Run4Papa versus The Sandbar


You might not think heading to a lake would be an ideal running spot to train; however, with a venue like The Great Wall of China, I am constantly thinking outside of the box. There is no handbook to simulate the elements of this run so I figured any type of training would be beneficial. With this in mind, my father and I headed to  Union Lake, located in Commerce Township, Michigan.

We headed out on our pontoon boat and took a loop around the lake.  The weather was around 75 degrees and being a fall Sunday in September, there weren’t many boats on the water. As we reached the midway point of our ride, I had the notion of running the sandbar: End-to-End. I figured, why not? I have run on all types of surfaces and races the past couple months; surely, this would be a one-of-a-kind training experience.

I had no idea exactly how accurate that statement would turn out to be…

For those of you unfamiliar with the depth of a sandbar, it is roughly 3-5 feet.  Most people pull their boats into the designated area, anchor, and swim. With only a couple of boats on the lake, we dropped anchor and I slid into the water – slightly cooler than 4th of July weekend.

When I began running the sandbar, there was soft sand beneath my feet which produced minimal resistance in my strides.  This lasted for several hundred yards and was comfortably manageable.

As I continued getting further and further away from the boat, the dynamic of the run shifted because the surface below was getting deeper and muckier. My strides shortened considerably and transitioned from a solid run to a slower jog. The once smooth sandy surface quickly turned into a thicker muck surrounded by algae (god only knows the species roaming around below).  It felt like someone attached 10 pound weights to my ankles because my feet were sinking and needed to be stretched ever so carefully to release them from the surface below.

Step after step became tougher and tougher; however, like running any long-distance race, you just put one foot in front of the other and push forward.  I was able to reach the end of the sandbar and was jumping up and down for a long-distance picture.  On the third jump, my sunglasses flew off my face into the murkier water.  I held my breath, cupped my hands and dove below to try and catch ’em.  For the record, I have never lost a pair of sunglasses on any body of water; yet, a pair of $7 Venice Beach sunglasses were just donated to the bottom of Union Lake.

After reaching the far end of the sandbar, I thought it only appropriate to run back to the boat.  Without a doubt my father would have grabbed me, but he looked pretty content relaxing on the boat.  And to be honest, it has never been my mentality to do anything halfway.  Putting one foot in front of the next, I strided back through the sandbar until the muck was behind me. At last, I was able to run full stride and complete the Run4Papa v. Sandbar challenge.

This valuable run proved to be a solid test of both mind and body because you can never fully anticipate how the elements and mother nature are going to alter your route. Marathon preparation is 80% mental & 20% physical so when unexpected moments occur, you need to be able to readjust your approach and improvise along the way…

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Run4Papa “Under the Lights”…sort of

Michigan v. Notre Dame 9-10-11: First Night Game Ever!

I managed to record a brief clip of the madness that captures the essence of the night:

9-10-11.  Sure that sounds like a numerical sequence, but on this day, or should I say this “night,” that order of numbers would mark a very special evening for the University of Michigan football program.  The first ever night game took place at the Big House between the two most storied universities: Michigan v. Notre Dame. 10 out of the previous 20 meetings have been decided by 5 points or less.  This game has been “hyped up” for over a year in Ann Arbor and throughout college football.  All you can hope for in a setting like this is for good weather and a close game, or as my father would say “I would be comfortable with a 30-point lead by halftime!”

The idea was to tailgate with friends for about 4-5 hours, head to the stadium, watch a competitive football game “under the lights,” and then run around The Big House at night.  Pretty straight-forward approach (on paper) or so I thought…

Unless you have been locked away in some dark room or pretending you didn’t make the drive from South bend, you should know by now that this battle royale was one of the, if not “the” best games ever played at the Big House.  Down 24-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter, the mighty Wolverines came back with a 4th quarter for the ages – an instant classic.  A fumble by Michigan’s running back at the Notre Dame 1-yard line could’ve been disastrous, but QB Denard Robinson picked up the loose ball and ran in for the touchdown.

Momentum is a funny thing.

No matter what the venue or setting – be it a collegiate football game, a relationship, life or certainly training for the likes of the Great Wall of China.  It’s contagious and you better take full advantage of the the ride when it’s moving your direction.

As Michigan narrowed the gap from 24-14, then 24-21, the stadium was erupting!  I have been fortunate to see many games at the Big House, but this was unlike any my eyeballs had witnessed before.  I couldn’t believe the atmosphere.  With 1:10 to go, Michigan took the lead 28-24 on a dump-off pass to RB Vincent Smith. I couldn’t hear a thing, the noise level was deafening.

