About dashthebook

I'm a Father / Teacher / Ultramarathoner / Author who enjoys putting his thoughts in print.

“What Place Did You Finish In?”

“What Place Did You Finish In?”

That’s usually the second question I hear after a marathon.

The first question is often “How did the race go?” Some people also want to know about any lingering aches and pains, or they ask to see the medal or race shirt.

I get it. Friends, family and colleagues mean well. And they’re curious about this seemingly super-human accomplishment. If you’re a runner, perhaps you’ve forgotten when finishing 26.2 miles seemed like a big deal. But to most people, running a marathon, or any distance race, is an other-worldly feat. One that the vast majority of our population think “I could never do that.”

But isn’t that precisely the beauty of the marathon? Proving to yourself that deep within you beats the heart of a badass? Mining the transformative joy of accomplishing something you once believed to be only capable by the rarest of athletes? You endure months of training, and then race the streets in celebration, crossing a finish line that punctuates your journey, while also symbolizing the start of new dreams, possibilities, and adventures ahead. The medal placed around your neck declaring that the once impossible peak has been summited, and you are no longer the same person who tentatively registered for the race months before.

You’re stronger.

Your vision is clearer.

Your dreams are bigger.

You’ve overcome fears, doubts, injuries, weather, naysayers, and an array of other obstacles, one mile at a time, and along the journey, you changed.

Running taught you priceless lessons. Running made you a better version of yourself. Running opened new doors, and broadened your selection of new starting lines.

“What Place Did You Finish In?”

It is an innocent question, but perhaps it is the wrong question. It asks us to compare ourselves to others, and threatens to rob us of the joy forged over countless miles. The question tries to measure what is immeasurable, and quantify qualities that are intangible. Most of us don’t run to measure ourselves against others, but to measure against ourselves.

The joy of running past another runner is short lived and shallow, but the joy of passing our own previous thresholds, is enduring, and solid. We run to inhale nature and beauty. We run to exhale the negativity and pressures that invade life. We run to experience new destinations, interact with other cultures, and explore the wonderings of our spirits and the yearnings of our souls.

We run for camaraderie.

We run for solitude.

We run for purpose.

We run for freedom.

We run because we can.

We run, because we know others who cannot.

“What Place Did You Finish In?”

The question is asked because on some level, the people who care about us, run with us. They cheer us on from near or afar. They race through us, vicariously, imagining what it is like to be in our shoes, without really wanting to be in our shoes. Because let’s face it, the marathon is daunting. The marathon purges your muscles, your diet, and your schedule. It requires all your energy, and then takes your reserves. It depletes you, exhausts you, and breaks you down, completely.

But the marathon replenishes. It builds new muscle, new habits, new friendships and new dreams. It pays you back a hundred fold, and in the process, removes toxic habits and attitudes, cleansing you in the process.

The marathon is daunting. So is any obstacle you willingly throw yourself into. A new career. A new relationship. A new address. Writing a book. Tackling a triathlon. Going back to get that degree. Starting your own business.

Whatever the obstacle, it may be daunting. But within you, lies an undaunted spirit, waiting to be forged and fashioned. Sign up for it. Register yourself. Go all-in. Your own personal “whatever-athon”. It doesn’t have to be 26.2 miles. It might just be one. Or it might not require running at all. But it will scare you. It will at times terrify you, calling up the haunting voices that whisper failure in your ears.

Your “whatever-athon” will require more of you than you ever though you had, but that is the beauty, because if you stay the course, you’ll find out there is a lot more inside of you than you ever realized. There is more courage. More grit. More brilliance, compassion, patience, and hope. Nobody else may have recognized it before, and the naysayers may have tried to make you believe that it wasn’t there, but remember that all the good stuff is on the other side of fear. Don’t be afraid of what lies ahead of you, or what is buried within you, because both of those places have immeasurable treasure waiting to be discovered. Your “whatever-athon” may be daunting…

But you can be undaunted.

“What Place Did You Finish In?”

You’re still curious? Fine. Well, I didn’t win the race. I wasn’t the first across the line. But I finished 1st place in my division. You know, the grouping of males, aged 50-55, who share my same birth date, birth parents, and birth name. Out of the over 45,000 finishers, I was the 31,0111th person to cross the line. But I finished, with arms triumphantly raised, an elated smile across my face, and just as proud as the first person, or the final person. The once impossible, now in my rear-view mirror, and a vast expanse of possibilities before me. Ready for my next “whatever-athon”. My finish line, bearing witness to wonderful new starting lines.

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Away from the Tribe

Step out of the tribe for a moment, and reflect.

