How it All Began…Part 2…Second Chances and More

If I had known in high school what I could have done with the natural athletic ability I was blessed with, I would have never quit the team, walked off the track, out of the locker room, and into a place I didn’t belong. I think about the running dreams I could have accomplished and it makes me very sad that I threw it all away. But at that point in life, it meant nothing! I certainly didn’t think quitting was that big of deal, and all those goals I had of breaking school records, I didn’t think twice about them.

Well, that’s not necessarily true, there were a couple of times during my high school years that somebody would bring up track, or I’d meet a coach who would ask me if I was a runner, and when I would say, “No,” their response, “Well, you look like you’d be a great runner,” did sting. But, I never let it sting long enough to think, maybe I should get my life back on “track” and become the athlete I was meant to be!

At the end of my senior year in high school I had decided to go to Taylor University. I knew a small, private, Christian school was just what I needed. I wouldn’t have been able to survive at a state school. I was happy to leave my past behind and start with a new beginning. I loved Taylor!

During my senior year, I was working out at the student health club and I noticed a flyer for the Indianapolis half-marathon. I thought to myself, “Hmmm…I used to be a runner, I bet I could start running again and do a half-marathon.” Plus, it would be great motivation to stop smoking (a habit I had picked up in high-school and still happened to do on occasion.)

After a couple of weeks of running on the treadmill, I told my roommate, Heather Beck, my plan. She was actually on the Taylor track team. One day when she was getting ready to go to practice she told me I should come with her and run with the team. There was no way I was going to do that. I certainly couldn’t keep up with the long distance runners. I mean, I had just started running again, not to mention I used to run 200s and 400s, so running miles was something entirely new for me. However, after a few days, she convinced, and as nervous as I was, I went to run with the team.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it was running with a group, the camaraderie these women shared was amazing. The fun they were having, while they were running, was inspiring. I wanted to continue to be a part of this community!

I started to run with them and when we were done getting in the miles, they would go to the locker room, talk to the coach, etc. etc. and I would go back to my dorm room, shower, and meet them for dinner.

One day, when we were finishing up a run, the track coach approached me and asked what I was training for. I told him the Indianapolis 1/2 Marathon. He told me that I should continue to run with the team, and not only that, but a great way to get in shape for the 1/2 would be to run the 10k in the conference meet. Absolutely, not!! I had never run more than a lap around the track in a meet and there was no way I was going to put myself out there at a college meet and run a 10k!! The meet was only a week or two away, and somehow Coach convinced me to run.

The day of the meet, I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know what to expect. One of the girls told me just run and don’t look at the lap counter. How could I not look at the lap counter! It was right there at every turn and it was so obvious when they would flip it over to show how many laps were left. Despite that, the race felt great. It was exhilarating being back on the track and competing. I didn’t win the race, I didn’t even come in second or third, but I did post a time that qualified me for the National Meet the following weekend. Which just happened to be the weekend of the 1/2 marathon.

It was obvious that I would run in the National Meet. I would never get the chance to compete in a college meet again and there would be more 1/2 marathons to run later. When I ran the 10k at Nationals, it was very, very challenging. I wasn’t recovered from the conference meet. I had teammates on the side who were encouraging me to run hard and race well. However, if one of those teammates had said, “It’s okay, you look tired, you can stop if you want too.” I might have very well given into that! It was brutal! But, I did finish. And, despite a race that didn’t feel great it was still an amazing feeling to compete and push myself beyond my limits, and cross the finish line.

You can imagine my surprise, when I went to get my mail a week before graduation, and there was a track letter for me! I ran in only two track meets, 48 laps, and lettered in track!

I have to give credit where credit is due. The God of second chances and more. Even when we are unfaithful He is faithful!! 48 laps around the track, a second chance to make up all those 200s and 400s I had missed out on in high school. I was thankful to be given a another chance to train and race with the companionship of encouraging teammates, something I had given up years before.

Now, that I had graduated from college I was starting another new chapter in my life, but one thing I knew for sure was that running was going to continue to be a part of it.

Part 3…Road racing here I come…

Athlete in Training Part 2

Recently, I was given the opportunity to write a short paper and answer 4 questions concerning how the Christian faith relates to running. The questions/answers were based on Hebrews 12:1, “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.”

Question 3: How should we run?

