Monday, October 26, 2020

As Mr. Rogers Used to Sing: "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!"

My wife and I live in a beautiful neighborhood. This past weekend, we enjoyed a stroll along its peaceful streets, taking in the gorgeous colors of autumn. While some parts of the country are already seeing snow, we are still very much in the fall season in our neck of the woods -- appreciating temperatures in the 50's and even 60, which is very nice for the last week of October.

I've lived in a lot of neighborhoods in my lifetime, but none as lovely as the one that I live in now -- as the accompanying photo shows. My wife and I are truly blessed to have been able to find the perfect home in such a picturesque neighborhood.

There are many things that I appreciate about our neighborhood. It's very quiet with no thru traffic. People maintain their homes and yards very well. There is no soliciting, theft or police activity (and we have police officers who reside in our neighborhood). There are many different types of mature trees -- such as pine, maple and birch. There's no homeowners association, the roads are good, people are friendly, and it's nice to see families out walking or biking together. It's far enough out of town that we're somewhat in the country, but it only takes a few minutes to get to town. There are no registered sex offenders in our neighborhood (something that is always good to research!). We have a variety of birds that enjoy visiting the feeder in our backyard, and at night we can lay down to sleep with no sounds of traffic. There are plenty of deer in the area, but they generally do not wander into the neighborhood. Overall, our neighborhood is peaceful, pleasant, and perfect for us.

A Pew Research Center survey reveals that 57 percent of Americans say they know only some of their neighbors, while only 26 percent say that they know most of their neighbors. I've lived in my current neighborhood for 2 1/2 years and have gotten to know my most immediate neighbors. It's nice to see people in the neighborhood drive by while I'm working in the yard and give a wave. It's just wonderful living in a friendly, clean, safe and attractive neighborhood where homes are on the more expensive side and hold their value. My wife and I agree, we are now living in our last home.

When I was a little boy in the late 1960's and early 1970's, I used to watch Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood on TV and he always began each show with the song "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." Now, at age 55, I hear that song echoing in the back of my mind as I stroll through my own neighborhood. What a beautiful day it is!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Monday, October 19, 2020

From the Atlantic Shore to the Cornfields of Indiana: A 14-year Journey

Fourteen years ago today, I ran into the Atlantic Ocean to complete my 3,260-mile solo run across the United States. So much has happened in my life in the 5,110 days since then. Those of you who have followed this blog over the years know what I mean. These days I'm surrounded by cornfields in Indiana, and farmers are currently in the process of harvest. Rather than take space in today's writing to recall moments of that 2006 coast-to-coast run, I'd rather fill a few paragraphs with words about how happy, content and fulfilling my life is today.

Kelley and I have been married for two years and the past 5+ years of being in each other's lives have been an indescribable joy. We share a beautiful home, eight wonderful children, excellent health, stable jobs, and a life that is truly filled with love, laughter and happily ever after. I am honestly the happiest and most content I have ever been in my entire life.

This year, I came into full communion with the Catholic Church and as a result have been blessed beyond measure. My family attends Mass each week and I've been teaching the junior high faith formation classes at our church. God has been so good to me and my family. I thank Him each day for bringing the paths of Kelley and I together in 2015 and for blessing our lives with all that both of us had truly desired in our hearts.

Although this has been a pandemic year, Kelley and I have aimed to make cherished family memories in every way we possibly could. Along the way, we worked side-by-side on numerous home projects while enjoying outings with two daughters that live with us. One is in the seventh grade and the other in 10th grade. All of our other children are adults and although we don't see several of them as much as we would like, we aim to keep in touch and they are always in our hearts and prayers. I've been blessed to be a dad for over 27 years, and a stepdad for the past two years. Kelley and I have been given the gift of children who are a joy, and we love having the 'parent' title.

The photo that is accompanying my writing today was taken last week on our backyard patio. The autumn leaves are stunning at the moment and the vibrant colors remind us that the holidays are just around the corner. We're looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas -- building even more special memories.

Yes, so much can happen in 14 years, and 14 years from now I'll be nearly 70. Between now and then, Kelley and I will continue to grow in our love and in our faith... and inevitably begin growing in new roles as grandparents and retirees. Life is an amazing journey and I'm so glad that I get to step through the rest of this journey with Kelley by my side.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Monday, October 12, 2020

I Love The Colors That Are Around And In My Life!

Autumn is my favorite time of year! There's just something about the crispness of the air, the colorful trees, and the overall beauty that comes with this season. We're not even halfway through October and our family has already enjoyed many activities of the season. Orchard visits, horseback riding, pumpkin picking, marshmallow roasting, and more have made this an autumn to remember... and there's still plenty of autumn to go!

