What do I want my girls to see?

athletaWow.  I’m not sure where to start.  It’s been awhile since I felt the nudge to write.  And that’s okay.  I’m learning to be okay with the truth that God states about a time and season for all things.  That includes a time to process and grow closer through writing and a time to shut up, I mean, be quiet.  Lately I’ve noticed those “moments”.  The ones that cause me to pause in the middle of a somewhat normal day.  The ones that tilt my head ever-so-slightly to the left, in a “huh?” gesture.  And most of these moments involve my children.

Today, I found myself stretching near my usual spot at home, prepping for a run, thinking about who-knows-what, when I hear the voice of my 11-year-old daughter.

Just three days earlier, I had an opportunity to shop for the first time at a new store.  While looking for a suit I could wear for a triathlon, I came across this company on-line.  They were a bit pricey, but “everyone said” their items are of high quality.  And so I made a purchase.  And henceforth, we receive a catalog in the mail every few months.  I must admit, I relish looking through all the comfortable athletic wear.  I look, I just don’t buy.  Target and Old Navy are more my price range, and I’m okay with that.

And then they build a store here in Columbus.

And then my birthday rolls around.

And then my ever-so-attentive husband knows about my “practical” nature and purchases a gift card for me.

A month later, the opportunity arrived, and I made a purchase.

Long story short, I decided to baptize new said clothes this morning, and while stretching I hear…

Mommy, you look just like one of the girls from the magazine.

And I scoff.

I did.

The reason for my reaction?  Just 3 days ago, while trying on these clothes, I criticized His creation.

You see, my body image and I have a long history.  During my college years, I became a slave to a warped reality of the “magazine look”.  I had convinced myself I was doing a good thing, I was showing strength and discipline in controlling my food intake and exercise output.  I really thought I was on the right path, so much so, that everyone who spoke contrary to my new focus was completely off-base.  And then God sent me a man who saw through my false reality, and spoke truth into my life, even with all the push-back I dished out.  And through this journey to discover His truth, through His rescue, through his never-ending, always and forever love, I know that I am redeemed and restored.

When He tells me, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  It’s true.  And when I criticize His creation, I’m basically telling Him he got it wrong.  And I know that that God doesn’t make mistakes.  He has created all things beautiful.  And that includes me.  And you.

And 20 years later, I still get it wrong.

But I am quick to call it out.  Quick to recognize the lie and call out the truth.  It’s a choice.  It’s practiced.  It becomes more common place.

And as I recognize the date, just three days ago.  It hits me.  8 years ago to the day, I clearly heard two words from God.  “It’s time”.  And I said yes, and my running journey began.

The most powerful truth I’ve learned is the source of my strength.  All of it comes from Him.  All of it.  And so, my darling daughter, when you see Mommy, and you see the modestly dressed women who care for their health and strengthen their physical bodies in a catalog, my prayer is that you see the strength of the Lord in me.  May you know that I count it a joy to be dedicated in my pursuit of Him through the clarity and closeness I experience when my body is moving.  I run because God has allowed it.  I run to pursue more of Him.  I run as a reminder that He gives and He takes away (pain), blessed be the name of the Lord.

May you sweet, darling girl KNOW that you are His beautiful creation.  You were divinely fashioned in my womb.  And you are loved simply because you are His.

Thank you for reflecting that beauty to me today.

It was a race for the girls!

shirtAnother Saturday, another half marathon race!  And yet, over the past seven years, I’ve learned it’s never just “another race”.  Each race is unique, each has it’s teachable moments, each leaves it’s own mark, both in my memory and in some sort of body ache.  This day was no different.

