Spokane’s Jewish marathoner

Jody Shapiro is part of the small Jewish community in Spokane. As far as I know, he’s the only Jewish runner of the hundreds of people I’ve met in Spokane running clubs.jody at TC 50 (1)

One of the founders of the Manito Running Club, he’s a prime example of how the running lifestyle can be so beneficial. Though a runner in his teens and early twenties, he stopped during his last year of college, and over the course of several years, gained weight until one day in the shower he noticed his belly was sticking out so far he couldn’t see his feet.

He resumed running in his thirties and over time got more and more into it. He started doing marathons and since turning forty, has run four sub-three hour marathons, his best being 2:52:16.

Our 2011 Spokane to Sandpoint relay team. Jody is on the far left. I'm at right, wearing the white T.

Our 2010 Spokane to Sandpoint relay team. Jody is at far left. I’m at right, wearing the white T.

On occasion, after our group runs, topics have come up that touched aspects of Jewish culture, and Jody has been a great resource. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who was Jewish, and my views of Judaism were shaped by things I’d read and watching movies and TV.

Jody with fellow Jewish runner Deena Kastor, Olympic medalist and American women's record holder in the marathon and half-marathon.

At a road runners convention last year, Jody met fellow Jewish runner Deena Kastor, Olympic medalist and American women’s record holder in the marathon and half-marathon.

Among the things Jody has taught me is the meaning and origin of the word Jewish. He says the very first synagogue in ancient Israel had to call themselves something, so they came up with an acronym – Just Enjoying Weekly Interesting Sermons & Hymns.

Most of us know the menorah below is a symbol from Jewish culture, but I didn’t know its meaning. Jody says long ago, way before NASA existed, there was an extreme shortage of kosher food on earth. A Jewish astronaut was sent to each planet of the solar system to search for kosher food. Each candle symbolizes the flame used to light the fuse that blasted the rockets into space.menora-297125 (1)

I’m delighted I’ve become so versed in aspects of Jewish culture. I can have conversations and come across as educated and intelligent. And I know Jody is very happy to share his knowledge and wisdom. I thank him profusely whenever he does, and he always breaks into a smile and has to work hard to stifle joyful laughter.

There’s a zombie in my garage

Don Aslinger, a fellow Flying Irish Running Club member should have read the very first post of this blog.Don racing

(Photo by Benjamin Boldt)

In that post, I explained how zombies attempt to convert runners to their team, and how I’m able to avoid it happening to me. Unfortunately, Don has become a victim.

Don is young, healthy, and a pretty fast runner. For him to fall prey means it could happen to anyone.

At a Halloween party, I got photo-bombed by a fun-loving, goofy Don. He's not like that anymore.

At a Flying Irish Halloween party, I got photo-bombed by a fun-loving, goofy Don. He’s not like that anymore.

This is so sad because Don had an exciting career possibility – acting. This is true – I was watching TV one evening and a commercial came on, and Don was in it. He didn’t have a minor role – he was the featured character. In addition, he was in the below print ad.Don in print ad (1)

Unfortunately, Don was doing a late-night run, turned a corner, and ran straight into a pack of waiting zombies. He fought viciously, but was subdued. His brain was quickly eaten.

There is one bright spot since Don’s zombie transition. Though it seemed his budding acting career was over, it so happens the Syfy channel films a zombie series in Spokane entitled Z Nation. Don was hired as a zombie, and the show’s producers are very happy having an actor who doesn’t have to spend so much time in make-up.Don the zombie

Being a friend of Don, I took it upon myself to care for him and prevent him from attacking others. Don lives in my garage out back, and is always tethered with chains. Our relationship is similar to that of Shaun and Ed in the movie Shaun of the Dead.Garage home

Zombies are easy to care for and somehow, sitting in a garage all day with nothing to do is not mind-numbing for Don. That’s understandable since Don no longer has a mind. However, I allow Don some entertainment. On occasion I let some of his zombie friends come over for cards.Don playing cards (1)

As well, I take Don to Flying Irish runs on Thursdays.Garage door

As you can see in the above photo, I have to bring a rope to keep Don tethered beside me and a club to remind whenever he lunges at someone that the Flying Irish is a social gathering, not dinner.

