I had carefully planned out how to prepare for my first half marathon, the Hillstriders‘ March Madness event in Cary. It was outside my comfort zone for me to register for this run in the first place (and I had to get up at 6am on New Years Eve, the thing sold out in less than 2 hours!). Not only as my first half marathon but as a very competitive race on a tough course (traditionally in inclement weather). This is a race that names its primary hills things like Sneaky Hill, Substantial Hill and Lung Buster hill, oh and Big Hill. I was ready though, at least 4 weeks out. I love hills and I’ve been training on Huntington Hill and the hilly Hanson Rd, not to mention the unpredictable terrain of the single track trails.
But how does the saying go? “The best laid plans of mice and men …” Even the best ideas can go awry. Another reminder to trust God and not myself. Because spring sprung and my respiratory infection became bronchitis that wouldn’t give up, my training plan for the past few weeks instead consisted of sleeping (all day in some cases), catching up with the kids’ and other projects and running all of … 4 times in four weeks. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish as fast as I had originally planned, but I was beginning to think I wouldn’t be able to finish at all.
Because I was sick, not only was I unable to run, but I was so fatigued I barely could do anything. Depression started to set in, which made me even more tired and continued a downward spiral for me. I knew there was a combination of mental and physical obstacles that I would have to overcome to snap out of it. Thankfully, God used this time to grow me. He reminded me that while I am a runner, it is not where my identity is found. It was then that I was free to begin to let go of the pride I have in who I am (because of what I have done) instead of who God is and what He can do through me.
After weeks of anticipation and anxiety and an attempt to keep my perspective, the eve of March Madness finally came. Because the run was on Sunday, we went to church Saturday night. There are times I wonder if I should feel guilty for running a race on the Sabbath … but I have discovered that I actually enjoy attending church the night before a race as a last-minute reminder (when my nerves are getting the best of me) that it’s not about me. And in light of the fact that I have been struggling for breath the past few weeks because of the bronchitis/allergies/asthma trifecta, wouldn’t you know it God gave me a song that I had never heard before to close our worship, with the line: “Your breath fills my lungs.” What an amazing gift to me! I can thank God for every breath, even as I am huffing and puffing on the roads of northwestern Illinois. And although I was still nervous for what the next day would bring, I went to bed with a sense of peace I would never expect before a race (especially one like this). The next morning, I woke up with lungs that felt clear and full and I didn’t cough once during the race. To Him be the glory!
Now, fatigue on the other hand, I definitely experienced. I could feel my lack of recent training in the second half of the race.
Once I hit mile 11, I have never wanted to quit so badly in my life. I was embarrassed at first to admit it, thinking that my mental breakdown was a sign of defeat. I. felt. horrible. I whined and complained and dragged my feet for more than 2 miles! I just wanted to be done. But, I continued on. I didn’t quit (though I did walk, which I would NEVER do in a race. Ever.).
I think this experience will only make me stronger. In the end, I finished at 2:05, which I realize is meaningless to most people. My goal was under 2 hours, considering it was a tough course (and a warm day, I didn’t have nearly enough water).
I am disappointed, only because I know I could have done better (I have run longer training runs at a faster pace than this) but the effort I put in went way beyond what my time reflects. It could have been “easy” for me to run the race the way I had planned with the proper training, but I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be challenged and allow God to strengthen me through it all.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2