For twenty five years I have been learning to run.
When I was ten years old my best friend and I were in a children’s track club. There is no telling how I ended up in a track club. I was the little girl who adamantly marched off the soccer field at five years old boldly declaring that she was never playing soccer again after falling in a mud puddle. But somehow there I was in a track club with my taller, more slender best friend who looked liked a swan at any sport she played while I looked more like a waddling duck. For the next seven years I have no recollection of running except maybe to get out of the rain or the cold. The track club didn’t make me runner.
Then this running-thing came up again when I was seventeen. In the back of my journal I wrote, “become a runner” along with about ten other aspirations I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime. Each morning a friend and I would run in our neighborhood. It was hard. And it was only about a mile. But it didn’t last for long. My journal didn’t make me a runner.
Throughout college I ran off and on, but it wasn’t until after college that I became more serious about running. If you want to call it serious. I could finally run several miles – my farthest being seven. Wow, did seven feel good. I remember starting out on a seven-mile run one day and passing an old man. He smiled and waved. Then as I was on my way home, an hour later, he said, “You’re still running!” Yes, yes I was, so proud while trying to stay humble.
At one point in my twenties I got up to about nine miles. That was the weekend I ran my first 15K. But that’s as dedicated as I got.
Now it’s important to understand that I am not a running fanatic. I have a serious love-hate relationship with running. But the raw truth is
- I am barely five feet tall.
- I do not have skinny genes (nor jeans for that matter).
- Cancer thinks it has been personally invited to a party with the women in my family.
- And regardless of how sophisticated we get, exercise is still the best preventative medicine.
So I taught myself to run.
At first it was a body game. My heart and lungs did not want to run far. And they let me know it.
But very quickly running became more of a mind game.
Each time I would go out for a run I would keep my eyes focused on a place on the ground only a few feet in front of me. I wouldn’t look far off into the distance. This would just make my organs plead to stop. Two miles ahead seemed impossible. But two feet were right there.
Then I started focusing on the mailboxes. I would pass one and look three ahead. “I can make it to that one”, I coached myself. A few minutes later I was there. “I can make it to that one”, I would pump myself up again. And off I would go to the next one.
Soon I was running miles.
This past September I ran my first half-marathon. It took me twenty-five years to know what thirteen miles feels like. I now wonder if it was more that my body couldn’t finish the race or if my mind wasn’t ready.
As I begin this new year with my letter to Jesus and #oneword365, I hope to approach the year like I did running – fixing my mind on the landmarks that are right in front of me instead of the finish line that I cannot see yet because the finish line may take more than one year to get to. My body may be ready for the whole race, but my mind has to get there too.