It started in the dark, as most do.  Three girls met in my driveway, we shared our sleepless nights stories, pre-race Advil was shared, tunes were ready and cued up on our devices of choice, and off we drove.  We arrived, parked, and walked up the incline that was soon to become the finish of our race.  Yes, we walked up.  Oh little did we know…

The girlsHaving some moments to spare we decided to pause for a photo op because, let’s face it, the “before pictures” are so much more cheerful than the after :).  It was a great scene, lots of ladies, and the music was already blaring!  Next to me is my early-morning, go-getter of a dear friend.  Next to her is a friend who’s a newbie – first half-marathon today!  And next to her is my long-time, speedy, and humble-spirited friend.  They each have a great story about today.  Friend #1 celebrated her 13 week pregnancy with #4 while running 13 miles, I know, hero.  Friend #2 is a working Mom of 3, reaching her goals and celebrating her health – hero.  And friend #3 earned an amazing PR (personal record) time on this very challenging course – hero.  You see, this road of life is never lived alone.  Though our “training” runs may have happened separately, and even these race miles were experienced with distance in-between, we ran this together.

My take-aways from this race:

1.  No matter how many training runs I’ve experienced, when it comes to race day, it’s always best just to “roll” with it.  As with life, one is never for certain what may come, no matter how much effort is put into the preparation.  Today brought some humidity, as evidence in light-headedness, frizzy hair that sticks to sweaty skin, and sweat that literally flies.  Nothing you can do about it, but I could choose to be smart.  I needed water.  At every opportunity.  And that meant taking time to do it.

2.  Let gravity be your friend on the downhill, because you know an uphill is coming.  Here enters the “roll” with it part, literally.  Hills are not fun.  You don’t let it stop you, but you do notice a difference – certain muscle groups absorb the extra work, breathing finds a different rhythm, and the mental looks for the top strain to carry you through.  This course had them, in other words, very few parts were totally flat.  Aesthetically, it was beautiful – some urban, wide streets, some wooded scenes on a trail, bridges that took you across the river, a turn-around at the Santa Maria boat.  It wasn’t dull by any means, yet as the miles ticked away, you knew fatigue would set it.

Brynn's hug3.  Voices and faces of encouragement can literally lift and carry.  Around mile 4, I saw the family of friend #1 – lift.  Around mile 5, I saw a familiar face, gave a high-5, and heard the words “lookin strong girl!” – lift.  Around mile 6, you could see the ladies in front as they turned, headed for the second half of the race, lots of “good job”s were uttered, and I hollered at my friends as they passed – lifted.  Around mile 9, I saw them, the ones I love, and my arms reached forward – lift.  And I needed it.  Energy was lagging, legs were heavy, it was a time of questioning my sanity, and yet, I only had 5 to go.

4.  Sometimes your best isn’t something that can be measured.  Though I had a hunger to continue the pace I was able to keep up until this point, the reality of my body’s limitations begged to be accepted.  I could choose to be disappointed, but I’ve learned to choose to delight.  Delighting in the truth tells me the time I receive at the finish line is a gift.  The sheer fact that I am ABLE to start and finish a 13.1 mile course is a blessing.  I’m not entitled to it, I’m gifted with the ability, today.  Today, my best included a mental challenge to finish well, and to finish with a smile.

5.  Running is just a part of life.  For a part of a day, I get to run.  Running helps me to balance all my zones – mental, physical, and spiritual – because when one ain’t happy, they’re all unhappy.  I’ve learned to get-er-done, and then embrace the rest of the day.  After the race, we came home, grabbed packed bags, and headed to our daughter’s first swim meet.  My son and I stood as timer’s on lane 5 where 3 of her 5 events occurred.  And we cheered, and we sweated, and we pressed our timing buttons.  And then we went to dinner to celebrate our son’s 13th birthday.  And then we baked a cake for his friend party the next day.  And life is lived.  And life is celebrated.

And for all these, my heart is full.  1 Thessalonians 5:16 – Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

collageboys swim team

Running mirrors life

medalWhat 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!

girlsAnd… 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.

familyAnd 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?