Much of our national divide comes from a tribalistic mindset where adherents defend a point, policy or person simply because she or he is on their “side”. People troll conversations, posts, or ideas contrary to their own, and instead of listening, considering, and respectfully participating in the discourse, they simply and thoughtlessly insert their dissent.

As a tribe member, your reflex is to stick to the team script, ignoring any contrary evidence or facts. Because the tribe must be right. At all costs.

As tribe members, we even merge or conflate various reports in order to defend the otherwise brutish behavior of our leaders. The behavior itself no longer matters. Character no longer seems to count. It is only the side, the team, the jersey, the mascot, or the color that holds sway. This defense is part of the entrenched, tribal mindset that is gripping our nation with its’ corrosive and divisive results. We hear it daily:

“Us vs. them.”

“Blame the media.”

“Blame the other side.”

Find some nugget of “their” view that isn’t perfectly articulated, and plant your flag of defense there.

Yet as citizens, we must think more critically than defaulting to basic tribalism. The right isn’t always right. Neither is the left. Or the center. Or red. Or blue. The only acceptable aren’t a monopoly belonging solely to CNN, FOX, or your favorite media outlet. And those in search of facts are not the enemy of the people. It is the manipulation or perversion of truth that seeks to uproot and divide us.

Character matters. Truth is truth, regardless of your party affiliation, or which direction you want the future court to lean towards. We must expect and demand truth and civility from our leaders, no matter which party they are from. Even when our president, and the bevy of other elected officials, refuse to lead with civility and truth, we must expect it of ourselves, our leaders, and our children. We should never accept less, since our tribe isn’t Republican, or Democratic. Our tribe isn’t left or right. Our tribe is America, and our tribal creed is liberty, and justice for all.

I Chose Bald, Because They Didn’t

Pulling into school

Day One of being bald

I reached for my cap

To cover up.

It’s cold up there

Barren.

Vulnerable.

.

I reconsider

I chose this path

Proudly

“Brave the Shave”

To raise awareness

And support

And to stand alongside

The courageous kids

Who also walk baldly

But not by choice

Their hair lost

Temporarily

To cancer.

.

I chose bald

Because young Analise

With her flowing blonde locks

Never looked more radiant

Than when she was bald.

.

I chose bald

Because Noah is fierce

And relentlessly hopeful

As he fights for his brother Jonah.

.

I chose bald

Because young Rosie chose bald

For the fifth time

Even though she had brain surgery

Just

Last

week.

.

I chose bald

Because Kaya is brave

Because Alexi is audacious

and Erin is elegant.

Because Elijah and Aurav

Will do anything for others.

.

Our school is filled with heroes

And family

Raising funds

Shaving heads

And lifting hearts.

.

Reminded of this,

I forego the hat

And stand upright

Entering our building proud

Amid smiles

And dropped jaws

And high fives

From other bald staff

And students

Who braved the shave

All of them

Beautiful.

.

I’m proud to be bald

Proud to stand with these kids

Proud to declare

In some small way

I’ve got your back

We’re in this thing

Together.

I Chose Bald, Because They Didn’t

Pulling into my school

Day One of being bald

I reached for my cap

To cover up.

It’s cold up there

Barren.

Vulnerable.

I reconsider

I chose this path

Proudly

“Brave the Shave”

To raise awareness

And support

And to stand alongside

The courageous kids

Who also walk baldly

But not by choice

Their hair lost

Temporarily

To cancer

Leaving the hat

I stand upright

And walk in proud

Amid smiles

And jaws dropped

And high five

From other bald staff

And students

Who braved the shave

All of them

Beautiful

I’m proud to be bald

Proud to stand with these kids

Proud to declare

In some small way

I’ve got your back

We’re in this thing

Together.

Uncorked: Messages Once in a Bottle


Walking along the beach

Toes massaged by sand

Carefree

Awash in memories

Adrift with glint and grin

Comforted by the waves

Dancing

Wrapped in the wind’s

Gentle arms

.

A bottle floats ashore

Smoothed glass

Translucent teal

Weathered

Well traveled

Released 

From yonder horizon

Surrendered

Set free

.

Going places

To someday connect

Words encapsulated

Bouncing on waves

Suppressed through storms

Soul’s expressions

Half authored

Sealed for safety

Embracing the journey

.

To one day

Be lifted from the sands

Uncorked

Released

Reflected

Reaching

Gracious hands.

