What a day! After this, my 20th half marathon over 7 years of running, I’ve learned one thing – you never know what a particular day may bring. Running mirrors life. You do the best you can with choices you’re given, and the rest is a battle for that ever illusive idea of control.
Jesus’s words also mirror lessons I’ve learned in running – to gain life, you have to lose it. To “lose it”, I view this concept as releasing my need for predictability. For example, if I chose to train a certain way, chose to eat certain foods, and rest like the “experts” tell me, I am guaranteed this particular outcome. So not true. So not life. And catch me in the right mood, I would believe that predictability would be boring.
I’ve LEARNED to say, “thank The Lord above for the adventure of life!” I’ve learned to roll with the bad, KNOWING He has my best in mind. I may not like His plan at the time, but I choose to stand on what He tells me in truth.
All that to say, this race was an adventure. Somehow I knew it would be, just didn’t know how. I prayed that He would show me, and indeed He did.
I awoke early, let out the dog, was greeting by a delightful cool blast of fresh air, grabbed my usual water, and began to stretch. Thanks in part to my friend Erin, this has been a usual routine for me this summer. Despite a few hour of sleep due to a wonderful family outing at an Indians game the night before, my body was awake and appeared to be in gear. We arrived on time, waited a bit longer in the corral than expected, but at 7:12 am, off we went!
And… yikes. Soreness, yep! But, you’ll have that, perhaps my body will be kind and release the tension before to long. Mile 4, nope still there. And… cue my sciatica. For those of you saying, “What?” Here’s the definition – Sciatica is a symptom of a condition, where one experiences pain, tingling, and numbness down the bag of the leg. I call it butt pain. It comes and goes, today it came. “Well, hello pain! And how long do you plan on staying?” The answer – the entire race, yep. One of those. And honesty, around that mile 4 mark, I was changin up my game plan. New plan – be happy to finish today Heather, just finish. Why? Because at the moment, my body is screaming to stop and I still have 9.1 miles to go! And around mile 6, I actually started to believe that it would be possible to finish, about half way there.
The miles slowly ticked away, I appreciated the park scenery, I re-lived past races along the same course, I watched people as I passed or they passed, certain songs came through my earbuds, and even a friend jumped in and ran with me for a short time. And I reflected again on the similarities of life and running…
1. We all have different stories, and yet in this particular leg of life, we started our journey at the same time.
2. In this season, some of us are able to run, and looking up, some are laying in a hospital bed just a few floors above our vantage point at the starting line. Their journey also includes pain. Is it possible that there is purpose in this pain we experience? Do they know they are not alone?
3. What motivates us to endure hardship? What is our default mode as doubt creeps in? What is it about the “hard” that makes it so “good?” Today, I was able to trust my training. I could fall back on the truth of my milage, hill workout, and speed workouts alike. My body was prepared, strengthened and stretched in a way that recognized the strain happening and even yet to come. It was almost on “auto-pilot” mode. The battle for me took place in my mind. It could land and settle in confidence on this truth.
4. Perspective. A song came through my ears at just the right time. It spoke of Christ and the time in which he endured hardship. To be honest, in light of my momentary troubles, it doesn’t even some close to the pain that Christ suffered for me. Enough said.
5. Take the race one mile at a time. By breaking a long term goal into sizable chucks, I can celebrate the victory of each step, therefore relegating all negative chatter to the back seat. A positive mindset will carry me to the finish every time.
6. I knew I would finish, one way or another, I didn’t want to regret a moment that I couldn’t return to, a moment that I knew wasn’t my best. And within this desire, I was rewarded a great gift. This gift I didn’t expect and had let go off way back at mile 4. I knew a good time was not in the works for today, and I had made peace with that, and then I heard my split time at mile 12, and I knew I had a chance. I was gifted with a time 1 minute faster than in May, and 2 minutes faster than a year ago. In all that pain, in all that release, I finished well. Simply, a gift.
And I waved to my family on the last corner before crossing the finish line, and I looked up to receive my medal, and there before me was my friend, and my hero. Another member of the sisterhood of sweat, and she greeted me with a huge smile, and a hug, and a medal. And I don’t remember feeling the pain, I now just remember the picture, captured by a race photographer, one that will symbolize for me the greatest gift of all – relationships that mirror the love of Christ. Though this life is short, eternity will be forever.
How will you join Him in this race today?