Eleven weeks of training. Hundreds of miles run. Tempo runs. Fartlek runs. Hill repeats. Long and slow. Short and fast. Humid August mornings. Crisp October evenings. It was all supposed to culminate into a great half marathon performance. All the signs were there. My legs were healthy. My speedwork showed that the quickness was there. I was as ready as I could be.
Mile 1 flew by quick and relaxed. Mile 2 was more of the same. But as mile 3 began, so did the hills. The rolling, relentless hills. I knew the course had hills. I just didn't realize that there were so many. And so as the miles started to tick away, my legs quickly started to run out of zip. I told myself that I wouldn't walk. No matter what. And then as I saw the sign for the end of mile 8, I stopped and walked. I stopped again at mile 10. And once more at mile 12. So much for not walking. I finally crossed the line more than 6 minutes slower than I thought I would finish. And even though I feel accomplished every time I finish a race, it didn't take long for disappointment to creep in. The disappointment for what could have been. For what should have been.
Now that I'm a few days removed from the race, and I'm about to lace up my running shoes for the first time since that performance, I have two choices. I can either wallow in the past or begin to move on. I've had to do it before. Other races where I've failed to meet goals. But I've also had to do it in life. When things didn't quite end up the way I thought they would. And honestly, those have been a lot more painful.
I ran across that quote this week on Facebook and it really resonated with me. In November of 2004, after 10 years of youth ministry, I woke up to the realization that I had just been fired. It was earth shattering. I didn't know what I was going to do next. I didn't know where the next paycheck would come from. All I really could do was grieve the losses. The loss of relationships. The loss of stability. The loss of trust. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't put things into perspective. I couldn't see a happy ending to this story. Even though the consequences were my own, it was hard to see God in the midst of the grief.
But then the time came to wash my face. The tears had dried and only the salt remained behind. It was time to trust God. It was time to trust that he still had me and my family in the palm of his hands. And that there could still be a Plan B. For me, that involved moving back to Tennessee, going back to school for a year, and seeing if there could be a future in graphic design.
Here we are 12 years later. As we enter Thanksgiving, it's hard for me let the moment pass. The moment that changed the trajectory of my life. My family's life. It's hard sometimes not to look back on what was. There will probably always be a part of me that mourns what I lost. But at the same time, I've learned to embrace the life that I now have. The craziness that has led me from youth ministry to graphic designer to art director. Throughout all the rolling hills of the last 12 years, I'm thankful.
So as I lace up my shoes tonight to run for the first time, I'm thankful. I'm thankful for the opportunity to try again. To find another race. But even more, I'm thankful for the lessons that I've learned along the way. In life, there's always going to be another hill. And along with that climb there's a choice to give up or keep going. On Saturday I had the chance to complain that the course was too hard, or I could finish. I despaired. I cursed the course. I walked. I wished I had signed up for the 10k instead. But at the end of the day, I finished.
I had to embrace the race that was laid out before me. And every day I have to embrace the life that I have in front of me. I encourage you to do the same. Regardless of how things have turned out so far. You have permission to weep over the life you hoped would be. You have the freedom to grieve the losses. But I hope you'll find the strength to wash your face. Dry your eyes. Trust that God loves you and has not forgotten you. And then face the hill. Embrace the course. Finish the race.