Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Monday, December 5, 2011

Persevere, and nothing's impossible

A lot of people tell me they're amazed by how often and how far I run. Many of those people tell me how or why they can't run. In the beginning, I was amazed by distance runners too. Three years ago, I decided to get back in shape and started running again. There's a stop sign at the end of our road, about a half mile from our house. When I started, I couldn't even run to there without having to stop and walk. If you would have suggested to me then that I should run a marathon, I would have thought it impossible.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

By the grace of God, I didn't quit because it was tough, because it hurt, or because I couldn't do it. He gave me the motivation to keep pushing and He gave me the ability to build my strength and stretch that distance out over time. In those three years, I went from being unable to run to the end of our road to running 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and now marathons.

"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."--Romans 5:3-4

I spent 8 months training for my first full marathon. Some days, especially after long runs, made me wonder if I could ever go the distance. Early mornings and long runs often made me tired and sore. Once summer weather turned to fall, as October 30 approached, the long runs became easier and I became ever more confident in my ability to finish the race. I wasn't sure however, how I would feel afterwards.

Thoughts of how I felt after my first half-marathon played a major role in my worries. When I crossed the finish line after 13.1 miles, with the crowd shouting and cheering, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, but the distance took its toll on my body. For an hour or so afterwards, I laid on the grass in the finishers' area, writhing in pain as muscles from my feet all the way to my jaw were seized with cramps. I was in no shape to walk to my car, or especially to drive home.

Even before the finish, the distance was working on my body and my mind. Between miles 11 and 12 of that race I remember thinking, "I'm so glad I don't have 15 more miles to go," when we went straight and runners doing the full 26.2 turned left. The half-marathon course rejoined the full about a half mile before the finish line. As I started down the hill to the intersection, I watched the marathon winner race past. He ran 26.2 miles faster than I was going to run 13.1! I managed to finish, but by the time I'd recovered enough to walk back to the car, I had decided to never attempt the 26.2 distance.

You already know I didn't keep that promise to myself. But I still wondered, what would I do after the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM)?

When I crossed that finish line after 26.2 miles, I can't say I felt good. I felt happy to have finished, but physically, I was a wreck. After we (my friend and Marine Corps brother Jesse) had our pictures taken with our medals and were walking toward the finish festival, I was completely drained and exhausted. Volunteers handed us food and drinks as we slogged along with the rest of the herd making their way to the streets of Rosslyn, VA. When Jesse asked me if I wanted some of the bagel he was eating I told him, "I honestly don't think I can eat and walk at the same time." Like I said, I was a physical wreck.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."--2 Timothy 4:7

But I wasn't as much of a wreck as I had been after that first half marathon. It took me a while to figure that out. After a 3 hour nap back at the hotel, I awoke mostly recovered and I knew the MCM wouldn't be my last marathon. In fact, that night I signed up for my next 26.2 mile race, the Little Rock Marathon on March 4, 2012.

Now I'm training for that race and I'm finding the going much easier this second time around. But I think the biggest difference is that my body is finally accustomed to the long distances. That doesn't make the really long runs easy, but they're nowhere near as formidable as they were before.

Since the MCM, I've done long runs of 10, 15, 20, and today, 14 miles. I finished today's training run at about the same pace as my PR (personal record) for the half marathon. Next weekend I'm running the Fayetteville Half and hoping for a PR there. It's great that these runs are coming easier, but the best part is that I'm not useless when I finish them!

After most of my long runs prior to MCM, I was worthless the rest of the day. I'd lay around with cramps or just physically exhausted. But now my body seems to not protest so much and things are very different. Rarely do I suffer from cramps afterwards and I'm able to get around and do things after long runs now. Following the 14 mile run today, my family and I went to Arkansas Children's Hospital for a Breakfast with Santa fundraiser they were holding, then I came home and changed the oil in Janice's car, then we went to a former student's wedding some 50 miles away.

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"--2 Timothy 4:7

Any one of those would have seemed impossible after running 14 miles a few months ago, but now I'm able to do them all. By the grace of God, I was able to keep running, through the tough times, through the pain, and now I've come out the other side.

What seemed impossible at first didn't just become possible, it has become practically routine. Nothing is impossible with God, if we'll just persevere.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

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