few face-to-face encounters with him and tend to be quite puzzled as to why he continues to leave his family and home country to run repeatedly across the United States all alone. He doesn't run to promote any charity – to raise money or awareness of any particular cause – and is not a professional athlete. He pays for all of these crossings out of his own pocket, and my own run across America in 2006 totaled about $7,000 to complete. Now, imagine multiplying that number by seven. I'm guessing the Swedish man has spent at least $50,000 to run back and forth across America.

I've met many ultra-marathon runners and journey runners (those who like to run across states and countries). There are certainly instances when I have believed that the runner is actually running away from something rather than toward something. They often use the worn-out lines of "I like to challenge myself" or "I crave adventure" or "I like seeing new places and meeting new faces." Well, after awhile it can seem that the person simply doesn't want to be in his or her life where they are. It's almost as if they are constantly looking to escape -- to lace up their shoes and head out the door.

Heidi Priebe is a young author who contributes to Thought Catalog, an online magazine which serves as a platform for emerging and seasoned writers. Ms. Priebe wrote a piece that I want to share with you today.

"The Truth About People Who Are Always Running Away"
by Heidi Priebe

There’s a certain romance associated with running away from one’s problems. It’s one of our favorite tropes: The hero or heroine gets their heart broken or their dreams stripped away from them and so they hit the road. They reinvent themselves. They start over.

We like this cliché because it’s one that centers on empowerment. We like to believe that any struggle we’re up against can be risen above by simply abandoning it. By changing our environment, shifting our mindset and bracing ourselves to start all over. We like to think that being bold enough to step outside our comfort zones is all it takes to reinvent ourselves.

And to an extent, this is the genuine truth. There are times in life when we need to detach. To step outside of our regular environments. To allow ourselves the chance to change everything.

But this strategy has its limits.

The problem is that when you’ve been running from things for long enough, you inevitably realize that you’re actually only comfortable when you’re on the move.

To the people who run away from everything, leaving will always be more comfortable than staying. Running will always be easier than remaining. Packing up your life and flinging it into a state of perpetual chaos is your way of staying comfortable, rather than your way of embracing discomfort.

Because as long as you’re always the one leaving, you’re always the one in control.

You’re the one calling the shots. You’re the one choosing that chaos. If your heart is breaking every single step of the way, then you’re the one cracking it open. And you’re comfortable there. You know how to handle those self-inflicted wounds. To you, leaving poses no real risk.

What’s scary is actually staying. What’s scary is investing. What’s scary is opening your life up to a situation or a person or a circumstance that’s not entirely within your control, with no guarantee that it’s going to work out in your favor.

What’s scary is building a life that you cannot escape from the second something goes wrong and every nerve inside your body flips into high alert, telling you to get out and protect yourself at any cost. What’s scary is being personally or financially or emotionally invested in something that you have anything less than complete autonomy over. That is what’s out of your comfort zone. That is what’s profoundly and unequivocally terrifying.

The truth about people who run away from everything is that they aren’t any more bold or courageous than anyone else. They’re simply only comfortable when they’re in control. They’re comfortable with problems that can be solved by purchasing a plane ticket or packing a bag up or moving on from whatever it is that is tearing at them. They’re comfortable with self-inflicted change but not externally imposed change. They’re comfortable within their physically mobile bubble of emotional security.

And ironically, when you know yourself to be one of these people, the only cure lies in following the very advice that began the whole cycle. The answer lies in stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. It lies in staying when your impulses are telling you to go. It lies in remaining focused and letting yourself follow through on what actually matters, even if it’s unsettling to do so.

Because at the end of the day, the entire art of living rests within that careful balance of staying and going. It rests within the understanding of when to run and when to stand your ground. When to give in and when to hold strong. When to abandon it all and start over and when to stay and fight for what you have.

At the end of the day, we’re all focused on and influenced by the core, primal fear that we will not be enough – not enough if we stay, not enough if we go, not enough if we stay hopelessly stuck in between the two, never deciding one way or another.

And the only way to fight that fear is to challenge it – to embrace it, measure up to it and stare it down. To refuse to run away when it matters. Because you’ll know when it matters. And it’s what you choose to do in those moments that ends up making all of the difference.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, January 4, 2019

Heading For 54 and Feeling Healthy and Happy!

We're just a few days into the new year and there are certainly those who are starting to feel the muscle pains of their New Year's Resolution to get more active and fit. Workout gyms and fitness centers always see a boost in attendance at the start of a new year as people decide that THIS will be the year that they sculpt the body that they've always wanted. Unfortunately, many give up their fitness resolution within the first few weeks of the year. Three months from today I turn 54 years of age and am pleased to say that I require no medications and maintain a lifestyle that has resulted in a healthy level of fitness. Although I no longer do the extreme adventure runs across states and countries that I used to do, I feel that the life I have today is far more balanced and healthy.

On November 16, 2018, I posted a blog entry titled "Fit as a Fiddle at 53" -- having recently undergone my annual physical exam. In that writing, I shared that 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.

