The Slowest 5K in History

The Slowest 5K in History

I have vowed two things: to never be unfaithful to my wife, and to never run a 5K.

Today was Lola’s Half Marathon in Waconia.  This year’s race was supposed to be special for me since I am now a personal trainer at Safari Island Community Center in Waconia, and I know a number of the great people who live here.

I get special permission from the race director to start the race an hour early as a walker.  This handicap allows me to finish the race with what would be my running peers who work hard to finish a half marathon under 2:20.

Since I am the only person who starts the race an hour early, I always lead the race for the first six miles until everyone else catches up to me.  This year was no exception.  The first two guys who passed me told me that the race was changed to a 5K due to the forecasted rain and possible thunderstorms.  One guy said, that he didn’t travel an hour just to run a 5K, so he was doing the full half marathon anyway.  Exactly!  I ran the 1997 California International Marathon in Sacramento during El Nino where it poured from start to finish, so a little rain didn’t bother me either.  I trained hard to prepare for this race, so I was in it for the long haul.

This year was an exceptionally tough year to train in Minnesota.  (See my post “Another Spring Morning in Minnesota” to get an idea of what I am talking about.)

11 people passed me along the way, so there were at least 12 of us who finished the half marathon today.  In Judaism, a minyan is the quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations.  Since there was more than ten of us who finished the half marathon, this was an official race in my book.  My 63rd half marathon to be exact.

I was thankful that they disassembled the official time clock by the time I arrived at the finish line.  So, I did not get an official time for the 5K.  Therefore, I survived the day without committing the unpardonable sin.  My unofficial time was 3 hours and 19 minutes; not bad for a walking half marathon, but probably the slowest 5K in history.


Broiled Flounder

Broiled Flounder

I usually visit my mother in New York in May, around her birthday.  This year was no exception.  However, this year my wife Cheryl, my daughter Rebecca and my granddaughter Violet came along. We usually just hang out in my mother’s apartment, but we always go out to my mother’s favorite restaurant Blue Bay.  Blue Bay is not the best restaurant in the world, but it is the only place nearby where I can order one of my favorite dishes – broiled flounder.

My mother decided to stay at the apartment, so it would just be me, my wife, my daughter and my granddaughter going out that night.  My wife said, “Let’s go to Lieberman’s Deli.  I would really like to get a corned beef sandwich.”  “Yeah, I would like to eat at Lieberman’s too. The matzoh ball soup is delicious,” my daughter chimed in.  “No way,” I responded, “I want to go to Blue Bay and get broiled flounder.”  Violet was silent.  So off we went to Blue Bay.

The waiter delivered the menus, and there it was in bold letters, “BROILED FLOUNDER”.  I was salivating already.  I ordered first, “I’ll take broiled flounder.”  Everyone else ordered and the waiter went to the kitchen.  I was primed for my favorite meal, and all was well in the world. The waiter returned a minute later and said, “We are out of flounder.” My heart sank as did my appetite.  “That’s what you get for only thinking of yourself,” my wife uttered.  Then Violet spoke up, “Why does grandpa only think of himself, grandma?”

There I was – speechless – caught in the net of my own folly.  The only flounder than got broiled that night was me.  I don’t know if I have learned my lesson or not, but I know that the next time I come to New York with this group I will not be eating broiled flounder.

My redemption came very quickly however.  We attended a family event 30 miles outside of the City the following day, and we stopped at a diner for lunch where my wife got her corned beef sandwich, my daughter got her matzoh ball soup, and I got my flounder.  But the flounder episode did not end there.

The word “flounder” has taken on a new meaning in our family.  For example, when we returned from our trip and loaded our luggage into our car at the airport, I left barely enough room for my daughter to fit her carry-on luggage in the trunk.  When she got into the car she said, “Dad ‘floundered’ again.”  And indeed, I did!  To make amends (not flounder) I put on Chill, her favorite XM station, rather than Watercolors, my favorite XM station.

The truth is there are many opportunities to ‘flounder’ or ‘not flounder’ every day in our interactions with others. When you’re not around other people, it’s easy to not be a flounder. Being around other people can bring out the fish in us – the selfish.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

This the last of three posts related to strength/preference assessments.  I previously shared on the Clifton StrengthsFinder and the Theory of Multiple Intelligence.  There are many other assessments available such as the DISC Assessment and SIMA (System to Identify Motivated Abilities).  The triangle is the strongest geometric shape.  Similarly, using three assessments will provide you with a clearer multi-faceted perspective of your strengths.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was developed by the mother-daughter partnership of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. It is an adaptation of the theory of psychological types produced by Carl Jung. There is a lot of depth in the theory but, at its simplest, it consists of 16 types.

