Originally posted on April 19th, 2011.
Although I had planned to run early that morning, it was well past 1pm and I was beginning to lose my early morning steam. Would I get to run before I ran out of energy?
So eager to start my run, restless and excited, yet I knew that stopping by the store to pick up headphones first would be worth it. There's just something about having to hold headphones in your ears to keep them from falling out that just doesn't go well with running, you know? On the bright side, the brisk walk back to the car after picking up the headphones could act as a mini warm-up, gearing me up for a great run.
I got to the running trail only to discover my mp3 battery was completely dead. Nice! So that's the kind of run it was going to be, with satan obviously also warming up for the challenge, but I refused to give in before the running began. Undeterred, I drove to the nearest convenience store and after paying a king's ransom for 2 AA batteries, I returned to the beginning of the running trail and began to pray.
Minutes before 2pm, I locked the car, clipped my keys to my water bottle, and went to the starting point.
Right at 2pm, with Chris Tomlin's "Exhalted" pouring in through my new headphones, I began my first attempt at a 10K run.
The most unnatural thing about running for me is how natural it feels. Until early last fall, my body and my health were losing a battle that had lasted months and left me struggling day to day, barely able to walk without being wracked with pain and exhaustion. Over 50lbs lost, and no answers to be found.
When all else failed and the tests still showed abnormal results without further answers, we considered the possibility of a spiritual attack. I weighed the possibility and told myself that I had nothing left to lose by trying to counteract such an attack. A plan began: I would begin to walk around the neighborhood each night, an act of defiant faith that would send a clear message to satan that I wasn't going to let him win.
It might have not seemed like much, but given the condition my body was in, it would be an uphill battle. I was determined to outrun these attacks with everything I had in me, figuring that whatever I didn't have, God would simply have to provide.
Armed with a photo of my best friend Tia running on our vacation last summer, I started walking late at night on September 14th, 2010. At the end of the first stretch, when it was time to turn the corner and walk in the other direction, my feet began to jog. It was an involuntary and unintentional decision on my body's part. When I realized my feet were jogging, I kept looking down at them, and trying to understand what was happening. All I could do was laugh incredulously... jogging? How was that even possible? Talk about feeling like I was really losing my ever lovin' mind...
I walked the next block, and then considered jogging the next stretch. It seemed daunting. I wanted to, so badly, but it seemed so utterly impossible. I could barely breathe, everything hurt. What was I thinking trying this anyway?!
In the end, I envisioned Tia waiting for me at the corner, cheering me on, and somehow, God gave my body what it needed to do it. I jogged that block and a half, and walked the rest of the way home. I couldn't wait to call her to share what had just happened.
That first walk was not quite a mile.
Somehow, within a week, I began doing a 3.8 mile loop through the neighborhood. It still felt surreal. I considered the first 3.8 loop a huge success and celebrated when I finished at 1h 20 minutes.
Encouraged, I challenged myself to try to beat it. Armed with some worship music and the darkness and coolness of night, I worked hard at it several times a week, increasing the jogging to walking ratio as much as I could as my body became stronger.
Not long after I had started, my health hit a brick wall again, and I came home from work one night barely able to make it up the front steps. I crawled into bed, not even taking my shoes off, and I called Tia to let her know I didn't have it in me to run that night. I told her how awful I felt and it was then that she said something that I'd never forget... "Now that you're sick again, how will you respond, and what will you choose to believe?"
I got up, got ready to run, and bolted out the door. I made it home from the 3.8 loop in record time.
Within another month or so, I had succeeded in doing the loop in under an hour. Initially not imagining that I'd ever do this long term (I still struggled to understand that I was doing this at all!), I was running in the only pair of sneakers I had... a basic pair of Sketchers. Tia tried to convince me to buy two pairs of "real running shoes".
I knew what she was saying made sense, but I struggled with the thought of paying so much for a pair of shoes, never mind two. She insisted. I balked. She insisted some more. I rolled my eyes at her. When I found two pairs on eBay for less than half the price of one pair, I made her proud and gave her the satisfaction of saying "I told you so!" She really was right, running with running shoes makes all the difference.
