I hung out in the car for a while, listening to music and staying warm. It was almost 50 degrees, but I was in shorts so I didn’t want to stand around outside for too long. Soon, I headed to the start by following the crowd. I got there in time to watch the sun rise, and shortly after, I was running a nice, slow pace along the streets of Tempe. Red rocks framed the streets as the spectators cheered us on.
Like I said, the first six miles went smoothly. I saw my friends at mile four, then again around mile six. It’s so exciting when you see someone you love, cheering for you. I could see that my friends were loving the experience and the energy. I straightened my spine, lifted my chin, and continued on. Half way there.
It was getting warmer and the sun was out. Not a cloud in the sky. Sigh…people really live this way in the winter. It felt like I’d been running uphill for a while now, so I started to pay more attention. My breath was getting shorter and I was feeling the climb. After a left turn, I could see a lot more climb ahead, and runners coming down the opposite side of the street. The way the red mountains were laid out ahead of me, I could tell this wasn’t going to be a short climb.
I started to prepare myself, thinking, “Here’s what this is going to feel like. Legs burning, lungs burning. Mental struggle.” But it is OK. It’s just a climb. You’ve climbed before. At some point ahead, there will be a turnaround. At some point ahead, you will be running downhill. At some point ahead, you will be done.
I glanced over at the people running downhill.
At least two miles had passed, and we were still climbing. I found rhythm in my breath to focus on. Big breath in, shoulders down, lean in, exhale. Big breath in, shoulders down, lean in, exhale. God, this is hard. When will this end? When will this get easier? I was in the moment, working on one step at a time. What an awesome thing, when everything else goes away. Left foot, right foot.
A tent filled with huge tympani’s and drummers playing them in unison. Loud like thunder in my chest, shocking my mind out of my breathing and into my surroundings. I’d made it to the turnaround. I’d run uphill over three miles. I smiled. That should mean three miles running downhill.
My breathing came back and I felt carried by the crowd and the drums and my friends and the blue sky. Those mental doubts and questions from earlier calmed down, leaving me again with just music and the run. Three miles downhill, then back to flat roads. It was in the upper sixties and I was feeling the heat. I passed mile marker eleven and started doing the math. Twelve minutes per mile, only twenty-five minutes left. That’s not even a half hour. That’s six songs. My mind started up again, wanting to be done. I came back to my breathing. Big breath in, shoulders down, lean in, exhale. Left foot, right foot.
Oh my God! Where is mile marker twelve? This is the longest mile so far, and it isn’t even up a mountain. I am always stunned at how fast my mind can go from being confident and at peace, to losing a grip and melting down. I turned a corner and ahead on my right was a medical tent, with several people in uniforms standing in front clapping. I made eye contact with one of the men. He looked straight back at me and said, “Half mile to go.”
What? I’d missed mile marker twelve. Oh thank you thank you thank you! My spine straightened, my chin lifted, and my pace quickened. I was almost done.
We think we know where we are on our journeys.
We convince ourselves that we have so far to go, and can’t do it. It’s too far. We can’t endure. But I don’t think we really know how close we are to our next breakthrough. Do you realize, you might be further along than you thought? The turnaround might be a breath away? The finish line within sight?
Don’t give up now. Don’t ever give up. The turnaround is closer than you think.
“When you are tempted to get discouraged, remind yourself that according to God’s word, your future is getting brighter; you are on your way to a new level of glory. You may think you’ve got a long way to go, but you need to look back at how far you’ve already come. You may not be everything you want to be but at least you can thank God that you’re not what you used to be.” – Joel Osteen
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 40:31