Yesterday I ran a half-marathon.
It’s amazing how six months of training, hundreds of miles, dozens of early wake-up calls, buckets of sweat, and gallons of post-race smoothies can all be summed up in that one small sentence.
I struggled through a half-marathon. I prayed through a half-marathon. I finished a half-marathon.
In some ways, I’m sad that it is all over. In other ways, I’m ecstatic that there will be no more blistered toes, no more layers of hardened salt on my face, and no more 5:30 alarms so I can pound out eight miles before school.
For now, at least.
Because there is something about crossing the finish line that makes all the time, pain, and perseverance worthwhile.
Seven-thirty Saturday morning found our training group at the starting line, nervously adjusting bibs and shoelaces, and taking pre-race pictures. I am so grateful for our amazing group of six girls that met faithfully to tackle long runs together. Without their inspiration, encouragement, and companionship, I never would have been able to reach this goal. So grateful for friends to pray with before every run and to push me on when I felt like giving up. I need them.
We ran by a lot of this.
The first six miles rolled by smoothly. Heather and I stayed together and settled into a steady pace. I thanked God for the overcast sky and tried not to be overwhelmed by the abundance of hills. We chatted a little with the people running beside us. Whenever we passed anyone, we cheered them on.
Then came mile seven.
Mile seven had not one, not two, but three big hills.
The sun came out on mile seven. Like fully out, in all it’s scorching glory.
My feet began to really hurt in mile seven.
From then on it was sink or swim.
I ran through every single water stop. Really it was the smiles of adorable Amish children that gave me more energy than the water they gave me. At mile markers 7, 9, and 10 I chewed on Gu Chomps, hoping for some glucose to hit my system. I turned my music up to drown out my heavy breathing. My prayers became more in earnest. Lord, just help me finish. Keep my focus off the pain.
Run, run, run. One foot in front of the other. Look up, look ahead. Where is the next mile marker? Breathe deep. Don’t let that guy pass you. Picture the finish line. It won’t be long now.
Finally, I hit mile twelve. It was the farthest I’d ever gone which was a scary thought. But it was also the welcome reminder that the end was near. I slowed considerably the last mile because I wanted to be conserve a little strength for the finish. I was so grateful for a couple running beside me who helped me keep a steady pace and encouraged me through that last long mile.
And then, the finish line. The hugest goofiest smile spread across my face as I saw my parents and sister cheering me on.
But the lessons are never over. Before the race, I pinned a sign to my back that read: Jesus is my strength. Press on and don’t give up! Several people running by thanked me for wearing it and I was glad to be a blessing. But really, the reminder was meant for me. For two hours and eight minutes I learned the limits of my physical strength. Every day, I deplete my stores of emotional and spiritual strength. I feel like I can’t go on. I need strength beyond myself.
Life is a race. If Jesus, the giver and sustainer of life, is your hope and heaven is your aim than you can run hard. You can press on to the end and not give up. You can run long and love it.P.S. I’m excited to join the writing team at the new blog, InsideOut. You can read my articles on the “Vibrance” healthy living page.