Just like yesterday, I set the alarm for 4 AM and again for 4:15 AM. This time though, I crawled back into bed after it sounded the second time. Fortunately, I had reset it for 4:30 before seeking the comfort of my bed for the last time. I probably wouldn't have, probably would have just skipped the morning run.
But the Mississippi River Marathon is only a month and a day away. I've got to keep putting in the miles. Another thought that invaded my dreams for that last 15 minutes was day 8 of Janathon, the challenge to workout every day and blog about it. I accepted the challenge, now it's going to take something a lot more serious than being a little tired to keep me from meeting it.
So this Janathon is really turning out to be a big motivator. Hmmm...might just have to think about keeping it up when the challenge is over. We'll see.
The usual hour I take to get ready, to prepare my mind and body for the early morning 6 miles, was cut to 30 minutes. Not the best way to start, but I'd been here before. So I rushed my usual routine and headed out the door as Janice's Christmas clock was playing some Christmas song or another to inform the world that 5 AM had arrived.
My Garmin picked up the satellite signal a lot quicker than usual. Evidently my watch was ready to go. But I stepped off in a lot more of a shuffle than a run, and it wasn't even a good shuffle. My feet felt heavy. My legs felt stiff. And even though it was 7 degrees warmer than when I started yesterday, the cold was biting a lot harder today.
But I kept going...
A half mile into the run, I knew I was going to have to make a pit stop. So I adjusted my route to carry me by a 24-hour convenience store at mile 1.5. I stepped back out, into the brightly lit parking lot, thinking I'd make the last 4.5 miles good ones. But, as I neared the edge of the illuminated parking lot, I realized I'd left my flashlight in the store's bathroom.
Backtracking again, explaining to the clerk why I was coming back, knocked me out of the rhythm I thought I'd had before. I crossed the street and continued on at about the same pace as before. Legs still stiff. Feet still heavy.
I managed to keep going, to finish the planned 6 miles. But they were slow miles I endured more than ran. Never getting loose. Just surviving. It was just one of those runs.
"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
With some of the toughest days of the year coming soon, I have a feeling God is using my running to prepare me to get through them. Today's run brought back this familiar, oft-quoted verse. "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
Next Tuesday will be the two year anniversary of Amanda's murder. Two years since she was taken from us. Though we're haunted every day by her absence, by the reliving of that horrible night, and by the after effects of her death, the anniversary is an especially difficult day. But to the rest of the world, it's just another day.
That means a work day for me, a day that, regardless what memories flash through my mind, regardless what thoughts barge in to interrupt my concentration on the tasks of the day, regardless what happens to remind me of what we had and what we lost, I have a mission to accomplish, duties to perform.
God will be watching. Amanda will be watching. And "witnesses" will be watching me as I run through the day. How I react, how I respond, will have an impact on others watching me.
Will my actions glorify God? Will they bring others closer to Him? Will they drive people away? Will others see my faith as solid and real, or as hollow and empty?
Most likely, nobody would blame me if I called in sick, stayed home, and sealed myself off from the world on Tuesday. Some might even expect it. But what would that say to those witnesses?
It's going to be a hard day, a tough day, one of the most difficult of the year. It's going to be one of those days you just try to get through without giving up. Things that wouldn't bother me any other day will likely agitate me at times. I may not be at the top of my game. I may be slower than usual.
But I've got to get through it. I've got to push through it. Those "witnesses" have to see my faith is alive and well and strong enough to support me through that extremely difficult time.
Not for me. Not so anyone can point to me and say I'm strong. Anyone who saw me running today would have undoubtedly thought just the opposite. But they have to see me push through, only by the grace of God.
"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -- Isaiah 40:31
Just like today's run won't become the norm, every day won't be like next Tuesday. Today I may not have been as strong as usual, not as fast as usual, but my strength will return and I'll get my pace back where it belongs. It may be tomorrow. It may take several more days. But it will return.
I will run and not grow weary...walk and not faint. My strength will be renewed, not because of my ability, not because of my strength, but because I place my hope in Jesus Christ, to get me through the good runs AND the bad runs, the good times AND the bad times.
So when your next bad run comes, pray to God for strength, put your hope in Jesus Christ, and keep running. He won't let you down, and before long you'll soar on wings like eagles again!
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.