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Finding his stride: Local pastor Bob Norman raising money through marathon


Bob Norman is going back to his roots to help a fellow pastor a world away establish his own roots more firmly.

Thirty years after running his last marathon, the 56-year old Norman is trying to regain his old form —and shape —from his collegiate running days, in time to raise $8,000 to help build a house for a Mayan Indian pastor in Guatemala.

Norman said he started running on the treadmill last December and knew he was going to enter the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon when God laid it on his heart earlier this year, but it wasn’t until the last month that it became clear that his reason for running was to raise funds for this mission trip.

Now the pastor of New Jerusalem Christian Fellowship in Cement City, just minutes from the Hillsdale County line, has 24 days before he will attempt to run 26.2 miles through The Racing Capital of the World for a cause greater than his own.

“We built a church two years ago in Guatemala and then last year we built a house for a pastor of a different church,” Norman said, noting the three-room brick house was built for a family of eight that was previously living in a 12-by-12 foot unit. “We had done that the last two years, but this time we wanted to build it and pay for it all too. Hopefully this will help us do that.”

Norman also has plenty of hopes the last eight months of training will pay off come Nov. 7.

Norman ran track and field and cross country in high school, he competed at JCC with current Hillsdale College coach Bill Lundberg, and he even ran for Western Michigan for two years.

He said he already had the knowledge and training regiments necessary to prepare for a marathon, he just had to commit himself, which he has.

Norman has been lifting weights, running, biking and taking part in weight-loss challenges around the area.

He said he has lost 35 pounds, but he isn’t quite all the way back to the svelte, younger version of himself.

“Right now I’m still 65 pounds over my running weight in high school,” he said.  “My goal is to just be healthy enough to finish the race running. I want to keep up a good pace and run the whole thing.”

If last weekend was any indication, Norman has still got it. He finished first in his age group and 10th overall in a half-marathon in Alma, but he’ll be the first to admit his recovery time isn’t what it used to be.

“I was really, really stiff for a couple of days,” he said.

His motivation isn’t lacking whatsoever though.

He said he is committed to finishing the race and the only reason he’ll stop is if he is injured, but he’ll still “find a way to finish.”

Another driving force behind his strong desire to finish the race is a bet he made with his congregation.

“If I don’t finish I’m supposed to shave my head because of a bet I made (with the church),” said Norman, who still has a full-head of hair to brag to fellow 50somethings about. “I am finishing though so I won’t have to do that.”

Fun and games aside, Norman is running this race not to save his hair, but to make a difference.

Approximately 10 church members will join him in building another three-room house in February 2010, near Honduras, where he said the people are grateful for the smallest acts of kindness.

This house is for a single pastor who has yet to start a family, but has been living in very tiny corridors.

Norman said a project like this is neat for him “especially with it being a ‘pastor-to-pastor of thing’, and it is also a great reminder how well off so many U.S. citizens are.

“Just to get to the site we have to ride an hour up a mountain standing in the back of a pickup truck,” he said. “It’s life changing for everybody involved. You realize how much we have — I mean these people, they literally have nothing.”

In the last few weeks more than $1,400 has been donated to the mission, including $10 per mile from a California couple who was just visiting the church last weekend.

Norman said he is hoping to raise the whole $8,000 by race day and anything over that will go to help with other projects in Guatemala.

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About rjwalters

I am what you think I am — a journalist. Actually when I was hired at my current job, which by the way is Sports Editor of the Hillsdale Daily News in Hillsdale, Mich., I applied for a position titled "Wordsmith", so at my best I'll call myself a writer attempting to be a wordsmith extraordinaire.

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