I used to hate running- as in a loathing, makes you shudder from repulsion, kind of hostility. If I had ever been tortured by enemy combatants, sticking me on a treadmill would have had me spilling the beans in 90 seconds flat. I was thinking about my previous disdain for running today while I logged 4.5 miles, contemplating how I made the transition from being a running oppositionist to a running enthusiast.
It kind of goes like this: girl gains a supremely unhealthy amount of weight during the first years of marriage and motherhood. Girl faces the reality that her current lifestyle is incompatible with longevity. After countless failed attempts at reconciling this situation, girl finally gets it right. Girl prioritizes healthy habits with food and exercise but gets bored senseless after a mind-numbing quantity of elliptical sessions. Girl swaps her weight-loss-oriented workouts for a goal-oriented alternative. Voila: girl becomes runner. Girl still hates running. Girl runs a couple of 5k’s and a half marathon. Girl suddenly finds that she is now quite fond of running. Torture via treadmill deemed no longer effective.
Truth be told, since my half-marathon I have gotten pretty lax with my distance and I paid for all of the slacking during today’s workout. Around 3.5 miles in, I kept getting the impression that the people around me were looking at me. I think they feared that I was going to fall over at any moment. Unfortunately, I am not a very pretty sight when I work out. My hair and clothing end up looking like they are applied to my head and body via a fresh coat of Modge Podge, but it’s my fair complexion that is the most unforgiving. While many girls get slightly flushed during workouts, like they’re donning a hint of blush, my face turns a particularly bright shade of red. I look like I’m either terribly sunburned or perhaps suffering an allergic reaction to exertion.
When I’m really struggling, like I was today, the redness gets exceptionally vivid and today it was as red as the shirt I was wearing, giving the impression that I was literally about to have a heat stroke (which is not too far from how I felt). The concerned people around me must have thought that I was a nut, pushing through a run that was obviously beyond my current capabilities, clumsily dabbing sweat with the gym towel every 20 seconds or so and ungainly fumbling for my water bottle. Nonetheless, I am as stubborn as my red hair implies and I had decided earlier that morning that 4.5 miles was the mark and I was determined that I going to do it whether I remained conscious or not.
It is moments like this that I start to pray. You might think that it’s pointless to pray over something as inconsequential as running, but I’ve found that when things gets this hard, it’s my mind that is really giving out. Often times we can give out mentally before we ever give out physically. So yes, I pray for strength and focus when facing challenges of all sorts- even ones as trivial as running.
Between the prayers, I let my mind wander in an effort to tune out the agony. I realized that there are a lot of parallels between “recreational” running (if you can call it that) and spiritual life as a Christian. I love the familiar verses of Paul in 2 Timothy chapter 4. He had no doubt exhausted himself in his ministry. He had poured himself out as he encouraged others in their faith. I can safely assume that when he victoriously says in verse 7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” that there was some serious praying going on behind the scenes.
So I hope to, like Paul, persevere in life: both physically and spiritually. After all, there is good incentive. In the very next verse he clues us in on what motivated him to press on. “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8 NIV
So, now I encourage you: whatever uphill battle you face today: stay the course. The medal is worth the run.