Howling wind. Howling coyotes. Howling Phil.
The RV shuddered and swayed amidst the fierce desert winds all night long. When Mandy opened the door this morning the wind snatched it from her hand and slammed it against the side of the RV. She worried about what it would do to Levi while he ran. But he was ready when he set out at 4:49 am with his gaiters, which are special covers for his shoes to keep the dirt, small rocks and other debris from getting in his shoes and causing hot spots or blisters. Read More
As the sunlight flooded the Pima Valley in Arizona, it was difficult to decide what shone brighter – the glorious sunrise or Phil’s new multi-colored sweatshirt. More cotton fields, more desert, more battles to fight. The physical battles continue - the terrain, the weather, and the limitations of Levi’s human body. As he regains his strength from the flu bout, his joints and muscles must adjust once again to the constant pounding on the pavement. The narrowness of the highway creates a new danger with the same old semi-trucks. In some sections, the shoulder is so narrow, Levi is pushed frighteningly close to their enormous tires, which are nearly as big as he is. The whoosh of the wind combined with the tremors of their vibrations as they roll by nearly launched him into the ditches on the side of the road. But little Levi stood up to those Goliath trucks with the bravery of David. Read More
After a few days of recharging, Levi was back on his feet and feeling stronger as he made his way across Arizona. Wake up call was at 3:00 am, actual run start time was 4:36 am with Levi hoping his recovery efforts had been enough to continue the journey. Home base is just outside Pima at the base of Mount Graham where the cotton fields stretched endlessly beneath a bright blue sky scattered with white fluffy clouds. It was quite a temperature swing from the low 50s into the mid 80s and Levi was sporting his neon green shorts. At the end of the 32.2-mile day today, he paused for a moment of thanksgiving, saying he was grateful for his health. After battling the flu and it’s debilitating after effects, Levi felt a sense of profound gratitude for the ability to be back on track although it wasn’t an easy day. None of them are and that time away not only took a toll physically, but mentally as well. Read More
Sunday was another recharge day for Levi – the flu bug he has been battling left him very weak and dehydrated. Mandy cooked up a big pot of chicken soup on Saturday in hopes that would speed up his recovery. He had a bowl of it for breakfast on Sunday before they headed off to church services. The first church they went to was St. Rose Catholic Church and it wasn’t until they arrived and got settled in that they realized the mass was in Spanish. After Irie took a tumble and hit her face on the kneeling board they decided it was time to head out. They visited a non-denominational Christian church called The River and enjoyed the sermon on facing your enemies. Mandy said they sang one of her favorite old hymns that her mom used to sing to her: Read More
Levi’s recharging day turned rocky when he came down with the flu that Mandy, Irie and Phil have all battled. So now, it’s his turn to battle the foes they have all faced previously – the weakness, the dehydration and the discouragement. Read More
After leaving Phoenix, Levi, Mandy, Phil and Irie had a tough couple of days. Phil came down with the flu, Levi and Irie have been battling colds, and the chafing on Levi’s legs had become unbearable. Up to this point in the journey, these days have been referred to as “rest” days. But Levi has renamed these as days to “recharge” and based on the definition below that seems absolutely perfect: Read More
Yesterday was a rest day for Team Rizk. Hoping to help Mandy and Irie recover from the flu and Levi’s chafed legs a chance to heal a bit, they moved the RV from Phoenix to the Gila RV park in Globe, Arizona. Since Globe is a bit isolated from the rest of Arizona, it’s history as a frontier town is rich with tales of Apaches and outlaws and plenty of Old West intrigue. The scenery is different from the flat California desert, adding different plants and a new challenge for Levi, elevation. Mandy said when they were driving through the area Levi would be running, her heart was in her throat. Instead of that super highway where the threat of semi-trucks was a chief concern, now the road is under construction, which causes a narrowing (and harrowing) stretch of road. The scenery is beautiful with gigantic boulders stacked up high and tufts of green tucked throughout. Read More
In Mandy’s words, “The devil is prowling around like a roaring lion waiting to devour us…”
With Phil back on duty and after a day of rest, the day had the potential of being a good one. But with the 3:40 AM start, as Levi said, “It definitely felt like a Monday.” His legs were as heavy as lead weights and although yesterday was technically a rest day, he felt he was left wanting for more spiritual and emotional rest. Read More
A day of rest. Levi slept in until 4:30 am, Mandy until 5:30 am and Irie until 6:00 am. It’s hard for your body to break its rhythm. They attended morning services at St. Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church Phoenix where the priest (Fr. Philemon) is a long time friend of Levi’s family and hadn’t seen Levi since we was a boy in Egypt. Read More
Two weeks, two states, 400 miles As of today, Levi has run over 400 miles. Had Levi started from the Hope Association’s home office in Washington, DC, he could have run to Boston, or Detroit or even Windsor, Ontario, Canada. And those 400 miles have certainly not come easy. He has run in the blackout darkness of the desert, hopped over snakes, had daily contacts with law enforcement, been drenched by rain, splattered by semis, and through it all, he has uttered not a word of complaint. Instead he has focused on the goodness of his God and His provision for his journey. Read More
Levi ran over 37 miles today, total mileage is 402!
