Tuesday, April 10, 2012

a steady push

A few months back I signed up for a long race. To prepare I’ve been putting in a lot of running — about double the mileage and time I was running before training started. At first the new challenge was fun, and when I say at first I mean the first week. It didn’t take long for my legs to get fatigued, my mind to feel tired and weak, and my heart to second-guess the commitment I’d made to a time goal. The experience has been quite the lesson is sustaining a vision — body, mind and soul — through the long haul.

Yesterday when I started out on my run, my legs were stiff and my stride felt awkward, so I took it slow, expecting to loosen up and gain speed as I went. But I’d planned a route with a steady incline for most of the first half, so the ease never really came, even when I turned the corner and started on a decline. It was a steady push the whole run.

And then towards the end were two longer hills. On the first I felt my pace slow more than I’d have liked, and as I approached the second my mind and legs were both tired. Stopping wasn’t an option. I considered pulling out my ipod to switch songs, but then a new song came on, the same one that’s been queuing during tough parts of my runs a lot lately.

Lord you are good and your mercy endures forever.

I’d spent most of my run feeling the pain of the run, wondering when it would ease up and I’d start to coast. Most of the run I’d spent trying to pass walkers and weave between runners, easily annoyed at people who didn’t move out of my way and critical of people who weren’t doing it right (like I even know…). And then there was the difficulty of life, the pain of attempting that particular run and sustaining a vision in places that seem desolate and not worthy my time or hope. Of how my life feels like my running right now: a concerted effort that’s been consuming and tiring but with little outward progress to show for it. A steady push. A long haul. I’m tired.

I ran up that hill at what felt like a walking pace, but my feet were leaving the ground, my head was down and my arms were swinging. I made slow but steady progress to the top. The repeated reminder of God’s goodness, his enduring mercy, that He’s committed to me forever. Maybe I’d hoped for the ground below to miraculously flatten beneath my feet, or to grow wings that would lift me to the higher ground ahead. Those miracles, of course, didn’t happen. I had to just keep going.

I did reach the top of that hill. Then I kept running.

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