I completed the required training to administer the MBTI, and I have conducted a number of small group training sessions and individual assessment reviews.

At the heart of the Myers Briggs theory are four preferences. It measures whether you prefer to deal with:

  • People and things (Extraversion or “E”), or ideas and information (Introversion or “I”).
  • Facts and reality (Sensing or “S”), or possibilities and potential (Intuition or “N”).
  • Logic and truth (Thinking or “T”), or values and relationship (Feeling or “F”).
  • A lifestyle that is well-structured (Judgment or “J”), or one that goes with the flow (Perception or “P”).

In Myers Briggs theory, for each pair you prefer one style over the other. You combine the letters associated with your preferences to get your Myers Briggs personality type. For example, having preferences for E, S, T and J gives a personality type of ESTJ. Although you have preferences, you still use all eight styles – in the same way that most people are right-handed but they still use both hands.

  • Extraversion and Introversion – The first pair of styles is concerned with the direction of your energy. If you prefer to direct your energy to deal with people, things, situations, or “the outer world”, then your preference is for Extraversion. If you prefer to direct your energy to deal with ideas, information, explanations or beliefs, or “the inner world”, then your preference is for Introversion.
  • Sensing and Intuition – The second pair concerns the type of information/things that you process. If you prefer to deal with facts, what you know, to have clarity, or to describe what you see, then your preference is for Sensing. If you prefer to deal with ideas, look into the unknown, to generate new possibilities or to anticipate what isn’t obvious, then your preference is for Intuition. The letter N is used for intuition because I has already been allocated to Introversion.
  • Thinking and Feeling – The third pair reflects your style of decision-making. If you prefer to decide on the basis of objective logic, using an analytic and detached approach, then your preference is for Thinking. If you prefer to decide using values – i.e. on the basis of what or who you believe is important – then your preference is for Feeling.
  • Judgment and Perception – The final pair describes the type of lifestyle you adopt. If you prefer your life to be planned, stable and organized then your preference is for Judging (not to be confused with ‘Judgmental’, which is quite different). If you prefer to go with the flow, to maintain flexibility and respond to things as they arise, then your preference is for Perception.

When you decide on your preference in each category, you have your own personality type. There are 16 distinct four-letter personality types based on your four preferences. The goal of knowing about personality type is to understand yourself better and appreciate differences between people. As all types are equal, there is no best type.  My type is ISFJ, with a slight preference for I, S and F, and a strong preference for J.

The best reason to choose the MBTI instrument to discover your personality type is that hundreds of studies over the past 40 years have proven the instrument to be both valid and reliable. In other words, it measures what it says it does (validity) and produces the same results when given more than once (reliability). When you want an accurate profile of your personality type, ask if the instrument you plan to use has been validated.

The theory of psychological type was introduced in the 1920s by Carl G. Jung. The MBTI tool was developed in the 1940s by Isabel Briggs Myers and the original research was done in the 1940s and ’50s. This research is ongoing, providing users with updated and new information about psychological type and its applications. Millions of people worldwide have taken the Indicator each year since its first publication in 1962.

For more information on the various types and their impact on relationships, as well as how to take the 93-question assessment from a qualified professional, visit

Here is a link to an interesting article related to Myers-Briggs type and exercise preferences.

Toni St. Pierre

Toni St. Pierre

Katherine Switzer will forever be etched in history as the first woman to complete the all-male Boston Marathon as an official entrant in 1967.  Toni St. Pierre, though less known, played an equally important role to open up opportunities for female athletes.

Toni St. Pierre just wanted to run.

She was a junior at Hopkins Eisenhower High School in 1972 in the same class as my wife Cheryl.  Toni was a good athlete, but the school didn’t have a girls’ cross-country team, and St. Pierre wanted to compete. So she sued.

The American Civil Liberties Union took up her case against the Minnesota State High School League, filing it jointly with Peg Brenden, who was a St. Cloud high school senior who wanted to play tennis.

The case went to trial in the spring of 1972 before U.S. District Judge Miles Lord, the crusty champion of the common citizen. Lord ruled in favor of the girls.

The decision was one of the first in the nation to deal with the issue of equal rights for girls in high school sports and came a few months ahead of federal legislation signed by President Richard Nixon. That law, known as Title IX, prohibits sex discrimination in programs and activities at schools receiving federal funds.

After the landmark ruling, St. Pierre joined the boys’ cross-country, track and Nordic ski teams in high school. During her senior year, she became state champion in the mile and the half-mile, and her speedy half-mile time of 2:18.3 set a national record. In 2006, Hopkins High (Eisenhower closed in the 1980s) inducted her into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

While a student at the College of St. Benedict, she ran with the men’s cross country team at St. John’s because St. Ben’s didn’t have a team.

