Journey of Gratitude

Posted: June 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

I recently completed a journey that was long overdue.  It has been 37 years since I saw someone that had a significant impact on my life.  A phone call, card or e-mail seemed so inadequate so I decided to ride my BMW motorcycle 18 hours to Madisonville, Kentucky to visit him for a few short hours.

This journey actually began in 1979 when I was approaching the final year of my United States Air Force enlistment.  I had been stationed at the Tactical Air Command Headquarters at Langley Air Force Base when I was given orders to spend my final year at a remote assignment at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

I was settled into a wonderful and comfortable life and being sent to South Korea under far more harsh conditions didn’t seem positive on any level.  That changed as soon as I arrived in South Korea and met Master Sergeant Jim Lantrip.  Although small in stature, he was huge in spirit and personality and made an immediate impression on me.

We shared the same job in the Air Force and spent time performing those responsibilities.  He led by example and if there was a skirmish, he was the first to depart and run toward the action.  His natural leadership ability inspired everyone to follow him…no questions asked.

He also became my martial arts instruction.  He was an Olympic caliber judo champion and is the toughest person I have ever met, but with a quiet and unassuming demeanor.  If you were ever in a fight you wanted him on your side.

Jim Lantrip

Once his duty assignment was complete in South Korea he returned to the United States to finish his USAF career.  I was discharged from the Air Force in 1980 and we  went on with our lives…but his spirit never left me.

When I faced my biggest challenges I looked to him and the example he taught me and so many others.  He instilled in me a belief that I could handle anything and should never back down from a challenge or adversity.  I received my spirit for chasing big dreams and major challenges from him.

After I reconnected with him recently I shared this with him.  I’m not sure he believed me and I didn’t sense I was very persuasive so I decided I needed to see him in person.

I finally had a weekend without commitments so I notified him that I would be riding my motorcycle to Kentucky for a quick visit.  As I rode through Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Kentucky, I reflected on every moment I shared with him and how I would convey the impact he had on my life.

But first, I had to contend with extreme weather conditions as I rode through torrential rain in my home state of West Virginia.  I contemplated getting a hotel as the conditions made seeing the highway difficult.  But I had business at hand and a very tight timeline.  I learned the following day that 23 West Virginian’s lost their lives due to flooding that resulted from the storm.

I was 3 hours from Jim’s house when I departed Lexington, Kentucky.  The sun was just rising and the fog was lifting as I rode past Manchester Farm.

Manchester Farm

Several jockeys were already on the track warming up their young thoroughbreds.  I sensed it was going to be a special day.  With 200 miles remaining I enjoyed the Blue Grass Parkway entirely by myself.  The motor of the BMW was humming perfectly and I was finding it difficult containing my emotions.

When I pulled into Jim’s driveway he was waiting for me.  He was wearing his Air Force shirt and I immediately felt the past 37 years completely disappear.  I quickly removed my helmet, shook his hand and embraced him.  The power of that moment truly is indescribable.  I met his wonderful wife, Peggy, and we caught up before heading to breakfast with several of his friends.

Although I had been on my motorcycle for 18 hours we couldn’t wait to share a ride together.  Temperatures were soaring into the 90’s but I wanted to explore western Kentucky.  We rode a ferry across the Ohio River and into Illinois, not too far from my birthplace in Carmi, Illinois.

Jim Lantrip III

We were finally alone and enjoyed a wonderful dinner together that evening.  It was the perfect time to share my feelings  about the impact he had on me.  He taught me the value of hard work, discipline, determination and discipline.  I can only hope that he realizes that I am just one of so many that have been inspired by his example.  True to form, he mentioned he didn’t realize he was having such an impact on others.

Yes, it took quite an effort to make this journey.  But any journey where you are expressing gratitude to someone so special…is worth every moment!

Chasing My Limits

Posted: January 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

I have been drawn to and fascinated by exploring my endurance limits from an early age.

When I was 10 years old I road my single speed bike from my hometown of Buckhannon, West Virginia to Audra State Park near Belington.  It was 46 miles round trip and took most of the day.  It was 1968, a year filled with triumphs and tragedies, and I was feeling the need to sort through all that was happening in our country.

North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive against the United States in South Vietnam.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy had both been assassinated within 2 months of one another and I was trying to figure out what was going on in the world.