A runner’s dream day…

Cap city

Yet another Saturday morning, another great morning for a run.  Except this Saturday, May 4th, I would be allowed to run in another race.  I do not write the word allowed lightly because as anyone can testify, simply to be ABLE to run is a gift in and of itself.  Simple fact is bodies do wear down.  This feat defies time.  It defies logic.  In fact, I dare say this feat starts first in your mind, then your legs simply obey… mostly.

For me, this particular race had me backtracking…. in my mind anyway.  For this race, run in the streets of Columbus, was the first first time I towed the line for a long-distance event ever, seven years ago.  It’s been a privilege to run this one every year since.  And not only did the day bring about perfect weather conditions, but I was privileged to experience yet another start with a friend who’s “run alongside” me in various ways for over six years now.  You cannot actually see her giant-sized heart in that lean and healthy body of hers, but I’m telling you, not sure how it fits in there.  She has a heart of a champion, not only in her hard work efforts, but more importantly in her compassion and generosity for others. To many more years my friend!!

I could share many memory-pictures of today.  Some have meaning to me alone, some have a greater meaning to us all, some just celebrate the family-hood that comes from enduring the hard and cheering on it’s members.  I simply share so that I can remember.  I want to remember these lessons to share them with my children.  I want to remember because when things get hard again (and they will), I want to trace His faithfulness, His strength, His lavish love.

And it was for this reason that I have one crystal clear memory.  It was mile 7.  My mind celebrates the past-half-way point, but my body begs to differ.  In the excitement of race day, in the flow of being surrounded by the mass of others, I run faster than my typical pace.  And in that excitement, I start to think about numbers.  And when I start to think about numbers, that becomes my focus.  And the mind games begin.  I really don’t want to settle there, but in the flow it happens.  And so, just ahead, I see a sign.  It’s held up strong and high by it’s owner.  It has three simple words written on it.  And it rocks my thoughts.

Run For God.

That’s it.  That was this is all about.  That’s why I began, that’s why I continue.  I run – FOR God, BY God, IN God.  And my countenance shifted.  And the sun seemed a little bit warmer, and the sky appeared a little bit bluer, and the breeze was a little bit cooler, and my smile was a little bit wider.  Pain?  Yep, still present.  But therein lies a blessing in pain, it’s a reminder of the work I’m putting in.  Work that is worth it each and every time.  So much so, that I keep on working, until He tells me otherwise.

And I finish.  And I celebrate with my family who have come to support, and friends who have traveled the journey as well.  I also celebrate those who have finished this course for the very first time, with a story each their own.  And I receive a medal that serves as marker #19 in my count of half-marathon races.  And I cherish this day to honor my God who has blessed me beyond what I deserve.  And I return home to a full family day that includes shopping for and planting flowers with my girls, hearing my boys talk about their games of pick-up basketball, and jumping on our bikes for a ride to DQ, and my heart is full.

And to top it off, I receive an email from Cap City.  I hadn’t seen a time of 1:52 in quite awhile.  I was happy with thinking I hit the 1:53 range, because for a long while I couldn’t break the 1:54 mark.  And what number did I see flash across my iPhone screen?

1:52.59   Boom!  I celebrated like a 2 year old on Christmas, just God and I in that moment.  So fun.  I’m so grateful.

And through our current family situation, His words ring loud and true:

Philippians 4:11-13

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

May we all continue to remember.  Thank you Jesus.

Unexpected blessings.

balance winter running 460

So I awoke this morning knowing that a long run was ahead of me.  Sometimes this gets my juices flowing, other times it brings a feeling of dread.  Today was the latter.  After returning home late from an-all day trip last evening, I wasn’t sure how my body would respond today.  Yet, I knew my mind was set, and this run was on the “agenda”.

