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

Friday, January 18, 2013

How Far I've Come...By the Grace of God

Only one mile today, but it was a good one. This is day 18 of Janathon. Normally, with the miles I've put in this week already and the miles I have planned for tomorrow, this would have been a day off. But this Janathon challenge, to workout and blog about it every day (all 31 of them) in January, is a real motivator to get out and do something. So today I did exactly one mile.

And who can run just one mile and take it easy? Not me. Because my normal short runs are 5 miles, it just seemed like the only logical thing to do was push myself as hard as possible for this little bit of distance. And that's just what I did...turning a 7:44 mile.

Now that may seem slow to many of you, but for a 44 year old bald man, 5' 9" tall and 225 pounds, it's a pretty darned good time. And it was all I had. I don't think I could have squeezed out another second. Now, if I'd have run in early in the morning when I normally get in my workouts, it might have been just a little faster.

However, today was another one of those glorious January days that offered inviting temperatures in the 50s this afternoon. With a short distance to run and the alternative being a cold, dark run in the morning, I decided to put off today's workout until after school.

I say that probably slowed me a little because I had been drinking coffee all day and had eaten a fairly heavy lunch, both of which tend to negatively impact my workouts. But, the tradeoff for running in shorts under a blue sky and bright sun in pleasant temps was well worth it.

After three short runs these past three days, tomorrow's 20 miler ought to not be too terribly troublesome.

That thought, that 20 miles won't be bad, and today's run make me think about how far I've come in these past 4 years since I began running again, and how big a part God played in my journey.
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." -- 1 Corinthians 10:31

I hadn't been teaching even two years when I decided to lace up a pair of running shoes and hit the road again. I was about to turn 40 and realized I'd gained 30 pounds in my time in the classroom. There was a 5K scheduled that year to honor our school's late band director, and I decided to run it. That was the beginning.

But there wasn't a thought in my head about running for God's glory. It was all about me at that time. I had to lose weight. I had to get back in shape. I saw myself in pictures and thought, "What a fat, disgusting pig!" So I started to run.

Our street is a little more than half a mile long, and we live at the very end, the very last house. The first quarter of a mile is an incline, a slight one, but still a climb. By the time I reached the top, that first time I left the house running, I was winded.

I can't remember how far down the street I went before I had to stop and walk, but I remember I didn't make it to the end. I couldn't even run a half mile without stopping to walk! But I was determined.

So I started a daily routine of going to the end of our street and back, running as much as I could. When I finally made it to the end without stopping, I decided to stretch it out. A left turn at the end of our street and it's another quarter mile or so to the next intersection.

My new route carried me to that intersection and back, again running as much as I could, now covering about a mile and a half with each workout. After a few weeks, I'd stretched out my run/walk route to 3 miles, a mile and a half to the turnaround. For what seemed like a really long time, I walked a lot more than I ran. But finally, I made it to the turnaround without stopping.

A few weeks later, I was covering most of the 3 mile distance at a (slow) run, making significant progress. When I finally made it the whole way without stopping, I felt I was ready to race that 5K. The race at our school was coming up and I signed up.

That was my first 5K ever, and I was hooked on racing. I didn't win, didn't really even have a good time. But I was convinced I could improve and loved the atmosphere of the race. I couldn't wait to sign up for another.

The racing addiction only got worse as I signed up for more and more races. That first one was in 2008 and the next year I decided to train for my first half marathon, Little Rock 2010. And that's when God started bending my ear.
"And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God." -- Romans 8:27

I began to get the idea that Jesus was calling me to run for Him, but I had no idea how. It was just a little voice in my head, telling me pretty much that if He was going to let me run, it had to be for His glory. I heard it. I knew exactly what that voice was saying, but I more or less convinced myself it was my imagination.

I mean, I had no idea how to glorify Jesus through my running. And besides, I'd never felt like God was speaking to me before. Therefore, I reasoned that it must be my imagination.

It would take too long to detail exactly how I became convinced I wasn't imagining things, but I'll abbreviate. Basically, I ignored God's call and he woke me up with an injury here and there, each at critical times when I was training for big races, each with no real clear cause of the injury. He convinced me I had to find a way to bring Him glory if I would continue to run.

So I started to get serious about trying to find a way to do just that. After Amanda was killed, it became clear what to do and how to do it. And that's when my running really started coming together. I became stronger and faster, seeing much more improvement in a short time than in all the training I'd done to that point.

And now, here I am. I realize now that from the very first, when I first decided to take up running again, God was placing the desire in my heart because He knew I was going to need it.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -- Jeremiah 29:11

At 40, I was probably in worse physical shape than I'd been my whole life. I knew that had to change. And I thought when I began to run again that getting in shape physically was all I needed running for. Little did I know that barely more than 2 years later, I'd be in the worst emotional shape, the worst psychological shape that I'd ever been in, and running would then become my vehicle to recover.

From being unable to run to the end of my street, to now being able to run marathons. From being unable to function, even to move or eat in the days following Amanda's murder, to now being able to train for and run marathons. Jesus Christ gave me the desire, the discipline, and the ability to run, for my healing.

He brought me a long, long way. So I'll keep running, running to bring honor and glory to the One who saved me.

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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