To prevent yourself from becoming a zombie, I very especially urge you to read my post, Zombies vs. Runners.


Post-storm run scenes

Recently I saw some unusual things when I went running. Less than two blocks from my house, I came across this.Wellesley & Washington

One tree came down on the house, and the other blocked a major arterial. I continued my run and after a couple more blocks, I saw this.smashed car 2

A storm hit Spokane on Nov. 17th with winds that hit 71 mph. Two people were killed by falling trees in separate incidents, and so many fell onto power lines and into power poles, that of the 272,000 households in the two counties in which Spokane and Coeur d’Alene are located, over 200,000 lost power. That’s over 73% of all homes.

A few days after the storm, I was at a Starbucks and Stephanie Moran-Kuest, a fellow running club member came in. Her house was cold and without power, her car had been smashed by a tree, and a news crew was in front of her house. She wasn’t too thrilled with her situation, as you might guess. The car in the below photo isn’t Stephanie’s, but perhaps hers was roughly in the same shape.smashed car1

Among other running club members that suffered damage, one couple had a single tree that smashed both their cars, and another guy had a pipe burst in his freezing home, leaving a few inches of water in his basement.

I was without power for several days, but I have a wood-burning fireplace insert and was able to stay comfortable, I don’t have any large trees in my yard, so my house was undamaged. However, my neighbor across the alley from me took a hit.neighbor's house

Utility crews worked 16-hour days in sub-freezing temperatures, and by Nov. 27th the last home without power in Spokane had it restored. I thought it was an admirable effort. I’ve never worked a 16-hour day in my life. Nor have I been outside in sub-freezing weather for 16 hours straight.

Some residents face bigger problems that will take longer to resolve. I have sympathy for this homeowner on Spokane’s northside.smashed house2



My No. 1 ranked Ethiopian friend

So few people have the chance to become friends with a top-ranked runner. I don’t mean top-ranked in the U.S, or one of the top-ranked. I’m talking No. 1 in the world.

I am fortunate that such a person happens to be active in several Spokane running clubs. Lensa Etana, an Ethiopian runner, trains for her races here in Spokane.Lensa racing

Though easy-going, warm, and likable, she often boasts of her top-ranking, even going as far as wearing outfits in races to let her competitors know who they’re up against. Take a look at the below photo.Lensa - WSE

All right, Lensa isn’t top-ranked for quickness, but you have to agree she’s pretty good at self-deprecating humor. She adopted the moniker, World’s Slowest Ethiopian, after fellow running club members chided her for race times that are very modest for someone from a country known for its outstanding distance runners.

I can relate to Lensa because she seems like someone with a similar background and upbringing, and with no discernible accent, one would think she has lived in Spokane her entire life. But her background is more interesting.

We runners often get together. Lensa, myself and others have breakfast after a very cold morning run.

Lensa, myself and others enjoying breakfast after a very cold morning run.

Her parents, both Ethiopian, met in Ukraine while studying when the Soviet Union and Ethiopia were allied prior to the breakup of the Soviet Bloc. Lensa was born there, but when an opportunity arose to go to Sweden, Lensa’s mother elected to return to Ethiopia where Lensa lived until age nine. She moved to Sweden where her dad, a soil scientist, taught at a university. She attended Swedish schools and graduated from high school there.

Ultimately she came to the U.S. and graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle. She works for a medical reference lab in Spokane.

She is fluent in Swedish, two languages used in Ethiopia, Oromo and Amharic and, of course, English.

Lensa enters plenty of road races, so if you’re ever doing the same in the Spokane area, perhaps you’ll have a brush with fame and run past The World’s Slowest Ethiopian.

Running + sunglasses = cool

Have I been accused of trying to be cool by running with sunglasses? Yes, but instead of admitting it, I said my head swelled during a long period of never taking them off, and I couldn’t get them off.


