Healthy Lungs

“All men think all men mortal but themselves.” – Edward Young

Forever Young by Italian photographer Francesco Romoli

Forever Young by Italian photographer Francesco Romoli

Emily Walsh, Community Outreach Director for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, contacted me after she came across Rite2Run and asked if I’d be willing to help spread the word about a cause she is passionate about. Her friend and fellow-mom, Heather, is an eight-year mesothelioma survivor, a completely preventable cancer caused only by asbestos exposure. At the time of diagnosis, Heather had just given birth and was told she only had fifteen months to live. Since then, she’s adopted a new outlook on preventative health and made it her mission to increase asbestos awareness.

The reason Emily’s email resonated with me is because I spent my formative years working in a shipyard, an environment with one of the highest concentrations of asbestos. Many of my friends died of mesothelioma; in fact, I was at a funeral for my former boss last week. Working in such an unhealthy environment is one of the reasons I began endurance running at such a young age, before marathons became a fad. I considered running long distances as a way to clean out my lungs out at the end of a workshift. I’ll be sixty this summer and don’t plan to stop until I drop.

Beyond my personal history, I was out to dinner with my buddy Billy recently and was bending his ear about this nagging hip injury I’ve been trying to rehab. I’m going on and on about how I haven’t run since December, and what a drag it is both physically and mentally. Billy listened patiently and said, “Man, that sucks.” He meant it, but I felt like an idiot. Billy is in the fight of his life with small cell lung cancer. We all get wake-up calls in life, and my rant to Billy was mine.

When people hear lung cancer, I think it’s common for them to get the image of someone who lives and unhealthy lifestyle, perhaps a heavy smoker. Nothing could be further from the truth in Billy’s case. Billy was diagnosed with lung cancer the week after we cycled ninety miles from Philadelphia to Wildwood, New Jersey. We hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail together at Hawk Mountain and the Delaware Water Gap. He is a triathlete, outdoorsman and kayaker.

Emily shared the following facts everyone should know about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma:

-   Asbestos is still not banned in the United States? Roughly 30 million pounds are used each year.

-   More than 30 years after its peak use, asbestos exposure is still the NUMBER ONE cause of occupational cancer in the United States.

-   Asbestos can still be found in many homes, schools, and commercial and industrial buildings.

-   Navy veterans and shipyard workers are at the greatest risk of developing mesothelioma as asbestos was widely used on Naval ships and in shipyards.

-   Asbestos fibers are small enough to be invisible to the naked eye.

-   Asbestos was once used in more than 30,000 consumer products including household items such as toasters and hair dryers, some of which may still be in use.

-   NO AMOUNT of asbestos exposure is safe.

To read more about Heather’s story: Stay healthy, my friends!

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Back on My Feet

“When it comes time to die, make sure all you got to do is die.” – Jim ElliotRunners - Sketch

Back on My Feet has dual meaning–my running team in Philadelphia and my return to the trails after a nagging hip injury. This morning’s slow two-mile run down Broad Street with my buddy Andrew was my first since I fell on the ice in December. After more than forty years on the trails, fourteen marathons and countless other races, I never thought a two-mile run could be so exciting.

This was the longest I’ve gone without running since my last knee surgery more than five years ago, and I was reminded of how impatient a patient I am.  Approaching my sixtieth, I’m afraid to stop because I know how long it takes to get back into condition. So I look to the positive.

I’ve become more committed to yoga and am more flexible than I’ve been my entire life. I cycle more which strengthens the quadriceps and hamstrings. And I began an unplanned rehab program–rehabbing houses in the city. Sound crazy?

Rehabbing houses isn’t a training routine you will find in popular running literature. But at its core, rehabbing houses requires carrying eighty-pound bags of concrete up and down stairs, mixing mortar, lifting drywall, climbing ladders, and other forms of strenuous physical labor. It’s similar to the approach I described in My Blue-collar Marathon Training Program that appeared in Runner’s World in January. In the article I wrote:

“As a shipyard foreman working on aircraft carriers, I would climb ladders hundreds of feet high every day. Up and down and up I would climb—seven levels down from the hanger deck to the tanks below and 13 decks up to the top of the mast. The only way to inspect the three-feet-high water and oil tanks in the bottom of the ship was to walk hundreds of feet in a squatted position, which strengthened my legs and glutes like no program that even the most sadistic personal trainer could devise. I would climb into a pressure vessel through an 18-inch manhole to weld metals pre-heated to 400 degrees. It was the ultimate extreme heat endurance conditioning. Suddenly it hit me—my job had been my training program.”

So that’s the formula I used for this rehab: yoga, cycling and manual labor. Now I need to put in the miles and get to that first ultra by the end of 2014.