This was one of the greatest comebacks in Michigan history or so it seemed. 40 seconds later, Notre Dame scored a touchdown and like many times before, this game was being decided in the final minutes. I texted my good friend Derek and said “We are still going to win.”

:30 to go, Michigan had the ball on their own 20. An incomplete pass left :23 on the clock.  My heart was racing, the stadium was shaking and the tension was eerily all-encompasing. Robinson stepped back and made a pass to a WIDE open Jeremy Gallon who sprinted down to the Notre Dame 16-yard line with only :08 remaining.

A field goal to tie, a touchdown to become legendary.

Michigan QB Denard Robinson took the snap…7,6,5, – the ball was lofted to the corner of the end zone, 4,3,2…


114,804 fans were going bonkers!!!  Michigan wide receiver Roy Roundtree came down with the football making the final score 35-31 for the Maize & Blue.  Originally, I wanted to run around the Big House for Papa & PPA research but this environment was too insane.  I fully admit I got caught up in the chaos. The Big House was rocking, under the lights, and no one was leaving, not even the Irish fans (probably from being in shock more than anything).

Rest assured, I will return against our arch-rivals, the hated Ohio State Buckeyes.  One way or the other, Run 4 Papa will run around the Big House even if it’s single digits outside in the heart of wintertime. I’ll just make sure not to wait until the very last second…although that can be exhilarting!

To see more pictures from the game, go to: Under the Lights

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Former Detroit Red Wing Backs PPA

Shawn Burr Endorses Run4Papa

Former Detroit Red Wing left-winger Shawn Burr agreed to go on camera to help raise awareness for PPA research:

Burr joins the fight!

After a very fun and adventurous night out with my buddy Dan in Tampa, I awoke fairly early on Saturday morning.  Instead of sleeping in, I decided to head up to the pool area around 9AM.  I figured why not go for a swim before starting my day.  When I got up to the pool deck, I changed course and headed over to the jacuzzi.  Even my 32-year old bones need relaxing every now and then…

As I quickly sat in the mildly warm jacuzzi (keep in mind it’s Tampa and it’s plenty humid int he summertime), there was a man who looked eerily familiar in the hot tub.  We started chatting a little bit only to find out that we both lived in the state of Michigan for quite some time. I introduced myself and he replied “Shawn Burr, nice to meet you!”

Like the Bill Rodgers experience, I felt a little embarrassed I didn’t recognize him at first considering my passion for all-things Detroit but he brushed that off pretty quickly and we continued chatting for the next half hour.

While Shawn still resides in Michigan, he was visiting Tampa to see his daughter compete in a volleyball tournament for Eckerd College. You could see the pride in his eyes as he spoke of her.

After laughing about stories of Michigan v. Ohio State, rivalries in the hockey world and likely some other stories that are best left on that pool deck, he briefly transitioned to an appreciation for life.

Shawn informed me that 8 months ago he had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and had undergone 4 rounds of chemotherapy treatment.

“The day before my wife and I went to the hospital she bought pomegranate seeds from Costco.  In the morning, my tongue had red spots on them and I figured it was a reaction from the seeds. After getting some blood tested my doctor said ‘We need to check something.’ I knew I was in trouble.”

My heart broke.  He went on to describe the past 8 months but was filled with a sense of optimism. What struck me most about this conversation wasn’t the fact that here was a 16-year veteran of the NHL who on the outside seemed to be healthy, happy and full of life, but rather someone who was frustrated with the lack of financial support to fund research for Leukemia.

“I was on meds that were helping and then all of the sudden the pharmaceutical company doesn’t receive enough funding and the meds are no longer available.”

I understood.  I more than understood. I explained my cause to raise awareness for PPA research and how my grandfather and so many others were struggling with the disease. And like many other fatal diseases, the importance of research and funding is essential for progress.

He was inspired by my Run4Papa campaign and generously offered his support for the cause. As if we were friends since he got drafted in ’84 he said, “Email me when you get back to Charlotte and I will pass around your story throughout my office and garner support for your Papa.”

Shawn Burr, the left-winger I had grown up watching and rooting for in Detroit all those years was now backing the fight for PPA and my Papa.

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Bayshore Boulevard: Tampa, Florida

 The World’s Longest Continuous Sidewalk

Before making the trip out to Tampa, I was trying to locate a local 5K or 10K race in the city.  Despite my best internet researching efforts (and others), I was unable  to locate any official races over labor day weekend.  Of course, this would not deter me from running for Papa, and my good friend Ali informed me of a beautiful strip to run along in Bayshore Boulevard which links South Tampa and downtown.

