Performing life as an act of love

This guy right here is a mixed martial arts fighter named Justin Wren.

This is also him.

Filming with Beyond Creative in Missouri today for a national Anti-bullying campaign in schools 🙂

A photo posted by Justin "The Viking" Wren (@thebigpygmy) on

And if you need a size comparison, he's the dude in jeans here, picking up that other giant fighter.

He's 28 years old, and is now fighting professionally for the first time in five years. That time off? It wasn't an injury. It wasn't a suspension. It was a time of building a life of love.

Let's look at more pictures. Like one of him tickling pygmy children in the Congo.

It's pretty easy to be the tickle fight champion when it's 2-1 #FightForTheForgotten

A photo posted by Justin "The Viking" Wren (@thebigpygmy) on

Or showing the pygmy people photos of themselves for the first time.

Seeing pics of themselves for the FIRST time! #fightfortheforgotten

A photo posted by Justin "The Viking" Wren (@thebigpygmy) on

Or having his hair done.

That's fun. Let's see video of that.

Or as long as we're sharing videos, how about the first time the people he's helping saw a white guy?

Wren quit fighting through what probably could have been his strongest years — his mid-20s — to start a nonprofit to help the Mbuti Pygmy people get clean water. Fight for the Forgotten and its partner, Water4, dig wells to draw clean water for a people who are enslaved. Workers go to the fields for oppressors to earn two bananas a day to share among families of four — it's just enough food to keep them healthy enough to work, and it keeps them coming back to work because they need the food.

These are people who are still using army ants to stitch wounds — they have the ants bite the wound, then break off the body, leaving the fangs in to act as staples.

Wren has suffered malaria, parasites and other tropical diseases. His organization employs 17 people full time, but has dismissed more than that to find the right people — people who can survive dense jungle for a month or two at a time, return to the U.S. for a couple of weeks to recover, then go back.

He's back to fighting so that he can raise further awareness, and he's a partner in a documentary on his journeys.

He was on Joe Rogan's podcast this week (he's been on before), and around the one hour, 20 minute mark, he renders Rogan pretty much speechless. It's really amazing listening to Wren talk with such passion and humility, especially while Rogan explains to him that in a few generations, he's going to enter tribal mythology. As a giant, white, hairy myth.


From Wren's Kickstarter campaign.

If you're looking for more love, you should also listen to Kevin Rose's discussion with Scott Harrison of charity:water, which I've mentioned before here.

Now, the question I pose to you is: Could you love anything this much?

First half marathon diary, Weeks 11-12

Happy Monday, friends!

Well, Week 11 was kinda crappy to start. On Wednesday, I was scheduled for five miles and gave up after 4.3. On Thursday, I was scheduled for four, but ran three — though I did average under 10 minutes per mile for those three. After 16 hours in the car Friday, though, I did eight strong miles in Central New York.

Week 12, I was lucky enough to do five runs in four different cities, and I shuffled the days and mileage. I was scheduled for four miles Tuesday, six Wednesday, four Thursday, nine Saturday and a recovery run Sunday. Instead, I ran four Monday in Western Massachusetts, nine Wednesday in Central New York, six Friday in Charleston and four Saturday back in Savannah, with my recovery run also in Savannah.

Most impressive in all that, apart from running on vacation food and lots of travel, is that I ran nearly two full miles longer than I did in Week 10, adding only two minutes to my time. I'm sure the pace will slack this coming week, putting me on the road longer, since I'll be running in 80-plus degree weather with 90-plus percent humidity instead of the 65-degree temperatures and 30 percent humidity I ran in up north. But onward we go.

Links

Me on Runkeeper
More running diary
Rock 'n' Roll Savannah
Training schedule

Stats

Miles logged last week: 25.47
Time logged last week: 4:38:57
Weeks until race: 11
Weight: 158

Sweaty Josh picture of the week

2015-08-15 09.24.58

First half marathon diary, Week 10

Happy Monday, friends!