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Art of Running, Part XVI – Manayunk

“When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments: tenderness for what his is, and respect for what he may become.” – Louis Pasteur

Glass art mural with Manayunk arch bridge in background.

Glass art mural with Manayunk arch bridge in background.

Run, Cycle or Walk—The Best Way to Discover New Places was a tribute to the modes of travel that are conducive with discovering new places, or growing appreciation for everyday surroundings. As I rehab this vexing hip injury, I’m discovering new things in the city where I’ve lived my entire life that I missed while even running. What I’m learning is the more you slow down, the more you discover—you observe more cycling than driving, and notice even more when running. When you walk you don’t miss a thing.

Main Street Manayunk

Main Street Manayunk

This post should be titled Art of Walking, but what the hell. I continue to discover art all around the city I was born and raised, Philadelphia. Manayunk, a neighborhood along the Schyulkill River that dates back to William Penn in 1685, is a former manufacturing and textile center that is now one of the many city’s gentrified neighborhoods. It is an eclectic community where blue-collar families live side-by-side with young professionals with pubs where bus drivers and constructions workers hoist a stout with artists and entrepreneurs.

Schyulkill River Trail.

Schyulkill River Trail.

I walked the Manayunk towpath, part of the Schyulkill River Trail that stretches from center city into Chester County. Come along and see the many colorful murals, works of art and beautiful architecture.

Towpath on the way out of Manayunk.

Towpath on the way out of Manayunk.

Bridge mural.

Bridge mural.

More bridge murals.

More bridge murals.

Glass and ceramic bird art mural.

Glass and ceramic bird art mural.

Close up.

Close up.

Back on the towpath by the canal into town.

Back on the towpath by the canal into town.

Another mural and Manayunk Bridge.

Another mural and Manayunk Bridge.

Pretzel Park sculpture.

Pretzel Park sculpture.

Who can resist a peanut butter and jelly cheeseburger and beer at Lucky's Last Chance after a long walk?

Who can resist a peanut butter and jelly cheeseburger and beer at Lucky’s Last Chance after a long walk?

Runner - Sketch

Posted in Art of Running, Running, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Wellness Series – New Venture for 2014

My most recent venture is a family affair, a collaboration with my daughter Colleen on a wellness series for Saint Anthony Messenger that began in January with an article titled The Skinny on Wellness. There will be a new wellness topic in the magazine each of the following six months. Topics thus far have included Eat Nutritionally, Move Your Body, Reset, and Live Organically. The objective of the series is to improve readers’ overall wellness.

I may be a lifelong runner and author of a memoir about the marathon, but Colleen is the brains on this project. She is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist, Certified Wellness Coach, former gymnastic coach, and all around health enthusiast. She walks the walk, and talks the talk. We’ve done many races and cycling events together, including the Tour de Shore from Philadelphia to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Saint Anthony Messenger requires a subscription to view their online magazine, however they have provided Reset as a public domain article. I will link other articles to Rite2Run as they become available.

I’m appreciative to the editors at Saint Anthony Messenger for the opportunity to share information on the topic of wellness with their readers, and I am fortunate to work with my wonderful and enthusiastic daughter. Now don’t I sound like a proud father?


Posted in Articles, Health, Running, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Climb for Billy

“Youth has to do with spirit, not age.” – Henry Miller

A few weeks ago I mentioned that a buddy of mine was fighting lung cancer, now I’m going to put a face to the story. Billy and I go way back, like to elementary school. Billy and his wife, Marion, moved into an apartment upstairs from my wife and I after we married. We both raised kids, and are now marrying them off. In July we cycled 90 miles from Philly to Wildwood, New Jersey, and the following week he was diagnosed with Non Small Cell Lung Cancer.

Billy’s daughter is participating in the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb because breathing shouldn’t be an uphill climb. I am asking for your support because…

  • Lung disease is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and is responsible for one in seven deaths.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.
  • Asthma is the number one chronic disease of children.
  • COPD currently affects 10.2 million Americans.
  • Air Pollution poisons the lungs of over 60% of Americans each day.

These are the facts. The crisis is real. The American Lung Association needs your help.

Join Billy’s daughters Kristin and Blair, and wife Marion in the Fight for Air Climb on 03/29/2014 at Three Logan Square, Philadelphia. Go to If you would like to join the team, you may need to create your own password or use the password “holubec”.

Kristin’s team, Holubec’s Hunnies, will be one of hundreds competing to make it to the top of the Three Logan Square in this vertical marathon. It won’t be easy, but if you are up to the challenge, breathe in, step up and get ready to experience the climb of your life. You can join Kristin’s team, but if you can’t climb, consider making a tax-deductible donation to her Fight for Air Climb team by visiting her Personal Page.

For more than 100 years, the American Lung Association has been the guardian of healthy lungs and clean air. Every dollar raised enables the American Lung Association to continue its mission to save lives by promoting lung health and preventing lung disease. Every dollar makes a difference.

