New York, New York!

I want to be a part of it….

Tomorrow (Thursday), Rachel and I will be heading up to New York City for the weekend. We scored tickets to the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Broadway show and we are super excited! The show is a two-part play that will take place on Thursday and Friday evenings.

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Besides going to the show, we will have a few days to walk around one of our favorite cities. We even got tickets to a Yankees baseball game on Saturday afternoon. It’s been over 7 years since we’ve been to “The Big Apple,” so we are excited for sure!

Make sure to follow me on social media to stay up-to-date on all my amazing adventures this weekend!

Instagram: @allenwhittaker
Twitter: @allenwhittaker
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allenwhittaker

Small Blessings…

One of my goals for the month of April is to take some time each week and reconnect with old friends I haven’t seen/reached out to in a while. I mentioned how easy it is to get comfortable with the circle of people around you, but I wanted to make sure I stay connected with those friends who mean just as much to me.

So on Tuesday, I ended up spending almost an hour on the phone catching up with one of my college buddies and groomsmen, Andy Cartee. Andy is one of those friends that even though we don’t talk as much as we use to, as soon as we catch up it’s like no time has passed. Those friends/people in your life are few and far between.

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College Seniors – 1998

I’m so very grateful for Andy. In fact, when my mom passed away 5 years ago, he was one of the first people I called. We probably hadn’t talked in 6 months, but he was immediately one of the people I knew I wanted to call.

Friends/people like Andy don’t come around very often. It’s why he will always be one of my best friends. Talking to Andy on Tuesday continued to confirm this for me. I’m so grateful for people like that in my life. And I’m so glad I reached out to him. It reminded me that I need to be better about staying in touch with those people who will be lifelong friends. 

In fact, I saw this with Rachel this past Sunday. We celebrated her parents’ birthdays (they share the same birthday!) and several family friends came over to their house. One of Rachel’s oldest friends, Kaylan, was there with her family. I’m pretty sure Rachel and Kaylan haven’t seen each other in over a year. I watched the two of them catch up and it made my heart happy. I know how much Kaylan means to Rachel. I believe Kaylan will be one of those lifelong friends for my wife. 

So…it only took a few minutes…but reaching out to Andy was such a blessing for me this week. I look forward to continuing this goal for the month of April and beyond!

Knoxville Half Marathon Recap (Part Two – Guest Post)

Rachel takes over the blog today for the second half of the Knoxville Half Marathon. Check out part one here

After exploring Knoxville on Saturday, we got plenty of sleep in preparation for a 7:30 race start the next morning. Luckily, our hotel was a five-minute walk to the starting line, so we didn’t have to push ourselves to leave early. It was also fortunate that the nearby Knoxville Convention Center was open for runners, so we didn’t have to wait in the cold.

Having been born in Knoxville (I only lived there for about five months before we moved to Georgia), I was excited to see parts of the city I hadn’t seen before. When we visited the city growing up it was almost exclusively for football games, and we mostly stuck to the University of Tennessee campus, so I wasn’t familiar with the rest of the city.

The race started near the downtown area in the shadow of the Sunsphere (or there would’ve been a shadow if it had been sunny…). We meandered through the campus a bit, before running along the Tennessee River. As Allen commented, there wasn’t much crowd support during this part of the race, but that was coming!

We then ran on Kingston Pike, which is the like the Peachtree (pick your street name) of Knoxville. It also felt like church row – there were tons along this part of the route. We then turned into the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood, where we were for the next several miles.

Not only was there more crowd support in this part of the course, but there were more hills than I’ve ever encountered during a race. (As you’ll see, the theme of this race is Hills.) It was actually very distracting to have some crowds, signs, costumes, and beautiful homes along this part of the course, so it wasn’t quite as painful as it could’ve been.

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One of the unique things about this particular race is that there were musical acts around each mile marker during the race. I wasn’t particularly impressed with these interludes, but I could see its merits. (I also don’t love country music, so that could be a contributing factor.) My advice to future musical acts is to play either crowd pleasers or more upbeat songs – runners appreciate some motivation!

After we left Sequoyah Hills (see? Hills again), we actually ran through a wooded area, which was nice but not especially exciting. As it had rained the night before, it was also quite wet and muddy (and hilly, let us not forget). I think I would’ve preferred running in a more exciting area, but props to them for mixing it up.

At one point, after we left the more secluded path, we passed the hospital where I was born – and where my dad was born 71 years ago! Obviously we had to document this part of the race, since I hadn’t been there in almost 33 years.