Riding my bike provided the solace to reconcile the thoughts and emotions that were coursing within me.  On a beautiful Saturday morning I embarked on this jouney just after breakfast, fueled more by anticipation and curiosity of whether I could actually complete this ride.  I didn’t tell anyone, including my parents, that I was attempting this ride.  It was a time when all kids left home just after breakfast and didn’t return until dinner or when the street lights came on.

I didn’t pack food and soon realized the benefits of proper nutrition and the challenges of hypoglycemia.  Audra State Park is an absolutely beautiful destination and where I learned to swim in the deep pools of the Middle Fork River.  I didn’t stay long when I arrived for fear I wouldn’t arrive home before dark.

The trip back seemed much longer than the first half and I arrived back in Buckhannon completely exhausted.  I immediately went to the local IGA grocery store and purchased the largest package of cookies on the shelf.  I was filled with an incredible sense of accomplishment and developed an appetitie for testing my limits.

Fast forward 45 years to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and the need for two wheeled adventure struck again.  So many years later the need to reconcile the confusion of why something so tragic and unconscionable had occurred.

Following is an article that was written about my most recent adventure.

Muhr Travels 12,000 Miles in ‘Journey of a Lifetime’

By Tony Boiardi, Reporter

A Grafton man recently completed an amazing feat, circumnavigating the United States in just over two weeks on his 2002 BMW R1150R motorcycle.

Richard ‘Rick’ Muhr, a marathon training coach for the Boston Marathon, took it upon himself to test his physical and psychological limits in a 12,000 mile trip this past July.

“Testing my limits was definitely the primary reason for attempting this ride,” commented Muhr.  “I have always been drawn to the extreme in any arena I enter.”

And testing his limits is exactly what Muhr did.  Attempting a ride of such magnitude is an impressive feat in itself, but try riding 1500 miles in 23 hours as well as part of an attempt to ride coast to coast in less than 50 hours.  Utilizing his physical aptitude from training runners for the Boston Marathon, Muhr logged over 1,000 miles almost every day.

Many endurance motorcyclists attempt this feat, but few accomplish it.  Muhr said he reached the 1500 mile mark in 23 hours of the first 40 hours of a transcontinental trip from Jacksonville, Florida to San Ysidro, California.

“It took a lot out of me to push the limits to this extreme right out of the gate in Jacksonville.” He said, “I was in Texas when I surpassed the 1500 mile mark and it was 4:00 a.m..

Carrying nothing but a messenger back over his shoulder, Muhr left behind all luxuries, including rain gear.  Of the 30 states Muhr passed through along his trip, he encountered rain in 21 of them.

Muhr, 55, says he has been riding motorcycles for 46 years, receiving his first motorcycle at the age of 9.  Always a lover of movement and exploration, Muhr says motorcycling has allowed him to experience many new areas.

Muhr survived on Gatorade and energy bars for most of his ride.  Time was crucial at each fuel stop, so he would eat while refueling his bike.  Muhr lost 15 pounds during the excursion.

The trip included completing the coveted “Four Corners Tour,” where a rider is required to ride to the extreme four corners of the United States.  Staring in Madawaska, Maine, Muhr traveled south to Key West, Florida, west to San Ysidro, California and then north to Blaine, Washington in just over 8 days.

Muhr rode 1100 miles from Grafton to Madawaska, Maine in 17 hours.  Afterwards he rode from Grafton to Key West in 34 hours, stopping briefly in Christiansburg, Virginia due to inclement weather that prevented him from seeing the lines on the highway and forced him to stop.  During his trip, Muhr was also attempting to ride coast to coast in less than 50 hours.

“I rode from Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego, California in just over 40 hours,” said Muhr.  “ I didn’t sleep for 46 consecutive hours and only stopped to refuel my motorcycle 12 times.”

He then rode non-stop from San Diego to Blaine, Washington in 26 hours straight.

His entire ride was almost for naught when his bag of receipts, cash and credit cards almost fell off his bike.  “Receipts are everything when completing a ride of this magnitude,” explained Muhr, as they provide proof of the time, location, and mileage on the motorcycle.

“I have heard horror stories of riders leaving their receipts at a fuel stop,” he said.

While riding through Texas, Muhr felt something hit his left foot.  Reaching down, Muhr discovered that the bag containing the receipts had fallen out of a zippered pocket.

“My entire trip would not have counted because I didn’t have the required paperwork to provide the proof,” Muhr said.

“I continue to count my blessings for averting that disaster.”

