Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Training

I run. I don’t really call myself a “runner” because I don’t train for races or have a subscription to Runner’s World. But I try to run three miles, five days a week. I like to run outside, if I can, on a gravel farm track that leads to our “back forty”. But when the weather is bad or when there is ice on my path, I run on the treadmill in the basement. That is until a few weeks ago when my treadmill pooped out on me. My husband thought he could fix it or replace the motor, so we held off on buying another one. That put me into a dilemma—how was I going to get my running in?

This also happened to be during the time my kids had like 4,083 days off from school for snow days (okay, that’s a little exaggeration). They were house-bound and I was getting a little stir crazy. So a couple days I braved the cold, bundled them up in snow gear and we headed to the school so they could play in the snowdrifts while I ran a tiny circle of sidewalk that remained clear. One miraculous day when they happened to have school, Justice had basketball practice, so I walked the circuit of hallways and got my three miles in that way. Finally it became apparent that we were not going to be able to fix the old treadmill and would need to buy another. It was Friday, the kids went to school, and I had one more day to finagle three miles out of so I could take the weekend off.

I needed to get groceries and run some errands, so I decided while I was in town, by myself, I would run my three miles on the River Greenway before I came home. The wind howled and the temps where bitter cold, but the sun shone high in the sky and it sounded like a good plan to me. That day God reminded me of a lesson I’ve tried to learn since becoming a mom—parenting is a hard job—some days are easier than others, but the effort is worth it.

I parked my car in the lot beside the bridge at the end of the trail. I stretched a minute, popped my iPod ear buds in my ears and started off. I wore my long-johns under my jogging pants and polar fleece jacket, my hands warm inside my gloves. I don’t like the feel of my ear buds in under earmuffs and the sun in the car had been warm, so I left my head and ears uncovered. The wind pushed at me and I could picture myself like those TV weathermen who report from the shore while a hurricane makes land—leaning into it, hair whipping around, face stinging at the cold breeze. When I don’t have the treadmill to gauge my speed, I start out too fast. So there I was, only about a third of a mile in, fighting the wind, the cold, and a beginning of a side-stitch. That’s when I started to doubt. It’s too cold out here. I should go home and skip today. This stinks. Why did I ever start running in the first place? This is no fun. This is too hard.

I still had several miles to go and if I had any hope of getting this done, I needed to dig deeper and figure out how I was going to do it. The first thing I did was slow down. I cut back a little on the speed and the side stitch vanished. Then I did what I often do when I need to get my mind off of myself—I prayed. I started with A and began to work my way through the alphabet. One last thing helped my make it to the little pavilion that marks my turn-around: I focused on what was true. You are going to be so happy when you get done. You can rest the next two days, just finish this one. The sun is out, there are ducks on the river, and look at how the icicles sparkle on the trees. Just get to the end and then the wind will be at your back.

I am happy to say that I made it. On the return route, with the wind at my back, I could easily keep the pace I had started at the beginning. The sun warmed my face and I could focus on the geese and ducks on the river, the icicles in the trees, and the rhythmic pounding of my shoes on the path. It seemed to take no time at all before I approach the marker that meant I had only one-third mile left—the same place I wanted to quit just thirty minutes before. I rejoiced in the sight of my car. It signified a resting place, the end of my journey, and Reese’s peanut butter cup Valentine’s candy—a reward.

That day reminded me that often the things most worth accomplishing come with a price. Parenting, marriage, writing a book, living a righteous life, mastering a skill, building a career, running a race all take perseverance and often suffering. There will be days when you just think you can’t do it anymore—the wind pushes against you, the cold stings your eyes, and you are just too weary. Then there are the days when everything goes right—the wind pushes in our favor, the sun warms your back, and chocolate is within your reach. How sweet will be your reward if you just press on! How far you will go if you keep your eyes on the truth!

My days of running in the cold are over for awhile. I have a beautiful new treadmill and the weather is turning warmer. How about you? What race are you running? Are you burnt out? Can you keep running just awhile longer? Tomorrow may be the day the wind changes. Spring is a time for new beginnings. What do you say you give it another try?

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