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Saw God at the Finish Line

There are 100 meters of asphalt road left between Jonathan Mendes and the finish line of the New York City Marathon, and he still won’t explain exactly why he is doing this. Why, for the past 11 hours and 20 minutes this 96 year-old man has been running—well, not so much running as tottering—26.19 miles through all five of the city’s boroughs.

He looks up and smiles. You can see the creases around his eyes scrunch behind massive, orange-tinted sunglasses. You get the sense that he’d rather not explain himself. You might try and fish for an inspiring answer, some reason why this limping man, wearing a 16-year-old Asics windbreaker, is still out in the 45-degree darkness, but he won’t give one—nothing satisfying, anyway.
As a bomber pilot in the Marines, Jonathan Mendes flew more than 100 missions in World War II and then more than 70 missions in the Korean War. He trained John Glenn and Ted Williams. He graduated from Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School. Now he lives in a spacious apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He still walks two miles around Central Park’s reservoir every morning at 7:30 a.m., and drinks a scotch every afternoon at 4 p.m.

He doesn’t need to tell you why he’s out here, completing his 16th New York City Marathon. He takes another step forward.

“You have to have goals in life,” he says. “They don’t have to be important. But at this stage I’ve done it all. I’ve skied all over the world. I’ve canoed the great rivers of the world. I flew dive-bombers for the Marine Corps in World War II, and jet fighter attack planes in Korea. And I never got hurt, so I don’t have any bad memories.”

When he walks—which is slowly, with short steps, at a 25-minute-per mile pace—his back is arched so that the brim of his blue cap, emblazoned with the U.S. Marine Corps insignia, is pointed toward the ground. He clutches the sleeves of his two support guides to keep balance. He’s been in this position, inching his way forward, for the past 13 miles.

He stops at the top of the final hill on West Drive and looks up. Spotlights swirl in purple and blue across the empty road. Carly Rae Jepsen echoes from speakers near the finish. There are three people standing in the grandstands. Another cluster of a dozen or so people mingles beyond the finish line’s arches. No one has seen him yet. He lifts his right leg up, bending it at the knee to stretch, then he lifts his left leg, readying himself for the final kick.

“More like the final crawl,” he says. He can see the finish line at last through his sunglasses. “How about that?” he says.
The man on his right is Tom Mangan, Mendes’ personal trainer. Mangan works with Mendes twice a week, doing bodyweight exercises and stretches. With the consultation of a doctor, Mangan cleared Mendes to enter the race two weeks ago.

“Jon is an exceptional man,” Mangan says. “We have been laughing all day.”

They started in Staten Island at 8:51 a.m. with the disabled athletes. It is now 8:14 p.m. Eritrea’s Ghirmay Ghebreslassie sprinted across the same spot at a sub-5-minute-per-mile pace more than eight hours ago, winning the race in 2:07:51. It took Mendes more than 30 minutes to finish the last mile.

The man on Mendes’ left is Art Berman, a 35-time marathoner and volunteer with the organization Achilles International, which matches older and disabled athletes with guides to complete endurance events. Berman met Mendes when they were paired at the start line of the 2015 marathon race. Mendes dropped out at mile 16 last year, after his knees gave him trouble.
“Jon just likes the challenge of doing this. He is a very determined man, if you haven’t figured that out,” Berman says.

With 20 meters left, volunteers in blue jackets notice the ambling crew inching closer. Peter Ciaccia, the marathon’s race director, jogs out and puts an arm around Mendes. They cross the line together, then Ciaccia procures a medal and places it around Mendes’ neck.

“Semper fi,” Ciaccia says.

“Do or die,” Mendes replies.

The official clock, on a temporary pillar in the middle of the finish line, stopped tracking runners more than 45 minutes ago. Mendes’ time will not appear in official results. His guides aren’t really even sure what it is.

According to the New York Road Runners, the organization that puts on the race, the oldest official finisher this year was 88-year-old Bertha McGruder. The oldest official finisher ever is 91. Mendes has 11 official finishes, with five more coming after the clock stopped.

He doesn’t seem to care that his time won’t count this year.

A marathon for the nonagenarian doesn’t seem to have hurt him that bad. He smiles at the finish line.

“I’d like to go lie down,” he says. A medical volunteer guides him to a large white tent. He is lowered in to a bed with the back raised at a 45-degree angle. The volunteer asks if he wants something to drink. Maybe some hot chocolate or some water?

He wants scotch.
Mendes drinks scotch with his trainer, Tom Mangan, inside the medical tent. KIT FOX
Mangan pulls out a small brown paper bag from his pocket and produces three miniature bottles of brown liquor—Johnnie Walker Black Label. Mendes grabs a bottle.

“I’ve been saying for years that the key to living this long is a shot of whisky a day and a good woman, in that order,” Mendes says.

The good woman approaches, wearing a purple vest and carrying a clipboard. She is another volunteer nurse. She kneels down beside the low bed and asks Mendes how he is doing.

He takes a sip of scotch and grabs her hand. “Oh, I am just fine,” he says.

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

Please email your God sightings to dan@seegodtoday.com.

Saw God in a Reminder

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Woke up this morning with fog over the Ocean here at Myrtle Beach….Looked like the sky had fallen! It was a reminder to rise up and be the person God intends me to be….it rose slowly and so do I…. NOT a morning person! XOXO

Janet–MI

Please email your God sightings to dan@seegodtoday.com.

Saw God in a Note

Dan

Please email your God sightings to dan@seegodtoday.com.

Saw God Keeping a Promise

GREENWOOD, Ind. — Wayne Williams kept a pledge he and his father made to each other and shared a moment they’d both been waiting for all their lives.