Disaster almost struck for a second time while in Texas.  Muhr stopped at a closed gas station and went through his normal refueling procedure.  After completing refueling, he hit the receipt button and the message “SEE CASHIER” lit up.

“My heart sank because I desperately needed the receipt, it was 4:00 a.m., and the station didn’t open until 6:00 a.m.,” Muhr explained.  “I moved to another pump and was only able to add 10 cents of fuel.  Again I received the “SEE CASHIER” message.”

With time running out on his 24-hour deadline, Muhr rode to the next exit and refueled again.  The station was closed but he was able to convince the attendant, who said she was running the morning books and would not be done for an hour, to provide a receipt.

Muhr waited anxiously for the next hour, fearing falling asleep as he might not have woken up.  He eventually retrieved both receipts but lost the two precious hours that would have allowed him to break the 40-hour mark.

According to Muhr, things became incredibly challenging once he hit the desert and temperatures began surpassing 124 degrees.

“I was at the 33 hour point and I really had to dig deep to stay awake, tolerate the heat and make it to San Diego,” commented Muhr.  “I was in an extremely altered state and feel extremely fortunate to have weathered that storm.”

Shortly after arriving home, Muhr said to his wife, Lori LeClaire Muhr, that he would never attempt something similar, not even for a million dollars.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done…no exceptions,” he said.

Yet within two weeks of returning home, he began researching the 2014 Cannonball Run and the 2015 Iron Butt Rally.  The rides include traveling from Key West to Seattle, Washington on a pre-1930 motorcycle and riding 11,000 miles in 11 days, respectively.

Completing the “Four Corners” journey was a monumentally emotional experience for Muhr.

“When I took the final exit in Blaine…I was extremely emotional,” explained Muhr. “I thought about all the people that I love who are no longer here.  They taught me to enjoy the small things in life and to chase my dreams.”

He says circumstances are never likely to be perfect, so people much accept that and just get on with chasing their dreams.  The whole experience left Muhr with feelings of pride, accomplishment and inspiration.

“When I am sitting in a nursing home later in life, I may not know my name but I will darn sure remember this ride!”

Rick's Ride 026

The best runners I have trained (regardless of time) are those that effectively manage the unexpected in training and on race day.

We tend to operate at our best when everything goes according to plan.  However, 5 months of training for a marathon is wrought with the challenges of managing the unexpected.  This is an inevitable consequence of preparing for something as significant as the Boston Marathon.

A positive attitude is the best insurance against being derailed by the unexpected.  The challenge may be as simple as ignoring your watch if it isn’t operating properly or as complex as an unexpected storm or getting lost during a run.

Becoming easily frustrated can turn a manageable situation into a crisis.  Anticipating potential problems in advance and being flexible and positive in your response will ensure you make the most of a challenging situation.

Disaster preparedness and management is as important to your marathon success as your actual running.  Focus on developing the ability to handle and manage stress and you be rewarded with a meaningful marathon experience.

 

 

 

 

The Promise Of Tomorrow

Posted: December 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

You Have What It Takes

Last night was the Marathon Coalition kick-off for the 2016 Boston Marathon and the beginning of my 20th year of coaching charity runners.

I mentioned to the nearly 200 runners the next 4.5 months would be one of the most meaningful periods in their lives.  Each year I am blessed to experience the transformation that occurs from this evening until they cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond!

As I looked into the crowd of runners and staff members of the 19 charities of the 2016 Marathon Coalition team, I could literally feel the nervousness, anticipation and the determination to provide hope and opportunity to people who have gone far too long without both.

I am blessed to play a very small role in the significant goal of completing the Boston Marathon and making such a considerable difference in the lives of others and the world.

Beyond providing hope and opportunity, this group is also literally providing the gift of life.  A runner from Tufts Medial Center approached me at the end of the evening and mentioned she wouldn’t be able to attend many of our Saturday trainings because she wanted to attend activities of her 5-year-old daughter who is battling lymphoma.

Tufts Medical Center has been instrumental in keeping her daughter alive and she’s committed to reciprocating by running the Boston Marathon to raise funds for their mission. I cannot think of a better training to miss training that enjoying the life of someone who understands how precious it is and can so easily be taken.

I never take for granted the opportunity to join such a small group of determined and committed runners in their journey to serve others.  It is truly one of the greatest blessings of my life.

