Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Category: Sports (page 1 of 2)

Runners at AAR/SBL 2015

All runners—no matter how fast or slow!—in Atlanta next month for the annual AAR/SBL conference, you are invited to join me and others on a casual run along the Freedom Park Path Trail on Saturday morning at 7am. Here are the details:

When: Saturday, November 21st, 7am

Where: Meet in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta (265 Peachtree St NE.).

What: Run on some streets until we connect to the path. Follow path to Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Turn around and head back to hotel. About 5 miles. You can turn around sooner or continue past the planned turnaround spot, if 5 miles is not your preferred distance.

Who: You, me, and anyone else who wants to run before the conference frenzy hits us. Contact me if you need more info: chris[at]wipfandstock[dot]com.

View route map for Freedom Trail From Hotel on

I Just Felt Like Running

Over eight years ago I arrived in Eugene with my pregnant wife and a new job. Up to that point in my life I had never been much of a runner. In fact, I actively resisted it, much to my wife’s chagrin (she has had running as a part of her active lifestyle ever since I’ve known her). But my managing editor, and therefore kinda my boss, asked if I’d like to go running with him at trail not far from our new house. He even had some hand-me-down running gear that he gave me. So I started to run every once in a while, again much to my wife’s chagrin (being pregnant she was not able to run much, right at the time I started to take it up!). Something took hold. It was the company for sure, but also the culture of running that is woven into the fabric of Eugene.

Eventually I started to run during my lunch hour at work with my colleague and office-mate Charlie Collier. Charlie had run several races in the past but was looking to pick it back up after some time away. Running with Charlie got to be a pretty regular thing. Two to five times per week we would go out from the gym near our office and make our way to the river path or Pre’s Trail. The first time he and I went on a run together, we followed a route of about 3.75 miles that crossed the river twice. At the second bridge, with about a mile to go, we both were out of gas. We walked across the bridge and then picked up the running from there. We got to a point in our running where stopping was not necessary. Later we were able to push a little further and run a route that stretched to just over 5 miles. After several months (maybe even a year or so), we made it a goal to run that route in less than 40 minutes. It took a while, but we did it. Charlie, having run more than I and knowing the personal milestones for races, suggested we try to run a 5K in less than 20 minutes. And so we started training for my first race. On Valentine’s weekend 2011, Charlie blew by me in the last stretch of the race. (This has become a constant theme of mine. I don’t manage race paces well.) Neither of us broke the 20-minute barrier, but we were only seconds off. From that point on, I’ve been hooked on reaching certain goals. Just last month I finally went below 20 minutes in a 5K! It’s the only goal I’ve reached. I’m still working on under 90 minutes for a half marathon (I need to trim three minutes) and hitting the qualifying standard for my age group for the Boston Marathon. My one and only attempt at a marathon was not fun and I’ve had nagging pains ever since. But now that Charlie has done it, I might have to give it another try some time.

All this to say, I see myself as a runner now. And like Forrest Gump, running with company is not a bad thing. (I miss running with Charlie, by the way, now that he’s moved to Portland.) I know there are several folks who attend AAR/SBL every year who also enjoy running. Last year I organized a run for conference goers. A small handful showed up on Saturday morning to run along the San Diego harbor. It was beautiful! This year in Atlanta I am putting together another Saturday morning run. It will be a casual run along the Freedom Park Path Trail section of the larger Stone Mountain Trail. All speeds and abilities are welcome. I’ve mapped out about 5 miles, but the path can be shortened or extended as runners wish. In another blog post to follow shortly, I will provide all of the details. If you are a runner and attending AAR/SBL, set aside Saturday morning at 7am to join us!

The USA shoots. The USA scores!

It has been quite a month for US Soccer.

Yesterday, the USMNT defeated Germany 2-1 for their first ever win against Germany on German soil. Earlier that day in New Zealand, at the U-20 World Cup, the US U-20 Men’s Team defeated Colombia 1-0, with a fabulous penalty kick save sealing the victory. This U-20 team has already tied the US record for number of wins at the U-20 World Cup. They stand a chance to have the best U-20 showing ever for a US team. Next up Serbia in the quarterfinals on Sunday. A couple of days before these exciting wins by the Men’s Teams, the USWNT kicked off their World Cup campaign with a 3-1 victory over Australia. It was a decisive victory, even if the Aussies didn’t think so. The Women face their former coach on Friday when the USWNT play Sweden. The mind games have already started. Just a day before the USWNT started things off with a win, the U-23 Men’s Team ended their campaign at the prestigious Toulon Tournament with a 2-1 win against England. The victory secured third place for the US, it’s best showing ever at the historic tournament. And just two days prior to the U-23 victory, the USMNT scored a thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Netherlands in Amsterdam, its first ever win against this traditional European powerhouse. So, really an exciting week for US Soccer!

