Friday, January 23, 2015

A Willing Exchange: Training for My First Half Marathon

 This is the photo that shows who I am more than any others taken in the last few months.  It shows a mother stooping down from the towering height of adulthood to join the lower sphere of childhood, a physical act that never fails to immediately communicate to my children their importance to me. You have mommy's full attention. Go!

In this moment, I listen intently to my oldest son's proud retelling of his first 5K, all while I make sure shoelaces are tight on the little ones for their mile fun run.  Wyatt's younger brother listens with great excitement, bubbling over to ask if he can run the "big" race next year.  His younger sister ignores everything but the sparkles on his medal as she talks over him to say how warm she is wearing big brother's coat.

A short half hour before, Wyatt was all nerves, thin smiling at the camera even as I tucked my cell phone into a waist-pack and secured it with huge safety pins around his slim waist.

My arms held onto his until he looked me in the eyes.  "You are safe. I will be able to see you on daddy's phone at every moment."  If he ever felt lost, there would be police everywhere.  They would be blocking every intersection to protect him.

The night before, I had even drawn him a rough map that he rattled back to me on the drive into the city:  "Past the tree from last year's race, over the hill, then turn around when a lot of other people do and come back." 

Still, he was a bundle of nerves whether from the idea of running the longer race or from running it alone.

I can identify with his face.  It's accompanied with a gnawing fear in your gut that no matter how well you've trained, you're going to fail, you know, the "is-this-the-stomach-flu-or-am-I-just-really-nervous" kind of nauseous feeling.

It has been two months since I last wrote here on this blog, not because I've lacked the words to say but because I've either lacked the time or the heavenly permission to pen the words while still following the "do no harm" rule of blogging.  

Since May, I have been day-to-day "raising" a 21-year-old adopted daughter, attempting to pour 21 years of love, knowledge, and wisdom into her within the course of a single year.  Love is a time-intensive, trust-establishing endeavor, its intricacies too delicate for even the electronic publishing world. 

But what stopped me in my writing tracks quite literally was illness that attacked our family from before Thanksgiving until Christmas. It started with the children having a chest cold that was then followed by this mommy going down hard with the flu only to fall again to the stomach flu two weeks later.

All the while, I was training for my first half marathon, a 13.1 mile Mt. Everest to this non-athletic woman who only ran her first 5K the year before. In January 2014, I had felt God leading me to commit to this insanity, an urging that was confirmed time and time again throughout the year whenever I questioned the call.

I began training in August starting with a simple half mile. I even enlisted a close friend Connie to be my prayer/accountability partner to keep me on my toes.  Despite my inability, I felt God's presence in my journey; I was making good progress, running up to eight miles without suffering the usual debilitating allergy attacks.  In October, I even ran my first 10K.  Two lost toenails later, I was well on my way.

Then came a full week of bed-ridden flu along with a full week's recovery afterwards.  I remember sitting beneath my mother's Christmas tree as the children swirled around me--my body and mind were weak, weary, and defeated.  Four weeks out from the race, it felt like I was starting over.  Three mile runs felt like ten. Six miles felt like my chest was going to burst. And the allergy attacks were back.

Mrs. Connie received a barrage of texts petitioning her almost daily to pray for me strength, courage, and steadfastness.  She prayed. She encouraged.  My strength did return, and I attacked my training with renewed diligence.  To keep away the guilt of feeling like I was stealing time from my children who were off on holiday, I staggered their 2-3 mile runs so that they would have "individual" time with mommy for at least 7 miles of my 10 mile runs.

Last Sunday, January 18, I ran (not walked) the race set before me--13.1 miles in The Louisiana Half Marathon in 2 hours 41 minutes. Those of you with a calculator will see I'm not a fast runner at a little over 12 minutes a mile, but I'm ok with that. As difficult as it was at times, I enjoyed the training, especially running with my children and the alone worship time with God; I even enjoyed the race itself.

Later that same day as I went to show my 91-year-old grandmother my medal, she asked me how many miles that was.  Her eyes widened in surprise as they met mine.  "I didn't know you could do that," she said.

Yes, I can do a whole lot more than I ever thought I could .  But everything has a cost.  It's all about whether I'm willing to give something up in exchange for doing whatever that something else may be.

Giving up my personal time to train up a 21-year-old to be a light for Jesus in the world?  That's an exchange I'm willing to make.  But training for a full marathon would require me to take more time away from my family.  As much as I really enjoy running, that's just  not an exchange I'm willing to make right now.  For now, I'm working to pick back up everything that got set aside during my training, including this blog. 

More than anything, I want to continue being that mother in the first picture, stooping to the earth to hear my children's voices.  Whatever I do, it will be with them, whether that is training together for a 5K or walking ever so slowly down the driveway to Oma's house.

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