I’m betting Billy will win this battle. My reason? Because he’s a brute. We hike, cycle, run, and drink Guinness together. Need I say more?


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A Little Help From My Friends

“I get by with a little help from my friends.” – The Beatles

When the Beatles celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their visit to America and Ringo sang  A Little Help From My Friends, I thought about my many friends in the blogosphere. So I decided to give a Shout Out to my fellow-bloggers who inspire me–my cyber friends who labor at the keyboard as I do.

Rite2Run might be grounded in running, but the bloggers I follow span the spectrum–from running to vegetarian cooking to writing to photography to poetry to art. I was thinking of organizing them by category, but then I thought, Nah! Here is the short list of bloggers I follow who make me want to run, hike, dig, cycle, eat and of course write:

FullMoonRunner - Energetic, honest, passionate young woman running writer with the best running logo of any blog I follow.

Sophie’s Foodie Files - A splendid Belgium cook with simply the healthiest, wholesomest, most sumptuous recipes ever, many of them vegetarian and gluten-free.

Move, Eat, Create - Shannon is a health nut, vegetarian and runner with an honest and refreshing voice that always makes me looking forward to her next post.

RunWriteDig - Chuck is a runner, writer and organic gardener, and wonderful humanitarian to top it off.

Life on a Bike and Other Fab Things - LB rides a Harley and shoots photos of her wonderfully scenic adventures.

Great American Landscape - Rick Braveheart is a professional photographer who captures unforgettable outdoor shots of some of the most scenic treasures in America.

Urban Wallet - New York spray paint artist Ray Ferrer striking works. His subjects range from Jim Morrison to Marilyn Monroe, from a subway car to a typewriter. My favorite Intuition.

Christian Mihai - Young Romanian writer explores the many aspects of writing and the life of an artist.

Boy in a Hat - Twenty-two year old Romanian high school drop out who writes provocative prose.

Steep Climbs - Aaron blogs about his cycling adventures, and most recently his challenge to rehab from a debilitating injury.

Hiking Angeles Forest - Kyle takes his readers on adventures along the mountain trails of Angeles Forest

I’m a Runner and So Can You - Andy is a Boston runner from my generation with a passion for running as strong as my own.

Outside Reading - Martin is a sub-4 hour marathoner and professor of American Literature with a bent on Walt Whitman.

In the Deed - Mark transcends running to explore art, food, pubs, craft beer and more. Who could resist?

Run Hemingway Run - How could I not follow a runner named Hemingway?

Ron Scuba Divers Wild Life - Wild, artsie photos from around the globe.

I believe that a personal play list says a lot about a person’s personality and wonder if the same is true about the blogs a person follows.

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“You throw an anchor into the future you want to build, and you pull yourself along by the chain.” – John O’NealBuddha Beach - Trees

The fifth most viewed post on Rite2Run is Balance on Buddha Beach, about a magical place my wife and I stumbled upon a couple of years ago in Red Rock Country–Sadona, Arizona. We were hiking along Oak Creek in the shadow of Cathedral Rock and when we rounded a bend were mesmerized by a stunning field of balanced rocks–Buddha Beach. The sight inspired me to write that post two years ago, and I find today that balance is a theme we should continually practice in our lives, especially when life seems to be spinning out of control.

Buddha Beach - FieldIt’s common to get wrapped up in life–work, social commitments, your avocation or passion. Every day we’re confronted with choices–work or play, study or exercise, chores or relax. But when you find yourself leaning to far to the side of work, study and chores and not enough toward exercise, play and relaxing, it’s time to slow down, examine your values and refocus your energy. Here are a few considerations that will help refocus your life and bring calm, happiness and wholeness:

  • Take time to examine commitments in the context of your wellbeing. Recognize the difference between commitments that are fulfilling and those that cause stress. Learn to say no!
  • Look at your job through a different lens. One specific task may skew your perception of your entire job as more stressful than it really is. Having an honest conversation with your boss or coworker can lower stress, and lead to change. Prioritize!
  • Schedule leisure time into your week the same way you would work and other commitments. I tell runners to carry their running gear with them and run before they get home from work. It makes a huge difference for both your physical and mental condition.

Buddha Beach - Oak CreekI haven’t been able to run since I fell on the ice in December, and then a personal issue interfered with writing for the past couple of months. It’s been unsettling to say the least, but also a learning experience. Now that I’m forced to pause from the two things that drive me, I’m  finding it is also refreshing.

So give it a try. Refocus your life and restore priorities that continually serve your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Rock formations at Buddha Beach on a downed tree with Cathedral Rock in the background.

Rock formations at Buddha Beach on a downed tree with Cathedral Rock in the background.

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