There are few things better than a long, steady jog. My toes pulled tightly into my running shoes and my feet hitting the pavement of a winding path set against a scenery of green forest. My face tilted slightly towards a grey sky, giving way to a smile under that slow, misty rain I’ve come to love. It doesn’t matter if I run for twenty minutes or two hours. It doesn’t matter if I run eight minute miles or fifteen. It doesn’t matter if I’m having the worst day of my life or the best. I run. And I love it.
It wasn’t always this way. Running used to be a useless form of working out that required too much discipline, too much time, and not enough satisfaction or excitement. It was something I did to get from one end of the basketball court to the other. To run through the bases in softball. To get to the finish line of a short sprint in track. To warm up before cheerleading practice. Definitely not for fun, that’s for sure.
But as I’ve gotten older and as I’ve gone through more life experiences, I’ve learned to love running. I’ve learned to cherish that dedicated time of strengthening my body and quieting my mind. In fact, I crave it. It has taught me a lot about myself and the kind of person I hope to always be. Dedicated. Committed. Passionate. Hard-working. Enduring. Disciplined.
I knew I wanted to start running about a year ago. I have really terrible knees from sports I played as a child and teenager and when they got really bad at the beginning of 2009, my doctor suggested riding a bike regularly to strengthen them. So, I spent most of 2009 and 2010 doing just that and it worked. In late 2010, I had a client suggest barefoot running. She told me about these shoes that are meant to make your feet feel like they are bare and they really help with your posture while running. I tried it out and eventually grew to love it. I signed up for my first race as motivation to continue running and by the time it came around, I was in great shape and did really well. And I no longer have knee problems. But at the beginning of my training, my ability to push my body and my heart was lacking.
The first few weeks I started running were torture. Pure torture. I was sore all the time, I was bored while I was running, and I literally had to make myself get out and do it. If I hadn’t signed up for the BolderBoulder, I’m not sure if I would have stayed motivated. The problem was that I could never run past two miles. There’s something that happens at that two mile mark that makes your body want. to. quit! So, I would get out there, do my stretches, take off at an easy pace, and just be dead tired after two miles. And it was miserable.
So, I tried a new tactic. I wondered what would happen if I just pushed myself past two miles. What if I tried to run four? What if I just told myself I had to do it and didn’t stop until I hit my goal? I can’t explain to you how amazing I felt after that next run. I ended up running six miles, slowly, but I finished. And I discovered a new secret to my running that made me believe I could run any distance. Once I got past two miles, the pain started to go away. My legs felt strong and they carried me faster as the time went on. My feet became light and I floated over the concrete path I was following. My mind started to slow down and I found myself reflecting and praying, relishing in the solitude I had. Was I enjoying running? I definitely was. And I still do. And as I’ve become more consistent and dedicated to my training, I’ve found that those first two miles aren’t all that hard. They are actually enjoyable because I know they are preparing me to finish strong.
I find it to be the same thing in life. The first two miles are always the hardest, or at least they have been for me. I make a big decision and I can see the end goal. My body aches for the reward I know is coming and the feeling of accomplishment that will accompany it. But I have to focus on the now. The getting through the hard part. My decision to bring home a rescue puppy and the frustration I feel in how terrified he is of me and how much I just want him to love and trust me. My choice to be a Christian and be in relationship with God and how I sometimes can’t find the strength to grow in that. My decision to walk with my dad through some of his issues in the past and sometimes just physically aching because I wanted to see him get better. I can always picture the outcome and that keeps me going. So, I keep putting in. And putting in. And just when it seems that my work isn’t getting me anywhere, my legs get a little bit stronger. My feet start to feel a little bit lighter on the ground and before I even know it, I’ve logged eight miles and I can’t feel any pain. I can rejoice. Because that same scared puppy that used to just sit in the corner hiding his head is sitting next to me tonight, rolling around and trying to get my attention to play, happy as ever. And the relationship with God that I used to pretend was stronger than it was is now alive and active. He has become my greatest Challenger and Comforter. And my Dad is a blessed man, getting ready to marry the love of his life and no longer pulled down by the weight his past issues.
Commitment. Choosing to run the full six miles because you know it will be worth it. Because those six miles will drastically change you. They will strengthen your legs and your character. They will cause dedication, passion, a strong work ethic, endurance, and discipline within you. This is why I love running and why I will keep running towards my goals. On the pavement that sets the path before my run and in the life being carved out for me.