The weather has been brutally hot lately, but a couple of thunderstorms late last week cooled things down- a tad. Early Friday morning I filled my hand-carry water bottle, tucked a couple of energy gels into the zippered pouch, prepared my post-run sports drink, and headed out the door. Though it was nice and early and not as uncomfortably warm as my most recent runs, the morning was more than merely humid- my road was enveloped in a cloud of fog. Nevertheless, the first few miles were comfortable, my breathing was steady and my legs were feeling great, the morning scenery was peaceful and calm, and the road angled primarily gently downhill. It was so foggy, in fact, that my sunglasses were more of a nuisance than a help, so I stashed them on the side of the road in a safe, visible location and continued on.
But then, everything changed. Once I began running up the first big hill, suddenly my lungs were screaming for more air than my ragged breathing could provide, my legs were turning to mutinous jelly, and I don't even know where the peaceful and calm scenery went. Though I did push myself to run as much of that hill as I could, I had to take three, (or more) walk breaks, giving myself little milestones to achieve along the way- the next mailbox, that patch of flowers, one more driveway. I reached the top and made a right-hand turn to run alongside a blissfully flat cornfield. Though I was physically pooped I was feeling a mental and emotional high. I'd made it to the top without dying or hitching a ride with any of the passing cars! And from this point, most of the rest of the route would incline downhill!
I soon made another right-hand turn and re-entered the shady cover of trees on a gentle downward slope. Another turn or two and I was back to familiar running territory. Thankfully, since I needed to make an unforeseen pit stop, I was going to pass a friend's house, and she graciously saved the day for me. After leaving her cool, air-conditioned house and re-entering the now sauna conditions of the great outdoors, I was able to resume my pace and shortly reached the point where I'd stowed my sunglasses and retrieved them. With only one mile to home I reached the bottom of the second and final hill.
Now, while the first hill had certainly been daunting, this one was downright discouraging. I actually thought at one point that I might cry.
And then I was passed by a Jeep with a little oval magnet on the back bumper which read, "13.1", a clear reminder of why I was out there in the first place, (thank you Lord!). This added no further strength to my wheezing lungs, nor power to my legs, but it helped my thinking turn a corner. I still needed a walking break or two before reaching the top, but I remembered that only months before I'd have never even attempted this particular run.
I finished the last mile, wringing with sweat that would not evaporate, (nor therefore cool my body) due to the humidity level. There was no "kick" left in me for the final approach to my driveway as I'm often able to find; I'd left it all on that last hill. I did, however, finish running and not crawling. One hour and 29 minutes after stepping out of my door I returned home, which, considering my 5K time of 31-ish minutes is not great at all, until you factor in the humidity and the hills. I could barely stand.
But I was stronger.
Evidence of the strength I'd gained came on Monday morning when I joined the Disney princess training team for a run along the flat and shady Exeter Scenic Trail. When they slowed for their first walking break I continued on- as had already been discussed- and continued my run. Keeping to a nice, easy pace with no pushing, no watching the clock, I just let my mind wander as my feet kept time with my breathing. Before I knew it I had reached the turnaround point at the end of the trail without feeling the need to walk even once. I felt great as I turned around to finish the second half of my run.
(I did soon feel a need for a pit stop, but both attempts at that failed rather miserably. The first try was curtailed when I discovered that the pathway I chose leading off the trail into the trees was draped with a spider web the size of a body bag, and the second attempt resulted in my execution of a rapid about-face when I spotted a friendly, if puzzled, fisherman, waving at me from close proximity to my chosen "rest stop". Nevermind already.)
I'm pretty sure that I kept a faster pace for the remainder of my run.
I finished four and a half miles in 49 minutes, feeling good all the way to the end, with no walk breaks. Not half bad at all.
And yet, though I am stronger, I cannot depend on my own discipline in training. I may be running, but it is only by the blessing of God that I am enabled to put one foot in front of another. So whether in this new adventure of training to run a race, or in facing the weariness and pain of a life lived in this fallen world, I must look to my Savior in faith that His sustaining hand is the power that keeps me going.
"Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,the Creator of the ends of the earth.He does not faint or grow weary;his understanding is unsearchable.He gives power to the faint,and to him who has no might he increases strength.Even youths shall faint and be weary,and young men shall fall exhausted;but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;they shall mount up with wings like eagles;they shall run and not be weary;they shall walk and not faint."-Isaiah 40:28-31