The North Carolina man drove to his father’s gravesite in Indiana to listen to the Chicago Cubs win Game 7 of the World Series. Wearing a Joe Maddon replica jersey and a Cubs cap he’d recently purchased, Williams listened to the Cubs’ 10-inning, 8-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians on his smartphone Wednesday night at his father’s grave in the military section of Greenwood Forest Lawn Cemetery in suburban Indianapolis.

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Williams told WTHR-TV he and his father had a pact: When the Cubs got into the World Series again, they would listen to the games together.
His father, also named Wayne Williams, was a Navy veteran. He died of cancer in 1980 at age 53. Williams said he knew on Sunday night what he would have to do if the Cubs kept their title hopes alive.
“If they win tomorrow, I have to be heading out the next morning,” he said, noting that his wife “supported it fully.”

The 68-year-old retired customer trainer said unlit roads made the trip a little difficult. He also said trying to get to his father’s gravesite required as few stops as possible if he was to make it by the first pitch.

Cemetery workers kept the gates open for Williams, who was greeted by TV news crews as he took his spot and tuned in.

As Williams listened, he said his wife sent text messages saying, “They’re killing me. They’re killing me.”

Finally, after 10 innings and a rain delay, the Cubs rallied to take the lead and held off the last bid for a Cleveland rally. Williams, a Cubs “W” flag draped on his fold-out chair, said his celebration was subdued.

“I just kind of said `We did it,’ like I had anything to do with it,” he said. “I know how much he would have enjoyed it.”

As he headed back to his home in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, Williams said he would watch a recording of the game. By then, he said he thinks the idea of the World Series championship will have sunken in.

“I’ll be able to work my way through it,” he said.

Dan

Saw God in Robin Quotes

DANA POINT, Calif. — Robin Roberts gave the keynote address on the second night of the espnW: Women + Sports Summit. And while there’s been no shortage of motivation this week, the “Good Morning America” co-anchor and former “SportsCenter” host captivated the audience with her incredible reflections on life, career and her public health struggles.

Below are some of her most inspirational quotes from Friday evening. Feel free to print these out and post them all over your home and office.

1. “Proximity is power.”

As a college student at Southeastern Louisiana University, Roberts acted as the DJ and sports director at a local country music radio station. The position gave her the confidence to pursue her long-term goal of working for ESPN.

2. “Dream big, but focus on the small.”

On Roberts’ road to ESPN, she embraced the journey and focused on the opportunities that would ultimately help her get there.

3. “When you strut, you stumble.”

Roberts hilariously recounted a note from her producer, that was discreetly given to her while interviewing President Barack Obama for “Good Morning America,” which she thought would offer praise for her interview. Instead, it read: “You have lipstick on your teeth.”

4. “Make your mess your message.”

After publicly crying while covering the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and receiving her breast cancer diagnosis, Roberts’ mother told her to use and share her struggles as a form of motivation.

5. “Right foot. Left foot. Breathe.”

Sharing a mantra from her longtime friend Pat Summitt, Roberts said she frequently referenced this belief during her two bouts with cancer.

6. “Optimism is a muscle that gets stronger with use.”

Roberts cited a positive attitude for helping her get through her toughest moments, both personally and professionally.

7. “Success leaves clues.”

When asked about advice she would give to up-and-coming journalists, Roberts suggested that people try to learn as much as they can from mentors.

8. “No is a complete sentence.”

Discussing the pressure of constantly being asked to do things, Roberts reminded the crowd of the power of the word “no,” and the need to confidently use it.

9. “God’s delays are not his denials.”

Roberts stressed the importance of patience and determination when working towards one’s dreams.

10. “You can have it all, but not all at the same time.”

While Roberts encouraged everyone to aim high and aspire to achieve their dreams, she reminded the crowd that it may not be all at once … but it was possible.

Dan

Please email your God sightings to dan@seegodtoday.com.

Saw God in Cooper

Kurt–California

Please email your God sightings to dan@seegodtoday.com.

Saw God in the Locker Room

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

Please email your God sightings to dan@seegodtoday.com.

Saw God in the Darkest Valley

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“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil—because the Lord is with me.”

Dano–Bloomfield Hills, MI

Please email your God sightings to dan@seegodtoday.com.

Saw God in The King

Michigan golfer Nick Carlson was the delayed recipient of a special memento last week — a letter from legendary golfer Arnold Palmer.

Carlson said he was amazed to receive the three-paragraph note congratulating him for being a semifinalist in the U.S. Amateur in August at Oakland Hills Country Club.

“Utter shock, really,” Carlson told The Detroit News on Thursday. “Like, I never expected it. It’s just something really cool and almost a priceless moment, in my opinion.”

Palmer sent the letter Sept. 8, a few weeks before he died Sept. 25 at the age of 87. Carlson finally received it Oct. 7 and posted a photo of it on Twitter.

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“Keep up the good playing,” Palmer wrote. “I wish you the very best in whatever pursuit you choose to follow in the future.”

The sophomore said he hadn’t been back to the golf course where he works to get the note from the seven-time major champion. He told the newspaper that he has since framed the letter.

“I’ve never been able to say that I knew Mr. Palmer or met him in any fashion, and to get that 10 days [after his death] was pretty special,” Carlson said. “It’s framed and above my desk in my room. I get to look at it every day.”

Carlson, 20, made an unlikely run to reach the U.S. Amateur semifinals in his home state, entering the event ranked No. 1,981 in the world amateur rankings.

Dan

Please email your God sightings to dan@seegodtoday.com.

Saw God in a Hero

Jocko–Bloomfield Hills, MI

Please email your God sightings to dan@seegodtoday.com