Things to do, that is. I suppose I don’t really have that many things to do in the next couple months, but it sure feels like it.
The blog has been quiet for a number of reasons, one of which is my decision to run a half marathon. After Asher was born, I decided I wanted to run the Edinburgh half that takes place in May each year. I began running about a month after his birth, and stopped roughly 10 weeks later when we ran into some nursing problems.
When we firmly decided that we were moving back to Indiana, the Edinburgh half became the Indy Mini, which also takes place in May. I was hesitant to commit because it was a long way off, and I knew there was a lot of potential for failure given the uncertain nature of our lives. Nonetheless, a week or two after we arrived I registered for the race.
I started running again in January, after a few sedentary months filled with hopes of prolonging Asher’s stint as a breastfed baby. It didn’t take long to notice a nagging pain in my shins. I hoped against hope that it wasn’t shin splints. I’d never had them before and didn’t know how to handle them. The pain got worse and worse until it was constant and severe, running or not.
I made several attempts at helping my poor shins; I even took two weeks off to let them rest. But as soon as it seemed things were getting better, a few runs in we’d be right back where we started. This went on for weeks and I can’t remember the last time I felt so frustrated! I was running in good shoes, stretching, icing, doing everything I could and nothing nothing nothing helped.
Thankfully there was a light at the end of that seemingly never-ending tunnel. I started emailing with a running shop about what I was experiencing. I eventually gave in and went to have my running evaluated. The last thing I wanted to do was fork over more money for new shoes, but the desperation got the better of me.. I wanted to cross the finish line, darn it!
The nicest man watched me jiggle my way back and forth across his running shop while I prayed that I wouldn’t seem too out of breath for such a short run, and that he would only look at my feet. I felt like an unworthy intruder in a world of fitness excellence. I listened as he recommended products to prevent chafing and socks to prevent blisters. My amateur status may as well have been stamped on my forehead as my eyes widened at the price tags for running attire, my imagination was captured by shoes with toes, my gaze flitted over an endless supply of ‘fuel’ for runners I never knew existed.
That nice man never once made me feel silly as he told me that the shoes I had were without a doubt my problem. That they were perfectly wrong for my feet. He pulled out a box holding a pair of shoes that could have easily been mistaken for two golden tickets. I put almost 30 miles on those shoes in the first week I owned them; each cushioned step was like salve to my aching legs.
A week or two later, I realized I had been running without pain and hadn’t even stopped to really relish in that change. You can bet I lifted that moment with a grateful heart.
I plodded along, training as best I could, giving thanks all the way for the willingness of my husband and parents to keep my precious babes. I wrestled with guilt as the runs got longer and took more logistical planning. I drank every drop of ‘Don’t worry about it!’ and encouragement from my cheering squad. I fought off burnout in the last few weeks as other pressures built and my attention was needed elsewhere. I let questions like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ and ‘What purpose does this serve in my life today?’ be drowned out by the music that handed me the answers to those questions, by the feeling of adding one more mile to my tally.
It was great. It was hot and long, fun and not so fun. It was lonely and crowded. It was an accomplishment, and I could not be more thankful for that memory. But the meat? The best part? The part that was really challenging? It was all the days before that race. The expected, the unexpected. It was the journey from start to finish.
That was the journey where I learned I could go one more mile. That was where I realized that I didn’t want to give up. It was those days that I felt the blessing of the Lord as the perfect song danced into my ears to carry me through when I was overwhelmed, when the last three miles felt impossible. It was the run that almost turned into a breakdown that turned into a prayer walk. It was again and again seeing my need for Jesus. Being forced to acknowledge that I am not strong enough. I am not. I can push and push and push, but the load is always heavier. There is too much that is too far out of my hands. Without Jesus, without trust, I am defeated every time.
The placement of this race in my life was perfect. If I had known what lay ahead, the many unexpecteds and sudden changes in our lives, when I clicked that ‘Register’ button, I never would have done it. If I had a grasp on how far 13.1 miles really was, no way. If I had felt the humiliation, the inadequacy, the feeble hope beforehand; if the Lord had clued me in to the depth of the challenge I was hanging over my own head, I would have nonchalantly walked away, hoping it didn’t fall on anyone. But I didn’t know. And I raced, one day – one step – at a time.
My struggles were far more insignificant than those of others I ran with on race day. But you know? It doesn’t really matter how insignificant they might seem to someone else. They are real and they are shaping my heart. Without them I would have nothing to ruminate, nothing to make me squirm. Nothing to soften me and remind me that there is really only one place I want to be. And that is right in step with my Savior.