I decided to run on our local trail today, which means I needed to drive to said location.  As I drove, I glanced at the many runners that were already out and about.  It WAS a great morning for a run, sunshine out, much of the snow melted, no wind, simply a fresh-air smell in the air.  So what was with my Debbie-downer attitude?  Oh well, time to get going!  I decided to listen to a few Podcasts by some great preachers.  And the rest of the run is now history…

I was mentally so challenged by the words the Lord spoke to me through these messages, that I was utterly distracted.  My body had many moans and groans, but my spirit was just soaking and soaring!  With one step at a time, the miles ticked away, and I found myself starting to smile at the many cyclists, walkers, and runners that passed my view.  And a thought was renewed once again…

Just step into the “next” Heather, and simply watch where it takes you.

For some reason, I decided to run the entire trail today – 6 miles down, 6 miles back.  Last weekend I ran 10 of these 12, and my body was tempting me to cut those last two miles off again.  But I’m stubborn.  Ironically, it was just after mile 10 when my “conversations” with the Lord turned real personal.  I had just listened to a story of an ordinary lady who dared to be reckless in following God’s directive around the world.  The ways in which the Lord used her humble, willing spirit was nothing short of a miracle.  It was then that I heard, “It’s time”.  My soul knew exactly what that meant.  I repeated what I heard just for confirmation and then asked one more clarifying question, “When?”

Honduras.  October trip.

And I responded, “Okay.”

And I’m so excited.

In fact, just a half mile short of the finish, as I my mind wandered away from the happenings around me, I sudden saw a hand waving at me.  This person had been walking towards me for awhile, I just didn’t “see” him.  It was our friend Jeff, going for a walk with his dog.  This wasn’t just an ordinary friend, this was a guy who, along with his amazing wife, have adopted 3 children.  From Central and South America.  And I smiled and waved back.  Little did he know.  Little did I know.

And I reached the “finish line”, which isn’t really the “finish line”, but a beginning line, and I knew that the moment I stopped I would experience intense pain.  And I did.  And I’ll do it again.  Not out of stupidity, but of experience.  Because this I now know –

Obedience brings rewards.  Many times in ways that blow my mind.

I don’t want to miss.  God continues to transform lives today through His wild love.

2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

I want to extend my commitment to the Lord, in spite of circumstances, in spite of comfort, in spite of equipping, in spite of a language barrier.  I want to dare to believe that God has a plan for my good (and the good of others) that goes beyond my understanding.  I want to be where God is moving.  I want to be blown away.  I want to be broken, in fact, dare I say I want to be wrecked… for Him.
hands-copyLord here I am, send me.

Matthew 28:19 – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you Jesus for your timing.  I promised I would wait for your prompting, even if it didn’t happen for years.  I trust you.  I love you.  Thank you in advance for how you will break this vessel to be restored in you.  Use me Lord.  However you see fit.

Run

 

Girl.Running

This weather has been such a treat.  Such a joy.  Such a gift.  Us Ohioans know that it’s a short-term joy.  It’s but a glimpse of what the next season will bring us… eventually.  But for today, I say thanks.  In in the spirit of thanksgiving, I took some time to do a bit of studying tonight.  Whether you walk, jog, or sprint, we all have this race of life that we run.  May we find joy amongst all life’s water stops, detours, and road blocks…

Because today looks like a good day to be a runner…

Run to Jesus (Proverbs 18:10)
Run unhindered (Proverbs 4:12)
Run the right course (Psalm 119:32)
Run with endurance (Isaiah 40:31)
Run for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24)
Run fit (I Corinthians 9:25)
Run with confidence (I Corinthians 9:26)
Run with purpose (Philippians 2:16)
Run unimpeded (Hebrews 12:1)
Run with focus (Hebrews 12:2)
Run to the finish (2 Timothy 4:7)

Running for Rachel’s House!

This morning, I woke up at 6:00 (which was really 7:00), and I laced up my shoes.  My husband came downstairs and asked me how I was feeling.  Actually, I wasn’t thinking about the running part at all.  I was thinking about some special women.  You see, just a few moments early I was reading.  I was reading about the time when my Jesus hung on the cross.  For me.  And for everyone.  I read the words of the Roman officer who had a front row view.  After Jesus died he said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

No denying it.  Jesus hung next to two other criminals.  One would see Jesus in paradise a few moments later, the other would not.