Normally the first time I do a distance it's a struggle, I'm unsure about how it's going to go. I wind up slugging through with my pacing all over the place and hopefully not feeling awful. This week was different. Eight miles for the first time went smoothly (if slowly), with the fastest and slowest miles being 52 seconds apart (compare that to last week, when the difference between my fastest and slowest miles over a seven-mile run was about 3:20). I'm excited to be traveling next week. I'm not sure what my time Internet access will be like, so if there's not a Week 11, all the numbers will come in the Week 12 diary.

Links

Me on Runkeeper
More running diary
Rock 'n' Roll Savannah
Training schedule

Stats

Miles logged last week: 23.6
Time logged last week: 4:36:18
Weeks until race: 13
Weight: 161

Sweaty Josh picture of the week

2015-08-08 13.04.41

First half marathon diary, Week 9

Happy Monday, friends!

It was a great week! No walking at all, slightly higher mileage than last week but almost 20 minutes less time on the road. It's great that, as a beginner, the improvements seem to come quickly and are quite large.

Links

Me on Runkeeper
More running diary
Rock 'n' Roll Savannah
Training schedule

Stats

Miles logged last week: 21.3
Time logged last week: 4:05:58
Weeks until race: 14
Weight: 162

Sweaty Josh picture of the week

2015-08-01 12.58.56

First half marathon diary, Week 8

Happy Monday, friends!

OK, we blew it early in the week with diet, but cleaned it up and had three great runs out of five. Next week better, I promise! Hopefully much less time on the road for the same number of miles. Five miles should definitely not be taking me longer than six miles usually does!

Links

Me on Runkeeper
More running diary
Rock 'n' Roll Savannah
Training schedule

Stats

Miles logged last week: 21.11
Time logged last week: 4:24:57
Weeks until race: 15
Weight: 164

Sweaty Josh picture of the week

2015-07-24 15.43.31

Book meme: Would you rather…

11741139_10153528531589923_9051852871951378570_o
Some light reading for a recent Thursday afternoon

Well, I don't usually respond to memes, but I like me some books, so thanks, Mitch, for the tag and getting me back to thinking about books. I think the last time I responded to a meme, it was also about books. And like that time, I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you're looking for blogging ideas, by all means...

Here we go, then.

Would you rather only read trilogies or only read standalones?

I think trilogies are lazy, either on the part of the author, or the part of the reader. I enjoy series, and I enjoy recurring characters — I'm nearly through the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes books, and I enjoy Agatha Christie's Poirot books and Anne Rice's vampire series, but a trilogy would come out to roughly 1,000 pages, usually, and I think that's a fine length for a single book.

Putting out three books of 300-ish pages instead of a single 1,000-page book says to me you're either too scared to put that much work into a single product, or you think readers can't handle that much product, or you're an intermediary making extra money off someone's else's creative output. Or you're a reader who can't stand to think about picking up a big book (in the photo above, that brown hardcover in the center comes in at 1,125 pages, and the other books are there primarily for reference).

Would you rather only read male or female authors?

No, but I tend to read more male authors, for a couple of reasons. One is that we tend, as a species, to gravitate toward people who are more like us. As a male, I would naturally gravitate toward other males, particularly in my nonfiction reading. Also, since a lot of nonfiction I'm reading is on Freemasonry and you have to be male to be a Freemason, it stands to reason most books I'm reading on the subject are authored by men.

Would you rather shop at Barnes and Noble or Amazon?

I would rather browse at Barnes & Noble and buy at Amazon; I really like the "other people bought" feature of online shopping, and Amazon does it well. I'd rather browse and shop at an independent bookshop, preferably used, but hey, when the meme hands you a dichotomy...

Would you rather books were made into TV shows or movies?

