I was jumping in place trying to keep moving so my body would stay warm. It was so cold and the wind coming off the ocean made it feel even colder. My breath hung in the air like ice crystals and my hands were frozen solid. At least they felt like it. Why did I forget my gloves? I had bought some just for an occasion like this. No matter, half a mile in and I would start to shake off the cold anyway.
It was the day of the Pensacola Beach Run.
I had been training and I was so excited to be standing in the start coral with hundreds of other runners preparing to run my first 5k of the New Year. First one since my mom passed over a year ago. This day was special in more ways than one.
I am not a runner. Let me just be very up front about that. At best, I am a jogger. And, honestly I don’t enjoy jogging that much. But I love the feeling of finishing and accomplishing my goal. And I love the feeling of community that comes with local races. There’s usually music, lots of people and plenty of energy. To me, there is nothing else like it.
This particular morning was gorgeous. Seriously, it was flawless. Our race started within a hundred yards of the ocean and when we arrived the sun was just rising over the glorious waters. The waves were rolling in and there were a few random surfers out enjoying the tide. There is nothing like the sugar white sands of the Gulf Coast to mesmerize you with the back drop of a bright blue sky. At first glance only a few white clouds were spattered above and the wind was light and friendly.
It was a nearly perfect day.
The only element keeping me from declaring the day perfect was the cold. I was freezing. I was so ready to get this race started. It was only a couple more minutes until the start siren would go off. I was filled with anticipation and joy at what lay ahead. I didn’t even dread how hard I knew it was going to be; this was about more than physical fitness, it was another step in my healing.
The weekend after mom’s diagnosis I ran a half marathon. It was a huge accomplishment for me. I had trained for months and I was excited about the challenge. But after her diagnosis, it just didn’t seem to matter to me anymore. I just didn’t have the heart for it. And then, after she passed, I didn’t want to run at all.
After some time passed, I decided I would give it another try. I knew I needed to be doing something to try and stay somewhat fit. So early last year I started running again. But, I soon injured myself by trying to do too much too soon. I decided to just stop and rest, to get well both physically and emotionally.
It was a long year.
In December, during the Twelve Days of Thankfulness, I started jogging again. I decided I wanted to run in a race, not to COMPETE, but to COMPLETE. Completion was and is just as important to me as winning any prize. As a matter of fact, for me, it is the prize.
And standing there in the morning chill, all the hard work seemed worth it.
All of the early mornings when I did not want to get out of bed, the late evenings when I wanted to put on my pajamas and call it a night, all fit together to bring me to this moment. I looked around and knew that so many others with their own reasons and goals in mind were running right beside me. No matter what place I crossed the finish line, I was a winner.
Just like you.
We don’t run this race of life to beat those around us, it’s really not about them. We run with all of our hearts to find healing and joy and peace and all the things we are lacking as we journey through. We run to stay fit and to develop endurance because scripture tells us that perseverance must finish its work so that we can be mature and complete, not lack in anything. (James 1:4, below)
And we all need God to do His good work in us.
I don’t know where you are today, maybe you’ve just received good news or maybe you’ve been let down by a friend. You could be sick of your job or worn out from taking care of small children. Or maybe you’re a mom of a difficult teenager or in a trying marriage. Wherever you are, begin your “training.” Read the Word, spend real time in prayer, talk to God about the things that are so hard in your life. Then listen to him, listen to praise and worship music and focus on His goodness and His ability to answer your prayer.
And then run.
Get out of bed each day and run your race. Not necessarily physically, but mentally and spiritually. Give it your all. Consider it part of your training. Don’t lose heart, at the end of your course there will be encouragement.
As I was rounding the last curve and the finish line was in sight, it started. People standing in a line along the edge of the course calling to me, reminding me of how hard I’d worked, whooping and hollering lifting me up with words and cheering. I was so tired after my effort, but you know what happened when I began to listen to the encouragement?
I got my second wind.
I can’t really explain how a second wind works but I know it is real. Adrenaline kicked in and I started to quicken my pace. The louder they cheered, the quicker I picked up my feet. By the time I crossed the finish line I think I could’ve flown.
It was an amazing feeling.
I didn’t finish near the top, but I FINISHED! I am forever thankful for my cheerleaders, they helped me make it through. I can close my eyes right now and picture the scene in my mind, it still makes me smile.
It was all worth it.
I am a firm believer that we need more encouragement in our lives. More people reminding us that we can do it and spurring us on so we don’t give up, especially when it is hard.
We need more real life cheerleaders.
I wonder if my mom had a line of angels cheering her on as she crossed over into heaven. I know she ran her race well, she spent a lifetime training for the finish. And now she will stand with the heavenly witnesses and cheer us on. (Hebrews 12:1, below)
Take heart, weary traveler, there is much ahead for us.
A fabulous finish is just the start.
James 1:4 “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Hebrews 12:1 “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”