Two weeks ago, I ran the Army Ten Miler in Washington, DC with my cousin Scott and his son Daniel. It was a great experience to be in our nation’s capitol with all the military folks, including ROTC units from colleges all over the country, tough looking sergeant types and some very in shape young men and women. Then there were the rest of us in the field of 35,000, just doing our best to finish.
I felt a sense of comradery as I started out running that morning that I don’t always feel at big races. Groups ran together and I could imagine them pushing each other in early morning runs in basic training.
A middle-aged man with very muscular legs ran most of the way near me and he was shouting encouragements all the way. I don’t know if he had a group with him or if that is just who he is, but I told him near the end that he had gotten me through the race.
Being around the army people also brought home the realities of combat. One group wearing blue shirts was running for fallen heroes. Several wheelchair racers were scattered throughout the race, pushing themselves forward with their arms instead of their legs, and received claps and congratulations as we passed them. I saw more than one person running with a “blade”, the prosthetic used by those who have lost a leg. One man had blades on both legs.
I haven’t run many long races in the past two years. My group of running friends has had various injuries and issues, so the Peachtree 10K has been our biggest race. Doing long runs of 9 – 10 miles by myself is not fun, so I’ve gotten out of the habit. Even without the best training, I felt great for most of the run as we passed the sites of Washington. A big crowd at the turn around the old Smithsonian Castle also gave me a boost.
But by the time we were at mile 8, had passed back over the Potomac and were heading to the finish at the Pentagon, I was feeling it. This was grit time, and I focused on keeping my arms moving (a running trick) and my legs pushing forward. A race photo, which I will not share, shows my face scrunched up in determination!
Running in races, especially longer ones, is the closest I’ve gotten to “living in the moment.” When I’m in a race, I’m not worried about what is behind me and I’m trying not to think too much about how far I still have to go. I’m enjoying the scenery, the crowds, the music on my earbuds and doing my best to convince my body that it can keep running. I can feel myself going to another dimension spiritually during some races, close to an “out of body experience.”
I wish I could transfer those feelings to my everyday life. Today I was reading in Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, and she said most of us have a hard time cultivating the habit of being. Instead we find ourselves in the habit of doing, rushing around to get to work and accomplishing all the other parts of our day, or we are in the habit of brooding, thinking about past mistakes or worrying about what is to come. I find myself in this latter one too often.
Even if I’m not running 10 miles, I want to be present for today, to appreciate the little things that make life special that I often overlook. I’ve found that being thankful throughout the day helps. On my run this morning I thanked God for the beautiful fall day, for the clear sky after the night’s storm, and for my healthy body. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, I can block out the other habits and focus on being.
And I’m thankful for the brave men and women in our military, giving up years of their lives so that we can go about our daily lives in peace.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” – Colossians 3:15 (NIV)