This past summer Kelley and I celebrated 5 years of being in each other's lives... and 2020 marks our second wedding anniversary. I am so blessed to be married to my best friend, the most beautiful woman in the world, and my partner for life. We've created countless memories over the past 5+ years and I am incredibly thankful.

In so many ways, Kelley has brought out the colors of my life -- similar to the lovely trees of Indiana that surround us. You see, the gorgeous red, orange, and yellow pigments in fall foliage are actually there all year, just under the surface. Sunlight helps fuel plant cells containing a chemical called chlorophyll, which gives leaves its vivid green color while working to turn light into energy. When sunlight diminishes in fall, chlorophyll breaks down, letting the plant’s hidden red, yellow, and orange hues to shine through. Now, I'm not saying that Kelley isn't a ray of sunshine in my life! She most definitely is. I'm saying that she has also brought to the surface of my life colors that I never knew were there. With Kelley in my life, I see colors I truly had never seen before.

Yes, autumn is my favorite time of year... and I love the colors that are around and in my life.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Friday, October 9, 2020

Cardboard Fans Support Teams and Make Up For Some Lost Revenue

Last evening, my 27-year-old daughter coached her team in a high school volleyball match. She resides in a different state than I and it was nice to see the game streamed online. One thing I immediately noticed was the "fans" in the stands. Let's just say, they weren't moving much! Like many schools across the country, the fans were represented by cardboard images. Aside from the coaches, players, referees, live-stream team, and a photographer... the gymnasium was filled with pictures of supportive parents, students, and school administrators. Unfortunately, that has become the norm for many schools in these days of COVID-19.

Not all schools have resorted to cardboard fans. Some are allowing limited capacity in gymnasiums and stadiums -- utilizing social distancing and mask wearing. However, for those schools, universities and professional teams that have decided the fans will be represented by photos, there's certainly a cost factor. This week, Michigan State announced it will sell fans the chance to have their cutouts fill seats at upcoming football games. Costs are $75 for sideline and end zone sections, $55 for season ticket holders, and $50 for students or a pet. Yes... you read that right. A pet can have its own cutout! If fans want their cutouts after the Michigan State football season is over, there's an additional $25 shipping cost.

The Philadelphia Phillies packed its stadium with 10,000 photographs that fill most of the ballpark’s lower bowl and spots in the upper deck. Other clubs have done similar, with the cost being between $25 and $300 for each photographic representation. Some people honor a loved one who has passed away by purchasing a cutout of that person. Celebrities have purchased cutouts, as have political figures.

Selling cardboard fans could be a small way for teams to make up some lost revenue, and give fans a way to support their favorite teams from a distance. However, there are some pitfalls with printing fan-submitted photos in mass. This past summer, at a rugby game in Australia, 4,000 supporters bought cardboard cutouts -- including a prankster who uploaded an image of a prolific serial killer. No one caught it and the cutout was printed and put in the stands before the team played for a televised broadcast. The National Rugby League promised to tighten its screening process for photo uploads.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

52 Percent of Millennials Are Back to Living at Mom and Dad's House

A recent Pew Research Center study shows that amid economic uncertainty and few job prospects, most young adults have actually moved back in with their parents. In fact, for the first time ever, the majority of 18- to 34-year-olds now live at home with their mom and dad.

As of July 2020, 52 percent of millennials were living in their parents' home, according to the Pew analysis of Census Bureau data. That percentage surpasses the previous high hit in 1940, when 48 percent of young adults lived with their parents. In 2020, the number of young adults living with their parents jumped across the board for men and women, all racial and ethnic groups, and in every geographical region.

If you're wondering why this is, there are many reasons. With many college campuses closed, undergraduates are forced to move back home and study remotely or take a gap year. Those who recently earned their diploma face the worst job market in modern history and have more student debt than ever before -- putting a huge strain on their finances. Also, those young adults who are already in the workforce are more likely to lose their jobs or take a pay cut. In less than six months, the share of 16- to 24-year-olds who are neither enrolled in school nor employed more than doubled due to the Coronavirus and the economic downturn since March 2020.