I don't care. It takes the average person more like 8 or 10 hours to read a book than the 2 or 3 hours a movie can take up, or the 23 hours or so a moderately successful TV show can cover over 2-3 seasons. So, whatever. This is about books, and I like books.

Would you rather read only five pages per day or five books per week?

I'd rather read five pages a day, think about them, discuss them and incorporate the information into my life. If I read five books a week consistently, I'd be even more of a hermit than I already am.

More: 3 places to get free books »

Would you rather be a professional author or reviewer?

They're the same thing. I've been a reviewer. You have to write stuff, and you get paid to do so. That makes you a professional author. That said, given the opportunity, I'd rather be the reviewed than the reviewer. I've come to recognize that as a reviewer, you hold the power to make someone feel really bad about themselves for putting hundreds of hours of creativity and hard work into something. It's a power that's easily abused.

Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?

A bookseller, maybe. I'd rather not be either, truth be told, but some people have to go to a library. People self-select to walk into a shop, and as an independent bookseller, interesting people tend to go out of their way to walk into your shop.

Would you rather read only your favorite genre, or every other genre but your favorite?

I can't handle the false dichotomy here. If you ever limited what I could read, I'd probably stop reading altogether. Part of the glory of it is the freedom to read whatever I want.

Would you rather only read ebooks or physical books?

I read both, and also listen to audiobooks. When I first read an ebook, I was surprised to have enjoyed the ebook format, but noted that I also really like the way the weight shifts from heavy in the right hand to heavy in the left hand as you move through a physical book. At this point, though, I tend to have at least one of each format going, and often more.

I go to bed late — after 3 a.m. many nights — and the light from my iPad is much less shocking to my already-sleeping wife than if I walked in and turned on my bedside lamp. I also have the benefit of being able to read a really thick book on the iPad without having to worry about dropping a 1,000-page hardcover on my face as I doze.

I'm also a big fan of audiobooks. Now that my runs are crossing the hour threshold three times a week, it's easy to work through an audiobook every couple of weeks during a time I definitely wouldn't be able to read.

First half marathon diary, Week 7

Happy Monday, friends!

Phew. A little later than usual today, but you know how sometimes life happens while we make plans. As expected, did a little less distance and a little less time on the road than last week, since the recovery run is supposed to taper and no 5K this week. So...

I seem to pace my short runs well; my recovery run wound up at 2.38 miles, with the first two splits at 11:08 each and the last bit a little faster (mostly I just wanted to get home). My long run for the week, however (6.2 miles), featured an 8:58 third mile and a 12:32 fourth mile. I know that a lot of that was most of my third mile was done on even concrete while the rest featured uneven brick, curbs and the like. Since my goal is "finish," maybe I don't need to worry about pacing at all, so long as I can keep going.

This coming week, things change up to five runs instead of four, with one medium distance instead of two, and three short distances instead of one. Anyway. Onward for the rest of the day.

Links

Me on Runkeeper
More running diary
Rock 'n' Roll Savannah
Training schedule

Stats

Miles logged last week: 18.69
Time logged last week: 3:27:23
Weeks until race: 16
Weight: 164

Sweaty Josh picture of the week

T0q6xpwfz3q5Ce8_o_nUU4f80LGTdojR_ksY7TdBrYE

Control your next step: Move forward


You know, this doesn't only apply to running. This is really about getting out of bed and pushing through every day, whatever your challenges are.

Some of you know I'm training for a half marathon in November. I get it. Thousands of people do these every year — maybe it's hundreds of thousands. I have a friend who, after suffering a foot injury in 2014, is looking to complete 15 of them this year. To qualify for the competition division in the Boston Marathon, people need to run a full marathon faster than my projected half marathon time. For many people, a half marathon is no big deal.

But it turns out it kind of is. It's a giant mental challenge. I'm not even to half that distance yet, and I'm already running more hours in a week than I typically drive. You know what else is a giant mental challenge? Life.

