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The Battle of Marathon

By | September 13, 2013 8:21 am | 0 Comments

In honor of this weekend’s Erie Marathon at Presque Isle, a little historical lesson about the marathon from The Writers Almanac with Garrison Keillor
The Battle of Marathon, one of history’s earliest recorded battles, took place on Sept. 12 in the year 490 B.C.E.
Greek historian Herodotus tells us that King Darius I of Persia was determined to crush Athens and Eretria, because the Greek city-states had supported the Ionian Revolt and burned the Persian city of Sardis to the ground. Darius wanted revenge, and he spent four years planning his strategy. He sent an armada to pummel the cities in August. Eretria was captured first, and then Persian forces moved on toward Athens. The two armies spent several days in a stalemate, facing each other across the Plain of Marathon, neither one really willing to start the battle.
This was fine with the Athenians, who were greatly outnumbered by the Persians, and they were hoping for reinforcements from Sparta to arrive. Eventually, a large share of the Persian cavalry departed, possibly on board a ship bound for Athens. The Athenian generals took advantage of the cavalry’s absence and surrounded the Persian camp. Herodotus wrote: “The Persians … when they saw the Greeks coming on at speed, made ready to receive them, although it seemed to them that the Athenians were bereft of their senses, and bent upon their own destruction; for they saw a mere handful of men coming on at a run without either horsemen or archers. Such was the opinion of the barbarians; but the Athenians in close array fell upon them, and fought in a manner worthy of being recorded.”
The battle was a rout, and the Persians retreated to Asia, losing 6,400 soldiers to Athens’ 192. Darius’ son Xerxes I eventually took up the cause, attempting to invade Greece again 10 years later. But now the Greeks knew that the Persians could be beaten, and their confidence grew. They successfully held off the Persians’ subsequent invasion attempts, and the Battle of Marathon is regarded as the kicking-off point for the rise of Classical Greece and the birth of Western civilization.
Of course, the battle also gave its name to the long distance race of the same name. The legend holds that a Greek messenger named Pheidippides ran the 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to bring news of the rout, collapsing and dying after he delivered the news. What most likely happened was that he ran from Athens to Sparta before the battle — a distance of 140 miles — to ask for the Spartans’ help. But when Plutarch wrote the story in the 1st century A.D., he confused the story of Pheidippides with that of the Athenian army quick-marching back to Athens after the battle to protect the city from the remaining Persian forces. Organizers of the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896, came up with the idea of a commemorative race to honor their ancient Greek forbears. So the competitors retraced the legendary steps of Pheidippides, running the 25 miles from Marathon to Athens.
Good luck to all the runners going the distance this weekend.
I’ll see you at registration on Saturday, parking Sunday morning and then road marshaling — my own little volunteer marathon this weekend (and there are many doing much more than me…so be kind to the volunteers, please!).

Just Write 25 ~ PA Grand Canyon Marathon

By | July 30, 2013 1:40 am | 1 Comment

“This isn’t bad at all,” Heather D. says from the front seat of her gray Kia. From the backseat, Dan and I agree. Heather’s boyfriend, Brian, is driving. He doesn’t say anything.

“I’m not crazy about the rocky road,” I said. “Remember that training run at Carol’s when I could barely lift my feet over those stones? This could get ugly at the 24th mile.”

“Yeah, but it was really hot that day, remember? And those stones were a lot bigger than this,” Heather says.

“True,” I say.

After the first several miles, I’m bored with the scenery. I turn on the Kindle in my lap and try to read on the sly. I don’t want to appear uninterested, but the marathon course is as boring as running around Presque Isle. Worse even. There is no bay or beach or people. Just trees and a narrow, hard packed dirt road that winds on forever.  We go up and down, but it’s hardly perceptible in the car.

***************

I don’t have much trouble sleeping. I never do. But it seems a shallow sleep that night. As though I’m always on the edge of waking.  On alert. The slightest noise wakes me. Like the scratching of the nails of whatever creature is in the attic of this old cabin in the pines. It’s skittering around up there. It freaked me out the night before. I thought it was in our room. I was ready to sleep in the car until Dan convinced me the critter was definitely was in the ceiling.

I turn over, feeling a twinge in my left calf/knee. I massage it for a few seconds, trying to figure out where the dull pain is coming from, and I say another silent prayer:

Just don’t let me hurt myself here. Don’t let some tendon rupture or anything “pop.” Not here. Not in these the backwoods of Pennsylvania on that desolate course. Not when I’m almost done with this.

****************

I hear Heather get up to shower at 3:45 a.m. She knocks on our door a half hour later.

