On Saturday, I ran my first 10K race.
For anyone who follows me on social media, that would likely be all that they saw, just photos of the race day. What you didn’t know is that I’ve been “training” for about 6 months, three times a week. You didn’t see that I used to run, but that I quit running when I found out I was pregnant with Eleanor. The first summer after she was born, I tried to start running again. I did it for a while, then I quit. The next summer, I tried again, and I quit again. You didn’t see that internal battle. How hard it was to start again, knowing how long and how fast I used to be able to run, and then being in so much pain when running even a short distance. You didn’t see me forcing myself to hit the pavement, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, running then walking, and slowly building up my endurance until I could run longer and longer distances. Getting up at 6AM to get a run in. Or the times I pushed a stroller with a sizeable toddler in it, which by the way, doesn’t make running easier in any way. I tried to avoid having to do that as much as possible.
You didn’t hear my internal dialogue, wanting to give up, wanting to quit. Not wanting to run, not wanting to leave the couch and get out there.
But with discipline, and determination, I did it. I finally worked my way all the way up to running 10 kilometers in a row without stopping. I ran with my cousin, and let me tell you, there is just something about running with someone. It encourages you. It inspires you. Actually, the only reason I started running again last spring was because another friend kept posting about her runs, how she’d squeeze them in during her lunch hour even, if she needed to. And I thought, “yeah! I should start running again too!” so I did. And we messaged each other when we ran and we encouraged each other to get out there when we didn’t feel like it. And we never regretted a single run, no matter how badly we wanted to put it off.
I’d never run a 10K until this day. The furthest I ever got was 8K, so I was pretty nervous, but there were just so many other people out there running too, and I had my cousin by my side. We were going to do this! At every distance marker, we raised our arms in celebration. We did it! We made it another kilometer! I kept my mind on the finish line. There was a good chunk of time where I didn’t even know when I’d see the finish line. Honestly, there was a good chunk of time where I kept wondering “WHERE IS THE HALFWAY MARK?”. I can tell you I smiled so big when I saw that finish line, and knew I was going to make it.
So much of running is a mental game. My brain wants me to quit. I tell myself I can’t do it. I’m tired. I’ve never done this before. People are passing me, people are better at this than me, why am I even doing this? When I’m alone, it’s really easy to give in to those thoughts. When I am running with a friend, it’s a lot easier to keep going, because she is, and she’s saying nice things like “We got this! Keep smiling! We’re killin’ it!” and I say similar things back.
I can’t help but see the parallel. I’ve always thought about this, how life is a big course that I am running. And sometimes it gets so hard, I feel like I’m going to die if I don’t stop right now. I’m in pain, or I tell myself others are doing it better, or that I’m not good enough. And if I run alone, I might just quit right then and there. But life is better when I live it in community, and I have friends to keep me going, to encourage me, to inspire me, to hold me accountable to my goals, or to simply just walk with me if I need to walk.
People pass me all the time on this life-race I’m on, and I often feel like I’m in dead-last. But I can’t focus on that. There’s so much they haven’t seen. They haven’t seen what I’ve struggled with, what I’ve endured to get to where I am now. The things I’ve had to carry while running. And I haven’t seen theirs. I have to focus on my own running, on what I need to do to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I need to keep my eyes on the finish line, not my pace, because everyone runs at a different pace. And that’s okay.
At the end of our run, we stood on a podium in front of a sign that said “FINISHER”. And I think that’s what I’m going to keep focusing on, being a finisher. I’m will throw off everything and every thought that keeps me from going where I’m going. I will celebrate every kilometer I complete, and I’m not going to give up. I’m going to be a finisher.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:13