This utter hatred of running began during my sophomore year PE class when I was required to complete a single mile as part of my course grade. I practiced that mile at 8am each morning for a month, knowing I had to come in under the fifteen minute mark to earn my A and that I could earn ten bonus points for every 30 seconds beneath that time. But after a few weeks, it was clear this was not my calling. Frankly, I stunk and felt my cheeks flame in humiliation each time the boys lapped me on the track.
In the end, I was drenched with sweat, my face looked like a cherry ready to explode, and my right side felt like an invisible being had stabbed me, but I still earned my A plus ten bonus points.
Satisfied that at 16 years old, this was the best I could ever do, I left running to those crazy people (a group which included my brother and best friend). In college, I took tennis and aerobics—all so I didn’t have to run. Later as an adult, I quickly found that I could speed walk faster than I could run. So, that’s what I did, even though I felt the twinge of shame each time someone posted on Facebook about their most recent run, something I just knew I couldn’t do.
Then in 2012, my mother gave me a local newspaper article about a “Kids Marathon” wherein I would chart my children’s running the full 26.2 miles over a nine week period, the last 1.2 mile leg to be completed on “race day” downtown with several hundred other children.
In my mind, it honestly seemed completely undoable. My then four year old daughter running 1.2 miles? You had to be kidding. And me? I couldn’t run a quarter mile, much less that distance. Yet, I chose to do it anyway as a way to challenge myself and as my attempt to be a good mother teaching her three children the value of healthy living that includes exercise.
Despite a good many tears, the children and I did complete the race. I’ve never been more proud of three worthless pot-metal medals dangling from their little necks. Two months later, we had already signed up for the January 2014 race, only this time, I secretly put myself down for the 5K. Since I didn’t believe it was doable, I didn’t tell anyone, including my husband, until a couple weeks before the race.
As race day approached, I was horrified to see the anticipated temperature for the race’s start time was 34 degrees. The problem? I couldn’t run in weather that cold. During my training when I had tried to run in forty degree temperatures, my lungs would burn and my naturally cold-natured self would be freezing by the time I returned to the house.
I watched the weather forecast daily for the entire week before the 5K. I prayed numerous times each day for the temperature to miraculously go up. It did not. And so, the night before the race, I did the only thing I knew to do. I got on the phone and contacted a dozen friends and family, asking them to pray for the weather and for us.
The next morning as the starting horn sounded, the thermometer read 29 degrees. To anyone who knew what I had prayed for, it looked like God had simply not answered or said "no." But in truth, God answered, just in a different way.
I wasn't cold.
Call it adrenaline. Call it layering tights under pants and a short sleeve under a long. But me? I call it God.
You see, I'm the woman in a year-round sweater huddling close to my husband in worship service each Sunday as I freeze to the point where I can't feel my toes at the end of my high heels. Yet, here I was, standing around waiting for the race without feeling the least bit cold. God had not changed the external temperature on my environment, but He did change the internal temperature of my body.
Nowhere along the 3.2 miles route did I feel the pain in my lungs from breathing 29 degree air. I simply ran the race set before me, and even though I was afraid I'd come in dead last (or not at all), even though I was intimidated by all the skinny super-athletes around me, I surprised myself by finishing in the middle of the pack in thirty-eight minutes.
Afterwards, my three children and husband ran their 1.2 mile race without me as I cheered from the sidelines. My youngest son Emerson's minor leg injury from a fall earlier in the month kept him from completing the entire mile (which led to more tears), but big brother whizzed through the course in 10:20 and his sister in a little over 12 minutes.
While I felt a sense of personal pride at doing what this book-geek, closing-in-on-forty mama did not think was possible, what made it totally worthwhile was the look of pride in my oldest son's eyes as he jockeyed to be able to take a photo with his "you rock" mom before asking if he could train for my "grown up" race next year.
This past Saturday, Paul's words "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" took on new meaning. I experienced a miracle of warmth that those around me never knew was happening before their very eyes, an inner strengthening because I was so well prayed-for.
The glory goes solely to God. Thanks be to Him who has helped me be a healthy example for my children and to Him who has strengthened me to do what I still thought impossible only a few short weeks ago.