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, February 25, 2013

How Far We've Come...

The Run

It's here! It's here! It's finally here! Race week in Little Rock has begun!

This morning I kicked off the final week before I run the Little Rock Half Marathon with a 6 mile run. I took it nice and easy, averaging just barely over a 10 minute/mile pace. There's really not much to say about the run. It was on one of my much traveled 6-mile routes from my house, one of the easiest.

The only thing that made it tougher than normal was the wind this morning. The temps were comfortable in the low 40s, awesome for February. But the wind was a gusty 15 mph blow that seemed to always be in my face. I'm sure it slowed me down a little, but I was in no hurry today anyway.

I felt great before, during and after the run, so that makes it a fantastic workout!

We're now 6 days out from race day and the weather is looking fantastic for Sunday. The Weather Channel website's 10-day forecast is showing a low of 34 and a high of 52 that day. That's a big improvement over last year when I ran the full. The day started in the 50s and had reached the mid 70s by the time I finished.

Whatever the weather, we'll be out there. Hope to see a lot of you in Little Rock.

The Message

Yesterday a member of one of the running Facebook groups I'm on posted that she'd run 2 miles. She was excited as this was a major milestone in her journey to her first 5K she'll run on March 16th. The group is made up of runners of all ability levels--fast and slow, short distance and long distance. But in the post she said, "Don't all you marathoners laugh..."

She didn't know it, but laughing at her was the farthest thing from my mind. I told her so in a comment on the post, and I told her the thoughts her post did send racing through my mind. As I read her words, beaming with excitement at her accomplishment, I went back in time to when I was at the same place in my journey, and before.

It's important, I believe, to go back and revisit where we were in the past. Not to dredge up old grudges, or long for the good old days, or to remind ourselves of missed opportunities. All those are there, if that's what you're looking for. But the thing I believe we need to go back and do from time to time is look at where we were and how far we've come.

While some people may have been born with a natural talent for running marathons, most of us who love the 26.2 mile distance weren't. For those of us who aren't natural born runners, the journey began with only a few steps running at a time. Every one of us has a story, a story that describes our personal adventures (and misadventures) that brought us to where we are. These stories are much more than a list and description of individual training runs and races. So much more.

Something got us started lacing up the running shoes. Something motivated us to keep going, to reach farther, to push harder. And something gave us the strength to endure the endless hours of training and its effects on our bodies. There may be someone out there, but I don't know anyone who woke up one day and said, "I think I'll run a marathon today," and did it.

No. It's a journey that started with putting one foot after the other for just a short distance.
"Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”" -- Matthew 19:26

I remember well a discussion with my Marine Corps recruiter back in 1990. He told me I'd never score well on the run section of the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test (PFT). He looked at my not-very-slim build and decided it simply wasn't possible for me to run well. At that time, I didn't really know how I'd do at the 3-mile distance. A perfect score meant covering it in less than 18 minutes, but I'd never run that far before. The recruiter was convinced I'd never reach anywhere close to that goal, but God knew even way back then that one day I'd be running.

My best 3-mile time as a Marine came at the School of Infantry in San Onofre, CA. For 3 months, we humped (what civilians call a hike loaded with gear) everywhere we went. I mean, we NEVER traveled by vehicle, and there were mountains everywhere! Big mountains, steep mountains. And we didn't go around them, we went up and over every single one of them. You might be getting the picture that traveling in this manner all the time, loaded with a full pack, carrying weapons and other gear was doing a pretty good job of strengthening my legs. Anyway, near the end of the 3 months, we ran a PFT. My official time was 17:23 to finish the 3 miles.

I never repeated that time, or anywhere even close to it, but that one time I busted through that 18 minute goal! My recruiter didn't believe I could do it. I had no idea if I could do it. If someone would have taken odds, I bet I could have gotten 5-1 that I'd never do it. But God made it possible. He made it happen, because He knew that one day I was going to be a runner.
"He must become greater; I must become less." -- John 3:30

Back then, I was into seeking glory for myself, without even so much as a thought toward glorifying Jesus Christ. So when I ran, I ran for me. This continued long after I separated from active duty. At 40, two years after I began to teach, I decided to take up running again, this time in an effort to get back in shape. I'd been riding a desk for the previous two years and it had taken its toll on my fitness. Honestly, I was pathetically out of shape.

Always before it had been fairly easy for me to get back in shape and lose some of the weight I'd gain during extended periods of avoiding physical activity. But this time was different. This time the weight wasn't coming off and even a half mile running seemed nearly impossible! I couldn't understand, and just kept beating my head against the wall (No, not literally.) trying to find my way back to a suitable level of fitness. It just wouldn't come.

It was during this time that I began to hear God calling me, telling me He would let me run if I ran for Him. I was confused though. How would I, how could I, glorify Jesus with my running? I had no idea! So I pretty much ignored that call for quite some time. I kept running for me, maybe even running from His call.

During that period, there was little improvement in my running. My times weren't improving. I'd registered for my first half marathon and begun training. The long runs weren't getting easier and I was just struggling at every turn. Then, 5 weeks before the big race, I stepped hard on a rock hidden under the snow and got a stone bruise on my foot. I tried to run and couldn't. For those 5 weeks, I put in virtually no miles on my feet. None. I made it through the race, but I've never run that far behind in any half marathon since.

I registered for my 2nd half marathon to be run 6 months after the first. I was still ignoring God's call and still struggling to improve. Again, only a few weeks before the race, injury struck. This time my knee blew up, with no explanation, only yards from the finish line. Once again, the several weeks preceding my big race saw me sidelined with no running. When race day came, I strapped on a brace and battled through the 13.1 miles.

By now I realized I had to find a way to follow God's will if I was to keep running. I had to make it about Him and not about me. He had to increase and I had to decrease. When I finally realized that, this ministry was born.
"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

A year after that second half marathon, and 6 months after beginning this ministry, I ran my first marathon. With Running with Amanda emblazoned across the front of my shirt and Philippians 4:13 across the back, God pushed me, pulled me, and carried me through 26.2 miles. That evening I registered for my 2nd marathon.

Now, with 6 marathons under my belt, the Little Rock Half Marathon scheduled for this coming Sunday, and Wrightsville Beach on the calendar for number 7 two weeks later, I understand that God knew all this was to be, even way back when nobody thought I'd ever be able to run. He saw it coming and put all the pieces of the puzzle together so this ministry could sprout and grow.

No. I won't laugh when someone boasts they just ran 2 miles, or even 1 mile, for the first time. I'll just drift back in time and revisit the milestones along the way of my own running journey, never forgetting that God's grace and mercy are what kept me going, kept me striving, kept me reaching farther and farther and farther.

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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