Sunday, 29 April 2012

Love Running - Pre-Race Reflections

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With exactly three weeks to go until race day, this morning found me on a treadmill at my local gym. The last couple of weeks I have been conspicously absent from training for one reason or another, and - hoping to make up for my unintentionally long hiatus - I set myself some rather ambitious goals.

I would love to be able to report that I pushed through the inevitable pain-barrier and achieved everything I hoped to and more. But the truth is that somewhere around the 7km mark, after pushing myself to run faster than I have before, I found my legs doing a kind of scissor-leap so that both feet were on the outer edges of the treadmill with the belt whizzing away beneath me. I just stopped running.

Literally moments beforehand I had been successfully talking myself into continuing. Five more minutes, two more songs, 0.5km more: mini-milestones of hope. My plan was to keep them coming, ticking them off one by one until I'd finally gone the distance. It was a good plan and I was really, really disappointed to have "failed".

But there are three things that I'm taking away from my workout:

Encouragement is oxygen - Despite believing in the causes I've signed up to run for, despite the money that people have generously given us so far and the hope of future donations to reach our target, I was so completely ready to pull out of the race. All past investment in preparing paled in comparison to 'heat-of-the-moment' exhaustion and fear of failure. Only external encouragement (in this case from my husband) could change my perspective. 

Only fools don't count the cost - There's an Old Testament bible narrative that I find mesmerisingly beautiful and it keeps coming to mind as I train. Its main theme is about a personal choice between self-reliance or the security of trusting God. Interwoven into the drama are King David's ageless, haunting words: "I will not make a sacrifice that costs me nothing" - words that are picked up again in the New Testament teachings of Jesus on the cost of spiritual life. Sometimes I'm not honest with myself about how much effort my choices require from me - whether that's in running or in other areas of my life. But until I reconcile the glory of the dream with the reality of what it will take to achieve it, I will always end up feeling the frustration of unmet expectations.  

A little grace goes a long way - Choosing to do the costly things, the things that are worthwhile but grinding in their demands, is like taking a highlighter pen to every area of personal weakness. Every time I run, I get to greet the parts of me head-on that I would rather not see: the insecurity that compares my body to other people in the gym; the selfishness that would rather stay at home than raise money for charity. In those circumstances, I've found there's absolutely no point in either dwelling on or excusing my less-than beautiful attitudes. Instead, I look to the best version of myself - I look to the goodness God gifts me with when He says "My grace is enough for you; my power is made perfect in your weakness". And I keep going, motivated by the knowledge that, in the end, kindness - not guilt - is the greater force for change.

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