But, I began the post by saying it was a good month. I should really have said it was a good week for US Soccer and a good month for worldwide soccer, although the US had a large part in the events. On June 2, FIFA’s long-running president, Sepp Blatter resigned amid a flurry of indictments  and accusations of bribery and other misconduct among FIFA executives. The IRS, FBI, and US Dept. of Justice are integrally involved in the indictments and ongoing investigations. The rampant corruption is mind-boggling. Here’s something to help you follow along. I’ll not try to spell it all out here. The bottom line is there is hope for change to an organization whose operations have been described as running like the mafia.  John Oliver was especially ecstatic about the news of Blatter’s resignation.

All in all, these past few weeks have improved the world’s perspective on American soccer both on and off the pitch. US Soccer has probably not been held in such high esteem since the days of faux-denim kits and fire-red goatees.

God Bless America!

God Bless America!

Underwhelmed, Excited, Satisfied

This post has three parts. The first is about the music offerings of 2015 so far. The second is about the start of the 20th season of MLS. And the third is about a running app. In other words, if you came here looking for a book announcement, or a theological reflection, or commentary on a current event, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you’d like to get some new music recommendation, or you are a fan of soccer in America, or if you’re a runner and want the lowdown on a helpful app, then you’ve come to the right place. Links abound!

Part One: Music of 2015

So far I’ve been underwhelmed by the music coming out in this two-month-old year. Nothing has stood out. To be fair, I listen almost exclusively to Spotify, so I’m not able to hear everything. For instance, I’ve yet to hear the new Bjork album. From what’s available to me, and from what I’ve taken the time to listen to, I’ve not yet been wowed. I had high hopes with the new releases of some old favorites: Father John Misty, Iron and Wine, Jose Gonzalez, Joshua Radin, The Lone Bellow, Of Montreal, Dan Deacon, Belle & Sebastian, and the Punch Brothers, to name a few. They’ve not disappointed me, necessarily, but none of them have hit me quite like they did the first time I heard them however many years ago. I’ve come across some artists new to me that might grow on me as the year goes on: The Amazing, Champs, Fryars, Ibeyi, Sea Change, Jape, and Rhiannon Giddens come most readily to mind. And I’ve hope some of the singles being put out in anticipation of later albums will lead to a better music year: see especially Alabama Shakes, Florence + The Machine, and Passion Pit.

Part Two: MLS

The MLS owners and players worked out a new CBA yesterday, so the 2015 will not be derailed by a work stoppage. This means the 20th season begins tomorrow night. My boys and I have created our fantasy teams, we’ve got tickets for a Timbers game in April, and the league has a new television deal that will allow us to see a few more games.  The recent influx of USMNT players to the league makes it all the more exciting.

Part Three: Wahoo running app

I’ve been running fairly regularly for the last 5 years or more. In that time I’ve used two different sport watches and numerous running apps on my iPhone. I’m as addicted to the data as I am the running! The problem is that my data has gotten scattered across several platforms. I like certain things about one platform and certain other things in other platforms. I have running data on Garmin Connect, RunKeeper, Runtastic, and Runcoach. I’ve been able to consolidate much of that data to some extent. There are still several missing activities on some platforms and still many other duplicates, but I’ve got a good history on several sites. I still can’t decide which one I like the most, so I’ve decided to keep adding activities to all of them and more. Recording runs on several platforms means having several apps open at once while I run, or it means having to manually enter my runs on a half dozen sites after I’ve completed my run. I was going the manual entry route for a while. It got old quick. Then I found a running app that recorded my runs and also allowed me to upload the run to several other running apps: Wahoo Fitness. It is the most versatile running app I’ve ever used. After each run I upload my run to my accounts on Garmin Connect (which automatically connects to Runcoach), Runkeeper, Strava, Nike+, and MapMyRun. I can also put the GPX or TCX file into a folder on Dropbox for uploading to Runtastic. There are other fitness sites Wahoo can upload to, but I’m trying to discipline(?) myself and stick to these seven. While I can’t seem to make up my mind about one platform for recording my running data, I am quite satisfied with the Wahoo app for giving me the option of not having to decide. In addition to compatibility with other sites, Wahoo is capable of linking up with various devices like heart rate monitors, cadence sensors, bluetooth scales, bike computers, and a host of other gadgets for purchase. I’ve yet to buy any of those compatible gizmos. The thing I like best about Wahoo is its simplest feature: the screen! The workout screen has big, easily readable numbers. Reading your distance or pace or time on an iPhone strapped to your forearm, your head bobbing up and down, and sweat getting into your eyes that don’t have glasses on them or contacts in them is not easy. Wahoo’s designers seem to understand this. Highly recommended for runners who are as indecisive and visually impaired as I am.

