Peace family, I ran my first half-marathon (13.1 miles) at the BCS Marathon this past Sunday, and boy howdy, this week, I have felt it! Have you ever been been so tired that you couldn’t physically move? I have! It was hard work, but so much fun, and it was a good reminder for me about life!
If you’ve never done a marathon or half-marathon, there are a lot of moving things about the experience. Even beforehand, I was excited about completing something on my bucket list, and also very moved by friends who stepped up to sponsor my run, plus I really believed in the group I was fundraising for (I ran for Mercy Project, which frees child slaves in Ghana from the fishing industry through educating the fishermen with better fishing methods.) This last Sunday, the weather was perfect, not too hot, and not too cold, and people stood along the road, cheering, and holding signs to help encourage us onward. It was really fun to run through new areas, like neighborhoods full of Christmas lights and reaching Kyle Field just as the bell tower struck 9am. A friend of mine from high school was there cheering, and there were also people every few miles holding out water, Gatorade, and even some snacks like bananas and gummy bears.
As far as runners, it was encouraging to be in a group! We all had our own styles and paces, but it helped me to have hundreds of other runners around me. We often said encouraging things to one another as we ran, or asked stopped runners if they were ok. I even made a new friend who decided to walk the race after recently having surgery, as a personal goal. I know having others around me made a difference, because when I looked at my average time, I actually ran about half a minute faster per mile than I ever have before.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. I stumbled and fell down in front of a friend around the 8th mile, which was a little embarrassing, but I got up and kept running, and almost cried a little further on, when a total stranger on the side lines looked at me with so much belief and joy in his face and yelled out, “You’re doing it! You’re doing it!”
As I ran, I prayed for some of my loved ones, and I thanked God for all of the grace and mercy He had for me, especially with the race day conditions and my body! The eleventh mile was very hard, then during the last, twelfth mile, photos of the faces of children previously freed from slavery were set up along the sides of the road, so of course, that was very moving, too. Running across the finish line, a little bit disoriented, receiving the heavy, finisher’s medal and jacket, plus the pizza, breakfast tacos, and cool drinks, then resting and just thinking about what had just happened, was a really beautiful experience.
The discipline of the training took a long time, and in some ways, the practices were much tougher than the run. During training, there was no one there to cheer, nothing to drink, no one beside me, and no guarantee of success. There were cold nights and rainy nights, nights when I had to give up something else with my friends, and nights when I didn’t feel good. The run itself took a lot of physical strength and determination, but those were things that you had to build up long before the actual race.
Peace family, I feel like the same qualities that made the BCS Marathon and Half Marathon so wonderful, are things we can apply to our lives as believers. Remember that hard times of training will be worth it at the finish. Run with a purpose. Run with a plan. Encourage those around you. Help those who are struggling. Ask advice from those who’ve gone before you. Run in a group. Push yourself and don’t give up. When the grind is painful and monotonous, stop and stretch. Celebrate the victories! And of course, feed yourself well!
Peace family, I’m taking a brief rest from running- for now, I’m spending my evenings rubbing my muscles with a foam roller that my roommate surprised me with under the Christmas tree- but I’m encouraged. I never expected to be able to run a half-marathon, and I am so thankful for everyone who helped me to do it. When you feel weak in your faith, and aren’t sure that you are going to make it, just remember that already, “You’re doing it!” Just keep running. The finish line is worth it!