I had the privilege of hearing a woman’s testimony before we began the race.  She spoke briefly of her life in bondage.  Then she spoke of her God.  Her God that gave her a special gift.  She called it jail.  And He became her everything.  And Rachel’s House, part of Lower Lights Ministries, became a safe haven for her healing process.  And she is now employed.  And through her tears, she expressed joy and freedom unlike anything she had previous known.  And without Rachel’s house, her past would have dictated her future of repeated mistakes.  And now the prisoner is free and wants to “turn back and strength her sisters” (Luke 22:32).

And as I heard Donald Miller speak about “story” just two days ago, I thought about HIS story in each of our lives.  The Spirit lives through us in telling HIS story.  And I heard just a glimpse today.  And it brought me to tears.  Redemption.  Restoration.  Healing.  Living.  That is what my Jesus, and your Jesus died for.

And these precious women showed up today.  Some walked, some ran, some helped.  And it was a morning of celebration.  The temperature was chilly, but the sun was bright!  Upon the completion of the race, a full breakfast was served, gifts were given, and relationships developed.

In fact, I met several people from Rock City church for the first time today.  I even had the privilege of hearing a few of their stories.  And I was blown away.  When God gives a church a mission statement (to reach the unchurched and the spiritually restless), he truly does BRING those people.  Beautiful stories.  Amazing God.

Thanks to the Milam family for spreading the word about this event.  Thanks to the Pinnacle Ladies Association for running a well organized event.  Thanks to those serving in a a ministry role every day.  Thanks be to God to deserves all the glory and the honor and the praise.

How was YOUR Sunday?

My 5th Marathon – what a day in Columbus!

This day began in the wee hours of the morning. Though not completely foreign to this body, I found myself anticipating the events of the day.  As only experience can share, training leads me to today, but it’s not a complete guarantee of running through my “best day”.  If it happens, complete gratitude, because as I’ve learned, the body can be unpredictable.

At 5:30 am, I drove to my dear friend Amanda’s home, a short quarter mile away.  I ran my first Columbus Marathon with her 5 years ago, 5 years later, we’re traveling together to my fifth marathon.  Oh the stories the years could tell.  We met yet another friend, and it was smooth sailing all the way to the parking garage.  We arrived on time and decided to chat a bit longer in the warm car before heading to the starting corrals.  As we began to walk towards the stairs, I hear my name being called.  Of all the 20,000 participants of the day, we just so happened to park across from my brother and his lovely wife!  Explain that!

Now a peppy group of five, we headed to the start, along with thousands of others.  It was a beautiful sunrise, we heard a warming rendition of the National Anthem, heard the sound of a cannon, and witnessed a visual sight of fireworks.  While waiting, we spoke with a gentleman that is 77 years old.  He will soon be finishing his 50th race!  He was witty, he was genuine, he was fascinatingly real, and he was encouraging – such a hopeful glimpse of the years to come and the celebration of health and life.

Soon the gun sounded, and off we went… about 5 minutes later.  What can you do?  Lots of people, does mean some waiting 🙂  This is the exciting part – spectators cheering, searching for their loved ones, the rise of warm breath in the air, the sound of feet pounding, and music pouring though ear buds.  This is the celebration of the training.

Not too far into the miles, I happened to glance over and see my sister-in-law – fun!  We ran together for a few miles before parting at a water stop.  Ahead I noticed another friend, this time a Mom from gymnastics, we exchanged a nod and a few words.  Up ahead at mile 7, I anticipated high-fiving my buddy Toby, one of the patient champions represented all throughout the course.  I ended up on the opposite side of the street, yet I took a moment to pray for this brave child, undergoing yet another surgery tomorrow.  Soon after that, I thought about my students who so kindly created supportive signs for the hallway outside my classroom.  A friend from high school had commented on facebook.  I’m not sure why, but I glance behind me to my left, and there she was!   We exchanged a side-hug, a few words, and parted ways.

