Honey Badger 100-Mile
By: Mark Henderson; 1st Servant, Runners' Church
Well, the dust has settled, my wounds have healed, and I’m finally getting around to reporting the HB100 Event: A 100-mile road run held July 9-10, 2022, starting and finishing in Lake Cheney State Park, KS. After a 6- (or so) mile out & back, runners and crew left the park to tackle a circuitous road-route in a big rectangle through Kingman County. The mercury topped out about 95°F, with a very light breeze—that latter being atypical of my experience in windy Kansas. First, and foremost, none of this would have been possible for me and for Runners’ Church had it not been for the totally selfless giving of time, sacrifice, and support from my crew: My neighbor, Larry DeBolt, and my nephew, TJ Lipinski. These guys were nails! And, I could have never even toed the line—much less finish—without their support. They were the loving hands and feet of Jesus! Race management was super-supportive of the Runners’ Church and our mission, and did an email announcement of our planned pre-race service several days before, and then a couple announcements over their P.A. That was AWESOME! We had a good service in front of our Runners’ Church canopy, which I’ had put up the night before in the Start/Finish area. One of the things I learned as I visited with runners working my way up the line from the back was many runners (busy doing last-minute preparations while I prayed over the runners) were “there” in spirit worshipping with us who were gathered. That was encouraging…and a reminder that we never know who’s listening and watching. Amen! I had everything I would need organized and loaded into Larry’s vehicle. Our plan was for Larry to drive ahead 5 (or so) miles where I’d meet up with him and refill, refuel, etc. As mentioned, I started slow, and then had to use the bathroom (which was GREAT because we were still in the park, and I could use a real toilet!) So, by the time I was unhitched and we were leaving the park, I was pretty much dead last. I like that position, because I feel God has called me, ever since my stint in the “gray-bar”, to “minister to the guy in front of me”. And so, ever since Runners’ Church’s inaugural event (Heartland 100, 2021), I’ve tried to work my way up to each person going with them at their pace for a bit, talking with and learning about and encouraging each runner “to love and good works”. Perhaps my favorite fellowship time was the couple miles I spent with Rene Villalobos. First, as I saddled up behind him and got shoulder-to-shoulder, I noticed he was playing a great assortment of praise music—not in headphones, but over little external speakers. That was awesome! Rene and I go way back, back when I was—to quote a line from an Arlo Guthrie song—"God’s own drunk and a fearless man”. In the words Rene shared with me as we were hoofin’ along, “Brother, you were ‘out there’,” meaning I was pretty much outta control. Yet Rene shared that he’d been praying for me way back then. And even when I disappeared from the ultrarunning scene, he said the Spirit would lay my name on his heart to lift up in prayer. As he shared this, he rumpled his eyebrows and nose, and confessed, “What the heck? I ain’t seen that dude in years…” But he said, “I had no idea why, but I was obedient and lifted you in prayer….” We were both amazed at the goodness of God: How sometimes He lays people on our hearts to pray for, out of the blue; and rarely, this side of glory do we get to see the results. But here, God blessed us both by closing the loop, so to speak. “See? I told you…”, God seemed to be saying to us both as we trudged along. When Rene saw me, before the Runners’ Church service, we came to each other and he looked into me. He told me later while we ran, “I saw your light, bother, and I just HAD to hug you—hard! I had such great joy!” Is God out of the miracle-workin’ business? If that don’t give ya God-bumps, I don’t know what will. What if I’d pinned my ears back at the start and “run with the big dawgs”, and missed Rene? Even deeper, what if Rene’ had not been faithful and obedient? Of all the conversations I shared that day, that time with Rene was the best. Thanks be to God!!! The next notable “event” of the day came when I was talking to career Marine, Nick Rivera, running with his family in support; he was telling me how he worked in the Pentagon and was about to retire from the Corps. The coolest thing was that he planned to run the Marine Corps Marathon (the week before New York City Marathon) and as he crossed the finish line, his commanding officer was going to be there to greet him and hand him is official retirement papers. I wasn’t a Marine, but have several good USMC friends; and, short of pulling a Chesty Puller, Nick’s storybook ending for his career is about tops for a Marine, this side of Heaven. Anyway, we’re bee-boppin’ along in cool convo, and BAMMO! I disappeared from the picture frame, and Nick looks down to see me screeching to a bloody halt near his feet. Somehow, my feets got tangled up and I went down; but I made things way worse by trying herculean efforts to pull out. All that did was speed up my landing to a crash-skid-slide on the hot pavement. I bloodied two elbows, a knee, parts of my paws—I even got a black eye outta the deal! And, I pretty much ruined my shades and my GPS. And, my very pricey Amphipod hand-helds took yet another beating! Egad, man! Nick said, “Dude, if I was a little younger, I would’ve caught ya.”