When I made my ’40 before 40′ bucket list, it must have been a warm day. Warm, but not hot. Productive, but not busy. And I must have felt good and optimistic and happy and energetic and rested. ‘Delirium’ is the only thing I can figure, because I included on number 16, “Run a 5k”.
I haven’t run since 8th grade gym class. But ‘the heart’ and all that. So, I’ve made a small, minuscule really, effort at working out since I entered my thirties. My husband loves this. He’s one of those brute animals who is a glutton for punishment. He still wears his shirt from high school wrestling that says ‘no pain no gain’. And he means it. He likes to tear into a new workout routine and push his body to its limits, then enjoy the sore muscles as a physical reminder of his victory over the threshold of mediocrity. This is who I chose as my ‘trainer’ for the 5k. Because, 1) he’s free 2) he’s smokin’ hot, and 3) he’s free. This is how our training sessions went:
Michael: You’re doing good, Babe. One more set.
Me: I hate you.
Michael: Almost there.
Me: You’re a liar.
Michael: You’ve got this.
Me: I hate this.
The adorable title “Jingle All the Way 5K” was 100% of why I chose it as my inaugural race. Unfortunately, as the name implies, this race was in December. And the eve of December 7th came in cold and rainy.
Me: It might rain tomorrow. Too bad about the 5k.
Michael: They’ll still have it.
Me: You think we should run in the rain????
Michael: You’ll either be wet from rain or sweat. What’s the difference?
(You see what I live with? I tried another route.)
Me: I don’t feel good. Work, kids, dinner. Hard week. Don’t feel like running that thing tomorrow.
Michael: Don’t run it then.
(I mean, can you believe him? Ugh. No way was I backing out after that.)
Me: Oh, I’m doing it alright.
Michael: It’s whatever you want to do.
I was up at 4 a.m. Nervous. We arrived to the race site to falling temperatures. After a brief warm up, instructions about ‘follow the signs’ and yada yada yada, the race began. It began on an incline. At the top of the hill, there came over my body a strange hot sensation that radiated throughout. I quickly identified the sensation as pain. Oh no, I thought. This isn’t going to work. I’m in pain! I hurt! There are so many more deliberate steps I have to take! Crisis! CRISIS!! No one else seemed bothered. Michael was out in front, and I was wondering why in the world I thought I could do this.
But I kept going.
The burning sensation gave way to warmth and I began to focus on the paved road that lay ahead of me. Just keep doing this, I thought. My best friend told me to plan out my next vacation during the hard parts of the run. I tried, “I think we’ll go to…” and then my mind just went to “this stinks. Why am I running? My body hurts. I’m thirsty.” Apparently, there are no complex thoughts that can go through my prefrontal cortex when my body is being subjected to such torture. But little by little, I made my way around the loop. And mile 2 went by so incredibly fast, I can’t even account for it really. Except I was so thirsty by the end of mile 2 that I allowed myself to walk 10 paces to take a sip of water. As I neared to the finish line, I picked up a little bit of speed. This wasn’t even horrible. No wonder no one thought running a 5K was a big deal. I can totally do this. I’m not as out of shape as I thought! Seeing the finish line ahead, I couldn’t see Michael. Where could he be? He should have been done way before me. Familiar faces were lining the finish cheering and smiling! ‘You’re almost there!’, they shouted. ‘Just one more time around the loop!’ they said.
Wait. WHATT??????? One more time? Around the WHOLE loop? I’M ONLY HALF WAY DONE?????????????
I died inside. And a little on the outside. Halfway???? I told my body it was over! I told my poor unassuming legs that if they could just kick it in high gear across that chalk line, I’d let them rest. I was so devastated. That whole ‘yada yada yada’ must have actually been ‘And then you do it again. For a total of 2 times around the loop.’
I did not stop. But I did walk for a bit. I just kept moving forward, one foot in front of the other. Finally, I thought just pick up your legs in a quick, jogging motion, over and over and over.
The first step was the hardest.
I knew once my body began, I would be able to finish. So I started running. And I kept running. I ran past the now familiar signs. I kept running. I was all but Forest Gump. I was doing this thing, no matter what. And I kept on. I ran and ran and ran.
And when I was still quite a ways from finishing, I saw Michael jogging towards me. He had won the race, and ran back to find me. He came at the perfect time. I needed some encouragement. He stayed with me. He ran with me, even after he had finished. He ran the whole rest of that race by my side. He was so encouraging that he teetered closely to annoyingly so, but I would never ever say that in a million years. (Honey, God bless your sweet soul.)
I have heard real runners speak of a runner’s ‘high’. Some kind of euphoria they experience during a run. That did not happen to me. I got runner’s ‘cramps’ and runner’s ‘sore everything’, but no feeling of intense pleasure from this sport. And when I found out I was only half way through, I felt like giving up, like giving in. Instead, however, I picked up my feet. I made a decision. I kept going. And no sooner did I get discouraged than did my handsome trainer come to my side.
Friends, this Christmas season, I am mindful of those who feel like giving up. I am burdened by those who feel like all hope is gone. If this is you, dear reader, pick up your feet. Keep going.
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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3
And if you see someone who needs your courage, your strength, your cheer…run with them. Stand with them. Fall with them. For we are called to encourage one another and build each other up, through trials of all kinds. This season is so painful for so many. In the hustle and bustle and holiday cheer, do not neglect those among us who suffer in despair.
The true meaning of Christmas is hope amid desperation. Spread that. Give hope.