Running is a quiet friend and teacher who meets me in the still, frosty morning or in the sunset of a busy day. It takes me as I am, moving me along the way with a hug at the end no matter how far or how fast I moved. Running never judges. It just lets me travel through time, along the path, being me.
The simplicity of running appeals to me. The only special equipment needed is good shoes. Off you go, out the door and into the world.
It’s a well-worn cliche to compare running to the journey of life. So many things we do everyday in life are a microcosm; a miniature representation of something bigger. Human beings are microcosms, a little world within a big universe. We are each a small-scale model of the variety and contradiction that is humanity and the world. Christ is in us and we are in Christ; His body in the world. The Holy Spirit is everywhere present and fills all things. The universe is within our frail human frame. Mind blown.
Last Saturday I took on the Rock Candy Mountain Hillbilly Half Marathon in Capitol Forest. It’s a tough course; steep climbs for the first 4 miles, technical trails (which means lots of rocks, roots, stumps) mud puddles that are too big to go around, and lovely views. You have to dig deep and work for this one.
I started off with a couple of friends. We all felt the potential in the air, each one of us stepping up to the start of the race with different expectations, different abilities. We move off into the wild, each one of us fighting our own individual monsters inside: doubt, nerves, questions. At first we are together, walking the tough parts, getting warmed up and figuring out how to breathe. We waited for each other, chatting along the way until we each found our own rhythm. When I found my own comfort zone I was able to focus and find the inner strength and will to just move forward.
Each step must be carefully placed on this course. There are too many hazards to treat it like a walk in the park. There is a lot of mental focus as well as dogged determination and will power in play. Running through the forest with my heart pounding and the endorphins surging through me was fantastic. I prayed, repeated Psalm 23, said The Jesus Prayer, asked for God’s protection, guidance, strength, ability, safety, and help. I felt thankful to be alive and full life. I also had moments of doubt and there was pain. Not pain like I was injured, but the pain of doing hard things and pushing through it.
I looked up endorphin in the dictionary later and it gave a bunch of sciencey words that explain how something happens in your brain to block the sensation of pain. That explains why runners keep doing this kind of thing.
Was I nervous?
If I had just read the description of the race and didn’t know these people and these kinds of trails (trials?) I would have been scared to do this thing.
If I had been hoping to place in the top 10 or be competitive against other people instead of with others, I would have been nervous.
If I was afraid I might get seriously injured then I would have been nervous. It’s not like I was repelling off a cliff, after all.
If I was not physically able to move my body along a trail then I would have been unsure with good reason.
The reality is that I am a healthy 52 year old woman who thoroughly enjoys being on a forested mountain trail, moving my body along by hiking and running. I like struggling for something worthwhile, getting dirty, working hard, and being with others who enjoy the same. I know when to push and when to slow down. For these things I am grateful and not over-confident. I am aware of my limitations.
Lessons learned from living for 52 years and, not coincidentally, from running half marathons:
- Start at the beginning and keep moving forward on the designated path until you get to the finish line. Stay on the course. Whatever happens along the way I will just deal with it as it comes along. One foot in front of the other, keeping the goal in mind.
- All I can do is do what is in front of me. Sometimes rocky, steep, and rough. Just dig in, be careful, shift down a gear, and plow ahead. Breathe. Sometimes the course is level and even downhill. Enjoy the ride and look around at the beauty. Say, “Good job” and “Well done” to everyone who passes you. Smile.
- Face life one step at a time. Sometimes it gets messy. Oh well. Find others to help you when it gets tough. Pray and ask for prayer. Ask others if they are OK.
Right now, during Lent, I am reminded that life is both hard and delightful. It is messy, painful, and glorious. I must work hard, press down doubt, and dig deep for strength. I have to tell myself, “No.” Don’t indulge every whim and wish. I have to ask God for help. And I must always be thankful and humble.
Do hard things and enjoy the rewards in their proper time.
They handed each of us a beer mug at the end of the race. That’s a useful award. I tested it out after a long hot bath and found it to be in perfect working order.