Inconsistent Execution of Journalism

At this time of the year I could say something about how incredible it was to be in San Diego for AAR/SBL and Thanksgiving, and how I miss the temperatures that were nearly twice as warm as those that have greeted me here in Eugene every morning since. Or, I could say something about the beginning of Advent and how we too often lose sight of this important time of the Christian year. Or, I could say something about the injustices of racism continuing to plague our nation. Or, I could say something about all of the wonderful music I encountered over the last twelve months. In fact, I will probably have something to say about that in a future post. But for today, sports are on my mind. I know, it’s sort of a cop out, an avoidance of meatier matters. I’m not so much shallow as mentally exhausted.

This is the time of year when the EPL plays a slew of games on top of each other. It is the time of year when the MLS crowns a champion, and this year it could be a storybook ending for Landon Donovan’s career. It is the week when the College Football Playoffs experiment gets its first go round at setting the final four. (As a Baylor fan, I am particularly interested to see how this all shakes out.) It is the time of year when college basketball gets into full swing. There’s a lot to love for a sports fan. But one thing that I don’t love as a sports fan—and this is not peculiar to this time of the year—is the lack of good sports journalism. So I was particularly intrigued by the report written by Robert Lipsyte, ESPN’s outgoing ombudsman. Lipsyte had an 18-month appointment to examine and analyze ESPN’s many media offerings. To ESPN’s credit, they actually employed someone to do this! That, in and of itself, is pretty amazing. Adding to their credit, they published the ombudsman’s report, which was not always nice. I think Lipsyte’s recommendations could be applied in other areas where consistent execution of journalism has fallen off, which is just about everywhere! Take the time to read the whole report. It’s not that long. Here’s a taste:

I think that improvement is most needed in ESPN’s inconsistent execution of journalism, which does not appear to be the highest of company priorities. That’s understandable from an economic perspective. College football and basketball, for example, are important revenue producers for the company. Extensive investigative reporting into the exploitation of college athletes, and the legal battles around that, would seem to conflict with ESPN’s business model. How do you turn over the rocks in the Southeastern Conference, for instance, while owning the SEC Network?

Saturday Morning Run at AAR/SBL

Calling all runners attending AAR/SBL 2014 in San Diego. You are invited to meet at the San Diego Convention Center’s famous stairs on Saturday, November 22 at 7am for a group run along the San Diego harbor.

Come early and warm up with a few trips up and down the steps.

Come early and warm up with a few trips up and down the steps.

The planned route will begin at the stairs, take us around one half of the convention center, through Embarcadero Marina Park South, by the Marina, through Embarcadero Marina Park North, through Seaport Village, past Ruocco Park and Dead Man’s Point, by the USS Midway, turning around on the Broadway Pier, and retracing our steps back to the stairs at the convention center.Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at [Oct 16] 10.55

For those of you wanting something shorter, heading back to the stairs after we run through Embarcadero Marina Park South will give you about a 2 mile run, and heading back after Embarcadero Marina Park North will give you about 4 miles. Of course, you can head back at any point along the way.

The invitation is open to runners of all levels and speeds. The more the merrier. Post-run coffee is on me! Get in touch if you have any questions: chris[at]wipfandstock[dot]com.


Falling into a new season

Officially there are 39 days left in summer for those living in the Northern Hemisphere. And yet the signs of Fall are starting to show.

  • It is sort of dark when we put our boys to bed at night. They had been getting in bed with plenty of daylight left.
  • The American sports landscape is percolating with talk of the upcoming football season. Living in Eugene, OR, the home of the Ducks, means the buzz is loud, especially in a year when expectations are high. And as a Baylor alum, I have my eye on another green and gold team with high expectations.
  • My Facebook feed is filling up with pictures posted by friends and family of kids going off to the first day of school in those parts of the country that start school godawful early. I’ve always appreciated how most of the West Coast starts and ends school in line with the seasonal calendar. Although this year the boys will be starting with a couple of weeks of summer still left. The twins begin first grade, their first foray into all-day school. It’s kind of bittersweet.
  • But the biggest thing of all is the start of the English Premier League. On this front there is a lot of exciting news:
    1. For the last several years I’ve played Fantasy Premier League. This year Alex, one of the twins who is really into sports statistics and such, asked if he could have a fantasy team as well. So a couple of weeks ago he and I sat down and both picked our teams. Feel free to join our league, the Backyard Premier League. If you already play Fantasy Premier League, you can join our private league with this code: 182603-51791.  If you do not play Fantasy Premier League, create a team, pick your squad, and join us. At the end of the season you might be able to say you were beat by a seven-year-old.
    2. Yesterday it was announced that USMNT youngster, DeAndre Yedlin, had been signed by Tottenham Hotspur. He won’t join the team until January at the earliest, and even then he might be loaned out. He’s to stay with the Seattle Sounders for at least the end of the current MLS season. I, along with a good many American soccer fans, became a Yedlin fan during the World Cup. Every time he came on the field he had a noticeable impact. Last week my family was fortunate enough to land tickets to the MLS All-Star game, where the MLS All-Stars defeated Bayern Munich. It was awesome to see some of our favorite players live. My admiration for Yedlin grew. He has a motor that won’t quit. I only hope that when he does finally join up with Tottenham, he gets a better chance than his fellow Seattle Sounder and my fellow former East Texan, Clint Dempsey.
    3. I was excited to hear that the Men in Blazers were going to have a regular show on NBC Sports. Since we don’t have a cable package that includes NBC Sports, or much of anything else really, I am hoping these shows become available online at some point.
    4. And finally, I would appreciate prayers. I have signed on to coach my twins’ first-grade Kidsports soccer team.

