Below is the latest article I wrote for our church newsletter...some people have told me they really liked it, so I thought maybe I should share it here, too!
Lessons I’m learning from running and training for a half-marathon:
Don’t get too far ahead of yourself; put one foot in front of the other. Don’t worry about the next mile, half-mile, etc, just run to the next mailbox. Thinking of running 13.1 miles is still very daunting, even as I’ve seen myself improving in my fitness and running ability to the point of being able to run 5 miles with only a few walk breaks. Today I measured with my odometer in the car, and 13.1 miles took me from my house in Manchester to the stone house with a white barn on 116 right near West York Church of the Brethren! That’s far! If I think about it too much, I feel almost certain that I can’t do it, but I continue to follow my training plan and I’ve been assured that I will cross the finish line at Hershey in October. For now, when I run, I try not to think too much about the distance I need to cover in October, or even to dwell too much on how far I need to go with a single run. I just try to remember to put one foot in front of the other, set a baby goal for myself, like reaching the next mailbox or stop sign, and when I get to that one, look ahead for the next landmark. Sometimes when we try to see too far into the future, we can’t imagine reaching our goals, but when we set a tiny baby step for ourselves, we can accomplish it and get that much closer to attaining the bigger prize!
Even when you feel alone, you’re not alone. In some ways, this has more to do with the Team in Training in general than it does with me running. When I went to an information session to learn more about running with the Team, I was told that during our group runs on Saturday mornings, I would never run alone. I have to say, I was skeptical! But, it’s true...you are never left to run alone on the group runs. And even during the week, when I do run alone, I mostly enjoy it. I run as early in the morning as I can, and often have a wonderful view of the sun rising. As I look out over the town of Mt. Wolf from the road I run in Manchester, I also think of my dad and of the town he loved so much. I’m reminded of this passage from Hebrews 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Many people say that it’s the repetitive cadence of running that lends a sort of meditative quality to the experience; even though I listen to music that is anything but meditative while I’m running to keep me energized, it still provides an opportunity to think and to wonder about all the saints who form the cloud of witnesses that surrounds each of us at all times. Especially when we are doing a difficult task, it seems that they accompany us to aid us in completing our goals.
Breathe and keep moving. I’ve always been hard on myself and a bit of a perfectionist. When I hear someone being called a “runner,” I think that means running the entire time! I’m learning that you can call yourself a runner even if you sometimes have to walk. The important thing is to keep moving forward, and to finish what you start. With the grace that is granted from walking, I know that when a run gets hard, I don’t have to panic about whether or not to stop two miles from my house; I can just start walking, breathe deeply, and run again when I feel able, and I will finish the task.
I write this after our week of Vacation Bible School, where one of the verses the children memorized was: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
How true it is that God is with us wherever we go! No matter what we do, we can count on God to accompany us, to take the journey with us, to remain with us even when it gets difficult, and to help urge us on to the finish.
In running as in life, all we need to do is put one foot in front of the other, and soon we will find that we have crossed distances we never imagined were possible. Thanks be to God!