Steve Messeh, Executive Director of the Hope Association, was at the wheel today crewing for Levi as he headed into Phoenix, Arizona. Steve was looking remarkably chipper this morning, probably partly because he got to sleep in until 3:30 am. Read More
With 32.3 miles travelled yesterday and 328.6 miles total, the wake-up call today was set for 2:00 am. Another inky black desert sky was dotted with stars glittering like diamonds while the moon played peek-a-boo with the clouds. It was the start of another very dark and rainy day in the desert and Levi was wearing his trademark fluorescent orange long sleeved shirt and neon green shorts. The colors rapidly lost their brightness and moved into the swampy color spectrum after being splattered repeatedly with filthy water kicked up by the humongous semis that rolled along one after another, after another, after another. It’s kind of an interesting contrast when you think about it, between the life-giving rain and the barrenness of the desert. In just a few hours, Levi was already 14 miles into his run before the sun even came over the horizon. Read More
Today was a 90-degree Arizona day, with white clouds looking like cotton balls that have been pulled apart stretching across the pale blue skies. Levi’s words at the end of his 32 miles in the desert just outside Tonopah were, “It has been a hard day.” That’s it. Not brutally hot, not excruciatingly painful, not exhausting or discouraging, just hard. Read More
The steady drip, drip, drip of the rain on the top of the RV is a mirror of the mood today.
The Arizona highway patrol forced Levi to alter his route yesterday, which added time and mileage to an already long day. After being stopped three times, Levi realized that there is a silver lining to running at night – if they can’t see him, they can’t stop him. As he does every day, like a squirrel that collects acorns, Levi came home with various “finds” from the road. It’s remarkable, really, how God speaks through these common everyday items that have been cast aside. He brought home his fourth wrench, this one with the numbers 9:16 on it. He and Phil felt led to Acts 9:16, “For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name,” which echoed Mandy’s reading from Hebrews 2. Levi also took note of the correlation to the month and the year he has undertaken this amazing journey to be perfected in Christ. A small toy soldier tucked in his pack, reminded him to be a soldier for Christ. Read More
Mondays are a hard day for anyone to get out of bed, especially if you are stiff and sore after a weekend full of exercise. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to get out of bed after running 30 miles the day before and over 200 miles in the previous seven days? Knowing he would get only five hours of sleep, Levi set his alarm for a 2:00 am wake-up call, in hopes of avoiding the debilitating desert heat. The down side of these early starts is that Levi is on the road during so much darkness, his lone headlamp bobbing along the side of the freeway, amidst tired truckers and whatever else runs around the desert in the middle of the night. Read More
And on the seventh day, he rested. Levi is back on the road today after a much-needed day off yesterday. He has run over 215 miles in the last eight days, much of it in the blistering hot, brutal California desert with temperatures well over 100 degrees. Picture a vast expanse of sand with scrubby little bushes dotted throughout and outcroppings of rocks at frequent intervals with rugged mountains jutting toward the cloudless blue sky in the distance. He is currently running on the 1-10 freeway on his way to Blythe, Arizona, which is a major corridor between California and Arizona.
Just about every other vehicle on that busy highway is a massive semi-truck. And when those semis roll by Levi, they shake Read More