Even before the pandemic, young adults were increasingly dependent on their parents. The study found that about 60 percent of parents with children between the ages of 18 and 29 had given their kids at least some financial help in the past year -- primarily for recurring expenses such as tuition, rent, groceries or bills. However, for parents the task of supporting grown children can be a substantial drain at a time when their own financial security can be at risk. Medical coverage, auto insurance, groceries and other expenses related to having young adults at home can definitely derail retirement plans.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

10-Day Battle With Iliotibial Band Syndrome in Oregon and Washington

During my 2006 run across America, I had to wear knee brace-compression sleeve for about a week on my left leg early on in the 3,260-mile journey. I began the run on the Oregon coast and for the last few days in Oregon, and the first few days in Washington state, I had to wear the brace to help with an inflamed Iliotibial band at my left knee. Running such extreme distances requires knowledge on how to handle and manage pain, and it was certainly painful for about a week. However, I was able to maintain my targeted daily mileage and with a nightly icing routine -- and a slightly slower pace -- I was able to remedy the situation within 10 days.

Iliotibial band syndrome occurs when the connective tissue (ligament) extending from the pelvic bone to the shinbone becomes so tight that it rubs against the thighbone. Distance runners are especially susceptible to it. The main symptom is pain between the hip and knees that typically worsens with activity. Essentially, the problem is friction where the Iliotibial band crosses over your knee. A fluid-filled sac, called a bursa, normally helps the band glide smoothly over your knee as you bend and straighten your leg. However, if the band is too tight, bending your knee creates friction. The Iliotibial band and the bursa can both start to swell, which leads to the pain.

My 10-day battle with it was a result of substantial downhill running (Oregon's Cascade Mountain Range) and running only on one side of the road -- facing traffic for safety, but my left leg was on the lowest part of the slope. Because roads slope toward the curb, my outside foot was always lower -- which tilts the hips and throws the body off alignment. When you look at some of the early pictures from that 108-day run, you'll see me wearing the brace. Click here to check out the photos.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Monday, October 5, 2020

"Save The Graffiti: We're Not Just a Movement, We're a Generation"

During my adventure runs across states and countries, I saw a lot of graffiti. Most of it was pretty rough looking, but occasionally I would come across a wall of graffiti that was pretty elaborate and really showed artistic talent by the person who put it there. In the United States, most of the graffiti that I saw was on the sides of trains, on the cement of underpasses, and on inner city walls. However, the location where I saw the most graffiti -- and perhaps the most artistic -- was Germany. In fact, Berlin, Germany, is sometimes referred to as the graffiti capital of Europe.

It was near Frankfurt, Germany that I passed a long wall of graffiti and a portion of it read: "Save the Graffiti. We're not just a kind of movement, we're a generation." The person who wrote that clearly had a heart for graffiti.

All U.S. states, as well as many municipalities, have laws that make it a crime to spray graffiti on public property or private property that you do not own or have permission to use. The crime often committed when deploying graffiti is vandalism -- spray painting on somebody else's property without their consent. Anti-graffiti enforcement is expensive. By one estimate, the U.S. spends between 15 and 18 billion dollars a year to monitor, detect, remove, and repair graffiti damage. Also, the penalties can be significant for those applying graffiti. As an example, a graffiti writer in Los Angeles who causes more than $400 in damage to a property can face fines up to $10,000, up to one year in jail, or both. In California, fines are based on the amount of damage done to a property. Also, if a graffiti writer causes more than $50,000 in damage in L.A., they can be fined up to the same amount and see up to one year in jail. Damage totaling less than $400 can carry a fine of up to $1,000 with up to 6 months in jail.

Spray painting graffiti can also be dangerous, and even deadly. Last year in Germany, a person died after a passing train hit him as he was spraying graffiti on a junction box. Also in 2019, a 28-year-old American had been attempting to spray graffiti on a building when he fell through a metal awning and was killed. There are actually many stories of people being killed while attempting to create graffiti.

With this years increase in protests across the U.S., graffiti has boomed in popularity for spreading messages. Churches, national parks, historic locations, and more have been vandalized with graffiti paint as people aim to have their positions, feelings, opinions, and convictions known. During my running adventures I saw people spray painting graffiti -- typically of younger age -- and never engaged in any conversation with them. Along the way I saw historic architecture vandalized with paint and in some instances (particularly in Germany) it appeared that some communities had given up in trying to stop such vandalism. As I had read on a graffiti wall near Frankfurt, Germany -- "We're not just a kind of movement, we're a generation." Sadly, this generation believes that vandalism is acceptable for expressing oneself.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Experts Say Getting a Flu Vaccine in 2020 is More Important Than Ever

We've all heard that public health experts are emphasizing the importance of people of all ages receiving seasonal flu vaccines during the Coronavirus pandemic -- stating that it could be a double whammy flu season this year as the nation already faces a viral deadly disease with nearly twin symptoms. However, a U.S.A. poll shows that just a third of parents believe that having their child get the flu vaccine is more important this year. Also, usually less than half of adult Americans get a flu shot.

