All posts by takingmulligans

Mulligan Moments of 2016 – The End Is Near Edition

The key to a useful mulligan is leaving behind the circumstances that got you wherever you are. Whatever has passed may be important, but it is also no longer relevant. Neither is the impending doom that appears to be threatening you. Again, it may be important to know that’s out there, but it’s even more important to forget that it is — and act with bravery. For in that bravery, it is that amnesia that allows us to succeed in life as it happens.

Even when the end is near. Especially when the end is near. Here are a some well-known folks who faced the end and delivered the successes of a lifetime.  They are now forever enshrined among the Mulligan Moments of 2016.

David Bowie and Leonard Cohen Each of these music innovators recorded and released brilliant albums in the days leading up to their death.  Each had shared their lives with millions of us who followed their long, prodigious musical careers.  They each could have rested on their laurels and let the final days of their lives fill, and justifiably so, with looking back or obsessing about what lay ahead for them.  Instead, they gave us compelling witness to what it means to keep living, keep creating, keep making every shot count.   There was nothing the least bit wrong with what had gotten them to that point in their lives– it wasn’t that kind of mulligan they took.  It was the kind that simply and beautifully said, “That was then, This is now.  And now is all we have to give.”




Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Cubs  Both teams were down 3 games to 1 in their respective championship series.  Both could feel the breath slipping away on the dreams that have haunted their respective fans for ages. The Cavaliers had never won a NBA title and the Cubs hadn’t won a World Series in over 100 years.  Yet they both found out (as did their opponents) that the games that came before mattered– and yet they didn’t matter.   It mattered that they were only one loss from elimination, but it was also irrelevant to the next game.  Just go out and play . And win.  And they did. And did. And did.   They took care of what was in front of them, and the rest took care of itself.




Mulligan Moments of the Year recognize the achievements (large and small), observations (grand and flippant) and contributions (tangible and ephemeral) of people, (famous, infamous, and unknown), that demonstrated the resolve, awareness, good intention and blind luck that occurs when you run like there’s no tomorrow and live like there’s no yesterday.  In short, someone who took a second chance and made it count.   Nominations are still being accepted via all my social media platforms, as follows:

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Mulligan Moments of 2016: Olympic Edition

The Rio Olympics, the biggest stage in sports, is also the first scene of this year’s top Mulligan Moments of 2016.

These are athletes who made their mulligan count when no one was watching– in the immense work and drive it took for them to earn their way to Rio.

The Olympic Refugee Team Composed of 10 athletes who had to flee their native countries because of war and political turmoil, they epitomized what can happen when you stay focused on competing and getting better, rather than dwelling on life’s injustices.   Leading the contingent was Tegla Loroupe,  a former world class runner from Kenya.  According to Ollie Williams of CNN, Loroupe’s foundation held tryouts in Kenya’s Kakuma camp, near the border with Uganda and South Sudan, where five Olympians were identified, all of whom had been at the refugee camp for between 10 and 15 years.   They included Yiech Pur Biel (800m), James Chiengjiek, who fled South Sudan to avoid becoming a child soldier (400m), Paulo Lokoro (1,500m), Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, who came to Kakuma at the age of six and began running at one of the refugee camp’s schools (1,500m), and Rose Lokonyen (800m).

Paul Amotun Lokoro and Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, orginally from South Sudan, took a mulligan on their hardships and turned it into a ticket to Rio to compete in track and field. (Photo: IOC)


The other Olympic Mulligan Moments were brought to our attention by Antoinette Muller of Daily Maverick.

Zahra Nemati A former black belt taekwondo competitor who was paralyzed in a car accident in 2003. Three years later she decided to take up archery and not only won gold medals in the Paralympics, but qualified for the 2016 Summer Games, where she competed for Iran.

Chris Mears, was given a five percent chance to live in 2009 after he ruptured his spleen, lost five pints of blood and was told it was unlikely he would ever dive again. He would later suffer a seven hour seizure and a three day coma. What did he do with his mulligan at the 2016 Games?  Win a gold medal in men’s synchronized 3m springboard for Great Britain.

Need a mulligan? Take a jillion. Or at least two, like US Womens’ Rugby Sevens hero Jillion Potter, who overcame a broken neck and cancer to make it to Rio.

Jillion Potter proved that one mulligan isn’t always enough. When she was just 19, Potter broke her neck playing rugby.  Seven years later, she was won her way onto the Rugby Sevens World Cup team, then discovered a growth under her jaw that proved to be a soft tissue cancer.  Her grit and love of the game fueled her recovery and she used her mulligan to earn a spot on the U.S. Rugy Sevens team in Rio.