Based on some after-the-fact research, Bayshore was built in the early 1900’s and is deemed the world’s longest continuous sidewalk because its 4.5 mile stretch of concrete is not interrupted by cross streets. This 10 foot-wide sidewalk starts at the Columbus Statue Park at Platt Street on the north end, and ends at Gandy Boulevard. It’s an official greenway trail, with amenities like benches, a water fountain, bicycle parking, a city marina and fitness stations. Fifteen cast bronze trail markers are embedded in the sidewalk, denoting each half mile and kilometer southward along the trail.

What I enjoy most about running is the ability to run in new places and along new routes.  I love taking in all the scenery and people along a run.  There were people riding bikes, men sitting on the balusters fishing, and an older gentlemen from the UK that was inquiring about my cause.  By writing PPA on one hand and Papa on the other, people are often stopping me and inquiring about the cause and reasons behind my journey.  As a result, people have been quickly gravitating to this campaign to create awareness for PPA research which is a top priority!

Too see pictures from the run go to – The Longest Continuous Sidewalk in the World

To see video from the race go to: One Looooooooong Sidewalk

Warrior Dash

Mud. Sweat. Beer.

There has been a ton of hype heading into the Warrior Dash out here in Huntersville, North Carolina.  There was a tremendous amount of excitement stemming from people in the local and surrounding communities; however, the threat of hurricane Irene made the potential postponement or all out cancellation of the Warrior Dash a realistic possibility. Fortunately, the hurricane changed course mid-week and the race went on as planned.

Per my usual routine, I indulged in some delicious r.a.w. sushi the night before the big event.  For whatever reason on shorter races, sushi is my fuel.  I relish in “filling up my fish tank” and then waking up the next morning and running, well, more like Superman on this day.

My close friends Adam & Michelle (who flew in from Cleveland for this race) decided to join for all the festivities.  Our wave was at 2:00PM and we decided to scope out the event by heading to the grounds at high noon.  As we were pulling into the lot, we could see people dressed up in a variety of costumes from Braveheart & samurai warriors to villains & superheroes.  No matter what age or gender, everyone was here to have a good time and get dirty!

While waiting at the Start line, the energy was positive and brewing. The weather was a typical 90-degree Charlotte summer’s day  (without humidity), partly cloudy skies and a slight breeze in the air.  The countdown began and we raced through the coral as fire was going off above and headed down the winding path for about 3/4 of a mile before hitting our first couple of obstacles.  We scaled over fences and crouched beneath barbed wire.  We came around a short bend only to come up to a bunch of different dumpsters  where we were hopping in & out, from one to the next. After this, we approached a bunch of uneven connected ladders and had to walk across maintaining our balance.  Of course, off in the distance we could see a major roadblock ahead:  a 30 foot wall.

As we approached the wall, there were 4 ropes dangling in front.  We carefully pulled our way up to the top of the wall, and flung our bodies over the side to come back down.  As a reward, we had a water station awaiting. Not much time to relax as the next challenge lead us through a trail path that weaved up & down throughout the forest another 3/4 of a mile.  As we approached the end of the trail, we had to get down on our hands & knees  in order to continue as there was an enclosed black tarp that we had to crawl underneath (about 100 feet).  Inside was total darkness.  There was a ton of dirt, dust and random arms and legs swaying to & fro.  I kept my head down and my eyes wide shut until I spotted a glimpse of daylight.

We popped out and rounded the corner.  In front of us, a muddy river!  We jumped from land to water, straddled logs in the river and managed to come out soaked to the bone.  One thought: keep moving!

As we headed up a hill, we reached our last mile of the Warrior Dash challenge.  Obstacle after obstacle lay ahead: crawling like a spider over jagged  cargo nets, hiking up stairs and sliding down fire poles, climbing more cargo nets and crossing over structures that had no safety nets below.  It was an adrenaline rush to say the least.

With the finish line in sight, we could see smoke and fire in the distance.  We ran towards the fire and hurdled two sets of burning logs only to run directly into a barbed-wired filled mud pit.  It was deep and beyond muddy…fantastic!  The mud pit spanned about 30 yards and we boot-camped it under the wire. Covered in mud from head-to-toe, we crossed the finish line and were given our rewards: a medal and a cold beer!

Before heading out we were hosed down by a water truck.  This was both fun and necessary!  As mud poured down our bodies, we headed towards the parking lot and stopped short of the massive pile of dirty shoes that warriors donated to charity.  These shoes would be cleaned and given to those that needed them most in the local community.

All in all, this race was the craziest one so far!  I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to partake in the future!  As my fellow warriors would attest:

It’s all about the Mud, Sweat & Beer!