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Toward the end of the race, we made it back onto campus, and it was fun to see some of the areas I remembered visiting as a kid. Let me tell you, these students must get a workout every time they go to class! (Hills, y’all.) Actually, at one point we reached a hill that I finally had to walk – I was exhausted from running up all of the hills to that point.

Finally, we turned a corner and saw Neyland Stadium – the finish line was on the 50-yard line. As soon as we ran into the chute, we saw Smokey – and I had to get a photo, of course. It was fun to run through a stadium where I had spent a lot of Saturdays throughout my childhood.

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All in all, even though the hills were brutal, the race was fun! I was happy to spend some time in my birthplace – and this was a good way to see much of it.

I hope Allen and I can visit again sometime soon, whether we’re going to a football game or not. There’s so much more to the city than I realized, and I’m very proud to say I was born there.

Knoxville Half Marathon Recap (Part One)

A couple of weekends ago, Rachel and I headed up to Knoxville, Tennessee to run the Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon. This race was exciting for 2 different reasons…

  1. Knoxville is Rachel’s birth place and she is a huge Tennessee Football fan. Plus, this race ends on the 50 yard line in Neyland Stadium!
  2. One of my running goals is to run a half or full marathon in every state, and this race checked off the state of Tennessee.

We headed out on Saturday morning from Atlanta. Knoxville is only a little over 3 hours away, so we decided to only stay one night up there. Once we got into Knoxville (a little after lunchtime), we checked in to our hotel and made our way over to the race expo. We ended up getting a hotel literally less than 5 minutes from the expo and starting line. This turned out to be a great decision!

The expo was fairly small, but actually had a pretty decent amount of booths to check out. Once we grabbed our race numbers and shirts, we made our way around the expo and actually picked up a few additional things. Sometimes expo can be hit or miss, but I thought this was one of the more successful ones for us.

After the expo, we headed over to the Sunsphere, which looks like a giant microphone. The Sunsphere is one of the only things left from the 1982 World’s Fair, which was hosted in Knoxville. We took the elevator to the top and got a cool 360° view of the area around us. It was really cool!

After the Sunsphere, we dropped our stuff in our hotel room and headed back out to explore more of the downtown Knoxville area. We walked over to Market Square, which has quite a few stores and restaurants. One of the nice things about the day is we were expecting quite a bit of rain, but the weather held off (for the most part). We were able to shop/sightsee for several hours. And although it was a little colder than we would have liked, it could have been much worse.

After a few hours, we found an awesome pizza place – The Tomato Head – and grabbed an early dinner before heading back towards the hotel. Since the NCAA Basketball Tourney was still going on, we decided to call it an early evening and rest up in the hotel room. Fortunately, we didn’t have a brutally early morning, as the race had a 7:30 am start time and we were only a 5 minute walk from the starting line. After a few more hours, we headed on to bed. It was time to rest up for the Knoxville Half Marathon!

Stayed tuned for part two of the Knoxville Half Marathon Recap with Rachel taking over the reigns!

 

5 Years…

Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of my mom’s passing. 5 years. Doesn’t even seem possible that it’s been 5 years since I’ve seen or even talked to her. In some ways it feels like yesterday and in other ways, it feels like decades ago…

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As I think back over the past 5 years, so much has happened with our family. Just a few major things off the top of my head…

  • Rachel and I bought a house and moved to Brookhaven.
  • After 20 years of Youth Ministry, I moved into a new role in the church world as Director of Activities.
  • Rachel was promoted (twice) and now is a Director at her company.
  • Julie (my sister) had another baby girl (Emma).
  • Will (my younger brother) received his doctorate.
  • Dad met a wonderful lady, Suzanne, and they were married last August.
  • Our grandmother (Billie) and step-grandfather (Reeves) passed away.
  • My brother-in-law (PJ) and sister-in-law (Deanna) both lost parents as well.
  • Warren (my older brother) and Melissa now have 2 kids in High School, including one who will graduate in May and head off to college next year.

And honestly…these are just a few things off the top of my head.

Since it was 5 years yesterday, I ended up spending the day down in Auburn with my sister, Julie, and her family. It was a welcome distraction and a wonderful time just being with Julie’s family, including 3 of my favorite nieces. My mother loved our family so much and I know her number one priority was making sure we were all happy and that our family remained strong. I can honestly say we are as strong as ever. And though every day I wish she were still with us, I am so thankful for the legacy she left in all of us.

