After completing a half marathon I was posed the question by my good friend Elaine, "Why would anyone run that far if they weren't being chased?" I have since pondered that question and some days haven't been able to come up with a good answer. However, after careful consideration, a few things have come to the forefront of my mind.
Running makes me feel strong. Over time I have come to see and feel the actual muscle in my legs and as my endurance has increased I feel the strength coming from within. Finishing a long run brings such a feeling of accomplishment. It proves to myself that I can overcome physical obstacles that I previously thought would be impossible. Occasionally there is that "runners' high" that cannot be accurately described without experiencing it for yourself. It is the point where you feel as if you could run forever and feel great doing it. It is the point where your lungs don't feel as if they're going to burst and your feet feel like they might not even be touching the pavement.
Other physical advantages include being able to sleep better, a stronger heart, being able to keep up with my kids, and a general sense of well being. When I run consistently I don't seem to get sick. Although running was once used exclusively as a weight loss tool, that has taken a back seat to all the other benefits I've received.
Running has great mental advantages. Running is sometimes the only moment I have to be alone in the day. It has been a great time to work out problems in my mind, to think of a child's particular need, or time to think of a great date with my hubby. Running gives me time to ponder gospel questions and time to recite the scripture we are working on memorizing. It has been a good place for me to reflect on my actions and choices and given me pause in my busy life for ways to improve. I recall memories from past vacations, my children's early years, and am able to recall some of my early childhood memories. Though my brothers and sisters don't even know it, I feel closer to them remembering those long ago experiences.
On really long runs, there is too much time. Music is one of the tools I have used to keep moving forward. Some music I have chosen is from high school days and when a particular song comes on, i am transported to another time and place to relive a moment, thanks to music, that I'll never forget. One song is from a CD that I listened to while I cleaned my house as a newlywed. I can still remember how I felt being a newly married woman, so much in love and feeling so blessed. And I get to experience it all while running. I love music from my favorite movies. I have a few songs that are great for when I'm struggling or going up a big hill, music that has a definite beat that seems to drive my feet forward. Music has played a big part in my life and I love how it plays a part in my running.
Sometimes in running it's helpful to think of a sentence or a mantra that we can say over and over when the going gets rough. The best ones for me seem to come from songs. My favorite was "I believe I can, I believe I will, I believe I will hold it soon, yes that is what I do believe." Shorter ones include "swift feet, light feet", "smooth and fast", or "pump it" for going up hills.
Controlling ones thoughts, especially when times are rough, can be a most difficult task. When it's especially hard I have found that like a mantra, a simple scripture or song can be but on the stage of the mind to take the place of destructive thought. I have repeated the scripture from D&C 121:45 which is the theme for the Young Women's last year. It reads as follows, "Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly, then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God." There are several songs that are good for me to sing in my head when I am struggling. "How Firm a Foundation" and "If the Savior Stood Beside Me" are among my favorites.
Running has provided me with a great sense of accomplishment. Seeing the progress in being able to run one minute straight to the rejoicing of over one mile to being able to run twenty miles is so great! Whatever the milestones or measurements are being used, progress can be seen after the daily work has been put in.
Running has taught me patience. I have come to learn that injuries are sometimes inevitable. Taking the proper recovery time and listening to my body when my mind says, "go!" has definitely taught me patience. Speed hasn't come as fast for me as I would like, but in retrospect, the progress made is amazing. Running has taught me that great things don't usually happen in a short amount of time or with little effort. But as we plug away, little by little, step by small step, great things and many miles will pass.
Running has shown me how much I am loved. I have been surrounded by so much support. My dear husband not only helps out around the house while I'm gone, he has encouraged me every step of the way. He's brought me sunglasses, water, gels, you name it, to me out on the road. He's given me the support I need to reach my goals. The first race I was in was a 10k that finished along Main Street during a parade. My husband and kids sat at the finish line area. I'd never seen a more beautiful sight than my entire family on their feet, cheering waiting to greet me. It made it all worthwhile. My husband doesn't complain about all the time I'm gone or the money for shoes and special clothing that I "need". He's been my cheerleader all along the way. He has truly shown his love for me.
