Friday, November 11, 2011

Why do we keep running?

What does running do for you? Why do we all keep running? We don't make excuses (well, maybe sometimes we do) but rain or shine and even wind, on treadmills, or roads, or trails, we run.

We all run for varied reasons. We run to improve our health and to be a good example to our families. We run so that we can eat whatever we want. We run to clear our minds and to have a mental release. We run for the sense of accomplishment. We run for time alone or time to be with friends.

In the relatively short time that I have been running, I have run for each of these reasons. Some have taken priority over others because of what's going on in my life. But there's something that has been the main reason why I run.

I didn't know it when I first started but it's always been there in the background, if no where else, giving a constant beat to every other reason. I learn life lessons through running. But it goes deeper than that. It's a spiritual connection to God. Lessons about who I am and what I am capable of doing with His help. I learn that we make self imposed limitations but through God nothing is impossible. Running has taught me that. And I don't know if I would have ever learned that lesson any other way.
I was not athletic growing up. I was more interested in boys and dancing with boys. I was NOT an athlete. I still don't consider myself an athlete, but what I have accomplished is more than I could have ever conjured up.
Things changed when I decided to run a marathon. Even when I was running consistently, this seemed so far out of my reach. But once I made the commitment and started training, I was surprised each week as I was able to do more than I thought was possible. I also had an ulterior motive. I needed to change something about myself. I didn't like who I was. But I was scared. I thought it was going to be too hard. So I bargained with God and told him that if I could run this marathon that I would change and be better. As the weeks leading up to that starting line got closer, I was nervous for the race, but was increasing worried that I'd actually be able to do it and then I really would have to uphold my end of the bargain. In fact, I KNEW that I was going to be able to finish because He wanted me to finish so that I'd change. Sure enough, I finished, felt like I could do anything, and then I upheld my part of the deal. I was able to do something that was harder than I thought possible. And the rewards have been far greater than I thought were possible as well.
Since that time, each marathon has been a race to beat that time. And it has not happened. I have not been faster than my very first marathon. Do I think it will happen someday? Yes. Otherwise I might have given up a long time ago. But all 6 marathons following that first one have taught me valuable lessons about gratitude, faith, trials, patience, friendship, courage, strength to overcome and enduring to the end that I don't think I could have tangibly have learned any other way. In fact, I don't look for that runner's high anymore. I know it will be there eventually. You run long enough and you'll find it. Nope, I'm looking for that runner's low. We've all been there too. That point where you don't feel like you can take another step... and then you do. The power to overcome. To do what you didn't believe was possible. To break those bands of self limitations.

The last several weeks have not been easy. I don't know if I would have believed that I could run a 20 miler followed the next day by a 10 miler. And this week's 22 miler was tough. Really tough. It never felt like my calves recovered from the week before. The last 4 miles were a death march. It felt every bit as hard as a marathon. But the 11 miler the next day was again surprisingly good. Next week is a step down week and I may take the whole week off. My calves are tight. One of my shins is slightly sore. But do I think I can still do it? Yes. Because I'm going to learn a whole new set of lessons from this experience. And by doing so, it will help with life in general. Hopefully I'll know how to deal with tough situations from what I learn while running. Most of all, I know that there's strength beyond my own that will get me through whatever I face.
A couple of weeks ago I was laying in bed dreading my run. It was the day after my 18 miler. I was tired and that run didn't go well. I knelt to say my prayers and after I had finished the first thought I had was that one of my favorite artists (Hilary Weeks) had a new CD that was to be released that day. I went and plugged in my iPhone and found it had downloaded (as I had prepaid for it) and went down to the treadmill. I listened to it during that 10 miler and listened to several songs repeatedly. That run was so good. And I've come away with a couple of new favorite songs. Some would say that it was a coincidence that I remembered it was the day of the release. I know better. I know that it was a tender mercy, help for me to get through what I thought would be a tough run. Because He cares about what I do. He cares that I succeed. It was another lesson that I needed to remember.

Here's some of the lyrics to "Past the Point" and you'll see why it's one my new favorites:

Lock me up, that's what you'll have to do
If you're gonna stop me from getting where I'm going to.
Or try to keep the sun from coming up
Or the tide from rolling in
Now that I know what I'm capable of.
'Cause every time I wanted to stop I kept running
And every time I hit a wall I climbed
I've broken the bands of my self limitations
Gonna go into line
Going past the point, beyond the mark
Further than I ever thought I could
Out of the dark, into the light
Just like He always knew I would
And when Heaven tells me I can,
I believe it.