As I offered my closing remarks, I encouraged each person to take time to reflect on why they are embarking on this journey, what they want to get out of it and, most importantly, what they are willing to invest in the effort.

There is very little more compelling, powerful and inspirational than a group of people committed to the promise of tomorrow!

P.S. Photo provided my two-time Marathon Coalition runner Stephanie Cave.

2016 Boston Marathon

Posted: September 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

2015 Boston Marathon

This is the time of year that prospective Boston Marathon charities are notified by the Boston Athletic Association and John Hancock whether they will receive charity bibs for the 2016 Boston Marathon.

I begin recieving inquiries from these charities once they begin researching  coaching options.  I feel blessed the Marathon Coalition has such a positive reputation within the Boston Marathon community and these charities entrust us with providing the coaching support and inspiration to prepare their runners for the journey from Hopkinton to Boston.

This entire journey of empowerment would not have been possible without the decades of support I have received from the Boston Athletic Association and John Hancock.  I never take their trust and confidence in me and the Marathon Coalition to embrace the values of their charity program for granted.

I have always felt that nothing significant is ever accomplished alone so I would like to thank all the runners that I have had the honor and privilege of coaching the past 20 years.  You have inspired me to pursue my dreams and shown me that NOTHING is stronger than the human spirit, particularly when it is tested.

I would also like to thank the charities that have been with the Marathon Coalition from it’s inception and their extremely dedicated staff:

  • Adoption and Foster Care Mentoring
  • Best Buddies
  • Boston Debate League
  • Boston Museum of Science
  • Boston Partners in Education
  • Bottom Line
  • Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester
  • Boys & Girls Club of Newton
  • Camp Shriver
  • City Year Boston
  • College Bound Dorchester
  • Dream Big!
  • Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts
  • Jumpstart
  • Mass Mentoring Partnership
  • New England Center For Children
  • Summer Search
  • Team Access
  • The ALLY Foundation
  • The Esplanade Association
  • The Greg Hill Foundation
  • Tufts Medical Center
  • uAspire

I have also been blessed with the passion and commitment that the Marathon Coalition coaching staff has provided our runners:

  • Coach Greg Guarriello
  • Coach Paul Crockett
  • Coach Cara Gilman
  • Dr. Grayson Kimball

The Marathon Coalition truly empowers others through running!

It’s important to occasionally conduct a complete assessment of your training program to determine areas of challenge and opportunity. Runners, by nature, are task-oriented and can focus almost exclusively on completing daily workouts.

Determine where you need to improve (i.e., nutrition, strength training, post-run recovery, flexibility, etc.) and devote more time and effort into those areas.

There are greater benefits to scaling the duration of a run back and conducting dynamic movements prior to a run to prepare your body for the rigors of running. At the very least, complete your first mile of every run 60-90 seconds slower than you expect to average for the remaining miles. This allows your body to ‘gradually’ warm up and to establish a rhythm of efficiency through a higher cadence and relaxed and rhythmic breathing. Start too fast and you go anaerobic and never find a comfortable rhythm.

Most runners start fast and finish slow. Reverse that trend and you’ll improve your fitness and reduce the chance of an injury.

Post-Marathon Blues

Posted: April 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

The Boston Marathon was just a week ago but it seems so much longer.  Many runners will be returning to work today after a week of celebration and school vacation.  The aftermath of significant accomplishments can be so difficult.  The effort to fill this huge void can seem as significant as the effort to accomplish it.

While the memory of the entire journey will last a lifetime, the reality of life needs to be managed now.  I’m inspired by so many that have already contacted me about training for the 2016 Boston Marathon and the charities that are interested in joining the Marathon Coalition.  The significance of the Boston Marathon has assumed meteoric proportions after the tragedy of 2013 and the amazing celebration of 2014.  This year’s marathon was more than a celebration of running, it was a celebration of life…not only for Boston but the entire world.

The memories of the 2015 Boston Marathon will sustain me until we begin training in late November.   Social media will allow me to stay in contact with those I respect and care about most.  As is the case with life, training for the 2016 Boston Marathon will be here sooner than we realize.

I’ve learned the best way to gain a sense of control over the passing of time is simply to live in the moment.  I try not to look too far down the road for the next big event.  Living in the moment of every second of the day, regardless of whether I’m enjoying it or not, despite whether it seems significant or not, allows me to feel every moment  is precious…because it is!