I have also been shown love from my children. Justin has ridden his bike along side me several times talking to me and keeping me company. Not only do I enjoy him there with me, but I get to hear about how school's going and about his favorite memories and vacations. I will always treasure those talks and the time he spent with me. It's been so fun to come home from an exhausting run and see the girls outside playing and to see their faces when they spot me up the road and run out to greet me.
I have also been shown love from my Heavenly Father. I know He wants me to accomplish my goals and will provide ways for me to do it. So many times during a run, I would have to say a prayer of thanks for giving me a body that is strong and able to do so many things. It has helped me to overlook imperfections that I cannot change and a desire to work on things I can change. He has instilled in me a greater sense of worth.
I have seen true friendship. My best friend Holly, has been there for me on short fast runs, on slow long runs, and there on my most discouraging run, where if she had not been there, I would have just gone home. When she can't run, she'll bike along side me. She has kept me going, has encouraged me, and been there by my side. She's seen me cry in pain and cry from disappointment, throw up from overexertion, and rejoice in success. She is a true friend.
So many others have been a continual support, with words of encouragement, training tips, and just checking in to see how I'm doing or to see how a run went. Friends have taken time out of their busy lives to be there at finish lines for me or to run the last few blocks with me. I'm continually amazed at the selflessness of others. I've been overwhelmed by the showing of love.
Love of Nature:
I have uttered many thanks for the beautiful world around me. I am so blessed to live in and run against the mountains. They have never looked so beautiful as when I'm running. The other day I was running in the rain. I was soaking wet and cold but still felt so good. The sun began to shine from the west and although the east was still cloudy and dark, the mountains stood majestically illuminated against the clouds in a deep shade of purple. The tree lining the streets were vibrantly green and glistened in the sunlight from the newly fallen rain. And yes, a bright full rainbow soon towered against the backdrop of the beautiful mountains. I truly felt blessed to be out there running that day to see the masterpieces that our Father creates for us on a daily basis.
I have seen thistles covered from top to bottom in a white crust of frost that sparkled like no diamonds ever could in the sun that was just beginning to warm the day. It didn't last long though, because on my next lap around that same way it was melted, gone, like it had never been there. How grateful I was to have seen it in that exact moment in all its splendor, glistening in the sunlight that would quickly melt it away. No artist could have captured that moment accurately.
I have had horses in a field next to a road see me coming and run along side me as far as they could and ducks in a ditch swim cautiously by until I get too close and then take flight. I've heard frogs singing in a swamp and countless birds chirping and flying overhead from one telephone line to the next, leading me onward. I've felt a welcome breeze come at just the right time or the sun peek out to warm up a cold morning. I know my Heavenly Father loves me. He's given me the opportunity to feel of His love in a special way, through running.
Enduring to the End:
Recently I learned a great lesson about enduring to the end. During the Salt Lake Marathon I experienced muscle cramps that made me just want to quit. I was only halfway through when they started and it just got progressively worse. There were times all I could do is walk. Sometimes life is not fun and it's painful. Sometimes it's very discouraging to not be able to do what we think we should be able to do. It's hard when you don't know if you can take another step or possibly even finish. I found that in those dark moments, and they are dark and despairing, that you find out what you're made of. You find inner strength, determination, and fight that you didn't know you had inside. It's where you realize that NOT finishing is where the true despair would come in. In those deepest, darkest moments is where reaching out to our Heavenly Father usually comes in and we find that we are not alone and will always be given the support and strength we need. Whether it be through inspiring words or lyrics to a song that come to our mind, or another person's help, it will be there always. The power to endure is within all of us. Sometimes we just have to feel the despair to find the strength within us. It's the opposition that helps us to see the good. See, I love the lessons I learn while running!