The flu shot offers protection against the flu for about 6 months. Historically, I have not been one to get a flu shot. In fact, it has been about 15 years since I've done so. However, I recently got one! Now that I'm 55 years of age, I am a bit more cautious and take more preventive measures than I use to. Next month is my annual physical exam and each year I'm told by the doctor that I'm very fit with no health issues. I don't need to take any medications and am fortunate to be going through my 50's without any concerns about my health. Forty-four percent of all Americans take at least one prescription medication, and 17 percent take three or more medications. And, 75 percent of 50-64 year olds report taking prescription drugs. I'm not in that percentage! 

Flu vaccines will not prevent the Coronavirus, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the health care system and conserve scarce medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19. Last year's flu shot was shown to be 45 percent effective overall against influenza A and B viruses. Specifically, the flu vaccine was 50 percent effective against influenza B/Victoria viruses and 37 percent effective against influenza A(H1N1)pdm09.

The Centers for Disease Control believes it's likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will be spreading simultaneously this autumn and winter. As a result, experts say that getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Friday, October 2, 2020

Tim Bamforth Does Not Have The Stroller I Pushed Across America

Today, I read an article in the Delaware Cape Gazette that contained some details about my coast-to-coast run... and some inaccurate information. You can read that article by clicking here. It was written by Tim Bamforth, a Lewes, Delaware resident who voluntarily assisted with some housing and final day logistics for my 2006 solo run across America. It has been about 12 years since he and I were in communication -- until today. In today's original article, Bamforth stated: "...he averaged 30 miles a day pushing an 80-pound stroller named Bob. I still have Bob. Paul gave it to me as a keepsake of the challenge." That is NOT true! The Bob stroller that I pushed across America in 2006 (and as shown in the accompanying photo) is the same one that I pushed across Montana in 2008; Alaska in 2009; Germany in 2010; and the Mojave Desert in 2011. In fact, click this link to read about the stroller being in my attic! I made a written request to have the article corrected, and the online version was indeed corrected. However, the print version is floating around Delaware today. It even included a wrong website address. The website for my running adventures is www.theusarunner.comIf you'd like to see my B.O.B. stroller in action, click on any of the links below -- which will take you to online photo albums from my running adventures:

In all honesty, there are times when I really wish that I wouldn't have made that promise and run across America in 2006. Over the past 14 years I've seen inaccurate and/or misleading information -- and sometimes direct lies -- about my 3,260-mile, 15-state run from the Pacific to the Atlantic. I personally paid thousands of dollars to do that run -- to keep a promise I had made to 97 elementary children -- and missed an entire summer with my four children, who are now adults and live hundreds (and in some cases, thousands) of miles away from me. In fact, only one of the school children that I kept that promise to has communicated with me since the 2006 run -- and the last contact was nearly 9 years ago.

For 108 days I hurt, bled and cried my way across the country. No fame or riches came from it, and none was sought. There are no documentaries about it, no books dedicated to it, and no awards as a result of completing it. I simply ran to keep my word, and I nearly died 7 times in the process. Was it all truly worth it? There are days when I really wonder. Regardless, I still have BOB... that stroller I got in May 2006 and pushed across the United States, Montana, Alaska, Germany, and the Mojave Desert. Its wheels are pretty worn -- similar to my legs -- and now gathers dust in a dark attic. Together, that stroller and I achieved some running adventures that many said were uncommon, unfathomable and unprecedented. You won't find my name in any record books or the stroller in the Smithsonian Museum. And, I'm okay with that.

At the end of the day, a man's character boils down to his faith and his integrity. I'm determined to go to the grave with both.

Gotta Run,

Rising and Running Before the Sunrise -- Some of the Pros and Cons

In the 1980's and early 1990's, I would have times during my training when I would get up at 4:00 a.m. and run 10 to 12 miles before 6:00 a.m. -- and then eat a well-deserved breakfast. I enjoyed running on the roads before the rest of the community was awake. It was quiet, usually cooler, and was a nice start to the day. I was pretty motivated in my running back then and didn't really struggle with rolling out of bed and putting on my running gear. It was then that I was covering the half-marathon distance (13 miles) in around 80 minutes -- or at about a 6-minute per mile pace. However, when training I typically kept my early-morning runs to around 6 miles per hour.