Turn and Face the Strange

The spirit of David Bowie was humming fiercely last Saturday evening as I ambled through the crowds at my high school reunion. The length and breadth of thirty five years evaporated as faces once again became familiar and friendships reconnected. It was a delightful and simultaneously awkward experience, stepping through a crease in time and trying to pick up people’s storylines while having skipped an abundance of their lives’ chapters.
Entering the bustling restaurant / pub / outdoor patio, it had been decades since I had seen virtually any of my former classmates. With the exception of following a few friends’ posts on facebook for the past couple years, I hadn’t laid eyes on these folks since The Love Boat, M*A*S*H, and Fantasy Island were ruling the ratings on network television. 
We had been instructed to look for a set of tables with green and white balloons attached, somewhere near the back of the building. A waitress directed me to a section where she believed several of my classmates had already gathered. As I approached I thought, “good lord, I have no idea who any of those folks are!” But I’m a social butterfly, so I walked in ready to chat it up, even if I would have happened upon a complete group of strangers. 
I was warmly greeted and welcomed, and within moments, familiar faces came into view. Hair styles and wardrobe fashions had changed (thankfully) over the years, but the eyes of my old friends rekindled memories from our past. In many ways, it felt like going home.
Now I’m a praying man, and I had asked a few times in the preceding days to go into the event with a giving spirit. Go to encourage. Go to celebrate. Go to enjoy. I realize this mindset helps me set aside the desire to entertain comparisons. As Teddy Roosevelt said “comparison is the thief of joy” and I’ve found that it is usually accompanied by creeping anxieties. This peace allowed me to genuinely enjoy my reunited classmates, exploring and celebrating their journeys. I was enthralled by how they used their gifts and talents to build beautiful families and fulfilling careers. I was in awe of roads they had travelled; obstacles, discouragement, illnesses and tragedies they had overcome; and challenges they had courageously embarked on. And while I missed being a closer part of their lives over the past few decades, I was grateful for the opportunity to reconnect, and the prospect of perhaps being a closer part of some of their futures.  
So much has changed over the years, and yet foundations were still intact. Introverts were still in many ways thoughtfully quiet, and delightfully engaged. Chatterboxes like myself flitted about, trying to engage in as many conversations as one could pollinate in a short evening. We had each matured through life’s bumps and travails, but emerged stronger and hopefully a bit wiser, refined by the journey. The high school memories of young bodies and vibrant personas had morphed into resilient hearts and toughened characters. 
We had undergone the ch-ch-changes that Bowie crooned about, changed by time, and perhaps able to trace some of its’ meandering, persistent, relentless forward progress. We turned to face the strange, and caught glimpses of ourselves. No longer fakers, but somehow refined, genuine, versions of our celebrated youth.

Damn Near Manute Bol.


With the exception of a maternity ward or most elementary schools, you’re hard pressed to avoid encountering someone who has a meaningful message or memory inscribed in the form of a tattoo. While still being ink-free, I am fascinated by the droves of people in my everyday circles who emblazon inspiration upon their bodies. And since I genuinely love people, I find myself drawn to their stories. I’m curious about their ink inscriptions, and the backstory behind each tattoo. From time to time, I hope to honor those people, and their unique stories, right here.
Damn Near Manute Bol.
-Stories in Ink: 8.5.17
You’ll likely encounter Kacper (pronounced Casper) working at the park district where he oversees the rental of kayaks, canoes, and fishing equipment to be used in the park’s waters. I was taken by his quiet demeanor, yet obvious strength of character. He was articulate, helpful, and obviously has still waters of his own that run deep. On his right bicep he wears the phrase:
damn near Manute Bol
Now I’m pretty sure my friend Kacper was born after Manute retired from basketball in 1995, and it was likely not Bol’s athletic career that inspired the tattoo. Apparently the reference comes from a song by Mick Jenkins, but the phrase points to some of the specific traits that Bol possessed. 
Listed at 7’7″, he was one of the two tallest men to ever play in the National Basketball Association, and was arguably the greatest shot blocker in the history of the league. Despite his imposing size, he was a gentle giant, and made his real impact off the court, as a giant-hearted humanitarian. 
Bol used his celebrity to play hockey, get in the boxing ring, and suit up as a horse jockey, all in an effort to raise funds and awareness to help build schools and promote peace in his native country, the war torn Sudan. He spent all of his wealth and energies to that end, overcoming obstacles and blocking shots to help open doors and opportunities for legions of people that came after him. It is no wonder that the name Manute means “special blessing”.
Bol tended his family’s cattle during his childhood. He often told others that he once killed a lion with a spear after it had attacked his cows. He was an extraordinary individual, of whom friend Charles Barkley once said “If everyone in the world was a Manute Bol, it’s a world I’d want to live in.”
damn near Manute Bol
This seems like a genuinely purposeful life to aspire to, and when you meet Kacper, you’ll quickly notice he is a formidable young man. Not because his physique is towering, but instead his spirit is stout, and his dreams are vast. Like Bol, he isn’t afraid of obstacles, but instead welcomes the challenges ahead, as he makes his own indelible impact on the world around him.