A Little Later

Ok, even though the US lost, we still survived the Group of Death. I’m feeling a little better. I still don’t have anything to say in a blog post…so go read this instead.


Maybe Later

No time to blog. There is a game that is making me too nervous.

Kids Today

During this season of graduation my Facebook news feed is filled with graduation pictures of some of the children of my high school classmates. I got a fairly late start on parenthood and so it throws me off a little to see people with whom I graduated sharing pictures of their own children graduating. I’ve even seen a few pictures of grandchildren who are about the age of my youngest! It’s weird. That’s all I’m saying.

Along similar lines, or at least related to parenthood, the other day on a longer run (I’m training for my first marathon at 42! I seem to get started late on a lot of things) I was thinking about my childhood and the things I experienced that my boys will not. [Cue the drumroll for a corny dad joke] I guess you could say these thoughts were running through my head [duh dum dumm!]. These sorts of lists are fairly common as people reflect on previous generations. Often the lists are written as if to say, “These poor kids today won’t experience the really cool things I did.” Sure there are some wonderful things about  the 70s and 80s that I wish my boys could know, but on my run I also thought about the things my boys get to experience that I wish I had had when I was a boy. Here are a few things that came to mind.

Commercials. The only time my boys see commercials are when we watch live sports. Otherwise, what little television they are allowed comes via Netflix or some other streaming service. Commercials are nowhere to be found, unless you consider Power Rangers episodes nothing more than 23-minute-long commercials for Power Rangers toys.

Information and Instructions. My twins played t-ball this past spring. I never considered how difficult it is to learn to hit and throw properly. I took them to a park the other day to play a baseball game. It was not fun. They are terrible! But they insisted on playing baseball NOT t-ball. Coaching the necessary skills to sons is not easy for fathers or sons. I had flashbacks to tension-filled times in another yard 35 or so years ago. Didn’t I pick this up more quickly than these three goof-offs? Maybe my dad was just a better coach. He almost certainly was! I had to contend with lots of tears and frustration. I also had to tend to my boys. When we got back home, I got out the iPad and looked up videos for how to throw a baseball. One of the twins sat with me and watched a few. I think he might have picked up more from those videos than he did from me at the park. He almost certainly did! His younger brother was not interested in throwing a baseball. He was too busy throwing Lego minifigures around the playroom, with terrible throwing form, by the way. The other twin, the one who has an almost unhealthy level of competitiveness, was still sulking about striking out at the park. But that same sulking six-year-old is beyond excited for the World Cup (I don’t know where he gets his enthusiasm for this event). The other day he just had to know how many times various countries had made the World Cup. By the sincerity and intensity in his voice one would think that this information was vital to his survival. The iPad again came to the rescue. A quick search and a link to Wikipedia later, we discovered Brazil has been to every World Cup ever held and China has only made one. We’ve also used the iPad to determine how many types of Tigers there are and  find instructions for assembling Lego Hero Factory robots.

Professional Soccer. I know some form of professional soccer has been around for a good long while in the US, but in small-town Texas, soccer was something you knew about and maybe tried like you would fancy cheese—it’s OK but it’s more for Europeans and a few big-city folks. My boys have the luxury of growing up at a time when soccer is picking up steam in the US, there is a pretty successful professional league to follow, and access to the more refined European leagues has never been greater. Plus, we happen to live in a part of the country where fanaticism for the sport is highest. A couple of weeks ago we took a day trip to Portland, and to our surprise, all three boys wanted to get Portland Timbers hats as their reward for a good week at home and school. They’ve worn those hats almost every day since, much like I used to wear my Houston Oilers shirt when I was a little boy (I liked going against the flow in a predominantly Dallas Cowboys crazy part of the state).

An early Happy Fathers Day to all you fathers out there. Especially that father in small-town Texas who, despite the fact that I had to endure commercials with my Saturday morning cartoons and missed out on rooting for a soccer team together, still filled my childhood with lots of love and somehow taught me to throw and hit a baseball. Also a special greeting to the fathers and mothers (and grandparents!) from the Kilgore High School class of 1990.

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