Friday, June 27, 2008

This is what I look like after running 5K in 31 minutes

Thursday was our final group running session. We ran a full 5K and it took me 31 minutes. Afterwards I felt great. What a sense of accomplishment. I ran a strong steady pace yet I wasn’t winded at all. The run actually seemed relaxing. As silly as this sounds, I ran with my legs. What I mean by that is I felt as though I was using my legs to power myself. I’m going to run another 5K tomorrow and then increase my running time next week.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Photo Opp with a toddler

Here are a few photos I took of Jonas the other day. He was helping his daddy do some yard work.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mission Accomplished (almost)

This is the tenth and final week of my running program. On Monday evening we ran for a full 30 minutes at Hersey Lake. The trails were full of hills and rough terrain. It was without question our toughest test yet. Couple that with the fact that I was pushing Jonas in the stroller and it becomes all the more challenging. But let me tell, I loved the experience. What amazes me is how much better I feel each week, even though we are running longer distances.

We are running through Mountjoy tomorrow evening, and then by ourselves on Saturday. Then we’re done with the program, but certainly not finished with running. Those of us who are finishing the course have decided to keep running together. We have built up a real sense of team spirit during the past 10 weeks. We were talking the other night about how difficult running seemed in the first couple of weeks. It’s hard to believe we’ve gone from a minute non-stop to 30 minutes non-stop. Wow!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Lure of Baseball

The following is the text of a speech I delivered to the Porcupine Toastmasters in early April. I’m not Barack Obama, but just picture him saying it and it becomes a lot better. OK?

Good evening toastmasters and guests. The most exciting, thrilling moment of my life occurred on October 23rd 1993. I was fortunate enough to be among the 50,000 people at Toronto’s Skydome watching Game 6 of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and my beloved Blue Jays. The Blue Jays needed to win the game to capture their second consecutive World Series title.

You couldn’t have written a script with more drama, plot twists, and heart-stopping moments. The Blue Jays led the game 5-1 at one point, but surrendered the lead and trailed 6-5 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. With two men on base, Joe Carter came to bat. With an entire nation holding its breath, Carter hit a home run to give the home side an 8-6 win and back-to-back World Series’ championships.

I’ve been a baseball fan since for as long as I can remember. And on that crisp fall night, 15 years ago, baseball crawled into my soul and will remain there as long as I live. Despite the steroid scandal of recent years, I remain a devout follower of Major League Baseball. And I believe me, I’m not the only one. World-wide interest in baseball is at an all-time high. More people are attending major league baseball games than ever. In 2007, Major League Baseball generated $6 billion in revenue…six billion. So I ask you: Does that sound like a sport that’s in trouble? Ladies and gentlemen, I firmly believe that Major League Baseball is well-positioned to continue its growth and overcome any future scandals that might arise. After all, no other sport maintains a connection to its past, serves as a metaphor for life, or has been a catalyst for social change in America, as baseball has.

One of the reasons why baseball is so appealing is that it maintains a connection to its past. To illustrate this point, let’s look att the stadiums in which the games are played. Major League Baseball has three parks that are more than 80 years old. Boston’s Fenway Park opened in 1912; Wrigley Field in Chicago opened in 1916; and Yankee Stadium in New York opened its gates in 1923. These three stadiums contain the ghosts of some of the game’s greatest stars, and the hopes and dreams of past generations. They are national treasures, permanent monuments to history. Sadly, this is the last season baseball will be played in Yankee Stadium. You cannot stand in the way in progress forever, but the fact that Yankee Stadium has been a fixture for 85 years is a testament of its importance to a city – as well as a nation.

Most other parks, in one form or another, are influenced by baseball stadiums of yesterday. In fact, every stadium constructed since 1992 has a retro-look or feel to it. Some have retractable roofs, but all were designed with a nod to the past. They are intimate – seating less than 45,000 people. They have natural grass surfaces, as opposed to the artificial turf surfaces that become popular in the 60’s and 70’s. As a result, today’s parks are an attraction unto themselves – alive with the sights, sounds and smells of America’s pastime.

The notion of baseball as a metaphor for life is another reason why the sport has endured for more than 100 years. There are four distinct cycles to a baseball season, mirroring the four seasons. Every February, players gather in Florida and Arizona for spring training. Fans in northern cities, watch their teams closely, looking for any sign of hope for the upcoming season, just as they look for signs of a spring they know is coming. The regular season is underway by early April. As the snow melts, and the flowers bloom, so do the hopes of fans. For me, the beginning of the baseball season is a rebirth – a renewal – just as it is for nature. As the days get longer and summer arrives, the games become more important; spirits soar; and the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders. Then comes autumn. With a nip in the air, you can sense the anticipation of the penultimate, the World Series, the Fall Classic. And then it’s over. The deep freeze arrives. Next year, it happens all over again.

As a metaphor for life, consider that being a baseball fan requires a certain amount of faith. Just as we hope that our lives will get better, baseball fans never give up hope that they will live to see their team win the World Series. To wit, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 after 86 years of trying and failing. After the triumph, Red Sox fans visited the graves of loved ones, wanting to share the moment with them. Those who leave us, leave us believing in their team. The Red Sox are a perfect example of hope and faith rewarded.

Finally, it’s important to understand the extent to which baseball has served as a catalyst for social change in the United States. In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball, ending 80 years of baseball segregation. At the time, many whites in America still believed that blacks and whites should be kept apart in sports - and daily life. Robinson played in six World Series and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. Moreover, he was a forerunner in the civil rights movement. He was an outspoken supporter of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. His influence transcended sport. Following his death in 1972, Jackie Robinson was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor and Presidential Medal of Freedom. To its credit, Major League Baseball has never forgotten Jackie Robinson’s contribution to the fabric of American Society. In 1997, baseball honoured Robinson by retiring his number 42.

Most recently, Major League Baseball has instituted an annual Civil Rights game, played at the end of spring training in Memphis Tennessee – home to the National Civil Rights Museum. As part of this year’s game, a panel discussion was held featuring, among others, Hank Aaron and Don Newcombe – two legendary African American players. It was refreshing for me to hear a dialogue on the history and present state of race relations in America. This further served to reinforce the idea that baseball has, and always will be, a force for social change.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that baseball will always rise above scandal. Sure, no one is proud of the steroid era, but the game of baseball will endure. After all, it has a rich history, it serves as a metaphor for life, and it has undeniably influenced the course of American history. Personally, I look forward to a lifetime of baseball memories still to come. Madame Toastmaster.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Run Jeffery Run

Tonight we started Week 9 of our 10-week running program. I ran 4k in about 26 minutes. I’m not surprised that I ran 4k, but I am surprised at how good I felt afterward. When I started the program, 26 minutes non-stop seemed like a lofty goal. I’m happy to report that I’m hardly out of breath and my knees and feet have been feeling better lately.

I really enjoy the runs with Jonas. He just sits in his stroller and takes everything in. My fellow runners get a big kick out of his laid-back attitude. Most importantly, he reminds me why I got into running in the first place: I was hoping to challenge myself, increase my energy level, and improve my overall health. I’ve done all three.

This is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I encourage everyone to consider becoming a runner. If you have no experience, that’s no big deal. I’d be happy to share the 10-week running program with anyone who’s interested.