Looking at them was strange, though, yet another reminder that this was real, that God has given me the strength to do this.
Two years ago, I only owned one pair of shoes in total. What a journey it's been!
Back on the running trail.... I'm still running, I don't know what time it is and I refuse to look. I only know that I've just reached the 4K mark on my 10K run.
One more kilometer, and I will have matched the distance I ran in Michigan. I was beginning to feel the physical challenge of the run, and satan knew it. He wasted no time whispering lies in my ears:
"You don't really want to do this, do you? Why are you doing this anyway? What does it matter? 10K? Have you looked at yourself? You're being ridiculous!"
"You'll never be a runner, much less look like one."
"Four kilometers is enough, it's taken so much of your time already, why don't you just pack it up and go home?"
"If you really want to know how long it takes to run 10K, just quit now and use basic math. It'll do."
"You'll get past 5K and you won't be able to finish, you really can't do this and you know it... you'll fail and feel worse in the end. Give up now."
The more he spewed his lies, the harder it was to tune him out. I defiantly cranked up the worship music and sprinted to the 5K mark, briefly weighing my options -- listen to him and quit, or believe in the God Who was breathing life in me?
As the 5K mark came into view, I increased my pace and grinned as I hit the granite marker with my hand in a "high 5" on the way by, Tia's words speaking louder and louder in my heart.
"How will you respond? What will you choose to believe?"
Looking down at the time, I realized that I had just beat my time in Michigan by a full 5 minutes.
I kept running.
With the wind pushing hard against me and my ears beginning to ache from the cold, I kept running along the harbour to the 6K marker, refusing to give in and give up. Even though it was increasingly harder with hills ahead that seemed to grow steeper and longer, every step defied his lies and spoke only of what He could do.
I kept running, at times hands raised in worship, passing by the 6K marker knowing how significant this next part would be... I had never ran more than 6km.
I. kept. running.
I ran on the slippery winter gravel covered sidewalk toward the steep hill leading up to the 7K marker. I couldn't see the marker from where I was running, but I could feel the force pulling me to it and I couldn't help but keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I barely remember running up that hill. It all seemed effortless.
Reaching the 7K marker not only meant that I got the fun of running DOWN that steep hill for a change (wheeeee!!), but also that I was on the home stretch with only 3K to go directly to the finish line.
As I reached the 8K marker and high 5'd it exuberantly on the way by, I realized something. I could no longer hear satan's attacks and lies -- nothing stood in the way of my faith in God, and more beautiful than that, I could sense God's encouragement.
"You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you."
"Doubt is the absence of belief -- by not accepting satan's lies, you are outrunning disbelief."
"Your heart beat whispers 'I love... I love... I love...' Your footsteps now have a song of their own too -- they sing 'I believe... I believe... I believe....!'"
"I can do immeasurably more than you could ever imagine or ask for. Remember this, always."
Feeling the wind at my back as I high 5'd the 9K mark, I considered again His promises of doing more than we could ever imagine or ask for, and I immediately thought of His plans to provide resources to release children from slavery in the Lake Volta region of Ghana...
"If He could breathe in me what it takes to run 10K, imagine how much more He'd do for these kids?"
In my heart, I could see the Lake Volta kids, their faces filled with hope as I rounded the corner to the last marker. I saw them with an understanding that the same God who made the unlikeliest of women run would use that same unlikely woman to provide for them. After all, the only thing He asked Moses at the Red Sea was to take a step forward in faith, and that's really all He was requiring of me as well. He would do the rest.
I kept running.
I reached the 10K marker and looked down at the time... and I immediately burst into joyous laughter -- "unlikely and impossible" was no match for God, indeed.
1 hour, 20 minutes.
In the same amount of time it took me to walk 3.8 miles last fall, I had run 6.2 miles. He shows us He loves us in such beautiful ways.
There was also something significant missing from the laughter -- disbelief -- and the absence of disbelief was just what I needed to register for the half marathon in October. It no longer seemed unlikely and impossible.
If I had walked away without finishing that run, I would have missed out on SO much. I truly believe that when we close our hand to what He asks of us, we also close our hand to what He wants to bless us with.