Next year, I look forward to sharing this experience with both fellow warriors and newbie competitors,  and of course, compete for best warrior time and costume!

To see video from the race go to: Live Commentary as a Warrior

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Major ALS Breakthrough at Northwestern University

Researchers discover common cause of all forms of ALS

I have partnered with Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine to help create awareness for PPA research.  A couple days ago, this department had a MAJOR breakthrough in the researching and testing of the brutal disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The relentless persistence of a quarter century has finally paid of for senior author Teepu Siddique, M.D., Professor of the Department of Neurology and Clinical Neurosciences at Northwestern’s Feinberg School and a neurologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

He said he was initially drawn to it because, “It was one of the most difficult problems in neurology and the most devastating, a disease without any treatment or known cause.”

The underlying disease process of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease), a fatal neurodegenerative disease that paralyzes its victims, has long eluded scientists and prevented development of effective therapies. Scientists weren’t even sure all its forms actually converged into a common disease process.

But a new Northwestern Medicine study for the first time has identified a common cause of all forms of ALS.




72 Hours of Silence

Rose Goes Quiet

To support Rose’s silence visit:

Rose, who works at Connect, is doing a 3 day sponsored silence as part of our Fantastic 50 challenge – to raise money and awareness for Connect and people with aphasia.

“I am too lazy to run a marathon and I have already jumped out of a plane so I have decided to do… a sponsored silence!!

I will therefore not talk for 3 whole days! That is 72 hours or 4320 minutes or 259,200 seconds not saying a word!!! For many of you that know me well, this is going to be a real challenge!!

I am not doing this for fun but I am doing it for an amazing charity called Connect, who provide vital support for people with aphasia.

Every 11 minutes, 3 people will have a stroke, 1 of them will loose the ability to communicate. This is called aphasia and can happen to anyone at any time. Some people cannot speak at all, others can no longer read, write or use numbers.

This challenge will be no comparison to actually having aphasia however I hope it will highlight how devastating it can be when you loose your speech in an instant.”


Meeting A Living Legend

How I Got to Run Side by Side Bill Rodgers

22 Time Marathon WINNER Bill Rodgers Endorses Run4Papa!

I I was told there was a man named Bill who had run the Boston Marathon 4 times and would be the keynote speaker.  Whether it was because I was up at the crack of dawn, or just flat out didn’t hear the information clearly, I was thrilled to be part of any event partnering running with a local charity. I filmed the registration of the event, some warm-up exercises and did an introduction for our staff. I saw Bill speaking to some people, taking pictures, and signing autographs. It was sinking in that I had not heard the whole story about this man but I had to prep for the race.

We counted down from 10 and the race began.  I got out of the gate quickly as I had to film the start, portions of the race, and an interview with Bill afterwards.  I ran about halfway and stopped in order to film some of the runners.  As I saw Bill approaching (he had gotten a late start due to being swarmed by fans), I felt comfortable with my footage and continued running the second half of the 5K. He had was been running alone at a steady pace…

We struck up a conversation about running immediately and briefly discussed how international the sport has become over the past couple of decades.  “There are races anywhere and everywhere. No matter what the language or location, you can challenge yourself on any part of the globe,” said Bill.  My immediate curiosity got the best of me and I asked him, “Is it true you have run the Boston Marathon 4 times?” Without being pretentious or condescending he replied,

“Actually I ran it 17 times. I won it 4.”

To tell you I wanted to crawl in a cave and hibernate for a season or two is being awfully generous.

I am positive he sensed my embarrassment; however, we continued running and talked as if we had been friends for years. He was so grounded and friendly.  I asked him how many marathons he had won. “22. Boston 4 times, New York City 4 times, Rio de Janeiro, Stockholm, Japan…” I asked him about the pressure of 3-peating the Boston Marathon from ’78-80 (he informed me of the exact dates ) and he just had a confidence about him that was contagious.

He just loves to run.

He asked me “Have you ever considered running a marathon?”  It was this question that lead me to explain the Run 4 Papa campaign. He mentioned he once ran the Beijing Marathon and came up 1 mile short. My face must’ve shifted color and expression as Bill chuckled and said,

“Well, I was trying to win it and not just finish!”

As we were nearing the finish line, he offered his full support for the cause and asked me if he could endorse the website on camera.  Here was a living legend offering his endorsement to raise awareness about PPA. I was floored and honored.

After our interview, Bill was kind enough to give me his contact information and said, “Make sure you call me when you get back to Charlotte.”

I guarantee this time I will be well prepared for our conversation…

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