William Fox-Pitt competed in four other Olympics prior to Rio as an equestrian rider for Great Britain.  But he needed his mulligan this year most of all.  Ten months prior to the Games, he lay in a coma after a mishap in a cross-country horse race.  He came back to not only win a spot on the 2016 team, but actually lead the competition after the dressage portion of his event.

You can find Muller’s entire article here, including more on the refugee team.

Mulligan Moments of the Year recognize the achievements (large and small), observations (grand and flippant) and contributions (tangible and ephemeral) of people, (famous, infamous, and unknown), that demonstrated the resolve, awareness, good intention and blind luck that occurs when you run like there’s no tomorrow and live like there’s no yesterday.  In short, someone who took a second chance and made it count.   Nominations are still being accepted via all my social media platforms, as follows:

I’m hiding in plain sight on:



Facebook Group

Submit Your Nomination for Mulligan Moments of 2016

Within the next few weeks, Taking Mulligans will be accepting nominations for  Mulligan Moments of the Year.  When you make a nomination, you become eligible for one of the grand prizes of priceless value:  a lousy poem from me written personally for you.

Running’s Mulligan Moments of the Year recognize the achievements (large and small), observations (grand and flippant) and contributions (tangible and ephemeral) of runners, (famous, infamous, and unknown), that demonstrated the resolve, awareness, good intention and blind luck that occurs when you run like there’s no tomorrow and live like there’s no yesterday.

In short, someone who took a second chance and made it count.  Let us know if you have someone in mind.

Maybe you know a runner who’s overcome some serious obstacle in her life this.   Let us know.  It could be someone who barely runs. Or someone who is obsessed with running.

Who helped you appreciate the power of running this year?


Maybe you were inspired by an athlete who achieved a goal, rose to a challenge, put distractions aside or simply showed up and did his job when called upon.  Let us know. Maybe it was an Olympian, a weekend runner, or someone on your kid’s cross country team.

What stood out as a moment of redemption?

Maybe you saw a movie, a race, a show, an election, where someone ran with dignity, grace and the power that comes from putting the past aside and making the best of situation, or making life better or simply more vivid.  Let us know.

McFARLAND, USA..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2015
What movie, song, show, lousy poem, or other creative piece made you stop and pay attention to what’s good about life?

Just let us know a little bit about who you are nominating and why– via a direct message, email, tweet, retweet, blog comment, FB comment or Instagram post.  Skywriting and tracings in the sand will be considered for featuring, but not eligible for prizes.


Who deserves our attention?

I’ll be posting some of my own ideas and would love to hear some of yours.  All featured entries will be awarded with a personal epic poem dedicated to you, badly written by yours truly, based on your Twitter, Facebook or Instagram feed.   Deadline for entries is December 19, unless you are a member of the electoral college.  Then, by all means, take another day.

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Turkey Trots v. Marathons: The David and Goliath of Running

“David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time,” according to Malcolm Gladwell in a gobsmacking brilliant New Yorker piece and his New York Times best-seller David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.  Gladwell (my fellow Fifth Avenue miler and from this picture, apparently my new best friend) goes on to explain the secret to David’s success, the secret that is employed by a remarkable range of combatants in his work, a from a middle school girls basketball team to Lawrence of Arabia.  It’s playing by your rules, not the rules of Goliath.

A couple weekends ago, I was at the Goliath of running:  The New York City Marathon. It’s a massive, sprawling love fest of pageantry and logistics on a scale that is almost inconceivable: about 50,000 runners set out across the Verrazano Bridge to take part in a sport that is essentially something you learn by the time you are two years old: running and not falling down.

And in exchange for all the spectacle of running with 49,999 of your closest friends, you receive a credit card bill like the ones being sent to Kerry Close of Money magazine. She added up up how much it cost her to run NYC this year: $1,057.50– and that’s with only $10 in transportation costs and no hotel costs, since she lives right in the metro NY area. Imagine if you had to add a flight and a couple nights of hotel and cab rides to that total.

Silly Paddington. You don’t need to run New York to participate in running’s biggest weekend.


Which brings us to realization that even that Goliath marathon, broadcast on national television and covered by every major sports network reaching billions of people across the world, can’t beat David.  And David is a turkey.

For the single biggest running day of the year isn’t the New York Marathon, or Chicago or Boston.  It’s not the Peachtree.  All those races have the expos, the promotion, the goodie bags, the headlines and the elite runners.  But the biggest event of all is the humble Turkey Trot that is  probably taking place in your zip code next weekend.  That turkey trot is bigger because it plays by its own rules– local, dedicated and much simpler than a big city marathon.  Run and don’t fall down.  And yes, if you have to wear a pilgrim’s hat, by all means be Miles Standish proud, congratulate me.