As an obstetrical nurse with Fairview Health Systems, she also took volunteer trips to Nepal, Vietnam and other developing countries to provide care for pregnant women.

But St. Pierre’s lifelong love of sports never waned. She ran triathlons and marathons, and her Facebook page flagged Jesse Owens as a favorite athlete.

She was aiming for a run at the Boston Marathon before getting sidelined with a pain in her leg, which eventually was diagnosed as a relatively rare malignant cancer of the smooth muscle which led to her premature death in February 2013 at the age of 58.

In his long legal career, Miles Lord took on mining companies for dumping waste into Lake Superior and medical companies for malpractice over the Dalkon Shield IUD. But he considered the girls’ case one of his “proudest decisions,” said Priscilla Lord Faris of her father.

“I had just given birth to my first daughter, and he called and asked what I thought of the case,” she said. “I said, ‘If you can make it so girls can do something other than be cheerleaders, that’d be a good thing.’ It played a big role in opening up all sports for women.”

St. Pierre was honored by the Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day at the Minnesota State Capitol for her role as an advocate for girls’ and women’s sports. The ceremony, which honored seven others, took place four days after she died.

Many history makers have no idea of the importance of their actions at the time.  Katherine Switzer said, “I had no idea I was going to become part of history. I wasn’t running Boston to prove anything; I was just a kid who wanted to run her first marathon.”

Whether my five-year old granddaughter decides to become a marathon runner like her grandfather is yet to be determined and is not really important. At least she has that opportunity now.  As she begins kindergarten this year I am thankful for the world of athletic options that will be available to her in the public school system, thanks to trail blazers like Toni St. Pierre.

(Most of the content of this post came from Toni St. Pierre’s obituary in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper.)


The Back Room

The Back Room

What was going on in this rather dark and mysterious back room?  I had the same question week after week when I stopped by The Depot on Saturday mornings for a coffee break during my ten-mile walk.  Week after week I would see this group of 40 or so people huddled in the dark back room with a glass door which gave me some visibility to what was going on.  It was dark in the sense of being dimly lit.  Finally, one week my curiosity got the best of me and I asked the person behind the counter what was going on in the back room.  It was then that I learned that this was an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  “Hmm – interesting,” I thought.

Then the winter came and my race training season was over for five months, as was my semi-regular weekly pilgrimage to The Depot for my mid walk coffee break.  Then something happened when I resumed my training schedule this March.  Either I gained a little speed, or I got going a few minutes earlier, but I started to arrive at The Depot before the AA meeting was in progress, so I got to see these folks up close and interact a little with them as we waited on line together for our morning joe.  Then they became real people to me and not a mysterious group in the back room of The Depot.

I have never had an issue with alcoholism, neither has anyone in my family or in my inner circle of friends (that I am aware of), so I didn’t know what an “alcoholic” looks like up close, or how they think or act, but this experience brought me to the realization that they look, think and act a lot like you and me.  They come in all shapes and sizes, from various demographics, ethnicities and professions.  One thing stood out though and that is probably two thirds of the people in the back room were men.  I don’t know if men with alcohol problems outnumber woman, but I do know that woman are more likely than men to share intimate things about their lives with each other.

I still don’t know much about alcoholism, and I don’t endorse or disparage any particular treatment program, but I give each of these people credit for facing their issues head on and seeking support and camaraderie each week with other people facing similar issues. So, what appeared to me as a dark back room is actually a meeting place where real people bring real issues to the light.

Whether it is alcohol addiction or some other form of dysfunction or some other area where we are hurting that we can’t overcome on our own (with God’s help), it is healthy to bring our issues to the light and seek help and support from others in a safe environment. Maybe I should call this the front and center room.

Another Spring Morning in Minnesota

Another Spring Morning in Minnesota

Birds chirping, flowers blooming, kids playing outdoors. Not today! Instead I was greeted with a couple of inches of snow for my morning training walk. No problem: “The show must go on”, “No guts, no glory”, “No test, no testimony”, or something like that. Anyway, I have my thoughts and my tunes with me as I begin my trek from Life Time Crosstown to The Depot coffee house.

At 6:15 A.M. except for a squirrel or rabbit, the Bionic Man, a perpetual early riser, is your trail blazer to cut a path as I trudge through the virgin snow on the LRT path to Hopkins. Maybe this will be the day that I throw in the towel early and do the “smart” thing by calling my wife at The Depot to pick me up rather than brave the elements back. Nah – besides I don’t have my cell phone with me.