“Just want to make sure you guys are up. It’s after 4,” she says quietly.

“Shit! Dan, I thought you set the alarm for 4,” I say. “We are supposed to leave in 15 minutes.”

We scramble to get ready and toast a couple bagels.

In the car, on our way to the high school to catch the shuttle bus,  I say, “Sorry, Heather, this isn’t like us to be so last minute.”

Dan laughs.

“OK. Actually it is,” I confess. “We rush to every race start line. This is totally us.”

******************

The shuttle bus fills with marathoners quickly and we leave for the start line. It’s a good 15 minutes before we reach the dirt road. The bus (unlike Heather’s Kia) accelerates loudly several times to get up the twisty road, and it’s the first time I realize the course may be more hilly than we thought.

As we bounce along, I look at the forest that the road cuts through. The sides of the road are a steep incline. Guardrails are non existent.  One swerve and we’re all dead. I envision us rolling down the side of the mountain. A jumble of tumbling marathoners, thrown together like clothes in a dryer.  I wonder if I’d end up on top. Would being lighter help? I worry about where we’ll go if we pass another bus. The road doesn’t seem wide enough for two. But, apparently, it is.

The bus deposits us next to a row of eight portable toilets. We don’t see many runners, a picnic pavilion, a start line or any race officials. Clearly, this is not exactly the start of the race.

Heather cocks and ear and says, “I hear music up that way.”

We walk until we find the D.J. and the start line and all the other runners.

It starts sprinkling.

*******************

Forty minutes later, with five minutes until start time, it’s flat out raining.

“This sucks,” Dan says.

“Yeah, but nothing we can do about it,” I say. “Good luck.”

Heather, Mark and I start together. I’m glad I wore a hat. It’s not a pouring rain, but it’s steady and soaking.

We start a little too fast, but everyone does. We’ll settle down after the first mile.  I’m feeling good. Confident. I can do this.

Until we get to mile 3 and I realize the Kia’s quiet motor fooled me.

The course is full of grinders. The worst kind of hill. The kind that go on & on, increasing gradually forever. The kind you don’t realize you’re running until you can’t breathe. Vampire hills, stealing all your energy and confidence.

I can’t do this, I think, as I try to keep up my side of the conversation with Mark and Heather. 

In my head I am only thinking of myself.

I should turn around right now. I could fake an injury. I can’t do this. Oh, my God, how am I going to do this for 26 miles?

Some people start walking already. Heather is having none of that. Not this early in the race.

“We have to save our walking for the end,” she had warned me several times in the weeks leading up to the race. “We should hold off walking for as long as possible.”

So we trudge along, the pace dragging. But, we don’t stop running.

Relentless forward progression. My mantra for this race.

The course levels out after 3/4 of a mile or so.

We resume our conversation and 9:30 pace.

***********************

The hill that I know will break me is at the 14th mile. It’s the second of two turn-arounds at the midway point where we had to run a couple of dog legs that were clearly necessary to get the mileage.

As we run down and down and down to the 2nd turn-around, I say, “You guys, we’ve been running downhill for like a mile now. This is going to suck when we turn around.”

At the top, we stop to get our picture taken at the vista. You can actually see now that it’s stopped raining, but it’s still foggy, overcast and drab. We grab water, Oreos, and a banana.

me at top

I totally have a mouthful of Oreo cookie here. The good thing about eating Oreos in a marathon? It stays with you for awhile because you’re sucking it out of your teeth for at least a 1/2 mile.

We run three-quarters of the hill before I start to walk.  Heather and Mark walk, too. I know Heather doesn’t want to, but she’s committed to staying with me.

“You have to question expending this kind of energy at the 14th mile, Heather,” I gasp. “I mean, I can run this, but I don’t think it’s smart right now. We have a lot of hills to get up at the end.”

***********************

At mile 18, my quads are aching, my energy is fading fast, and I am freaking done with this shit. The only thing keeping me running at this point is Mark, who is distracting me with conversation. Also I’m fully aware that there is, literally, no way back but by foot.

We round another bend and see nothing but trees and dirt muddy road.

“Where the hell is the water stop?” I say, clutching my Gu, like the lifeline it is. “We’ve been running forever. There has to be one up here soon, right?” I whine.

I’m losing it.

Isn’t this where I lost it in Cleveland last time?  F@#$!  F@#$ the 18th mile!

me angry

Mark took this. I’m not sure if it’s the 18th mile, but I’m sure this is what I looked like at that point — angry, sweaty,veins popping.

Then, the water stop. Like an oasis. I eat my Gu. I take water and Gatorade. I insist on walking to drink them, dragging my feet like an insolent child while Heather jogs in place, waiting for me.

OK, OK…let’s go. Relentless forward progression. F@#$ this. I want this over. Now.

The next few miles I run from water stop to water stop. I can’t think beyond that. I can’t think about 8 more miles. Or 6 more miles. Or 4 more miles. I can only focus on getting to the next water stop. That I can do.

Relentless forward progression.

************************

At 24 miles, I get my second (third, fourth, fifth?) wind. We got this. You couldn’t stop me if you tried.

“No stopping us now,” I yell out, jubilantly for all the runners around us to hear. “We got this!”

At 25.5 miles we’re coming up on another grinder. A soul-crushing, enthusiasm-sucking, bastard of a hill.

“This is just mean,” I say to Mark.

We get about 1/2 way up before Mark and I start walking. Heather’s having none of that. Not this close.

“C’mon, we’re almost there,” she says “This is it. I see the 26 mile marker. It’s right up here. C’mon!” she barks.

Normally this might piss me off, but she’s right. Don’t leave anything on the field, right?

Relentless forward progression.

“Pain is temporary,” I say to Mark as I start running again.  I power up to the top of the hill where I, too, can see the 26 mile marker. I hesitate, looking back. Heather wants to keep going. I feel I should wait for Mark. He’s run this whole race with us. We should finish together.

He sees me hesitating. Waiting.

“GO! Go! Go!” he yells at me with a sweeping arm wave.

So we go.  We pass the 26 mile marker and come across a finisher, a young dark-haired woman with a medal around her neck, who says, “You got it! Looking good. Finish line is just over the hill.”

“Did you just say hill? Heather, did she just say hill? OH. MY. GOD. Is there another f$%^#ing hill?”

The look of horror on my face and the rising panic in my voice must’ve startled the poor finisher who was just trying to be encouraging. She backpedals. “NO, no…no…not really. I just meant around the bend, see? You can do this! You got it!”

I think: Finish strong. Finish strong. Finish strong.

I can hear the spectators. I pick up the pace. I force my tired legs and body into proper form and run on pure adrenaline.

And then we’re there. Crossing the mat under the clock at 4:32 something.  And it’s over. And I can finally stop running.

Heather waits for me at the end of the finisher’s chute with a hand up for a high five. “Good job! You did it.”

I feel like crying, but it only lasts a moment and the emotional wave retreats. I’ve never been an overly emotional person. It’s just not my nature.  We wait for Mark. Cheer him in. Embrace in  big sweaty hug. Exchange a bunch of “thank yous” and “good jobs” and “glad that’s overs.”

Mark doesn’t hang around. He has to get back to his hotel to shower before checkout. He’s gone before we wipe the sweat off our faces and the mud off our calves.  Before we start laughing again. Taking pictures. Swapping race stories with other Erie-area runners. Reliving the experience.

After about a half hour, Heather & Brian and Dan & I walk slowly back to the shuttle bus stop.

I feel weak and tired, but stronger than ever.

*****************

After every previous marathon I’ve done, I’ve said “never again.” I know better than to say that now because it’s possible. Anything is possible. But, I’d never do another marathon for me. It would have to be something I did for a good friend.

Anything is bearable with a few running friends by your side.

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finish strong

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me and heather me and dan

group

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____________________________
About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”

Bonus motivation

By | July 26, 2013 1:40 am | 0 Comments

Because I need it this week.

No stopping me now.

motivation

Erie Marathon news & notes

By | July 24, 2013 1:59 am | 0 Comments

The Erie Marathon at Presque Isle State Park has a new website. And, I hear that they will soon have a blog up and running (pun totally intended).

They’ve also got a Facebook page where I found this — the artwork for this year’s t-shirts:

artwork

By Erie artist Brian Payne.

Also, don’t miss out on the Erie Marathon carbo-loading pasta dinner on Saturday, September 14, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Rotary Pavilion at Presque Isle State Park (between beaches 6 & 8).  Here are the details:

Dinner includes two types of pasta with marinara sauce, meat sauce or garlic & oil, salad, bread, beverage and dessert. Prepared by Runner’s World recipe award-winner Linda Huegel and her crew.

Tickets will be limited to the first 700 and can be ordered at time of registration or purchased at packet pickup. Tickets for the pasta dinner are $10 each.

Just Write 22 ~ Big runs done!

By | July 9, 2013 1:43 am | 0 Comments

5:55 a.m. Saturday morning: Who’s happy to be doing her very last 20-miler? Yep…this girl:

run - before

And a mere 3+ hours later, I was still smiling (because it was OVER)!

run - after2

I’ve got the GPS data to prove it:

run - proof

And, those lovely calloused marathoner’s feet:

 

run - callouses

A mere 15 miler awaits me next Saturday, then a 10-miler and then it’s taper time.

Three observations from marathon training:

1. Summer sandal season is a bad time to have marathoner’s feet .

2. It’s funny how you can run 20 miles and not realize you chafed anywhere…. until you get in the shower and then it all becomes crystal clear, real quick.

3. I seriously could not have done this without my army of running friends. Thank you all! 

feet

____________________________
About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”

 

 

 

 

Signs, signs…everywhere are signs

By | May 22, 2013 1:35 am | 0 Comments

As seen along the streets of Cleveland on Sunday morning:

Funny T-shirt:

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Happy calves:

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(Yes, most of these are blurry….I was RUNNING!)

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Simple works, too:

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These people love the Indians:

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Two oldies, but goodies:

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Truth:

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Cute parent signs:

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This woman was getting a LOT of laughs and high-fives from the women in the race:

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Maybe not the most inspiring sign, but….damn was I glad to see this cardboard “GU” sign:

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Beer stop (no, I didn’t stop):

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This photo just about says it all. Note the “Runners rock” sign on the sign post near the mailbox:

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For me…..one of the greatest signs in Cleveland are those lights from Jacob’s Field (or whatever the proper name is now) up ahead. Once I see that stadium, I know it’s almost over (the half is anyway):

 

 

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I wonder if I could talk this girl into coming to the PA Grand Canyon Marathon for me:

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Another classic…only his mileage was OFF:

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And, the best signs on the course (in my biased opinion, of course):

girls with signs

I love his expression….that’s pretty much what it feels like after you run 26.2 miles in 80-degree weather.

girls with signs2

me and dan

medals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Write 17 ~ Cheering section

By | May 21, 2013 11:45 am | 0 Comments

6: 25 a.m. Sunday morning Dan and I are walking toward the marathon start line in front of the Cleveland Browns stadium, though it reads “Cleveland Browns Sta” because the “dium” metal letters are missing. No matter, this isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve run this race for years now. We know where were going.

The runners and spectators become a streaming mass, clogging the sidewalks and stretching onto the now-closed road. There are something like 20,000 runners, I think.

We pass a group of law enforcement officers dressed in Army green pants and shirts, standing around  dark van. They’re wearing combat boots, baseball hats, black sunglasses and bullet proof vests. They have automatic weapons slung over their shoulder and bullets wrapped around their waist.

“Great, we’ve become Mexico with machine-gun wielding Federales everywhere,” I mutter to Dan as we walk by.

There are dozens of law enforcement officers inside and outside the stadium — bomb squad, Sheriff’s office, stadium security, Cleveland police officers, K-9. Some are gathered together, others are standing and watching the crowd from above, K-9 officers are weaving dogs through the crowd and the bushes around the stadium.

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I know they are all there for us. To  protect us.  To reassure us. To watch over us. They are a very visible sign that the race directors are taking Boston seriously, but it’s frightening and it kinda depresses me.

Sons of a bitches ruined our marathons. Bastards.

I don’t know their names, and I don’t care. I’m not going to look it them up either because they are not worth it.  To me, they’re nameless cowards.

Spectators, three and four deep, line the road filled with runners. Hundreds more ring the outside platform of the stadium, looking down, pointing cameras, video cameras, and cell phones in our direction.

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When we finally start, I look up at them as we jog toward the start mat.  I get a little choked up because I start thinking about the Jezebel post “The People Who Watch Marathons“.

I don’t know one of those people up there and they are absolutely not there to cheer me on, but…oh, my God do I appreciate their presence — this year, more than any other previous.

I appreciate their mass. Their cheers. Their pom-poms and home made signs. Their cowbells and thunder sticks. Their DIY beer stops. Their garden hoses set to mist. Their willingness to drag their butt out of bed at 5:30 a.m. and fight traffic and pay $10 to park…just to watch us run by.

For 13 miles, every time I see a group of spectators ahead, I rally. I run stronger and straighter, and I forget how crappy I feel. I turn my camera on and scan the sidewalk for funny signs. I look for kids offering high-fives with outstretched hands and move over so I can gently slap every one of those little hands.

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I’m eternally grateful for every person standing along that route who distracts me from the task at hand.

The miles fly by because of them. These strangers. These noisy, boisterous, excited, awesome strangers who meant everything to me on Sunday morning.

Thank you. You make it all worth it:

(See :16 and 1:03).

____________________________
About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”

Weekend race results

By | May 19, 2013 4:12 pm | 0 Comments

Wooden Shoe 5K

Wooden Shoe 5K in Clymer, N.Y. — Saturday, May 18.  178 finishers.  Complete results here.

Top males:

1. Peter Boyd, 38, Union City, 16:43

2. Shawn Wiler, 18, Columbus, 17:09

3. Adam Rowe, 32, Ripley, 17:50

Top females:

1. Katie Kuttenkuler, 29, Erie, 19:24

2. Kimberly Turner, 29, Corry, 20:09

3. Rebecca King, 15, Clymer, 20:58

Erin Carlisle Memorial 5K

Erin Carlisle Memorial 5K — Presque Isle State park — Sunday, May 19. 140 finishers. Complete results here.

Top Males:

1. Carter Denne, 23, North East, 16:30 (wow!)

2. Sean Cillessen, 27, Erie, 18:56

3. Zachary Miller, 24, Girard, 19:46

Top Females

1. Anna Kemper, 17, Erie, 24:04

2. Rachel Willis, 17, Erie, 24:05

3. Emily Scavella, 28, Erie, 24:28

Cleveland Marathon

Cleveland Marathon/Half Marathon/10K & 5K— Cleveland, Ohio — Sunday, May 19 (5K was Saturday).  25,000+ finishers, including quite a few Erie-area runners. Complete, searchable results here.

 

 

4 Good Reasons to Marathon (and a step-by-step how-to)

By | May 10, 2013 1:31 am | 0 Comments

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Tracy Scotch, just after Chicago in 2012

I talked to four Erie-area running women this story about marathoning, which ran in the Erie Times-News’ Her Times women’s magazine.

Ange Eberlein and Karen Manganaro are well-known Erie runners and experienced marathoners, Tracy Scotch is a North East mom who started running just to have something for herself (and then ran her first marathon last fall!) and Tracy Jenks is an Erie woman who has just begun training for her first marathon.

Read more about these inspirational ladies here.

So you wanna run a marathon?

Step 1: Pick your marathon, preferably one eight to 18 months away. Big city marathons are often best for first-timers because they draw thousands of cheering spectators, many with hilarious signs, that will keep you going.

Step 2: Pick your marathon training plan. Visit www.runnersworld.com/training for dozens of printable training plans for beginners, intermediate and advanced runners. There are even run/walk plans that offer walk breaks at every mile.

Step 3: Tell everyone. Post it on Facebook, tweet your friends, tell everyone who will listen because then you will be accountable.

Step 4: Invest in good gear. Essentials: Good running shoes (visit Achille’s Running Shop for a professional fitting), a good sports bra, a water bottle (for longer training runs), moisture-wicking running clothes. Under Armour and other running clothes are expensive, but they last forever and are worth every dollar.

Step 5: Recruit or make new friends. The best way to get through long training runs (and they’ll get up to 20 miles in most plans) is to recruit a friend or find a group to do your long runs with. Join the Erie Runners Club (www.erie-runnersclub.org) and “like” the Erie Runners Club Facebook page to find running partners.

Step 6: Learn from veteran marathoners. You’ll find area runners, even the hard-core fast ones, to be some the friendliest and most welcoming people you will ever meet. Veteran runners love newbies. Read the Runner’s Notes blog (goerie.com/blogs/runnersnotes) for advice, encouragement and support.

Step 7: Enjoy the process. Training for a marathon is long (most plans are 12 to 18 weeks), hard and exhausting, but it’s also an opportunity to spend time in nature, to appreciate what your body can do, and to accomplish something you’re just dreaming about now.

Things I found — 5/9/13

By | May 9, 2013 1:52 am | 0 Comments

Worth Reading

 * Ready for a new challenge? Try reverse running.

* Outside magazine puts Tough Mudder’s First Death Into Context.

* Beautiful with brains: Why the whole concept of a bikini body is bunk.

* The running racket: How big business wrecked the marathon. “The average entry fee for the top 25 U.S. marathons has gone up 35 percent since 2007, to $112—three and a half times faster than inflation—according to the industry association RunningUSA.”

Video of the Week

Friend and fellow runner, Rob Frank, and his crew — including runner Matt Kleck, filmed this awesome Beast on the Bay promo video during the 3-mile trial run:

HOWEVER…..there’s an even BETTER one of Matt Kleck doing a total face-plant in the lake. His “friend” Robb slowed down the video and added sound…it’s hilarious.  If you know Matt or Rob or work out with Steve Krauza and his Team Adrenaline gang, ask them about it, and I’m sure they’ll share it with you.

Here’s a screen grab:

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Poster of the week

FACT:

truth

T-Shirt of the Week

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Available here in various styles starting at $14.99