! When I came in to Larry’s mobile aid station looking like one of Lee’s soldiers limping back from Gettysburg, he immediately scrambled to grab towels and first aid stuff, but I stopped him and said, “Get a picture, brother! First blood—the red badge of courage!” Larry knew then he was for in a different sort of rodeo. Praise God, I didn’t suffer anything that really slowed me down, and I was able to run through everything without too much misery. (As a sidenote, one of the things I prayed for at the pre-race Runners’ Church service—as I recounted with Gabe Soler and his fam afterward—“…And Lord, help us all keep the rubber side down!” Maybe God was trying to teach me something??) To make the preplanned 54-mile hand-off point close to the time when TJ was supposed to meet us, I really had to push the pace during the hottest part of the day, and arguably the hottest part of the course (because of sun angle and breeze direction). I was about an hour short of the target and Larry—who had scoot for a prior family engagement—drove up ahead and handed off to TJ, who then came back to meet me about 7 miles to go to the church (mile 54). It was soooo good to see TJ driving his pick-up truck past me who honked and waved as he went past to safely turnaround. When he came up to meet me for water refill, a bonus was he brought Ike, the Lipinski family adopted pup. I like Ike! Anyway, I’d planned a cold bath, a change of clothes, and a long “recharge stop” at the mile 54 St. Leo’s church. But, ‘cuz I was runnin’ so far behind, I was back on the road in 10 or 15 min. I started struggling soon after with some sort of abdominal Charlie horse/stitch things, and they just kept me from hitting stride as I was wanting to do. I thought I had my nutrition, electrolyte, and hydration pretty dialed-in; I was confident I was well trained. And, I never experienced any GI distress, so that was a big win, right? Nonetheless, I also knew I was really short sleep since I’d slept maybe an hour the night before; and, I knew that trying to make up all the “slow-movin’ time” I’d spent in the first 25 or so miles in the hottest part of the day risked writing a check I couldn’t cash. But, as I sit here writing this after weeks to review and rethink, I am not sure what I could have done better. I sure didn’t want to keep TJ and Ike out until the next dawn, and I thought I had my spirit and mind all pointed in the right direction. I was just way slower than what I’d hoped, I guess, slower than what I thought I was capable of. TJ was awesome in so many ways, and really began to shine during these interminable night hours. He always worked to keep me on course and explain what lay ahead on the next segment. I was trying to hurry to get my nephew to bed at a reasonable hour; but, that dream was quickly fading away. For examples, here are two (of many) cool “TJ-isms”: First, he took to sleeping with his dog on top of his truck as he waited for me to come in. When I confessed a fear of passing him by, not seeing him pulled off 40 yards down some dark country road, the next time, he had a big metal farm equipment warning sign with LEDs wired to it lighting it up on my road wherever he was pulled off. Kid is a genius! Second, while I’d told him to bring his own supplies (i.e., food and drinks), he was running late and figured he’d just find a convenience store on the course. Well, there ain’t a store within about 30 miles of anywhere we were, so he’s running outta gas, so to speak. But I learned this kid’s got some serious game when I come ambling up to a running SUV at about 3:00 a.m. in the middle of NOWHERESVILLE. It was a girl (friend from school) who brought him a sub! AT 3 A.M.! Who does that?!?!? I kept telling him, “Dude, that girl loves you, bro’!” He just played it off and said she’s just a friend. Three a.m.? Whatever. Kid’s got game. As we got within striking range of the finish, I figured if I pushed, I could beat 24 hours. TJ stoked me further by calculating my needed pace (~10:30 min./mi.) over the last 15 miles, and says, “Uncle Mark, I believe in you. You can do it!” And I did—my best running in hours. I even had time to change into a clean R.C. shirt at the Outpost Store, before we turned into the park to the finish. So, I broke 24 hours, and my biggest regret is that I didn’t have TJ and Ike cross the line with me so we could get the finish photo together. They certainly deserved that. AAARRRGGHH. I was just dead tired and definitely not thinking clearly. All in all, it was a great run and greater experience with Larry and TJ and all the other runners and crews I got to meet. I try to do my best at every Runners’ Church event, and then prayerfully reconsider how I might do better, love better, encourage better, reach better. Like the long race, it’s not just so much about reaching the finish. Rather, it’s about the journey. Journey-ON!, because the journey is ON! Amen.
"...And the One who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."~Revelation 7:15b-17