Anyone who starts a running program know that you are going to have good days and bad days. There are going to be days when the wind is at your back, the road is smooth, and your feel like you could go forever. Then there are those runs where your legs don’t seem to move the way you want them to – somehow they feel disjointed from your body. Your stomach rumbles, it is too hot or cold, you can’t breathe right and your clothes are chafing. On a training run, you can just power through or maybe even decide to scrap it and try again when the planets are more in line. But on race day, you hope and pray for a day when it all comes together.
Saturday was one of those special days for me when the road spread out before me, beckoning me on. I have been leading a Run for God class since January and we had 6 ladies training for their first half marathon, as well as my son Adam and his girlfriend Jess. We also had about 6 folks working on their first 10K and first 5K. Thrown in the mix were several veteran runners. It has been so fun to see the “newbies” be excited and nervous about what was for many their first race ever and for others their first longer distance. I decided that I wanted to put in the time to train right for this race, and with nothing else major going on, I got in all the long runs and most of the shorter ones. Both physically, mentally and spiritually I felt the best I can remember going into a race.
The day dawned misty and a perfect 50 degrees for the Run at the Mill. We ran through the beautiful spring countryside of Northwest Georgia, with the trees budding out and the redbuds and dogwoods blooming. For most of the race, we were in a fog, which gave a dreamlike feel. One person commented that you couldn’t see what was up ahead, and I kind of liked it – how like life, I thought. We can only focus on what is right in front of us.
I watched my pace to make sure I was not going out too fast, and stayed close to a 10 minute mile for most of the race. With this being a Christian based run, there was a wonderful feeling of openness and camaraderie along the way. I ran alongside a group of women from Illinois and found out they were all teachers, so we enjoyed sharing the fun of working with middle schoolers. I saw a guy favoring his knee and we had a discussion about old football and baseball injuries. I ran with Adam and Jess for a while and we looked at the old farmhouses we passed. One guy commented as I passed him about my shirt with Calhoun First UMC on the back and we ran a few miles together and found out we had several mutual friends.
When I started to get tired, I prayed. I prayed for all our group members out running, for Adam and Jess and for our church member going through a bone marrow transplant that we had dedicated our run to. I prayed for Doug, our wonderful group member who found out he was having heart issues when he stared getting tired on his runs and is now facing open heart surgery. I thanked God for my healthy body and for allowing me to be able to do this at 55 years old.
The last mile turned out to be a hill but I kept going, feeling strong. I came up on my good friend Angela, who has finished 2 marathons in the past 7 months, and is in great shape. I ran past her. I felt kind of bad, but I couldn’t stop! That last mile is one of the reasons I love to run. I wish I could put into words how I felt as I neared the finish. Yes I was tired and my legs were hurting. Yes, it seemed that the end would never come. But it was exhilarating! I knew Doug was waiting and I wanted to see his smiling face. I love the feeling of gratitude and grace that I felt as I came around the bend and saw the crowd ahead. I love the feeling of accomplishment and power as I came across the finish at the end.
I often feel inadequate in my life. At my job, I don’t always feel that I am the best person to catalog computers or to keep up with the ever changing technology. I sometimes feel like a failure as a wife. I don’t do a good job at calling my aunts or sending cards to people I care about. When my parents were alive, I often felt like I let them down. I am not a great housekeeper and I don’t have a manicured yard. I have never considered myself beautiful. But I can run. It may not be much, and I may not be fast, but I can put one foot in front of another and move forward for several hours. And that is something.
Despite feeling strong and getting 2nd in my age group, I was surprised to find that I actually ran this race slower than the last half marathon that I did in October, when I was struggling to finish. So this teaches me something – finishing a good race isn’t about going fast, just as finishing well in life isn’t about being successful in the world’s view. Finishing a good race is about encouraging others, enjoying the scenery, knowing your pace and talking to God along the way. And maybe you’ll get a “Well done” at the end.