“What toil we must endure, what fatigue, while we are attempting to climb hills and the summits of mountains! What, that we may ascend to heaven! If you consider the promised reward, what you endure is less. Immortality is given to the one who perseveres; everlasting life is offered; the Lord promises His Kingdom.” – St. Cyprian of Carthage
Recently, I signed up to run two races per month from July through November. I am not a runner by any means, but I am achievement-oriented, so I figured this would be a good way to occupy two Sundays per month for the next several months. One of the biggest mistakes I made, though, was assuming that because I am in (relatively decent) shape and have always been athletic, running races would be simple. I was wrong.
During my first 5k, a pre-run to the race series, I noticed at about 1.5 miles that my body started to get chills and goosebumps. Of course, I didn’t think this was normal, but I sure wasn’t going to be the person who stopped and walked…until my body basically forced me to. Within moments, I felt defeated; then, I reminded myself that God calls us to rest sometimes. Thus, I embraced the humility.
A week and a half later, I started the race series and was prepared to do better than the first time. And, just like clockwork, at 1.5 miles, my body started to feel as if was about to shut down again. Goosebumps, fatigue, chills…and it was worse this time than the last. So I slowed down to a walk, again, and felt like a total failure. And then was instantly reminded that rest is part of this process.
That afternoon, I texted my tennis coach from childhood and asked him what was going on. He said, “Every run should become easier…be patient, go slow and build up your pace and distance, and trust the process. Baby steps!” And then it hit me like a ton of bricks—this whole running thing was just another way God was allowing me to learn patience, trust and surrender. I was learning to be patient in His timing (and patient with myself while learning to run), I was learning to trust Him completely (and trust my body will adjust to the increasing mileage), and I was surrendering my heart to Him (and surrendering my preconceived ideas of how this running should currently look like). Basically, if I wanted to run those half marathons in November, I was going to have to train and take my time. This wasn’t going to be like the usual Betsey way of doing things.
So here’s a little backstory. Growing up, I loved playing sports. My favorites were basketball, softball and tennis. But those three sports involve a lot of short movements, and I never learned how to run long distances. Perseverance is also not my strong suit for an extended period of time; if I am not good at something to begin with, I usually just find something else to do, because I am prideful and hate to be uncomfortable. But this year, God has really opened my eyes and heart to the reality that it is time to do the hard work, and He wants me to grow exponentially in the process.
This all points to something I do not want to do—I have to train for these runs, or else I have to quit. Heat exhaustion and dehydration are not things to mess with, and as much as I want to just get out there and run lots of miles occasionally and automatically succeed, this time, I cannot. For the first time in my life, I realize that God has called me to stick with the difficult…the things that feel impossible…and to keep going regardless of how painful it is (mentally, spiritually, and physically). This means I have to run during the week and prepare for the races; I have to spend time in the heat and take care of myself in the process; and I cannot throw in the towel and find something easier. No, He’s calling me to persevere, and that is exactly what I am going to do.
“Your first task is to be dissatisfied with yourself, fight sin, and transform yourself into something better. Your second task is to put up with the trials and temptations of this world that will be brought on by the change in your life and to persevere to the very end in the midst of these things.”