No more storms
No wave of fear or doubt
No chains of disappointment could ever hold me back now
'Cause every time I wanna stop I'll keep running
And every time I hit a wall I'll climb
I'm breaking the bands of my self limitations
Gonna go into line
Going past the point, beyond the mark
Further than I ever thought I could
Out of the dark, into the light
Just like He always knew I would
And when Heaven tells me I can,
I believe it.

There it is right in front me just a few more steps, just a few more breaths and I'll get
Past the point, beyond the mark...

Go give it a listen here:
and while you're there give a listen to "That's who I am" and "Living Proof" as well.
Then go check out her music video for "Beautiful Heartbreak". You might see some familiar faces!

What are your reasons to keep running?
What life lessons have you learned?


Penny said...

I have learned that I can do anything with GOD'S help. He giveth me strength, I didnt think I had to run my first martahon. I have never heard of Hilary Weeks. Love that video Beautiful Heartbreak.

Jess @ Blonde Ponytail said...

I feel like I keep learning from you Jen. Your grit, your will, your determination, you telling the pain to go away till after the 22 miles are complete. You inspire me!

Katie said...

LOVE this post! Running for me has been such a spiritual journey. I have had some of my best prayer times on my long runs.

Anonymous said...

I agree whole heartedly. The marathon has the ability to open your soul. We learn so much about ourselves along these jouneys and each one is different.. ((hugs))

Finallyfit2011 said...

Love this post. That's all. :) :)

Michael said...

Jen, I like what you say about searching for the runner's low. The highs come and go, they're beautiful and sweet, but the truth is found in the lows. Thank you for this thought. It will stay with me. M

Julie Arts said...

I loved the video and just passed it on to my Women's Group. We are dealing with the topic of wilderness times this week and it fit in JUST Perfectly!! Thank you!
I haven't followed Nie's blog in some time. I had no idea she is pregnant! That is so amazing and wonderful!

ashley & sundance said...

Reasons I continue to run::: so I stay sane! ;) It keeps me grounded, happy, and in shape!

life lessons::: running is hard. life is hard. Life is less hard when I continue to ruN! :)

Coy Martinez said...

You're 100% correct. Running for me is cheaper than therapy. Everything I need to let go of, gets left in the form of sweat that adheres to the clothes. I'm not sure what I would do if I couldnt run to be honest. Well, I would swim but it wouldnt be the same! :)

Amanda - RunToTheFinish said...

so true on so many points! i have so many reasons for running that I can't imagine ever not running

Cotter Crunch said...

you have summed up a true definition of a runner. One that seeks out a run to find peace, gratitude, and endurance. One that know with each step, we clear our minds and open our hearts. I love every word Jen. And even though i can't run a lot right now, I will be back there, and I will be thankful!

misszippy said...

To make you feel better--i didn't better my first marathon time until my 8th! You'll do it. Great post.

Raina said...

HI! I came over from Fast Cory's blog. I must say that I am blessed today to read your post and hear the music on FB. Beautiful.

Julia said...

this may be my favorite post ever. like literally that i have ever read. i related so much and your words were so genuine, honest and real. i can relate to what you said about starting running and being surprised that you could do more than you ever expected...i think that translated to other areas of my life where i never thought i could do more. i realized that i can push more and accomplish more than i think i can. that has been a great feeling and i have felt my confidence and knowledge of myself grow! miss you!

Sam {} said...

very inspirational! i love these lyrics...will definitely check out the song :)

Nelly said...

Great post! I agree with most everything you have here - running and the challenge that it entails brings me closer to things I don't know about. It allows you to achieve things you didn't know you could achieve. I am Catholic, but currently I don't go to Church that often. But running seems to bring me closer to God and spiritually I think its an amazing release of energy. I haven't done a race since last Dec mainly due to injury, I can't wait to do another one sometime - I miss that runners high that I get giving my all in a race.

And your pictures are awesome as usual.

Connie said...

Great post Jen! I think it's those tough runs and running trials that make those highs, PB's, and epic runs, so fantastic :)

Wendy said...

I love what Eric Lidell said, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."

Running is my time alone with God in prayer and praise.