Lessons Learned in 13.1 miles

2 05 2011

I ran my third ½ marathon on April 30, 2011.  The morning after the race, I read Psalm 121, which fit my experience on the course so perfectly.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
-Psalms 121

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (v. 1-2)

Event planners changed the course up a bit this year to alleviate congestion in some areas.  I appreciated this, but the new course seemed to have more hills, longer hills, and steeper hills.  In those moments when I looked ahead and saw a hill looming in the distance, my first reaction was negative.  Thankfully, a few seconds later that negativity was replaced by simple, practical, mental encouragement.  “One step at a time.  Focus on what is directly in front of you.  You’ll be at the top in no time.  Slow down if you need to.  You don’t have to bulldoze ahead, there’s nothing to prove in doing that.  You’re one step closer.  And so on.”  Physically, that is what my body needed.  What a great reminder that in times of trial and discouragement, those are the same things my mind needs to remember spiritually.

There are also times when I get so bogged down on what is directly in front of me that I forget to look up and see the bigger picture.  I would have completely missed the grandeur of the start line—being in the midst of 35,000 runners lining West End for over one mile—had I not taken a moment to look up.

Country Music Marathon

Country Music Marathon - Nashville, TN - April 30, 2011 - 30,000+ runners

“He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

When I signed up for this race last fall, I had the expectation to finish under 2:10, knocking almost 20 minutes off my time from 2010.  In January, I pulled a pectoral muscle that put that goal to rest.  In fact, I had to slow way down, adding about 1.5 minutes back on to my per mile pace during my four months of training.  Going into race day, my prayers were simple. 

  • I didn’t care about my time.  I just wanted to finish, on my feet, without passing out or vomiting.
  • I didn’t want to have to use the restroom.  (Runners—you know what I’m talking about!)
  • I wanted to start and finish with my friends.

Indeed, God did not let my foot slip.  While I passed several people lying on the sidewalk needing medical assistance and saw way too many ambulances heading to and from the course, God answered every single one of my prayers.

“The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.” (v. 5-6)

After an incredibly rainy, stormy, windy, cold, tornado-y month, the weather on race day was perfect.  Cool, crispy, sunny.  I remember being very mindful to thank God for the shade on the road throughout the course.

“The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.” (v. 7-8)

Indeed, the Lord watches over me.  During the race, I was again reminded of the many, many things I have to be thankful for.

  • I am healthy and able to run 13.1 miles.
  • Wonderful neighbors took care of our boys over night since my husband and I had to get up obscenely early.
  • Other amazing friends got up obscenely early to drive us to the start line, encourage us along the way, cheer us on at the finish line, and bring us home.
  • The weather was perfect and shade trees lined the streets.
  • Anonymous fans provided sprinklers and hoses, water, GU, music, and humorous signs that made me smile.

One last thought.  I caught myself silently complaining on several occasions, “Why does this have to be so difficult?”  Each time, God reminded me that my life would be insanely boring without times where I really pushed myself.  Would I really enjoy a life where everything was easy?  Would I ever learn anything new?  I think I would become very lazy and arrogant living that lifestyle.  I would never know what I am truly capable of physically, mentally, or spiritually without those times of “disciplined challenge” in my life.  Whether it’s training for and running a ½ marathon or fasting, I thank God for his continual grace and the blessings that flow when I challenge myself.

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