Two weeks ago I ran my fourth half marathon since April (well, since ever). Only for this one, I trained HARD. I started adding in speed work several times a week. My goal? A sub two half marathon (under 2 hours). It just seemed like a good goal. My first half marathon I ran at a 2:12 finishing time, my second was 2:06...so it just seemed like I should go for it. The day of the race came and I was ready! I was so sure I was going to meet my goal. I planned out what pace I needed each mile to be, I studied the elevation map to know where the hills were going to get me, I factored in time to re-fuel and I ran my little heart out (don't even get me started on my quads!). By the end of the race, I was both mentally and physically exhausted. I was so focused the entire race to be sure to follow my perfect plan to guarantee success. Unfortunately, success often times has little to do with how much we plan, or how perfectly we execute a plan - but instead throws LIFE at us. The unknown and unexpected hit, and all my mental energy and training just didn't cut it. I came in at 2:04. (2:02 according to my watch, but that is a different story.)
I was crushed.
I had worked so hard and for so long and still fell short. For the last two weeks, I've battled so many lies hiding deep within that have come to the surface all because of this failure....most of them somewhat to the tune of me not being good enough, or something like that. Comparison, envy, strife, sadness, defeat, and anger were raging within me. And as stupid as it sounds, I was upset with God for not letting reach my goal. I had prayed and prayed that I would succeed....I NEEDED to succeed (on many levels). Why didn't he just make this little thing work in my favor??
I came home so upset that in my haste - I signed up to give it one more try. There was another race set for two weeks out, and gosh darn it....I was GOING to reach this goal. I had trained too hard to only break my record by two lousy minutes. So I paid my fee, and I was determined! What I wasn't prepared for though over the next few days, was how incredibly tired I would be from my previous run (again, mentally and physically). Also, I had two friends/running coaches tell me that in their professional opinion (and as a friend opinion) - I would not have enough time to fully recover to be able to give it everything one more time in just two weeks, and that I needed to probably re-evaluate my goals.
Again, I was crushed. (And annoyed that I had just spent more money on another race that I probably STILL wasn't going to succeed in.)
Over the last two weeks, my body wanted nothing to do with running. I made it out for a total of 4 runs...and while not ideal, that was going to have to do. The night before the race, I wasn't even excited. All four of my other half marathons, I was bursting with excitement and nerves the night before. But this one? I was already feeling that ugly feeling of defeat (not to mention the pain involved in getting there). I just didn't want to do it.
So I went into my run on Saturday deciding to let go of my plan, to let go of my goal, to ignore my watch, and to just run. I would break all the rules and break out of the gate full speed ahead (rather than a slower pace to save up enough for the end), and was fully prepared to just sit on the sidelines crying around mile 10. (Defeatist much??)
Wanna know what I did do the entire race though? Did you catch it before? I let go of my plan, I let go of my goal. I just ran. I chose to be present regardless of the result. (In fact, my mantra for this race...in other words, what I kept repeating myself to get me through the moments I wanted to quit, was just that - JUST BE PRESENT.) That wasn't all though. One other piece... I prayed. A lot.
I'm not one of those people that prays for a parking spot (not that there is anything wrong with people doing that - I'm just not that person). I don't usually find myself turning to Jesus and asking for a good deal at the store, or to sit by someone who doesn't smell bad on the plane. I live more with a general thinking that while I believe God is involved in every detail of my life - I don't often need to communicate with him about those details, I just need to trust him. So when it came to the race, me running a sub two half-marathon felt a little bit like praying for a parking spot. It just seemed silly. How fast or slow I am has nothing to do with eternity. It has nothing to do with who I am. It has nothing to do with Jesus. And yet I found myself pleading with him for 13.1 miles to sustain me, to strengthen me, to fill my asthmatic lungs, and sew my torn little muscles - to just let me break all odds and make my stupid little goal. I obviously wasn't capable of doing it, but could he please just give me this....for some unknown reason (read: pride), it meant a lot to me.
So on my 5th Half-Marathon ever (all since April of 2012) .... I crossed the finish line staring at a time clock that said 1:58:26. I thought about crumbling to pieces and weeping at the finish line. But my asthma kicked in, so I reached for my inhaler instead.
I was overjoyed, and un-impressed all at the same time. I had done it. Mission accomplished. This turned out to be one of my most dreaded races to the most enjoyable race to date. And just as I suspected, it wasn't super meaningful in the end. It doesn't mean much. It's just a time.
Later in the day as I was processing my race, I found myself thanking God for hearing me, for sustaining me, for letting me reach my goal.
Then he spoke. Clearly.
This race wasn't about a time. My race two weeks ago wasn't about failure. Both races he was using to remind me of my desperate need for him. No amount of planning or training will matter much without a reliance on him for the outcome. And not only a reliance on him for the outcome, but a heart that can rest in the outcome.
Remember all those lies I talked about earlier that have surfaced over the last couple of weeks about not being good enough (well, they surface a lot - but the last two weeks, it was almost unbearable)? THIS, these lies, is what he was after. He didn't care how fast I ran, but he does care about all the other areas of my life that I am feeling so defeated in. He heard my prayer that was meant for my fuzzy feelings - and turned them into a revelation that I NEEDED to hear.
Aaron is often telling me to not be so tied to the outcome of things. (In other words, if things don't go according to plan or in a way I think they should...I throw in the towel and sit at mile 10 crying.) I don't usually get what he's talking about. :) I had another friend last week, after listening to my woes, encourage me to just try to be present in whatever it is that I am doing (thus my mantra). Just be present?? I decided that was one of those "christianese" phrases that you never really know what they mean, but it sounded lovely. Lately though, I've found myself so tired and defeated that being present doesn't sound all that appealing.
So in my prayers to run fast - God heard me. But He didn't hand me this race because my time mattered to him, he did it because my heart mattered to him - and my heart desperately was needing to know that he still hears me and that he will sustain me in life, not just a race. He showed me through one little race that he has not forgotten me, that he will sustain me....and that he wants me to ask. The end result of my circumstances does not dictate who I am or my worth. No amount of striving, envy, work, sweat, tears, or planning will change what he has already ordained....and that to truly enjoy my journey through life, it would require me being fully present in whatever he has for me (both the failures and the successes). No fear, no clock, no agenda - just be present. He loves me enough to work out the outcome (he's already worked it out). He loves me enough to hear my cries. He loves me enough to not let me succeed at times. And he loves me enough to hand me the moon if he sees fit. And this past Saturday - he handed me the moon.
I know that running a sub-two half-marathon really isn't a big deal, but for me - it was huge. Not because of the time on a clock, or a shattered record or met goal - but because he used my weakness to remind me of his strength. He used my little hobby as a way to reach into the depths of my heart and equate it to my life as a whole right now. He met me where I was over 13.1 miles and reminded me that in LIFE's journey toward the finish line - he will ALWAYS sustain me....not because I've worked hard or planned well - but because since before time through death on a cross to now and for eternity - he loves me that much.
Oh how I long to receive the ultimate prize, to cross the best finish line ever, to see Jesus face to face in all his Glory, knowing that it is because of him that I am there. I needed to know right now that he is still with me, that in my daily life he is hearing my cry, filling my lungs, repairing the tears, and sustaining me every step of the way. So I'm thankful that for this last half, I chose to press into him...to REALLY press into him.... not so that I could meet my goal - but so that God could meet me.
Phillipians 3:12-14 :
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus