Running the Race….physically and spiritually

There’s no hiding that I am a Christian, God is first and foremost in my life, and I make no apologies for that. Next comes my family and after that comes time for things I enjoy, including my running. I’m in a Bible study right now and we’re studying 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy Paul writes to Timothy about being prepared, as an athlete is prepared, and that an athlete does not “win” unless he competes according to the rules.

When we got to this point in the study we were talking about what attributes make up an athlete. Our teacher said that when she was doing this lesson, she thought of me, and my new endeavor in running and training as an athlete. A what?!? I thought, I’m not an athlete….and then the whole class started throwing out attributes of an athlete on the board and talking about what makes up an athlete.

Here’s a short list of words that were thrown out there: dedicated, passionate, driven, committed, determined, disciplined, patient, persistent, self-controlled, etc., etc. I sat there and listened and thought about the short running journey I have embarked on, coming up on a year in late November. I was almost in tears, because while I’ve never considered myself an athlete, I identified with every one of those words in terms of my running and in terms of my life.

For me running has not come easy. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but it takes all I have at each new endeavor. I’m not a natural born athlete, anyone who knows me can attest to that. I’m probably safer wrapped in bubble wrap, then let loose on a concrete road in shorts, graceful isn’t an attribute I’ve ever claimed, if you know what I mean. But once I began running, something in me desired to keep going, even with it being tough, more often than not. I’ve realized so much about myself and about life when I’m running.

Physically running is so very much like running the race of life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out there running in a race and everything in my mind, my body, my whole being wants to just give up. It’s hard, my legs ache, my lungs burn, I’m tired.

This happened to me yesterday at my race. From the first step I seemed to have a terrible ache in my right side, nothing made it go away and throughout the race it would get worse (to the point of stopping and curling over in pain) and then gradually better, but it never went away. I had 13.1 miles ahead of me and by mile 3 I was hurting so much I had no idea how I could possibly finish the race. At one point I ran right past my car, I could see it and for a split second I thought, I’ll just jump in my car and leave, no one will care. (I didn’t.) and I pressed on….step by step, mile by mile, walking for 10-20 seconds when the pain got too great, until it would let up, then running again. It hurt the whole time. I kept saying, just keep going, you’ll see the next mile marker, just focus on the mile you are in. I prayed, I almost cried, I just kept running….always looking for the next mile marker.

When we hit mile 8, we turned around to run back into downtown Houston and the sun was blinding (forgot the sunglasses.) I couldn’t see anything in front of me. I couldn’t look up, I had to stare at the ground in front my feet and just focus on the steps, I missed mile markers 9, 10, and 11 because the sun was so strong. When we got to mile 12 all I could think was…..so soon that finish line will be in sight, no matter how much it hurts, its so close, just one foot in front of the other, I couldn’t think of anything else. Then it came, I could hear the music and the cheers before I could see the finish chute. I didn’t have anyone waiting at the end to say good job, but at that point it didn’t matter, I ran to finish and finish strong. I did…and I am happy to say I am SO glad that race is over (and my side is still sore today- no idea what’s with that.) 😦

Running that (not so great) race yesterday made me think of life in general as I was running, of those things that come at us in the midst of the “race” of life and hurt so bad we just want to stop. We can’t see the finish line, we can’t see the next mile marker, we are blinded and in the dark. I have been there before, if we are honest with ourselves, we all have. This life is hard, without the hope in Jesus I don’t know how people make it.

If you are in a relationship with Christ, we are told that there will be trials and tribulations, but that we will always be given a way out. But that doesn’t mean we don’t suffer. Our society today teaches that suffering is bad, and that if you are suffering its because you have done something wrong. I’m not going to pretend that I like suffering, who would say that, but I do know that some of my most amazing growth as a person and as child of God has come in times of suffering. I am who I am because I have walked in the darkness. Because I have been there, acquainted with the darkness, I intimately know the light. I stay acquainted with my suffering because of the lessons it has taught me, it has became ingrained in the fibers of who I am. While my human nature is to avoid hurting, I know that suffering produces a result in me that, while its painful to get there, its a gift to me in the end. Just like running that race that hurts to get through, when you cross the finish line, you know you have done well and you take with you the lessons of that run, that trial, and grow from them.

We each have our own race (good and bad ones,) our own darkness and our own struggles. I guess I write all this to say that if you are there, in the dark, running that hard race and that pain keeps hitting you in the side, hang on….the next mile marker is just ahead, and each leads you to the finish line. When you get there, it will be worth it…you may not see it right away, but you will be better, stronger and more capable the next time.

PS- on a side not, I read today that it takes your body 2 weeks to reap the physical benefits of a hard workout. Isn’t that just life….we get to that finish line, but the results take time to come back. Its not instantaneous like we wish…all good things come with waiting. 🙂

Hang in there wherever you are today. If you are in the dark…keep one foot in front of the other, you’ll get there. And if that isn’t you today, join hands with someone who is…no one needs to walk the hard stuff alone, God created us to be in community, to help one another as we struggle, no one is exempt.

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Maybe a Marathon?

So I commented on my Facebook page awhile back with this post:

“You know that place where, for a whole variety of reasons, you come to the realization that a marathon isn’t in your best interest in this season. Yeah, I’m there. After much struggle and internal strife I made the decision to switch to the half for this January and while a little sad, I am also al ot relieved. There are many more times to run a marathon. My kids are only little once, only high maintenance once (wait, who are we kidding?!?) and I know that my marathon debut is still on the horizon…..just maybe not this January. I’m at peace with this decision….and still excited for the several races I have between now and then. I’ll be the best where I am and at what I’m doing, that’s all I can ask for.”

That’s where I was then….writing out the 18 week training protocol for the marathon plan I had chosen…and I felt defeated. The 6 days a week of running would work if I didn’t have kids, or if I had kids and had a husband who worked a normal 40 hour week, or if I had a nanny. 🙂 I am not complaining at all, I wouldn’t trade where I am, staying at home with my girls for anything. My husband is an amazing provider and in this season of our life has a crazy work schedule with unpredictable hours and sporadic travel involved. I am fine with all this…it was just when I put pen to paper and saw the hours and the miles that training for a marathon would require, I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t want to put in just what I could and end up injured, or sacrifice my role as mom and wife when this is a choice. So I made the decision to change to the half which required much less miles and hours of my life for the next 4 months.
Well that was fine and good, except I couldn’t convince my heart to let go of the dream of running the Houston Marathon this January. So I went online and started researching again. Then I came across Hal Higdon’s Marathon training plans that only call for 4 days of running each week. (This is the same basic plan I used to complete my first half marathon in February of this year.) I started feeling hopeful and then I sat down with my calendar from Oct-Jan again and plotted out this training plan. I felt encouraged, hopeful even. I saw that I could move around a few things and do all my time intensive runs while my kids are in school, which only left a short run that could be done early before they are up on Saturdays….and lo and behold I could be both mom and runner 🙂 My heart was happy. BUT….I didn’t want to set myself up for failure so I made a deal with myself and that is where I am today. Here’s my current plan…
I am going to continue on with training for the full marathon using the new plan I found. When I get to December (which is where the 18 & 20 mile training runs take place) I will see how those runs go, see how I feel at that point. I have until December 31 to switch to the half, so I think that if I can get through those two BIG runs, I’ll know if I am prepared to run the marathon on this plan, or if I should switch to the half. My heart is in the full…but I am going to be smart and keep my priorities (mainly my husband, children, and health) at the forefront and continue on as far as I can make it…maybe all 26.2 miles. But if not, there is next year 🙂 I will do it and that makes me feel better.
So thats where I sit for now….I’ve completed the first three weeks of training and am in week 4 as we speak. Anxiously awaiting Houston’s weather to consistently stay cool so I can enjoy the runs as much as I did this weekend when the temps dropped. Come on FALL!! 🙂