So, while there seems to also be a huge void in my life this morning, I’m going to focus on living in the moment, savoring the experience of training 175 of the most amazing people who I’ve had the honor and privilege of sharing the past 5 months with, celebrating that we raised $1.5 million for 17 Boston-based charities and allowing the memories of this journey to sustain me until we meet again.

Day Of Reflection

Posted: April 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

On the second anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings I am reminded of the importance of enjoying every moment of life.  This human spirit is so resilient and strong, particularly when it is tested.

I have been particularly reflective as the 119th Boston Marathon approaches and my 19th year as a charity running coach draws to a close.  The Boston Marathon has changed so much in the past two years.  I’ve witnessed a greater commitment by everyone, not only the runners, to celebrate all that the Boston Marathon represents.

The marathon is the culmination of months of difficult training in the worst New England winter in decades.  Runners have emerged from this challenging training season stronger, more determined and eager to celebrate their accomplishments.  They are physically and mentally stronger, more determined to live with greater purpose and more inspired to serve others.

As I stand at Mile 15 on Marathon Monday, I am blessed to experience the best of the human spirit.  I share thousands of extremely special moments with runners that I’ve coached the past two decades.  I am honored when they run into my arms and share how they are feeling.  I’m energized by the power of their embraces.  I’m inspired by their determination…it’s the most special day of the year!

On this special anniversary I am inspired by those that have emerged from this tragedy stronger and more determined to show the world that we are all far more capable of  accomplishing significant achievements than we realize.

Today is a tribute to the power of the human spirit!

Sweet Anticipation

Posted: April 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

Now that the Boston Marathon is less than one week away, the emotional roller coaster is at full speed. It’s the convergence of two diametrically opposed emotions. The excitement of the approaching Boston Marathon is palpable, the sadness of an incredible journey is drawing to a close.

We shouldn’t be disappointed that this journey is coming to an end.  We should be inspired that it ever happened.

When you cross the finish line next Monday it truly shouldn’t be the end of this journey.  It should be the first step in a much longer journey of believing you can make a significant difference in the world!

Being a running coach is very similar to being a teacher…I’m on the verge of seeing my students graduate.  Sports seem to evoke the strongest emotions in me.  I get emotional when I see Rider on the Lacrosse field with ‘MUHR’ taped to the back of his helmet.  I simply cannot contain my emotions when a Marathon Coalition runner passes me on the Boston Marathon course.

I’ve witnessed the incredible impact the Boston Marathon has on runners and that’s the perfect capstone to a training season. Looking back to the first TEAM meeting seems so long ago. I’ve witnessed a complete transformation from a group of people who were uncertain whether they could complete the 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston to a unified group of runners filled with anticipation and confidence. Nervousness and uncertainty are constant companions leading up to the marathon…even for veteran marathoners.

Now is the time to set doubt aside and BELIEVE you have this.  Monday is your day…the opportunity to show the world what you are capable of achieving.  Nothing is stronger or more compelling than the human spirit, particularly when it is tested.  That will be in full display on Monday!

Team Spirit

Posted: April 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It it the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” -Andrew Carnegie.

Running is essentially an individual pursuit…it’s one of the primary reasons I was initially drawn to it. I didn’t have to rely on anyone else. I could simply put on my running shoes whenever I liked and go wherever I wanted. In races, I didn’t have to rely on a teammate to make the shot, hit the ball or catch the pass. Whether I did extremely well or was an abysmal failure, I was entirely responsible.

My perspective on the individual aspect of running began to change soon after I became a running coach for Team In Training. I realized that nothing significant in life, particularly training for and running a marathon, is ever accomplished alone. The support and encouragement a runner receives during training and along the marathon course is as important as the perfect pass in a team sport.

Charity runners are undoubtedly part of a TEAM committed to one goal…raising as much money as possible to make a significant difference in the lives of others…to give hope and opportunity to those that have gone far too long without both.   I’ve been so inspired by the example of the thousands of charity runners that I’ve coached who place their commitment to the mission of their respective charity about their individual achievement.

I have never been more proud to be on a team than being on Team In Training and the Marathon Coalition TEAM! I am honored to be the coach of so many determined and committed runners. Their example of selflessness inspires me to give more of myself at every opportunity. The team spirit that exists on the Marathon Coalition TEAM has helped me to think less of myself and my personal goals and far more about how I can help others achieve their goals.

Being a coach of charity runners is one of the greatest gifts I’ve received…I rank it up there with my wife and children!

Go TEAM!