Several years ago, I jumped on the “running marathons” bandwagon and signed up to run a 5k. Some of my friends were running the occasional marathon and I liked exercising, so I thought traveling to different places to run sounded like fun. Even though I was in fairly good shape, I knew the process would not be easy. I mean, I’ve seen people run and they often have a pained look on their face, so I didn’t go in completely blind. But I unexpectedly learned a lesson that has helped me through some of the most difficult times in my life.
One thing I was surprised to learn is that training is more about how you do it versus how often you do it. If you train incorrectly, it will have a negative impact on your body. My knees and back suffered until I put more effort into strengthening my core. And dehydration comes on quickly if you’re not intentional about drinking fluids — regardless of whether you’re a big sweater or not, which I am.
‘Just me and my running shoes’
The 5k I signed up for was in a small town close to home. The trail was picturesque, and I thought it would be a great first run. A few friends agreed to join me, which made it even better. But as the day came closer, my friends dropped like flies. One by one they bowed out until I was the only one left. I decided not to give up though; I trained hard and felt I was ready.
The run day was perfect, and the fall weather made it even better. But I soon realized running outside with random people was much different than running on a treadmill in the gym. I felt very alone, just me and my running shoes. It was the longest 3.5 miles I had ever traveled in my life. At one point, I began to question why I signed up, and wondered where the “runner’s high” was that everyone talks about?
‘Never really alone’
After what seemed like forever, the finish line finally came into view and I was one of the last ones to cross. Standing at the end were the runners who crossed before me. They had their water cups in their hands and were talking with each other, but I also noticed some of them were yelling. As I got closer, I realized they were cheering for those of us stragglers who were limping to the end. In that moment I didn’t feel alone anymore, I felt energized. It was just the boost I needed to get across the finish line. Those cheering runners knew what I had gone through because they ran the race ahead of me. Even though I felt alone while running, I was never really alone.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t my last 5k. I traveled to different places and ran a few more, but eventually hung up my running shoes for good. I’ve never forgotten what I learned while running in that first race and have reflected on it throughout my life. When things are difficult and I want to give up, I remember people are cheering for me and I’m never alone.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).