Tuesdays are my first run of the week, and a week ago Tuesday, I had five miles on my calendar. I really had to push, especially the last three-quarters of a mile or so. I felt good about getting past the temptation to walk for a bit, but in general I was giving myself a mental beating about it. I had other things to do, though, and I knew I'd need some of that brain power for the evening, so I let it go.

The next day, Wednesday, is typically a day off, but I'd already decided to change up my schedule for the week, so I went back out for another five-mile run. Two and a half miles in, I was feeling good, and I came to the realization that it didn't matter what yesterday's run felt like. It didn't even matter what the first mile of today's run felt like, or even the last step. Once the step had been taken, it was done. I couldn't take it again. I could only worry about the next step, and then the next one after that. I couldn't even worry about what happened in ten steps — I had nine steps to go before then, and I had to take each one of those as they came.

It wound up being a great run.

By that point in the week, the podcasts I typically listen to had started to pile up for the week. And they were all about pulling yourself together and doing what's next and not making a big deal out of what you just did. Almost all of them, in fact.

For your listening pleasure (no, really, this all converged in the same week; thanks, universe, for giving me an idea then clobbering me over the head with it a few times):

Seth Godin tells Brian Koppelman it's easier, sometimes, to keep failing, to not take the steps required for success because if you do succeed, then you'll have to deal with that success. Example: Do you have a manuscript under your arm? Go ahead, don't submit it for publication. You can keep having the excuse that you can't get it published.

Joe Rogan had Jon Ronson on, discussing some of Ronson's old documentaries, which really required him to do some crazy stuff, like infiltrate "secret societies" (I tend to prefer "societies with secrets" as a term, I guess), and his new book about public shaming. Realize, though, that to be publicly shamed, you have to have really taken a bold step in public.

Tim Ferriss talked to Ret. Gen. Stan McChrystal and his former aide-de-camp Chris Fussell about the mental toughness required to be a great leader. They also touch on the difference between impressing authority and impressing your peers — McChrystal found himself in considerable amounts of trouble at West Point (where for punishment they basically make you pace to waste time you don't have), but he always got really high peer reviews, and he turned out to be a great military leader and a successful entrepreneur.

Marc Maron spoke to transwoman Laura Jane Grace, who fronts the punk band Against Me!, about dealing with her identity, transitioning from a man to a woman while maintaining the same role in the same band, and what it means to "sell out" — that is, dealing with your success vs. changing to become successful.

Duncan Trussell talks to Marc Maron about what it was like to talk to a sitting president in his garage. Maron's garage, not the president's. And Maron's response is basically that it was exciting, but he woke up the next morning and still went back to work.

Robert Johnson talked to Joseph James about making movies, specifically the start of creating the second film of a planned "The Freemason" trilogy. It doesn't matter what the trilogy is about, though. The first film had a very limited release and made most of its money on screenings, but James is hoping for a wider release for the second film, including getting it into theaters. The discussion is really about following the calling to create, and what it takes to make that happen.

So, what's your next step? I'm not sure what mine is yet, but I know not only that I can control it, but that it's all I can control.

First half marathon diary, Week 6

Happy Monday, friends!

Really good week this week. In four runs, I had two road distance PRs (one of them was also farther than I've done on the treadmill) and three duration PRs. I finished out the week with a 5K for a recovery run. I'll go a little less distance this week, since the recovery runs taper down. It was nice mixing up the running days a little. I might mess around with my lifting routine this coming week, try some bodyweight work and such, just to mix it up there while I get back to Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday runs, before I go up to five runs per week the following week.

Links

Summer Sizzler 5K
Me on Runkeeper
More running diary
Rock 'n' Roll Savannah
Training schedule

Stats

Miles logged last week: 19.47
Time logged last week: 3:40:33
Weeks until race: 17
Weight: 165

Sweaty Josh picture of the week

NkAEje1JB0g3fGTJqIw0twZd5C2isSnxSF3QMgFijrU