Running Races, Running Buddies

In October 2017, I finished a marathon. I won’t say I ran a marathon, because the truth is that I spent much of my time walking, not running, and slowly at that. “Don’t sell yourself short,” you may say. “You’re exaggerating. You finished! It couldn’t have been that bad.” Yes, I finished, but it was a marathon with thousands of runners and I finished last. Dead. Last.

Officially, I was 3,137th of 3,137. My time was 7:48.47, with an average pace of 17:53.

Receiving my medal after walking under the collapsed finish line.

I still have mixed feelings about that race. After all, I put hours and hours and miles and miles into training for it. I enjoyed the process, and I enjoy running, even if I am much slower than every other runner I know. When I am in training, I can even get to a decent, consistent pace, around ten-minute miles. And I did finish. There were two extenuating circumstances, in particular, on race day that made it difficult to finish: wind gusts up to 40mph (the finish line blew over minutes before I arrived!) and aching, painful shoulders from a new bra (chafing led to the purchase. Enough said). But I also can’t help but be disappointed with my performance and embarrassed to admit how I placed.

I think what I’m most disappointed about is that, besides a handful of times, I haven’t been out running since. And I miss it.

People who do not enjoy running are always mystified to hear that others do enjoy it. I used to be one of those people. I first started ten-ish years ago to lose weight (why else), and continued because I loved the physical and mental challenges and rewards. A few years later I joined a running group through my church began to love the social aspect of running. Runners are a special group of people, encouraging and supportive and friendly and running can be a social activity even for someone like me who runs most often by herself. Er, ran.

In fact, if it weren’t for other runners and my runner friends, it would have been much harder for me to finish the marathon that day. People along the way encouraged each other. One friend from my church group (an ultra-marathoner) finished his half, ate a meal, met up with me, and walked the rest of the way to the finish line with me.

Even in life—non-running life—my runner friends are there walking alongside me. One asks me monthly if I’m running again and encourages me whether I am or not. His wife has taken me on as her “daughter” and always calls me “my girl.” These people are dear to me, and they are people I never would have known if it hadn’t been for running. It’s nice to know I have friends who will encourage and run beside me, not only in physical races, but also in the spiritual one we’ve all signed up to run together.

Last week, when I posted Not Enough, I had stumbled and grown discouraged. But many readers—fellow “runners”—came alongside me and encouraged me. I am so thankful and blessed to have each of you to run alongside with in life. I only hope and pray I can encourage you to get back up and keep going if the need arises. Let’s run together.

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 perfected 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. (Heb. 12:1-3, NIV)

As for running in the physical sense? I can’t just end this post without challenging myself to take it up again. I don’t know why I do this to myself when snow is inches deep on the ground, the temperature outside is below zero, and the wind chill is lower than that, but do it I will. For now, my challenge to myself—my goal for the year—will remain undecided, but I will undertake a mini-goal of getting on the dreadmill for at least three runs before I post next week. And if any readers would like to be my virtual running buddies, I could always use more running friends. Runners are some of the best people I know.

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