As I approach Excelsior Boulevard I can see that the Hopkins residents must have prayed that the spring snow would bypass them because I don’t see much snow on the other side of the path. Apparently, they didn’t pray hard enough though because I was greeted by a sheet of ice as I hit the Hopkins side of the trail. At least I had a chance to practice my balance and skating skills for the next ¾ mile until I reached The Depot.

Today I earned my midway cup of coffee and oatmeal cranberry chia cookie. The way back was much easier due to a slight tail wind and that a few other crazies had hit the trail after me making my footing and traction easier on the back nine.

As I drive home several hours later the sun has risen and most of the snow on the road has melted, and no one knows or cares that a bionic trail blazer cut a path in the snow on the LRT path to Hopkins that day. But 19,000 steps later, I feel great, and I am so glad that I didn’t have my cell phone with me.

Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning

Reproofs of instruction are the way of life (Proverbs 6:23)

To learn, you must love discipline;
it is stupid to hate correction. (Proverbs 12:1 NLT)

I went to graduate school in my 40’s, went back to school in my 60’s to learn about personal training, I read 24 books every year, and I follow dozens of blogs so I am a lifelong learner.  Case closed.  Right?  Well, that’s partially true.  However, there are other aspects of lifelong learning which are a bit harder to deal with for an old guy.

Like when your five-year-old granddaughter corrects you for getting impatient with your wife.  “Is that the fruit of the spirit grandpa?” Or how about when you start a new job in a new field and you make every mistake possible in front of your manager?  How do you handle this?  This is all part of being a lifelong learner.

According to the Regent Group, “Continual learning and increased knowledge will promote personal growth, allow you to connect with a broader range of people and keep your mind active, which can have many health benefits including reducing the chance of getting Alzheimer’s.”

This is good, so bring on the books, bring on the classes, bring on the blogs, and yes, bring on the correction too.

Paths to Greatness

Paths to Greatness

There are several paths to greatness in sports.


Ted Williams spent 19 years in the major leagues with a career batting average of .344 which is the sixth best of all time. He also hit for power collecting 521 home runs in his career. Williams was a natural hitter and he is regarded by many as the greatest hitter of all time.  After his playing career was over, Williams managed the Washington Senators for 637 games from 1969–1972, and his team lost more games than it won during his tenure.  He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his athletic performance.


Tommy Lasorda joined the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1949, Lasorda toiled in the minors for years before making his big-league debut in 1954. He spent parts of two seasons with the Dodgers, and following another stint with the Kansas City Athletics in 1956, he returned to the minors for good. As a pitcher, he compiled a major league career record of 0-4 with 6.48 ERA. He went on to manage the Dodgers for 20 years and won two World Series championships in (1981 and 1988), four National League pennants, and eight division titles. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his managerial performance.


I wasn’t very good at skilled sports – baseball, basketball or football.  I never tried hockey, but I still can’t ice skate, so I probably wouldn’t have been good at that. Golf is not my thing either.  Or bowling.  Or fishing.  Or hunting.  My best sport growing up was stickball which didn’t have much value outside of the streets of the Bronx.  I picked up distance running and group fitness in my mid-30’s and found my niche in these sports.


There is a National Distance Running Hall of Fame in Utica, NY that honors those who have contributed to the sport of distance running. Many of those who are inducted have achieved great success as runners, but some members are enshrined for their ability to bring fame and recognition to the sport of running.  I, however, don’t qualify on either criterion.  If there was a Hall of Fame for Group Fitness, I don’t think that I would qualify for it either.  Lifetime’s Katie Haggerty and Kris Wayne certainly would.


So, on all counts, sports performance is not my path to greatness. I am just starting out in my personal training career, so I don’t know yet whether this will be my path to greatness or not.


There is a third path to greatness for athletes that might punch my ticket to the Hall of Fame someday, and that is the media.  Curt Gowdy was neither a player nor a manager, yet he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his performance in broadcasting. Broadcasting is a type of media. Writing is a type of media too. Many athletes move into the broadcast booth when their playing days are over and excel in this medium.


I read an interesting article in the StarTribune newspaper about football great Randy Moss. ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman keeps a list of current players he thinks will be great on TV. The enigmatic self-proclaimed Super Freak never came close to making that list. “This is one of the most shocking career paths I’ve ever seen in this business,” Markman said. “He had the personality, but I never imagined that he would want to do this. I thought he’d just go hunt and fish.”  The 6-4, 215-pound Moss, with his pterodactyl wingspan, sits at the center of the pregame cram session, seeming larger — and sometimes louder — than life. “He is the energy of our show,” Markman said. “It’s infectious, I think.”  “He’s not afraid to just let loose, be silly on the air, and also speak his mind,” said Suzy Kolber, the host of “Monday Night Countdown.” “He’s incredibly smart. He’s also sharp enough to know what not to say on the air.”