First, I must believe and trust in the training I’ve done, knowing that I’ve put in the work and the effort to run my best.  I also know and believe in my mind that I can do it. I know that at times during the race it’s going to get tough and it will hurt, but I must remind myself to keep going.  Every part of my body is telling me to stop, but I won’t listen, because I know that the pain isn’t going to last forever.  When I go through tough spots during a race, my mind must be stronger than what I am feeling at that point.  I must tell myself I can, and in so doing my body will follow.  You might wonder, why I don’t just give up and stop when it hurts? Is the pain really worth the goal? Does it really matter if I cross the finish line? It does! Because, I’ve put in the time and effort, the hard-work, the good days, and the bad days.  I run focused on my ultimate goal, knowing that I’ve been training in order to reach my full potential. Fulfilling my goal and purpose in running comes when I cross the finish line.

Question 4: Who should we watch while we run?

I’ve learned through experience, that when I run I must have tunnel vision.  I must focus on my goal and my race.  If I lose my focus and worry about what the other runners are doing, how they are going to run, how fast they are going to go, then I start to run a race that wasn’t intended for me. Also, if I start to concentrate on those around me, I become anxious and worried that I’m not as strong and I’m not going to be able to keep up, let alone finish the race.  When I line up to start a race I have no business looking around to see who might be better, stronger or faster than I am.  There is no need to compare myself with others before the race. And if I do, I can guarantee I will wander off of my plan, my pace and get stuck somewhere I shouldn’t be.  This makes for a difficult and often times painful race.  The best races are those that are run with complete focus on what my body has been trained to run and not waiver from this pace.

Then there’s the crowd and the cheering.  While they can be encouraging, they can also be distracting.  If I start to look around and see someone holding a box of donuts or drinking coffee from Starbucks, how much harder does that make it to keep going! Wouldn’t I rather stop and rest and indulge myself! Why would I suffer through the pain when I can find immediate self-satisfaction, if only I would stop.  Again, my eyes must stay focused on the goal and the task at hand!

Lastly, when I race I know the ultimate goal is to cross the finish line.  How do I reach the finish line? Most of the time it’s too overwhelming to think of the entire distance.  I must take it step by step – because eventually steps turn into miles, and miles into 5ks, and 5ks into marathons and then before I know it I’m crossing the finish line – with exhilaration and joy, not because I did it pain-free, but because I did it! I finished the race!


Athlete in Training Part 1

Recently, I was given the opportunity to write a short paper and answer 4 questions concerning how the Christian faith relates to running. The questions/answers were based on Hebrews 12:1, “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.”

Question 1: Who is in the Stands?

When I think about the spectators in the stands, I think you will find all sorts of people.  There are people who are passionate about the sport and find watching the competition a complete satisfaction and inspiration.

There are coaches who are hoping their athletes run their best and react positively to the specific training they’ve been doing.  There are past competitors who are wishing they were still in their “glory days” or hoping to see the next record be set.

There are also injured runners who are longing to be part of the sport, but they’ve been set back, and by watching and cheering they feel they are still a part of the competition.

Then, each runner has personal fans that are among the crowd. Friends and family who have supported and encouraged the athlete along the way.  And other personal fans, who’ve maybe just heard about the athlete and want to see if he can really execute the rumors they’ve heard about him.

Lastly, there are people who may have never run before, who don’t like to run, who don’t understand running, yet they find it interesting to watch how others find joy and pleasure in it.

Question 2: How do we prepare to run?

If I want to run my best I must always remember that running is a joy and a gift. If I let it become a chore/job – something I feel that I have to do, it becomes daunting and I find no pleasure in it.

People often wonder how I find the time to run. It’s easy – it’s become a part of me. It’s never a question of IF i’m going to run.  Each day, I know what’s on the training schedule and I know somehow it’s going to get done. It’s become part of my day, it’s a habit, it’s something that when I don’t do it – I notice a difference in the day and in the way I feel.

There’s days when I’m exhausted and the last thing I want to do is swing my tired legs out of bed and run, but I do it anyway.  Knowing that once I start I will want to keep going – even if it’s painful or tiring I know there’s the ultimate goal that I’m trying to achieve, and in order to achieve this I must meet the little goals along the way. There’s other days when I’m excited to run and I can’t wait to get out the door and meet the pavement. There’s days/workout’s that are tough and days/ workouts that are easy – but either way, I know that when I’m out there running I’m accomplishing exactly what I need to do.

Tomorrow – Part 2 :

Question 3 – How should we run?

Question 4 – Who should we watch while we run?