Thanksgiving weekend is now the single largest racing weekend of the calendar year.  RunningUSA reports that 901,753 of you finished a Thanksgiving race last year.   (Can the Million Mashed Potato March be far off?).   Simple, close to home, boiled down to the essence of why many of us run: to enjoy our bodies, the fresh air and the company of others.   And perhaps to work up an appetite– or burn off a little of that appetite’s side effects. lists 1,459 Thanksgiving-themed races this month.  Find one near you by clicking here.

Runner’s World highlights some of the better known ones here, including the nation’s longest consecutively run Thanksgiving race in Buffalo, NY,  started in 1896.  That will be held not far from where I’m guessing that alumni and friends of my beloved Notre Dame High School of Batavia, NY will gather for their completely informal, off the beaten path tailgate and turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning this year (see photo below), as always.

Wherever two or more are gathered, there is reason to run. Feel free to photoshop out the Santa hats and insert turkey headdress. This was from last year’s Jingle Bell Jog.

Of course, the popularity of the turkey trot has not escaped race organizers, and now there are as many as 13 races that have more than 7,000 finishers, according to RunningUSA.  But no worries, even if a Goliath or two emerges from this field, David will always win.

So get out there and run.

Your felt roasted turkey hat is your smooth stone, and your running shoes are your slingshot.  Gobble one up.


Neighborhood Watch

I wasn’t able to run in this year’s Runner’s World Half & Festival.  But since I can see the race from my front door in Historic Bethlehem, PA, I had almost as much fun taking in the scene.   As you can see from my photos, it’s a fun and fabulous race filled with just the right amount of crazies.   Hope to be running in it with you next year!  For more race photos, go to the official RW Half website.

Clear skies, early autumn colors and Bethlehem’s Finest.


The trampoline peanut gallery.
Don’t tread on me.


There is the church, there is the steeple. Look at the course and see all the people.


Why do pacers smile so much? I’d be worried sick.
Everyone’s Budd.











The Liberty band gives a boost to the Sub 30 Club, a merry band of runners.
My phone died 3 minutes after taking this one. No joke.
No. Just. No.
Alert the authorities.
Sunday morning.

A Running Wish From Alaska

Run is a word that runners take for granted. It’s ours. We own it. We remind everyone around us incessantly with our mileage counts, tights and bulky watches that we are the chosen ones, the runners.

On my first trip to Alaska, I found that we are not alone.  Other things run.   My plane ran late, and I was feeling a little run down, and my daughter’s nose was running, but my toilet did not.  What’s more, even though it does happen to me more than I would care to admit, and is a bit of an occupational hazard for a writer like me, who should really know better, considering how many courses I’ve taken and how many of them I’ve put together over the many years that I have pursued this avocation of mine, which perhaps you share too, it was not my sentences, other than this one, that were running on.  (And yes, among writers, that’s a running joke.)

We could see the salmon running through Ketchican, AK from the bridge outside our room.

I was in Ketchican, Alaska, and the most popular runners in this town are not people like us.  They are the salmon.

Ketchican is self-proclaimed Salmon Capital of the World.  And when we visited in mid-July, they were just starting to head back upstream to the place where they were born.  Not just to visit for a spaghetti dinner, like I do when I go home to visit my hometown.  They were going to drop off some eggs. And die. Or, if they have flair for the dramatic, be eaten by bears or by the waves of bald eagles we saw there day after day.   So when I took my scenic run around town and along the salmon creek that yes, runs, in the middle of town, with the hope that this runner would escape that kind of ironic ending to this trip.

So could the bald eagles.

So here’s my running wish for you from Alaska: next time you head out for a run , may you run like the salmon, but eat like the eagle.



The End of the Beginning

Here are some lasting images and observations from Days 3 and 4 of the first big-time track meet I’ve ever attended, the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR last weekend.

Practically every event had me on the brink of choking up with emotion, seeing the athletes put so much at stake for one singular chance to compete in Rio.  A handful did, and a boatload did not.  Curiously, I found myself emotionally going back and forth between the dids and the didnots.   For me, that impulse is one I can’t always plan. Who I actually find myself rooting for tells me something that is indiscernible with logic. Only in the moment on the brink do I realize whose story is tugging at me.   That happens in life too– I often use that “heart tug” to show me the way through a decision that is not revealing itself to me through analysis.

I hope you find yourself rooting for someone in Rio, when these athletes begin to represent the United States on the track.




Ashton Eaton finishes the 1500m to win the decathlon.
And when the World’s Greatest Athlete invites you to a pool party, you go. His fellow decathletes have their own Rocky/Apollo Creed moment in the steeplechase pit.
Allyson Felix settles in for the start of the 400m. My heart is probably beating faster than hers at this point.
Felix won the event with world’s best time this year. Look for her on a podium in Rio.
This is how my stomach felt to be so close to my track crush.
I did not make the team.