I am not a broadcaster, but maybe my path to greatness will be writing.


Some people have two paths to greatness in sports. Randy Moss apparently does. So does Michael Strahan and swimming great Donna de Varona.  Some even have three paths to greatness by excelling in sports performance, management and broadcasting.  Football’s Mike Ditka and basketball’s Nancy Lieberman do.


And there are other paths to greatness beyond sports performance. Eric Liddell, “The Flying Dutchman” from “Chariots of Fire” went from winning an Olympic gold medal to the mission field in China. Fran Tarkenton made the transition from a successful quarterback to a successful businessman. Alan Page became a judge. Then there are athletes such as football’s Jack Kemp and baseball’s Jim Bunning who also made their mark in politics, but I won’t go there.


Tommy Lasorda reflecting on his career stated, “I started in the lowest league in baseball, and I worked my way all the way up to Triple A and then to the big leagues. I never reached the level that I thought I would reach as a player. But that’s the way it goes. So then I started from the bottom as a manager, and I worked my way up to managing the Dodgers for 20 years.”


You never know what your path to greatness will be when you’re starting out.  Even at 65.


Smart Goals

I have been exposed to the concept of SMART goals in the business world, and I have applied them to my fitness goals.  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

A classic example of setting a SMART goal is President Kennedy’s address to Congress in 1962 when he stated, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”  On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. accomplished President Kennedy’s goal.

Two years ago, after a nine year hiatus from racing, I decided to do another 25K road race. I put my stake in the ground and committed to this goal in March by signing up for the Surf The Murph 25K trail run in Savage, MN.  Having done this many times before, I wrote up a training plan to get me from my starting point in March to crossing the finish line in October.  I set SMART milestones to complete a 10 mile walk by Memorial Day, a 12 mile walk by July 4th, and a 15 mile walk by Labor Day.

No sweat (well, maybe a little). Mission accomplished.  It wasn’t like landing on the moon, but I loved the training, the race experience, and crossing the finish line under my time goal.  In fact, this motivated me to set my new current goal: complete two half marathons a year for the next five years to give me a career total of 70 half marathons by the time I reach my 70th birthday.  I completed the first two half marathons last year: one year down, and four to go now.

I have goals beyond my 70th birthday also.  My granddaughter Violet will turn 16 in 2029.  That will also be my 40th year doing group fitness classes. I don’t know what class will be the rave at that time, and what my physical ability will be to keep up, but my goal is to be in the gym with my granddaughter, working out with her on March 3 2029.

The definition of a goal is something that an individual is trying to accomplish; the object or aim of an action.  A more descriptive definition is, “Goals are like magnets that attract us to a higher ground and new horizon. They give our eyes a focus, our mind an aim, and our strength a purpose. Without their pull, we could remain forever stationary, incapable of moving forward . . . A goal is a possibility that fulfills a dream.”

Within the goal-setting literature, three types of goals have been identified: outcome, performance, and process goals (TABLE 4-1).

  • Outcome Goal: In sport, an outcome goal is usually about winning or losing. However, in exercise settings, an outcome goal is usually seen as the end result of some behavior, rather than winning or losing. For example, an outcome goal might be to win a walking challenge with coworkers or to be the first to lose 10 pounds out of a group of friends.
  • Performance Goal: A performance goal specifies end products of performance, but is usually expressed in terms of personal achievement. For example, to lose those 20 pounds, an individual may want to exercise aerobically for 30–40 minutes, three or four times per week, or may want to reduce his or her caloric intake from 3,000 to 2,000 calories per day.
  • Process Goal: Finally, a process goal specifies the processes the individual wants to engage to perform in a satisfactory manner (however that is defined). An example might be keeping the heart rate above 130 beats per minute for 20 minutes of each exercise session. Similarly, to reduce caloric intake, a process goal might be to eat only one serving of food at meals if an individual usually goes back for seconds, or to drink 96 ounces of water each day to reduce appetite.

Outcome goals are a good idea, but they should not be the main focus of a wellness or fitness program because they are out of an individual’s control. Rather, the focus should be on performance and process goals, as these are under the person’s control and help him or her reach the outcome goals.

The chart below is taken from the book “Wellness Coach Behavior Change” published by NASM in 2014. Don’t let Boston Marathon example intimidate you – you can apply the same principles to any goal that you have on your heart to accomplish.