Real Runners (5/31)

It’s almost 11 AM and I am just now doing my writing for the day. I had grand plans of getting up around 5 to make coffee and sit down at the laptop and pound out some thoughts. Instead, I slept till 6:30, met my running buddies for 10 miles and pounded the pavement. 
The air was crisp and cool this morning, perfect weather for long sleeves and thin stocking caps. There are 6 of us that meet up regularly every Saturday morning to run a few miles. We started last fall when race season was over and we began to get bored and puffy. We ran all winter- in the snow, in the cold, even a few times in the drizzly rain. We talk about our running goals, jobs, family and spouses. Sometimes we don’t talk at all, the only sound being our steady huffs of breath and feet slapping the pavement.

There is something extra special about fall and winter running. While the rest of the world sleeps, we meet up still half-asleep and warm from our evening slumber and head out through neighborhoods and along trails. Often, we won’t see many other people. If we do, they are runners, like us. Quietly pacing along, sounding a ‘Good Morning’ or a silent head nod in acknowledgement. We are alike, us runners. 
Slight extremists. Definite achievers. Mentally and physically strong.

I remember runs where we’ve talked about hard things in life: deaths in the family, broken relationships, and heartaches. I’ve been on runs where someone has cried and we all offered words of comfort but kept pressing on, offering a pat on the back but definitely not stopping. 
Runners don’t give up.

I’ve been on runs where we’ve laughed so hard we had to stop to catch our breath: the story usually involving some kind of bathroom humor or spousal shenanigans. 
Runners find the humor even in the not-so-great situations.

I’ve been on runs where someone was injured or had to slow down and call it for the day. The rest of us saying we’ll check in later and continuing on the route to finish up the mileage for the day.
Runners know that when something causes someone else to stumble, we have to keep going.

Running is therapeutic. It’s the easiest and hardest form of exercise. 
All you need is your body and some shoes (or not shoes for the barefoot runners out there). But what you don’t know until you start running is that you need a strong mind. You need to be disciplined. You need a goal. Sure you can go out and run for 30 minutes a couple times a week when the weather is perfect and you happen to have free time and call yourself a runner. You don’t really have to train for anything or work towards a speed or distance goal. You might even lose a few noticeable pounds and feel better about yourself.

But until you take that leap and sign up for a race, you’re not really a runner. 
You haven’t sat down and charted out your mileage week by week. You haven’t researched gear and techniques. You haven’t’ gotten out of bed at a time no one should be awake and forced yourself out into the night in search of release.

To me, being a runner is a metaphor for life.

Sure I could float along in life not really having a goal in mind or a plan and probably be okay. Make easy decisions involving no risk and generally be happy with my circumstances. I could do all the things society tells me I should do and end up just sort of mediocre. I might even be content with my status.  But what kind of life is that?

What is life without a little bit of adventure?
What is life without taking the path less traveled?
What is life without a little bit of risk?

I’d always wonder what else I could have done. What else I could have seen. What I could have accomplished.

I want to make a mark on the world.

I want to look back and see that I did the hard things. When everyone else quit or walked away or gave up, I dug in. I was consistent. I was disciplined. I set goals and I achieved them. I want to look back and say, ‘Yeah, you know what? It was pretty hard. But when I
…moved across the country
…climbed that mountain
…gave birth
…opened that coffee shop
…finished that Ironman
…forgave that person
It was worth it.

I haven’t had very good runs lately. In fact, they’ve been pretty terrible. My life has been in a bit of turmoil as well. Coincidence? Probably not.

But this week I feel like I turned a corner. I got some clarity. I set some things down at the foot of the cross and just let them go. And today? I had a great run. I felt good. All those crappy runs became a distant memory, all that anxiety and stress rolling off me with each step. I felt strong, focused and sure.

I don’t care how ‘overused’ this verse is, it is and will always be, my life verse:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witness to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

Real runners endure.