Here are a few pictures from my time in Auburn yesterday.

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Allen’s 2018 Running Journey…So Far

Happy April everyone! As you may remember from my last blog post April Goals…one of my goals for April is to blog at least 2-3 times a week. Welcome to my first post of this week/month!

So…I wanted to start the month off with catching everyone up on what’s been going on in my running world in 2018.

  • 100+ Monthly Running Miles  One of my typical running goals for each month is to hit around 100 miles for the month. Some months I get above 100 and some months I hit just below that number. So far I’m 2 for 3 in regards to hitting above 100 miles. (In fairness, February does only have 28 days…) As of this morning, I’m at 295 miles for 2018.
  • 2018 Races After a busy race schedule in 2017, I intentionally decided to make 2018 a little lighter on the races. Of course…I started off this year by completing my second Dopey Challenge (48.6 miles over 4 days) at Walt Disney World, which doesn’t necessarily seem like a lighter schedule. But, after Dopey, I didn’t run another race until 2 weekends ago in Knoxville, Tennessee for the Knoxville Half Marathon. (Recap of the race weekend coming soon!) I still have several races lined up for 2018, but, at the moment, I don’t have another race scheduled until the July 4th Peachtree Road Race. I’m enjoying having a lighter race schedule and I know our bank account appreciates it, too!
  • Increased Speed/Pace Over the past 6 months or so, I’ve seen my overall pace increase to levels I haven’t seen in quite a few years. Running injury free (especially in the knees) helps this tremendously…which leads to the next thing…
  • Running Injuries Unfortunately…and this is the part of running that can be super frustrating…knee issues have plagued me for the past 3 years. And 2018 is no exception. In the last week (really since the Knoxville Half Marathon), my left knee has begun to bother me quite a bit. My overall pace and distance has dropped the last 3 runs. And I fear I may need to take some take off to allow the knees to rest and heal. This (as my wife will tell you) is not something I’m good at. And honestly one of my April goals was to hit 100 miles again for the month…and that seems more and more unlikely. Fortunately, I don’t have any races scheduled over the next few months, so I do have time to allow my knee to fully recover.

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All in all, my 2018 running journey has seen its share of ups and downs. But I’m grateful to be able to get out there and get in the miles. Looking forward to getting healthy and finishing the rest of the year strong!

April Goals

It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post on my monthly goals/dreams. So as the weather is finally turning warmer…let’s take a look at my goals for the month of April.

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  • Blog Posts Honestly, I’ve been super busy with work and life, and the blog has taken a backseat. My first goal for April is to blog 2-3 times a week. I’ve actually got several things I want to talk about, so hopefully this will be an easy goal to hit.
  • Running April is one of my favorite months for running. Typically the weather is almost perfect. Not too cold or too hot. My next goal is to hit at least 100 miles for the month. Now, I’ll be honest, this isn’t that much of a stretch for me, as I typically average 100 miles a month already. So to add more to the goal, I want to try to hit 100 miles for the month, while only running 4 days a week. This will require more longer run days as I really want to use more days for rest or cross training during the week.
  • Reading This has definitely taken a backseat recently. I usually read at least a few books each month, but I have definitely dropped the ball. So my next goal is to finish 3 books in April. I’ve got several books lined up, so I’m ready to tackle this goal head on.
  • Quality Time With Rachel It’s no secret that marriage takes work. Rachel and I are pretty intentional about spending time together…but sometimes the time gets spent just watching TV or sitting around playing on our phones. My next goal is to have some time throughout each week for quality time with my wife. Whether it’s just taking a walk through the park, or spending time talking at Starbucks, I want us to have some time away from all the other distractions around us.
  • Connecting With Friends Another goal of mine is to take some time each week to connect with friends who I haven’t seen/reached out to in a while. It’s super easy to get comfortable with the circle of people around you, but I want to make sure I stay connected with those friends who mean just as much to me.
  • Limited Social Media Time This goal is going to take some work. But I really want to limit the amount of time I’m on social media this month. I’m not trying to stay off it every day…just limit the time I spend on it. I have found myself spending way too much of my day looking at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc…
  • Random Acts Of Kindness My final goal for the month of April is to look for a few ways each week to do a random act of kindness for someone. Not sure exactly what this will look like yet, but I want to take some time each week to make someone’s life a little brighter.

Setting, goal, vision.

Anyways…I’m looking forward to a great month of April. I’ll definitely let you all know how it goes!