Lots of deep thinking on this “hard run Thursday”. I often focus on past races when I run, and today it was the Brooksie Way Half Marathon I ran last fall right here in good ol’ Rochester Hills. It is a great course, thirteen point one miles through the park downtown, sections of the converted train tracks, and then starting at mile eight into some hellacious hills until about mile eleven or twelve.
We had been camping with the family just north of Rochester that Sunday morning in October when I got up in the dark and drove off to tackle the race by myself (leaving Jimmy to take down all the camping stuff- well that’s the way that cookie crumbled). It was a bit warmer that day, and although I have found I do a pretty good job at dressing for races, this time the long-sleeved under armor was too much and I battled a bit of heat the whole way.
I was also battling the fact that I really hadn’t trained like I should. The “deal breaker” left hip was not cooperating most of last year, and although I went through a series of painful nerve-blocking shots in my lower back and cortisone in my hips, where I think the anesthesiologist was using a horse injector- it wasn’t doing the job.
Anyways, I had to stop and walk at about mile ten for a bit, which I don’t usually do, but then picked it up and it was the last two miles of this race that pleased me the most. Once you stop it seems like you are more inclined to stop again, you’ve kind of “allowed that” into the thing, and although my innards were screaming to walk again, “What’s the big deal, just take it easy.” “You’re almost done anyway.” “It’s good enough.” “Good enough.” I didn’t listen.
I took that cross by the throat with both hands and I wrestled it all the way to that finish line. I ended up finishing thirteenth out of one-hundred-forty-three in my old lady age group (50-54) with a time of 1:54:50. I was very proud of myself because I did not do nearly the kind of training beforehand to run that race, but I kept strong, especially at the end.
And here’s where the deep thinking comes in. (Drumroll please.) This kind of example to me exemplifies what it means to walk through lent as a Catholic Christian. We can have all kinds of great plans and ideas to run the race strong and win but it is in those final couple miles that we are really tested and challenged to do the hard thing, to follow through. It’s in the changing your menu order and skipping the fries (even though that’s the best part and you are paying for them anyways) with your turkey wrap, or sacrificing quiet “me time” in the tub and opting to drive over for a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament.
I know it’s a juggling act here. As I just commented on only yesterday, the damitable pride thing can kick in and you start raising that bar to greater and greater feats until you are too discouraged to go on, but that is where God comes in to help balance our incredible weaknesses. You’ve got to be glued to Him!
There is no improvement physically or spiritually unless you are molded in the fire. I am not meaning running a better time than anyone else; I mean that growth and advancement come most when you are barely moving forward- uphill and into the driving wind. But still you don’t stop. It may be messy, it won’t be flashy, but it’s putting one stinkin’ foot in front of the other.
Sainthood (let’s be perfectly honest, we are all aiming for that medal) is not won with mediocrity, with a “good enough” race through life.
Hard run Thursday is a good test of this. I decided, on this nice, sunny and slightly warmer day to try the course I last did on Christmas Eve, the ice and snow have melted enough that I could sort my way through. I love this route. The first mile or so is flat, but as you turn and go passed the VanHoosen Museum I bless myself (literally) as I look up and square off against the hill. It’s a big one that goes on, then levels slightly then on again for about a half mile.
|Running along the river and bridge at Main Street|
There is some significant downhill stuff that made my right thigh jump up and raise its hand, and then passed the Royal Park Hotel and library. It is a perfect blend of lovely, changing scenery, and hill challenges that make it a favorite. But it’s supposed to be a hard five miles. Now, no one will ever know if I run hard or not, it’s not like I am going to be running at the front of the pack with cameras catching the great event of Teresa running the Boston Marathon. No one will care if I pick the yucky heal of the bread for my toast or do that extra, excruciating twenty seconds in my wall sit, but God will.
This is the beauty I see in the correlation between training for this marathon and trying to live my life as a practicing Catholic. And the hardest parts are the little “unknowns” that are between you and God- which is really tough as I am a glory grabber. It is not some major sin to back off, to not phone an ailing aunt who is all alone, but if sainthood is the goal, you must take on those battles when it is the hardest- not for any kind of glory you will ever get here on earth! The world’s view of glory and God’s are at opposite ends of life. The pushing forward in mile twelve is the real treasure.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Matthew 6:17-21)