My last marathon was mid-March and I've been getting a little antsy. This habit is kind of like drugs I guess...in a good-for-you kind of way though, of course. Most druggies don't start with heroin, but something much softer, like marijuana. Then, over time, the drug just doesn't seem to do enough, it just doesn't give the same high it did in the beginning. Before they know it, they've moved from the "soft" drugs to the hard stuff.
That's kind of the way running is too, I guess. I did my first 5K not long after I turned 40, nothing even close to an impressive time, but I was hooked. I started running and training harder, thinking it was to get my time down. But before long, dreams of finishing a 10K began to crowd out thoughts of the 3.1 mile races. After my first 10K, it didn't take much arm-twisting from a friend to convince me to sign up for my first half-marathon.
After that race, I swore I'd never run a full marathon...NEVER! I crossed the finish line feeling like I'd just gone through a season's worth of practice with an NFL team as a practice dummy. Laying on the ground, nursing whatever snacks and drinks they handed me at the finish, I spent more than an hour trying to fight the cramps that constantly seized my legs, watching my muscles spasm and contort into horrible shapes I'd never seen. All the while, I asked myself, "Why do you do this to yourself?" and swore, "NO MARATHONS FOR ME, EVER!"
But it didn't take long for me to log on and sign up for my second half marathon, six months after the first. Things didn't go quite as bad that time, but I still cramped and promised never to run a longer race. At the same time, I knew I was hooked on the 13.1 mile distance, and knew it wouldn't be long before I signed up for another.
That second half was in October 2010. One year later, I'd run my first full marathon, Marine Corps 2011. The death of Amanda is what pushed me over the edge on that one, that and my really great friend, Jesse, who came to help out after we lost her and challenged me to run it with him. Neither of us had ever run a marathon at the time, but both of us had decided we needed to get back in shape, and he saw in me a desperate need for a goal, something to strive for. It took a couple of weeks for me to accept the challenge, and when I did, another step up (that I swore I'd never take) went down.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." ~ Philippians 4:13
At MCM 2011, that first marathon for me, I literally staggered through the finishers' area after crossing the line and receiving the medal. Jesse and I had run the entire distance together, somewhere in the 5:20 something time frame. I was in a daze, feeling worse than I did after that first half. Somehow, I stayed on my feet until we arrived in the family link-up area. But there I crashed. I laid down in the middle of the street and hoped for a quick death. Jesse told me once he had to check to make sure I hadn't died. You can probably imagine that I told myself I'd never run another while laying there waiting for the Grim Reaper.
Every conscious moment I had while my head lay pressed against the asphalt (I never would have though pavement could make such a great pillow!) I swore to myself NEVER, NEVER, NEVER again! Finally, after what seemed an eternity, but was probably not really more than an hour or so, Janice and Courtney found their way to us and I allowed myself to be roused from the most comfortable street I'd ever slept on. From there, it was a sort of stagger/shuffle to a bus or the Metro (I really can't remember which) for the trip back to the hotel.
I don't even recall if I showered before I hit the bed, but I probably did because the sheets didn't seem nasty later that night. But hit the bed I did and slept the soundest sleep I've ever had for the next three hours. It had to be the best sleep ever, because it transformed me from that near-corpse state described above to an insane man who crawled directly out of bed, walked to the computer, logged on and navigated directly to the Little Rock Marathon website. You can probably surmise what happened next...
If you said, "You pulled out the credit card and registered," you'd be correct! Three hours after my first full marathon nearly killed me, carried me to semi-conscious state in which I swore never to run another, I was signed up for the next one, a mere four months in the future.
Never, ever, say never...
Because I did, over and over and over again. Each of my nevers somehow materialized and I couldn't manage to keep the promises to myself. But I swore again, "26.2 miles is enough! I'll never run an ultra."
I should have seen it coming, maybe talked to a therapist or something. I knew I was getting the bug to run a marathon. I mean, it's been three whole months now without one! The next one I had on my schedule is still more than four months away. I should have known going cold-turkey for eight months would never work. A lack of discipline, a lack of will power, a lack of something just wouldn't let me stick with 5Ks and 10Ks and half marathons.
So yesterday, I was overcome with an irresistible urge to race...something longer than 30 minutes, something longer than an hour, something longer...and I fell off the wagon. There were no close by marathons coming up to quench my thirst, but there was a race, only 60 or so miles from home too. Even when I logged into the website, I tried to fight back the urge. I tried to resist. I tried. I tried. I failed...
And now, on July 20th, I'll line up and step off and break the promise I made to myself so many times. I'll cross the starting line at the Full mOOn 50K with 31 miles to go before the finish line. Less than a month from today, I'll compete in my first official ultra-marathon, 50 kilometers, 31 miles, of pounding the dirt and gravel forest service roads in the Ouachita National Forest.
Is this God's will for me, to run a 50K in July? It could be that God had this planned for me all along and that I lacked the faith to go for it. Or, it could be me that wanted to do this and it was His will that I hold back. All I know is the urge to race never ceased, never let up. Now it's time to find out. His will or mine?
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." ~ Hebrews 12:2
Like always, it won't be my strength or my ability or my desire that gets me through this race. It's all up to the Lord, Jesus Christ. If He wants me to cross that finish line, I'll cross it. If He decides the marathon is far enough to accomplish His will and glorify Him, then I won't. The only way I've found to distinguish between God's will and mine is to try.
So next month I'll get to test and approve whether or not this is God's will for me. Whatever happens, whether I finish strong or get carried off, I hope and pray that God is glorified.
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.