I didn’t start running until I was 42 years old. Prior to that I had been a smoker “only” about 1/2 pack a day smoker, but a smoker nonetheless. I received a flyer in the mail for Team in Training that said that they could teach me to run a half or full marathon. Pfft….yea right….but my interest sure got sparked. I had played around with jogging prior to receiving this flyer, but I was out of shape and overweight and my lungs, I’m sure, were damaged, so running was hard, so I never really kept with it.
Team In Training raises funds in support of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). The mission of LLS is: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS exists to find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. To learn more visit https://www.teamintraining.org/ I am not advertising this program, its just a program I chose to train with and have made lifetime friends with and forever changed my life.
SO ANYWAY…to say I was out of shape is putting it mildly. For those of us training for the half-marathon, the first Saturday of practice was to “run” 3 miles. MY goal was to make it back to where we started. Somehow. 3 miles??? Seriously? The trainees were of all different athletic abilities. Some had been running for YEARS, some were athletic but hadn’t ran before, some were novice runners. Me, I was a beginner. The very slowest of all the athlete participants. I was the most out of shape. But mostly, I couldn’t breathe. The years of smoking had REALLY caught up with me.
I set out, and got about a half mile down the trail and “Coach Jeff” caught up with me….I say caught up, it was actually that he slowed down for me. Coach Jeff is a beast. He probably ran 2 marathons every Saturday catching up with and going back to the participants to guide them and, in my case, listen to them. He truly is an amazing athlete and coach. That first day, when Coach Jeff asked, “How are you doing?” I stopped “running” and started to cry. I just said, I can’t breathe!! Shared with him that I quit smoking recently, and I want to do this, but how am I supposed to run 13.1 miles when I can’t even BREATHE through this Saturday 3 miler?!?!”
Coach just said, to only run until I couldn’t count to three with my steps and breathing….like count 1, 2, 3 steps and if I couldn’t inhale that long, to walk. Catch my breath, and then start again. Which is really great advise, right? But then I looked at people like “Beth” who was already at the 1.5 mile turn around and not even breaking a sweat. Her arms in that tank top looked amazing, and here I was choking.
Both of these athletes gave out of their “Wealth”. It didn’t physically cost them at all to run that dreadful 3 miles that day. For me though, I brought the only two very small copper coins I had. All I was able to give that day didn’t add up to but a few cents, but I truly did give all I had to the trail.
I felt very small that day. Not because of Jeff and Beth, they are two of the most encouraging people I know, they truly did help me across the Nike Women’s Half Marathon that year. I’ll be forever grateful for their mentorship. No, I felt very small because I was always comparing myself to “real runners”, and I continued comparing my abilities for YEARS. I was afraid of running with people, because of how slow I was, so I isolated myself. My friends and family encouraged me and were respectful of my running, but I always felt like I wasn’t as good as….(fill in the blank)
Do you do that too? Do you compare your beginning to other people’s middle? Do you sometimes feel embarrassed by your entry-level abilities? If so, can I just encourage you to stop that? Please stop that. In retrospect I see that this caused me to look down on myself.
I ran several events after that season, and usually with a group of people. One season I trained with a group and had worked my way up to running 10/1s. That means I ran for 10 minutes, and walked for 1. I was pretty proud of myself. Well, in the pre-dawn hours of the Houston Half Marathon, I was lined up with a group in my pace “corral” and twisted my ankle in a small chughole in the downtown street. I tumbled, and twisted my ankle, tore my leggings and banged up my knee.
Then the gun went off. My group asked if I was ok, and I said yea, but because of a swollen ankle and skinned up knee, I fell behind. I did end up finishing the event, but WAYYYY behind my usual pace. At the end of the event, my group took pictures and celebrated, but I held back. I was ashamed of being in any of the pictures. I felt like a failure because “I wasn’t as fast as them”.
I had just finished 13.1 miles with a swollen ankle and skinned up knee with torn leggings. I felt ashamed!!
Can I just encourage you today…..STOP FEELING ASHAMED of your inabilities or noviceness (is that a word?) Here’s the plan:
Give out of your poverty, put in everything – all you have to live ontranslation of Mark 12:44
Dear Lord, thank you for the experiences of my past that have helped me grow closer to You. I pray for the needs and abilities of the person reading this right now. Lord you know what it is that they need and you see them perfectly. Help both of us to see ourselves in the light in which you see us as we both grow closer to you.
Do you need prayer today?
In what way are you comparing your beginning to other people’s middle?