This past Saturday I crossed a goal off my bucket list. That list has done nothing but grow with more goals since I was challenged to put one together. But I finally got to cross one off, and I’m only 28! I ran 13.1 miles.
About six months ago, I signed up to run Savannah’s inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon with some friends. If you know me at all, you know that running is last on the list of physical activities that I enjoy. So, I was starting at square one. Before I could even start any official training guides, I had to be able to run 5 miles. Well, I hadn’t run in quite some time.
So, my first run was literally a half-mile. I made Candace run it with me. She was faster than me. Not surprising. Over the next two months, I would slowly build up to running 4 miles. Sometimes, I had friends that would run with me to push me to go a little further than I wanted or a little faster than I liked. Looking back now, I realize how encouragement and challenges like that produced in me a stronger desire to achieve my goal. Even in an individual sport like running, community is necessary.
I started a 10-week training program in mid-August that always ended the week with a long run. My first long run was 4 miles. My last long run was 11 miles. The lessons I learned during those weeks are invaluable. You do battle against yourself every morning to get up and run. No one else is going to stop you from running but yourself. It was unlike other sports I always enjoyed playing—there was always an opponent trying to stop me from reaching my goal. But when you run, the only opponent you face is yourself.
Ten days before the race, I developed patella tendinitis in my knee. After consulting with a friend who is both a doctor and a runner, he assured me that I wouldn’t do any major damage in finishing the race, but it would be painful. I had no choice at that point. I had put too much time and hard work into training at this point to stop. So I continued to train with Advil and a lot of icing.
On race day, surprisingly, my knee felt pretty good. It was a cool 50 degrees with clear skies and 23,000 crazy runners around me. The pace on my first mile was about 30 seconds faster than I wanted it to be, and through the first 10 miles, I was cruising along faster than I expected. When I started training, my goal was simply to keep running the whole time; I didn’t have a specific time in mind. But, I was challenged by my wife on Friday to beat 2 hours and 15 minutes. My pace through the first 10 miles would have allowed me to beat 2 hours and 10 minutes, but the last 3.1 miles was a different story than the first 10.
During the last 5k, every step was difficult. It felt like I had weights on my feet, and the pain in my knee reared its ugly head again. It was these last 3 miles when my opponent implemented his strategy, and it was during those last 3 miles that I learned the most about myself.
I kept running. I kept looking forward. I remember my training. I envisioned the finish line. I reminded myself that every time I went for a run over the last month, I did more than 3 miles. And when I finally saw the finish line, with just a city block left, I felt rejuvenated. The injuries didn’t matter. The last 13 miles didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that finish line.
This picture was taken about 15 minutes after I crossed the finish line. The medal is pretty legit, and it is definitely something I am proud to hold up.
But my reward is not just that medal, it’s the multiple lessons I learned from training and finishing that I will always have with me. The lessons that can be transferred to my relationship with God are unmistakable. Hard work, discipline, sacrifice, focus, determination, and joy are only a few of those lessons.
If you want to accomplish something great, it is going to require great discipline and great sacrifice. There are going to be barriers, and the obstacles will probably increase dramatically as you approach the finish line. Running 13.1 miles was a crazy idea for me–from .5 miles to 13.1 miles. But I knew the lessons I would learn along the way would be lifelong lessons. Now the question is, “What’s next?”