It’s only in the past few years that I’ve regularly worn sunglasses. I just didn’t think to buy them even though there were occasions I could’ve used a pair.

Now that I wear them regularly, I’ve found that sunglasses and I have extremely short relationships. My longest one lasted almost two years, which is a record by far. Most of them last only a few weeks. My current relationship is the fourth I’ve had this year. I’m not about to hook-up with an attractive, head-turning pair that’ll cost me lots of money. I’d likely walk out of a restaurant, leaving them on the table.

The only problem I have running in sunglasses is the eye pad, the part that rests on the bridge of your nose, sometimes gets slippery when I start perspiring, and they begin to bounce. I find myself adjusting them frequently to prevent it.

As well, when I’m doing a running club run, I’m more likely to leave them behind after the post-run get-together. I lost two pair in quick succession this summer.

However, my newest pair look so good, and I feel so cool running in them, my head really swelled again, and I can’t get them off. Even though this is a little inconvenient when sleeping and showering, the tradeoff is that I’m not losing sunglasses anymore, and I look cool all the time.


I don’t look forward when they go out of style though. I’ve been told that surgery is the only way to have them removed.

The plus side of running injuries

I smugly claimed in a past post that I rarely fall down while running, even in icy conditions. But last month, I took a spill and gave myself a bright and colorful scrape.Arm burn

I was on a trail with Diana Crabtree during a Manito Runners Club run, and as she was telling me about the scar on her knee, suffered in a fall on the trails we were on, I tripped. Quite a coincidence the same experience would suddenly happen as it was being explained to me.

When I got home I poured hydrogen peroxide over my wound. Over the next couple weeks it provided an unexpectedly wonderful experience.

As with previous scrapes, I was tempted to pick. Oddly, I also find giving my picked scabs a thorough look-over is interesting.

I gave in to temptation and picked away. I discovered something great and took things up a notch.scab pieces are tiny

scab pieces-small2

Scab-picking provides entertainment when not much is going on and you’re bored. I really liked peeling off a large, unbroken piece, and having a delicious treat in hand was a super fringe benefit.

As I ate the scabs, I was delighted by the pleasant hints of hydrogen peroxide. I didn’t know an external-use-only medication could impart such wonderful flavor.scab-big piece

The scab has nearly healed, and I’m facing an end to my self-produced tasty snacks. I’m considering falling intentionally on rough terrain. A very large scab would mean a big supply of enjoyable treats.

Perhaps you think it’s strange I eat scabs. I do, too. What I’m really eating is pictured below.Scabs really b. jerky

Next time you eat beef jerky, I apologize if this post causes you to associate it with scab-eating.


How not to die while running

We’ve had very hot weather in Spokane lately. A local airport, Felts Field, recorded ten straight days of highs over 90 degrees, and one day it was 107 degrees (42 C.). This raises an important safety question for runners: When running in very hot weather, what is the most common way that runners end up dead?

If you answered heat stroke, good guess, but you’re wrong. The correct answer is heavy sweating stings the eyes so badly that runners can’t see very well, they go off course and plunge thousands of feet off a sheer cliff.

I lived in southern Japan for a couple years, which has a summer climate similar to the Midwest. The hot and very humid weather causes heavy sweating, and the evaporation rate is so slow. Here’s a photo in which I re-created a finish to one of my runs in Japan.Sweaty JimHonestly, after finishing a run, I was so soaked, you’d think I jumped into a pool. My adversely affected eyes caused me to plunge over a cliff twice, but both times I fortunately got snagged by a branch just below the ledge.

Though I don’t get totally soaked in Spokane’s dry climate, high temps cause me to sweat heavily. I often use sunscreen, and that makes it even worse on the eyes.

For those of you at high risk of heavy sweating and cliff-plunging, here’s a solution I pioneered that keeps perspiration out of the eyes.Jim's headband sponge

Though sponges are cheap, I use the same one for washing my car. And they’re great at cushioning the blow whenever you run into something.

So, don’t let the summer heat stop you from getting in a run!