On Saturday the high was 65 and I woke up with an itch to run a mile, because I get that itch about once a year and Saturday was that day.
(It was a beautifully mild day for late January, especially considering a week before we'd been buried in eight inches of snow. Go figure.)
If you are a runner, or a lover of exercise in any form, I applaud you. I'm wildly jealous of you. I wish I was you. When I say "run a mile" what I really mean is that I have the desire to run, but what I actually did was power walk most of the way and prepared for what ended up being a two-block sprint right at the end.
...And naturally, after block one, I felt a huge cramp coming on. (My body is literally 100 years old--I choose not to think about how out of shape I am most of the time.)
Ordinarily, that would be my cue to stop running. I am not one to push through pain. (This applies to running and also other things.)
But I looked up, pathetically panting and wheezing, and saw how close the goal was. One more block. And I thought, "Okay, feet. Keep going. Okay, mouth. Breathe."
And MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, the sharpness of the cramp started to lessen. As I pushed past the discomfort (let's be honest--it was more about discomfort than actual pain), it became easier to go on.
For that brief moment I was a better runner than I had been before.
And, okay, running two blocks is about the most unimpressive thing in the world. I realize that, and maybe we can pretend it was two miles instead, ya know...for the sake of illustration.
But in that three-minute sprint, God did a thing. He did the thing where He says,
This is a snapshot of a bigger truth, my girl. Sometimes you have to push through discomfort and pain. You'll want to stop, but don't. There is freedom and strength and newness to be found if only you are willing to keep going.
Life feels pretty topsy-turvy right now. To carry on with our exercise illustration: there are a lot of little races I've been running that have started to get uncomfortable and painful. And I want to stop.
Have you been there? Whether it be a relationship (romantic or otherwise), work, job search, passion-hunting, spiritual journeying...One minute you feel like an Olympic champion and the next, you're doubled over with the mother of all cramps digging into your side.
And you really, really want to stop running.
There's a super popular verse in Hebrews about running with endurance. This isn't that one--this is verses 12 and 13:
Therefore lift your dropping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
Endurance is one of those Christian buzzwords that gets talked about to the point that I think we forget what it means. Or at least I do. It sounds cool, but what is the practical application?
To run with endurance means pushing through the hard stuff. The cramps. The discomfort. The moment when you say, "I literally cannot keep going."
But then you find you actually can keep going. And right on the other side of endurance is strength. Not, like, Superman strength or anything, but strength that didn't exist before. Every time you push on you build a little muscle. And next time you'll be able to run a little farther.
So I sprinted for two blocks today. Well, four, since I did the same thing on the way back home. That's pretty lame by a runner's standard, but it's not bad by mine.
Next time I'll go further.
Is there a race you're running that is starting to get the best of you? Pal, I FEEL YA. But keep going. Push on through the cramps and take a few deep breaths. There's good work going on.