By Joe Castaneda
I’ve started training for my first 1/2 marathon. When I started 5 weeks ago I didn’t like running. Ok, that’s a bit of an understatement because I once told a guy “I’d almost rather have all four of my wisdom teeth pulled out again, then run for any length of time.” True story. But now, after 25 miles on the treadmill…I still pretty much hate it. Honestly, running just isn’t my thing.
But the discipline of running has helped me learn a few lessons, and for today’s three thoughts for the weekend, I wanted to share what three lessons I’ve learned from running.
It’s ok not being able to run as fast as others: I like excelling at what I do. When it comes to running, however, I’m not at the front of the pack compared to my running friends. A few weeks ago my friend Aaron posted on facebook, “It felt good to run for the first time in 9 years [slight exaggeration], and the fact I ran a 5k in under 21 minutes made me feel pretty good. Can’t wait until I get a 5k back under 2 minutes [slight exaggeration].” Some of you running types chuckled at a 21-minute 5k, but Aaron will get that down, mainly because his wife runs a 15-minute 5k [pretty sure that’s NOT an exaggeration!] and he’ll want to keep up. My best 5k so far? I barely ran it in under 11 minutes/mile — my best 5k was 33 minutes and 59 seconds! Aaron’s wife Evey would have lapped me, then handed me a cup of water at the end of my run after she had run a 10k, painted her toe nails and mowed the lawn while waiting for me to finish. She’s a runner. She loves running. And it’s A-Okay with me! I’m learning that my running isn’t about beating anyone else but me. I’m just working to get out of my own head so I can “run my race” and finish the course in front of me. It’s ok not being able to run as fast as others. My growth will happen as I work to finish the race — not as I work to beat any particular runner. Aaron and Evey, I guess you’re safe for now!
- There can still be joy in running: Have I mentioned that I still don’t like running? Even as I write this I’m dreading the fact that I am choosing to work out again tomorrow, and that means another 25-35 minutes on the treadmill. Yea. Here’s a bigger problem — I don’t have to like running but I can still choose to receive joy from this activity. This is where I can really dislike the Bible, because it reminds me how much choice God has given me in the joy and happiness I experience in life. Most people equate joy with circumstances — if things are “going good” then they are happy. The Bible however, reminds us that joy is a choice. “Rejoice in the Lord always” said the Apostle Paul, “again I tell you, rejoice.” Joy is a choice not a reaction to my journey. That means when I put myself on the stationary torture device tomorrow, my attitude will have nothing to do with the speed at which I’m running or the ease — or lack-of-ease — I’m feeling in my pace. My attitude will be decided long before I step up.
Running is challenging my mind to be stronger: Have you ever heard of a “runner’s wall”? It’s the mental barrier a runner has to get through in order to reach their long-distance goals. My wall used to hit me in the first 100 feet of running [NOT an exaggeration!]. Now I can run a mile without straining too much, but from mile 1.5 to 2.5 I hit this mental barrier that slaps me silly every time. It’s almost embarrassing to admit how much I want to quit running during that mile stretch. My feet start complaining, “ouch…running hurts us” and then my calves chime in, “Hey, you feel this strain? You’re not going to be able to use us for walking for a year if you don’t quit RIGHT NOW!” Don’t get me started on my hips, my abs and my lungs — the higher you go the worse the whining gets. I start out with the desire to run 3 miles and at 1.5 I’m thinking, “Maybe I should just stop now and lie to all my friends about how far I’ve run.” Seriously, I’m pathetic. However, the experience of getting through that wall and choosing to get past my feeble attempts at stopping are powerful tools in my arsenal. Every time I choose to keep going when I want to stop, every time I press on through the discomfort, and every time I choose to go another 1/4 mile and another 1/4 mile and then another 1/4 mile…I give myself confidence for other, non-running barriers, too. Like those days when marriage feels too hard, I’m able to remember what it feels like to kick down a barrier and I can step up my game and press on into my God-given role as a husband. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church” is much more about choice then about how I’m feeling! Have you ever wanted to just give your kids away and be done parenting? In those moments I need God’s help to be mentally strong, to choose to make good parenting choices even when I’d rather take a shortcut. It’s not easy, but running has helped to strengthen my resolve.
I don’t like running, but I’m thankful for what I’m learning. I want to keep pressing on in this training, because this 1/2 marathon is so much bigger than just a road race. It’s a big metaphor for God’s work in my life in 2014, and every time I step on the treadmill I remember the words of Hebrews 12:1-2, “let us therefore throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. And let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” And with those words bouncing around in my head tomorrow, I will keep running my race with joy, even though I’m slower than many, because I know I’m getting stronger.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life — even running! — is always better on the water!