Monday was Labor Day, a day off work and the final day of a three day weekend. It came on the heels of a short mileage week for me. After a worrisome pain showed itself in my lower right leg on Wednesday, I backed down to try to avoid injury. We had a cross country meet on Saturday that knocked out any chance for a long run that day. So I took advantage of the day off from work to knock out 11 miles. Hot and muggy but a great start to this week.
Had a great hill workout on Tuesday as our head coach for cross country threw a little curve to the routes we usually run. We did a sort of cross between our hill route and our six mile route. The run started with hitting all three of the big hills we run in Vilonia, then stretch it out after topping the last one. I was holding back with the slower kids so I didn't get in as many miles as some did, but I was able to encourage those slower ones to make all three of the big hills and add a little afterwards.
Wednesday is speed work day at cross country practice and the kids had to run a mile warm up then 4 sets of a 300 meter run followed by a 1000 meter run, then a cool down mile at the end. I started out doing the same workout, but I'm way too old and fat to keep up with 15-18 year old kids doing speed work. After the mile warm up I hit the track and managed two sets of the 300/1000 meter workout. By then I had had all the speed work I could handle. So I reversed course and walked and jogged the opposite direction to encourage the kids as they went through their workout. When all was said and done my Garmin showed I'd been 6 miles.
The kids get to practice on their own on Thursday so that allows me to run with my normal Tuesday/Thursday group. I love working with the kids, but I'm grateful I still have the opportunity to run with these folks once a week as well. We ran the hill route they introduced me to a couple of weeks ago. It was hot and muggy, making it somewhat of a struggle, but enjoyable nonetheless.
We did a 5 mile route on Friday that includes a couple of really tough hills. I did the first mile and a half at a pretty good pace (for me) but waited on the kids we'd passed at the water stop at the bottom of the first big hill. These kids might have been running at the back of the pack, but they've shown great improvement since we started working this past summer. I wanted to stick with them and encourage them on the climb up the big hill. They did great and worked hard all the way to the turnaround, which is at the bottom of the other big hill on this route. I asked them to run with me at least halfway up, then we could walk if they wanted. They gutted it out and kept running all the way to the top. At the top they had to take a walk break, but I can't tell you how proud I was at the effort they were displaying on this run.
Saturday's 20 miles were extremely enjoyable, even though the temperature hadn't dropped as low as I'd hoped. It was about 65 degrees when we started at 5 AM with high humidity. I did the first 5 mile loop with four others, three of whom I hadn't run with in quite a while. At 6 AM more joined us and I headed out for a 6 mile loop with them. We got back to the parking area in scattered groups so I waited a little while for any others who still wanted to get in more miles. I was pleased and excited to see the preacher from my previous church, the man who preached at Amanda's funeral, show up and join us for this next round. He was looking to run 5 miles so three of us made that run. When we got back to the cars my Garmin showed I'd run 16.48 miles and it was only me that wanted to keep going. So I set out on the last three and a half miles by myself. The last two miles were tough, but the Good Lord kept me going.
Training Week: September 3 - September 9
This week's big mileage brought me over 1300 miles for 2012, on track to break 1700 miles for the year. I've never logged my miles before this year, so I can't prove how that compares, but I can say I've never trained harder and more consistently. However this year's mileage compares to previous though, I can say that every step, every mile has been a gift from God.
Starting with Amanda's death, it seems like life has thrown road block after road block into our path. Nothing's been easy and sometimes we've been tempted to throw in the towel. For me, it's the running that has kept me going.
The routine, the exertion, even the pain that comes with putting in this many miles have given me things to focus on other than what is falling down around me. The energy that builds up through the trials of life is pounded into the road with step after step and mile after mile. That's energy that would likely be channeled into destructive behaviors without the running, this gift of God that allows me to disperse that energy into productive activity.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”" -- Joshua 1:9
Before Amanda was murdered, I didn't believe I could run a marathon, or even 20 miles. When my friend Jesse challenged me to run the Marine Corps Marathon in 2011, I initially refused. I had run two half marathons and believed running twice that distance would be impossible for me. But as the days after Amanda died turned into weeks, the urge to accept the challenge became stronger and stronger.
I was afraid before. But as I turned more and more to God to help me fight through the grief and pain of losing Amanda, his will and the realization that He would walk with me through any fire, through any challenge became stronger and stronger. As I began to train, getting stronger than ever, running more miles than ever, I could feel God's presence with me through every mile.
"Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”" -- Mark 10:27
In late October of last year, I completed my first marathon. After 8 months of training, it was done. What I had believed impossible before, became possible as I turned things over to God. That's when it became clear this is what I was meant to do. This is how God wants me to carry on.
I can't run a marathon on my own. I can't run 20 miles on my own. Truth be told, I can't run 1 mile without the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. If I hadn't turned to Jesus when Amanda was killed, if He hadn't picked me up, dusted me off, and pulled me forward, I don't know where I'd be right now.
But I can guarantee you I wouldn't be writing to tell you that I ran 20 miles yesterday. I know that without a doubt.
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.