Not much farther ahead, we reached a water stop, and my friend Kathy so kindly handed me a much needed cup of water.  Soon it was mile 10, so far so good!  Only three to go and I’d hit the half-way mark!  Well, I got “hit” alright.  Pain.  Lower Back.  Not so good.  This has happened on and off in training, I knew it was a possibility, and here is was.  16 more miles to go.  What’s a girl to do?  Take some Advil, and grab some water at mile 12!

To attempt to describe the situation with words is a bit complicated, best I can say is that I went to “that other place.”  It’s a separation of sorts.  You mentally detach from the body.  Call it distraction, call it choice, but it’s a state where I can be fully aware that pain is racking my body, yet mentally I choose other thoughts.  It’s part of the reason why someone can “look like” they haven’t run 26 miles.  This is a learned skill.  It’s practiced in training.  You understand the truth a bit clearer.  The truth is you’re not dying.  The truth is your body is temporarily in pain from induced stress.  You recognize different types of pain, and your behavior responds accordingly.  In this case, I chose to continue to take in the sights and sounds.

Every mile marker, a child champion was celebrated.  I thought about the bravery of those children whose race lasts a lifetime, not just four hours.  I thought about the “angels” and hundreds of supporters who donned t-shirts, raised signs and tents, and created an atmosphere of support.  I became intentional about thanking those who took their morning to extend a hand in support of my hydration every mile, for those who called out my name designated on my bib, and over the loudspeaker.  I appreciated a fellow Ironman champion friend who was experiencing her own pain, yet yelled in support of all those around her, I even heard my name yelled from a passing car as friend drove by (what timing?!)

At mile 17 we ran around the shoe, and then through the shoe!  People lined the bleachers, all in support of those who said yes to a silly race over 4 months prior.  Bands played, college students and athletes were present, I can say I never felt alone.  And then I was nearing mile 20, my heart was gearing up for this.  You see, a large part of my heart would be waiting there, and I needed to see them almost more than I needed my next breath.  They understand when “Mommy is going for a run”, they make me pasta dinners the night before, and come shoe shopping with me, and wait for my return on a Saturday morning before heading to our family activities.  They love to come to my events as much as I love attending theirs.  And there they were…

  And in those hugs, I felt refueled.  I had six more miles to go.  And the countdown began.  There’s a moment when you believe, in the midst of muscle tightness, heavy legs, and depleted energy, that you will not only finish, but you will finish well… I wasn’t quite there yet, but I would be, very soon.

And then the Lord sent another friend, he ran beside me in jeans, carrying a chair over his shoulder, and then a water stop could be seen ahead, and then I saw a pink shirt.  The shirt of my friend Amanda.  And we ran together for a mile, and we separated at a water stop, and then it was mile 25.  One more to go.  All mental at this point.  There’s an uphill, and it’s literally a chant in your head – almost there, almost there – and then I see a sign – “You are no longer a runner, you are a marathoner”.  And I gasp.  It’s truth.  The sheer statement of an accomplishment within a short grasp.  And I set my sights – one more stretch, one more turn, one more orange sign, around the corner, and a short .2 mile downhill finish.

And the crowd is thick, and the noise literally lifts you up, and I glance to the right and see my Dad waving.  I’ve never seen my parents at the finish before today, it’s usually a blur.  And I receive another gift.  And I cross the finish line.  And I see my friend Amanda.  And we embrace in emotion.  We both ran with pain.  We didn’t even need to say it, we knew it.  And we rejoiced in our finish time, in spite of pain.  I never thought I would break the four hour mark again (3:58.19).  And we thank the Lord who gives us the reason to run in the first place.  And we take a picture to remember.  And we celebrate with family.  And we share through social-media.  And we take a nap.  And we remember… for it is in those times that we reach the complete end of ourselves, that we remember the One who gives us life.  Life to be celebrated!

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.