As I inch nearer to age 54, I thought I'd share with you a few specifics from my annual exam report. Here are a few key results:






It's never too late to start making healthy choices to improve your overall health, wellness and fitness. Wishing everyone a healthy and happy 2019!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Keep Your Butts to Yourself... And OFF My Car!

This morning I was driving to work behind a Ford F-150 truck. We came to a stop at a red light and the driver of the truck flicked a cigarette out of his window and it landed on the hood of my car... still burning! I jumped out of my car and wiped the hot cigarette off before it could damage the paint. As I was doing that, the light changed and the truck took off. This is not my first experience with a lit cigarette hitting my car. Many years ago I had purchased a Subaru Legacy that had a sunroof. After only owning the car for a few weeks, I was driving along on a sunny day with the sunroof open when all of a sudden the driver in front of me flicked a cigarette out of his window and the burning butt drifted directly into my sunroof and wedged into the back seat, burning a hole through the fabric before I could pull over and remove it.

As I ran across states and countries promoting health and fitness, I saw countless cigarette butts carelessly discarded. I also witnessed many drivers discarding their cigarettes while driving down the road... those cigarettes being blown to the road's edge on a hot day when there was plenty of dry grass and weeds. Too many cigarette users use the planet as their ashtray -- just discarding their burning butts wherever and whenever they feel like it, not giving a second thought to the people and environment around them.

Some states have laws against discarding cigarettes anywhere other than on the cigarette users own property. For instance, in Idaho it is illegal to throw your cigarette out of a window or drop it on the ground. The consequences are that the first two convictions are infractions with fines and the third conviction is a misdemeanor with possible jail time.

Cigarette butt litter accounts for around 50 percent of all litter and studies show that butts are often discarded within ten feet of a permanent ashtray. Also, they are a fire hazard. A recent study showed that cigarette waste easily meets standardized tests for city and state agencies to label the substance as toxic waste. This hazardous material persists in the environment for some time and is often ingested by aquatic creatures, wildlife, and pets, not to mention small children who suffer serious health problems as a result. Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, a plastic that can break into smaller pieces, but will never biodegrade or disappear. What’s worse is that the filters themselves are a sham. It has been demonstrated that the filters offer no health protection and are simply a marketing device to give the appearance that a cigarette is somehow safer.

A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on small children who had ingested cigarette butts concluded that one-third of them exhibited symptoms of illness such as spontaneous vomiting, nausea, lethargy, gagging, and flushing. Cigarette butts leach toxins into the water and kill or injure various forms of wildlife. In addition, the plastic parts of cigarette butts can be ingested by fish, birds, whales and other marine animals. According to the Surfrider Foundation, cigarette butts are the most frequent item collected during the group’s beach cleanups. The good news is that smoke-free beach laws help reduce cigarette butts on beaches by 45 percent, according to the Audubon Society.

The cleanup costs surrounding cigarette butts are considerable. Major cities and municipalities spend between $3 million to $16 million per year cleaning up cigarette butts. San Francisco, which has reported spending $11 million per year on cigarette butt cleanup, has proposed a first of its kind fee on tobacco retailer licenses to help recover the cost of cleanup. It is expected that more cities and states will label cigarette butts as toxic waste and pursue policies to address this serious environmental problem.

Just a few months ago, NBC News published a story about cigarette butt pollution problem. The article states that the vast majority of the 5.6 trillion cigarettes manufactured worldwide each year come with filters that contain a form of plastic that can take a decade or more to decompose. It is estimated that as many as two-thirds of those filters are dumped irresponsibly each year. The Ocean Conservancy has sponsored a beach cleanup every year since 1986. For 32 consecutive years, cigarette butts have been the single most collected item on the world’s beaches. The amount of cigarette butts collected is about one-third of all collected items on beaches -- more than plastic wrappers, containers, bottle caps, eating utensils and bottles, combined!

If you're a cigarette user, please... keep your butts to yourself!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

"Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

My wife had never seen the movie "Forrest Gump" until just the other day, a film which won six Academy Awards -- including Best Actor (Tom Hanks), Best Director (Robert Zemeckis) and Best Picture. The fictional film follows the life of a simple man trying to come to terms with destiny versus the importance of his life's choices (and yes, he runs across America). Although I had watched the movie a few times since it was released in 1994, it was nice to watch it with Kelley. At the beginning of the movie, Forrest says, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Actually, there is a lot of truth in that simple statement. In fact, it is similar to the words of James 4:14 in the Bible, "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

Near the end of the film, Forrest says, "I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time." Essentially, Forrest is wondering if life follows a predetermined course or if it is arbitrary. I've been thinking about this. As a Christian, I believe that life is neither predetermined nor random. God, through his Providential action, is moving His creation toward a purposeful climax and He calls people to join Him in fulfilling His plan. However, because He created us in His image, He endowed us with free will and we are constantly participating with Him in the happenings of the world. God has a plan and His desire is that we join Him in that plan. God wants us to live for His purpose and, as a result, we will be blessed. I believe that He has numbered our days and He will fulfill every purpose He has for us.

Living knowing that your life is a "vapor" (as stated in James 4:14) is different than just living. Things here are passing away. You’ve got to hold on to what will stand. Savor what matters. Are you doing that?

Life is short. Eternity is long. Live like it.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso