Last June I told Matthea that I wanted to start running. I realized that I was approaching my 41st birthday and I’d like at least 41 more. I know I have to be proactive to stay healthy. Health doesn’t happen on its own. Over these past 8 months I have learned so many spiritual lessons through this new hobby. I want to share some of them with you.
Our adopted Dad, Dave Black, began running a few years ago at the ripe young age of 62. Within 2 years he had run his first marathon. 7 months later he had just completed his 8th marathon! He is an example to us. I thought, “If Dad can do this, so can I.” I decided I’d run the Birmingham half-marathon.
My very first run was in our neighborhood. There’s a simple 1 mile loop with some elevation, but not too bad. Here’s a tip…if you live in Alabama and want to start running, DON’T START IN JUNE. It’s hot. We had to run early in the morning when the temps were only 80 and just 90% humidity. I wanted to run 25 minutes, it was awful. But isn’t every new routine difficult? How many New Years Resolutions don’t make it to February?
Before long, Matthea and I started to run together. She was happy to join me in this challenge. We found a level, shaded spot a few miles from home. Running together was great fun and provided accountability. Some days she pushed me to run, other days I pushed her to run.
After a few weeks we needed a goal so we signed up for the Shake and Bake 5K. It is run every year in August. Did I mention this is Alabama? It was HOT! We needed a goal to keep pushing and working hard. Paul says in Philippians 3 that he presses on towards the goal of knowing Jesus better. Goals motivate us.
After reaching that milestone…an actual race…it was time to push ahead and cover more miles. After all, we can’t run 13.1 miles after only ever running 3.1! I would have never dreamed I would run 5 miles! In fact I used to say to people “I’ve never run on purpose before.” If we are to grow, we have to stretch ourselves. We have to set new goals, otherwise we grow stagnant.
By this point my time was improving. But I’m no young kid. I’m only racing myself. I have found that running is about 90% mental. I have come to realize that the hardest part of running is getting out the front door. I have to say that there has not been a time after running that I regretted having run. It’s mental. Such is life. We can defeat ourselves before we ever try something. It was time to set a new goal. To be ready for a half-marathon, we needed a good 10K race in our training. The 5K we ran in August was a “fun run”. This 10K was a race. Our goal was to complete it. We decided to run the Vulcan Run 10K. Its a great race in downtown Birmingham.
After this race we continued adding some distance. It was hard to run in November due to the colder weather. I didn’t have the clothing for it. It was tough to run in the evenings because it got dark so early. We have to be prepared for whatever situation we may face. I think about Paul’s words in Ephesians 6…be ready. A few weeks before Christmas I knew I had to get in a good longer run. I decided to run 7 miles and not quite early. I was determined to cover that distance, even it meant dragging myself to my car!
Just after Christmas I went on a trip to South East Asia. It was a great time. My half marathon was coming up soon so I had to run some while I was over there. I don’t know if that qualifies me as an “International Runner” or not. Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4 that he is to be ready in season and out of season. We must always be ready to do what needs to be done. I couldn’t take a 2 week break from my training.
After returning I dealt with some sickness. I was dealing with intestinal issues from the trip and then the flu swept through our house. 2 weeks before the half-marathon I had to get a longer training run in. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it. ne step at a time. Isn’t that life? One step at a time!
Finally race weekend had arrived! Dad flew down from Virginia to run with us. He was such a cheerleader the whole time. We needed that. His example let us know we could do it too. Who is watching your life? Who are you an example to?
Just prior to the start we lined up with our group. We’re in the back, in the 12+ minute/mile group. We were no less enthusiastic than the 6 minute/mile group. Again we weren’t running to beat anyone…we were running for ourselves.
Just before we began, a great friend from church found us. Wendell had to stop running a few years back, but not before he completed 108 marathons! He has been a constant encouragement for us as we have trained. He came out in the rain to see us off at 7 AM. He also appeared along the course every couple of miles and cheered for Matthea and me as if we were in 1st place! Every one of us needs encouragers along life’s race. Who encourages you? Who do you encourage?
Finally, after 13.1 miles. After 3 hours and 20 minutes, we crossed the finish line. We crossed the line together. In the last mile, Matthea got focused. She became the cheerleader for about a dozen of us running together. At one point she said, “let’s do this! I had a C-Section 15 months ago and I’m getting ready to finish a half-marathon!!’ Some around us who had stopped running were motivated to run this last mile along with us. It was a beautiful sight.
We didn’t get a medal because we beat anyone. Every finisher gets the medal. Each of the 5200 runners was running their own race. 8 months of work for us has paid off. The feeling is indescribable! We had decided before the race that when we were done we’d have 2 options. We could either never run again, or this would be the first of many half-marathons hopefully leading to a full marathon soon. I have to say we’ve been checking the race calendars to schedule our next races. We crossed that line having taken one step at a time. Such is life.