On Independence Day morning, I drove out to Florence, OR to see the sand dunes. What struck me even more was the surreal shelters built from driftwood. Just goes to show what beautiful and useful pieces can be built from what others’ discard.
Allyson Felix be warned. Emma Coburn may be my new track crush after her dominating win the 3,000m steeplechase.
In the most talked about race on the first weekend, Alysia Montano leads on the first lap of the 800m, with a flower in her hair.
But Montano finishes alone and despondent. She tumbled just before the final turn and poof!, just like that, her Olympic dream ends.
Montano’s daughter Linnea consoles her mom after the race. Montano famously competed in the US Championships two years ago while 34 weeks pregnant with Linnea.
In my favorite photo of the weekend, Akron’s Clayton Murphy blows by Boris Berian to win the 800m. Both go to Rio.
Murphy, Berian and Charles Jock. Your 800m US Olympic team.
My brush with greatness. I got to meet Dave Wottle, who was one of the first distance runners I ever idolized when he won the 1972 Olympic 800m race with his mammoth kick. He is still the last US man to win the race. This time, I wore the hat.
So long, Historic one. Thanks for bringing together so many staggeringly prepared athletes (and track nerds) in one place. Who knew?

Trials, Tribulations and Track and Field

Here are some images that caught my eye on July 2, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon during the United States Olympic Trials, the second day of the meet to choose America’s representatives in Rio.


I was not allowed entry.



The main event on Day Two was the women’s 10k. Molly Huddle took the lead on the first lap and never looked back. Three things I like about her: 1. She’s a fellow New York state product, hailing from Elmira, which I routinely pass through on my way to visit my own hometown of LeRoy, NY. 2) She was born the year I graduated from college in nearby Syracuse. 3) Her name is Molly Huddle, which sounds more like an American Girl doll than America’s most dominant middle distance runner.


My main interest in the race was to root for Laura Thweatt, a Colorado runner I had met at the past two USATF Cross Country Club Championships, where she won the race in my current hometown, Bethlehem, PA in 2014. See my article in Runners World about this race, “Cross Country Romance”. You can see Laura challenging for her place on the US Olympic Team with this move to the front of the pack, on Huddle’s shoulder.


Laura was the top American female in the NYC Marathon last year and was looking to make her first Olympic Team.


Unfortunately for her, she couldn’t maintain that position and drifted back into the field. I was proud to be there to see her compete so strongly though– and hope to see her again this year as she continues her excellence in cross country racing. Note to Sebastian Coe: Let’s hurry up and get cross country as an Olympic event in the 2022 Winter Games!


Oregon is home to many big names in running, including this one.


When My Baby Smiles At Me, I Go To Eugene

As exotic as Peter Allen’s lyrical invitation may be, I am not going to Rio. Day-Jena-Arrow.  As close as I’m getting is Eugene, Oregon, home of the U.S. Olympic Trials for Track and Field. I was in TrackTown for last weekend’s events and wanted to share a few images that caught my eye.

Even though I’ve been following track and field intently since the 1972 Olympics,  this was my the first major track meet I’d ever attended. In fact, it’s actually the only one I’d ever seen in full other than my own high school meets more than 35 years ago.

From seeing many of the heroes of my day paraded out to wave to the crowd and bestow medals upon this year’s team, to the (literally) ups and downs of competitive racing, to the sheer magnificence of the athletes performing with so much at stake, it was a weekend to remember.

Here’s some of what I remember from Day One.

I believe this vague sign was from a local sandal company. Not sure it will ever catch on. What do they even mean by “It”?


Best breakfast of the past 25 years (since leftover Mexican on Half Moon Bay beach). Some kind of Koreanesque hot bowl at Tasty and Alder in Portland.


IMG_2440 Historic Hayward Field is the Fenway Park of American Track. I’d have said Wrigley, but the hometown heroes at the University of Oregon actually win here.


My own hometown hero, Joe Kovacs of Bethlehem Catholic High School, gathers himself before the throw that would put him on the U.S. Olympic Shot Put team.


The 800m was Berry Berry good for Boris Berian.


The top performer of the weekend was no doubt, Allyson Felix. Here’s that moment before she takes the blocks for the first heat of the Trials in the 400m. As beautiful as she looks on television, seeing her run in person was a revelation. She runs like a spider, long swift strides that make the track disappear behind her.


Galen Rupp picks up the flag given to the top 3 finishers of every final, symbolizing their place on the Olympic Team. He already had secured a berth on the marathon team, and his dominant run in the 10,000m left no doubt. He’s the man. And he’s greedy in the best way.