These mountains that they call hills

“Well, we’re stuck here in these hills that they call mountains.”

– Lyrics from Meet Me in Montana

Let’s begin with a summary of a few facts, some established in previous posts and some new:

  • Runners are crazy.
  • I have become one of them.
  • Some people talk to God while they run. My friend Stacy uses her time to listen to praise music and pray. I told her the only praying I can manage when I run is, “God, please don’t let me collapse and die.” (He seems to be listening.)
  • Bruce and I participated in the 10-week women’s running clinic – as trainer and participant, respectively – that culminated in a 5k race in Conway on May 7.
  • Some of the ladies from the women’s clinic “caught the running bug” and wanted to continue after the clinic ended; Bruce agreed to be our coach. We’ve been running the routes of some of the upcoming races.
  • The group is composed of a handful of members of the women’s clinic, the Run for God Bible study and the White River Road Runners. Bruce and I are members of all three, and our hybrid group has become a tight-knit little family unit because of our common goals.
  • Wog means walk/jog. That’s a term used by our Run for God teacher, Phyllis. (For me, running and jogging are interchangeable terms, although they might not be to “serious runners.”)
  • We’ve taken on a mantra: “I love hills … I love hills.” This came out of watching a video at our May 5 prerace pasta party. The young woman in the video completed a marathon, all the while smiling and repeating, “I love hills.” For our group, it started as a joke but has become a mental tool to fool ourselves keep one another motivated.
  • Bruce refers to most hills as “bumps.” But it is a proven fact that Bruce is insane, so no further comment is necessary, except this: He changed his tune slightly after we ran the Army National Guard 5k route Tuesday night in 92-degree heat and 1,000 percent humidity. Now he admits some hills are closer to “humps.”
  • Since I injured my foot, I have been doing more walking than jogging. This leaves enough oxygen in my brain to write blog posts while I walk (although I was running while I wrote my New Year’s Day post – much of it while climbing the hill pictured above).

So … on to these mountains they call hills.

Bruce and I moved here from North Little Rock. From the Park Hill neighborhood. From a street called Cherry Hill. There are plenty of hills in North Little Rock. Now we live in Batesville, home of plenty of hills.

The point is, we know hills.

Until this week, our group had been training on the White River 4-Mile Classic route, which starts and ends downtown on Main Street. The race route is now clockwise, and this is a good thing. When Bruce and I ran the Classic in 2001 and 2002, it was counterclockwise, and the start and finish were both uphill (previously established fact: Ending a road race uphill should be a felony).

The race route isn’t merely a reverse of the old course. It’s now strictly downtown and around west Batesville. This keeps runners off the busy U.S. highway. And, in keeping with future federal statutes (I can dream, can’t I?), both the beginning and the end are downhill.

The hilliest parts are in the neighborhood where my brother and mother’s houses are, so I had wogged those streets many times before we started training for the 4-mile.

Here’s the part I find ironic: The hilliest hill (the one we hate [and by that of course I mean “love,” because we love hills!], the one where I wrote a chunk of my New Year’s Day post) isn’t Hill Street, and it isn’t North Heights. It’s the street that’s difficult going up and going down (it’s hard on your lungs and calves going up, hard on your knees and your sore toe going down). This hill is not a hill to take lightly. It’s not the steepest hill in the neighborhood, but it’s longer – a relentless incline. It’s one where you do some serious talking to Jesus before you reach the top, and then you thank Him when you get there.

But, no, the hill is not North Heights or Hill Street – it’s the hill that connects the hills. It’s Craig Street.

I have renamed it Craig Mountain.

Our pastor in North Little Rock is a mountain climber. He takes church groups to climb Colorado’s “fourteeners” (mountains of at least 14,000 feet), and I believe he has now climbed all 53 of them. Bruce and I went with him in 2001 and climbed the sixth-highest, Uncompahgre.

To say Craig Loibner likes to climb mountains is like saying that I “like” chocolate. It is a huge understatement. His entire family is into this mountain-climbing thing – wife, children, grandchildren, in-laws, outlaws. It seems to be in his blood. It’s one of the many gifts God has given him.

Craig not only is an outdoorsman, he is a gifted teacher, and he doesn’t waste a good gift by going to Colorado merely to climb mountains and sit by the campfire telling stories. He uses each trip, each mountaintop experience, as a teaching tool. He has dedicated his life to teaching others about God, and he is building a legacy.

There’s no telling how many people, young and old, have gone on to do the same because of Craig’s commitment to sharing the good news of Jesus. I could never list for you all the things he taught me in the 16 years I attended Fellowship North, but it would include the ability to take on mountains, both physical and spiritual. (After all, without the hills, we wouldn’t appreciate the flats.)

Bruce and I have loved Craig Loibner and his family for many years. I say a prayer for them every time I traverse that hill … or hump … or mountain.

Craig Loibner would look at Craig Mountain and laugh. For me, it’s a mountain. For him, it would be a mere bump in the journey. He wouldn’t break a sweat.

And thus I dedicate my wogs on this little mountain they call a hill … to Craig and his family.

I'll let you know when the city gets the sign changed.
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