I usually ran with a hydration belt around my waist, having water handy as well as some PowerBars, banana, and other on-the-go fuel. When I did those early morning runs, I lived in Montana and when the colder months would come I would typically wait until the warmer afternoon hours to log my miles. The other day, I was driving to the office and noticed a lone runner logging his early-morning miles. It made me recall many mornings of doing the same thing. Now, before you begin to think that I'm missing those 4:00 a.m. alarm bells to get up and out the door, I can tell you that it has been about 30 years since I did that. Even when I trained in my 40's to run across states and countries I logged most of my miles in the afternoon. No, I don't miss pounding my body into the pavement to start the day.

Here's what some experts say can be gained from an early morning run:

  • You can lose weight and eat less. Weight watchers vouch for a morning run without breakfast as the body starts burning up fat in the absence of carbs and proteins to burn for energy. If you usually eat a high-fat, high-calorie diet, running in the morning on an empty stomach can prevent weight gain and improve your glucose tolerance. Also, a morning workout has been seen to reduce one’s motivation for eating through the day.
  • You can build muscles. Early morning is a good time if you want to build your muscles. Testosterone, the hormone for muscle growth, is said to peak between 5:30 and 8:00 a.m. However, you need to eat a good protein-rich breakfast after the run. Otherwise, you’ll end up losing muscle mass.
  • Your mood can improve and you can fight depression. Most patients of depression complain they feel the worst in the morning. This is because levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, are the highest in the morning at around 8:00 a.m. Running can help with depression as it helps release mood-lifting hormones called endorphins. And this may show a more pronounced effect in the morning. But running at any other point of the day can also beat depression.
  • You can lower your blood pressure. A study has shown that running in the morning (6–8 am) can bring down the systolic blood pressure (the first number in your BP reading) during the day in patients with hypertension. It also brings down the 24-hour BP in dippers — patients whose blood pressure naturally dips at night. If you have depression and high blood pressure, running in the morning can help. But a good warm-up is mandatory to avoid injuries or heart-related problems. Another study on pre-hypertensive people showed that exercising at 7:00 a.m. resulted in a 10 percent drop in blood pressure during the day and 25 percent during night. People who exercised at 7:00 a.m. also slept better than before.

However, there are also some cons that may come from running early in the morning. The core body temperature remains low during morning, which means that your muscles are stiff, your power output is low, and you are more vulnerable to injuries. Both your oxygen intake and outflow are low, and this can affect your breathing capacity. Your blood pressure is also higher. People are most vulnerable to heart attacks and strokes in the morning.

Honestly, I enjoyed the long distances I ran before the sun came up. Even when I ran solo across America I would typically be on the road by 7 a.m., and when I had a 40+ mile day with the temperature expected to reach 90+ degrees, I would often get on the road at around 5:30 a.m. The earliest I hit the road during my coast-to-coast run was 3:45 a.m. when I was facing a 45-mile, 100-degree day with windy conditions.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The 3,000-Mile Men and 10 MPH -- Documentaries Worth Your Time!

There are two documentaries available on YouTube that I really like and today I want to share those with you. The first is "10 MPH" and is a nationally-acclaimed documentary that follows two guys (Josh Caldwell and Hunter Weeks) who leave their cubicle jobs in corporate America in order to cross the United States on a Segway -- one of those human transport contraptions that is a gyroscope-balanced two-wheel scooter. The documentary is available on YouTube (nearly 1 million views!) and also on Amazon Prime, and Hunter Weeks not only directed this documentary but also another one that I've previously written about... Ride The Divide.

The premise of 10 MPH hinges on two friends who decide to travel from Seattle to Boston at 10 mph on a Segway in an attempt to change their lives forever. What results is a 100-day trek across America's back roads where they meet many interesting people, and their journey occurred in 2004 -- two years before I ran solo across the USA. The combination of the stories, the scenery and the music in 10 MPH makes this documentary one that is worth 90 minutes of your time.

The other documentary that I want to share with you is "The 3,000-Mile Men". It is the story of two British men (Chris Finill and Steve Pope) who run across America. Their adventure occurred in 2011 -- five years after I finished my coast-to-coast run. This nearly two-hour documentary, directed by Ben J. Southern, shows you America at an even slower pace than the 10 MPH documentary. You'll see what struggles these two men had to overcome in order to run from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. When the run was over, Chris Finill was asked how he tackled the distance each day. He said, "You have to eat the elephant in bite-sized chunks and think today we're going to run from x to y." Yep... that's how you do it!

With summer behind us and the cooler months ahead, pour yourself a cup of coffee (or some hot chocolate), put your feet up, and check out these documentaries!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,