But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
The day of the race, I didn't feel nervous or worried. My only real goal was to finish. A few weeks beforehand, I was wondering if I should even attempt to run this race given the face that I had probably torn a muscle in my left quad. But, I woke up knowing that everything was going to be okay.
This was my first race. 13.1 miles. I know that most runners prepare everything the night before. Pin their numbers on their shirt. Set out their clothes and gear. Get up extra early and stretch and eat and make sure they haven't forgotten anything. But not me. Minutes after it was time to head out the door...I couldn't find my socks so I dumped out my entire clean laundry basket on my floor just as Wajh was knocking to come get me since I wasn't in the lobby where I said I would be.
There was a quarter marathon and a half marathon going at the same time. The course was two loops. The starting line was in Rosslyn and the runners for both races would start together. The course looped out and around the Pentagon and back to the start in Rosslyn. Something about knowing that I would have to touch my foot on the starting line after the first loop and keep going another 7 miles was almost enough to make me think I couldn't do it. Almost.
Wajh and I didn't run together, so once everyone was lining up to start, we parted ways with hugs, prayers, and smiles. As the race started, and I was getting my pace, I looked around me at all the people. I tried to figure out who was running the quarter marathon and who was running the half marathon, but I couldn't tell. It was easier to keep my pace when I realized that some people are running a different race than I am.
God showed me SO much through this entire experience. And I can guarantee He's not done with me yet. I have learned so much about myself. I didn't run this race for anyone. I didn't run this race to prove anything. I ran this race because I wanted to really experience the words that I preach on different level than I have ever done before. I tell people to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when life gets hard, painful, and it would be easier to stop. I tell people that nothing is impossible with God. I tell people to take risks and try the things they always told themselves they couldn't do. I tell people not to look at everyone else's life and compare yourself to them.
As the race started and I found my comfortable pace, I realized that there were all kinds of people passing me. Some of them were running pretty fast, and some of them were just barely going faster than me, but if I wasn't careful with maintaining my speed I could have easily told myself that I was going too slow and that everyone was going to pass me by. I do this in my life. I look around me and I perceive that all of these people are running the same race that I am...and that they are getting ahead faster than I am. If I would have tried to keep up with all of these people then I would have burned up my energy too quickly and had to stop and walk. We are all running different races. If I had tried to keep up with the people that were running half as far as I was, then I wouldn't have had enough energy to keep going after the first loop. I had to make sure that I kept my stride. (It was especially hard when there was a hot guy running near me....hey...give me a break...the only scenery I had to look at was the Porta Potties and the Pentagon.)
When the Bible tells us to run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1-2), God isn't telling us to run as fast as we can and then burn up all our energy and fall over. Perseverance isn't about speed...it's about the determination to keep on moving forward even when it's hard and there are obstacles in the way.
It was a windy and chilly day. Sometimes I would be running with my back to the wind, but sometimes I would have to run against the wind....uphill. At some points throughout the course, there would be people on the sidelines cheering. It was so awesome to see husbands, wives, children, friends, mothers, and fathers of the runners out in the cold cheering them on. Even though they weren't cheering for me, their spirit motivated me to keep going.
Sometimes in life, we aren't going to have anyone there to cheer us on. Sometimes we will have to run the race alone. It's hard to feel alone when you are going through a tough time, but honestly, it can be equally as hard to be right in the middle of a major accomplishment and feel alone.
Don't get me wrong...some of the most amazing parts of the race were in the second loop after many of the runners had spread out and I would be running down the highway all by myself. It was a mix of feelings all at the same time. There was an intense feeling of accomplishment; knowing that I was strong and determined enough to keep going even without someone by my side to cheer me on, push me, and pace me. There was also a deep sense of God's presence. The run was so wonderful and easy the first 9 miles that I felt like it almost wasn't fair. I remember praying over and over again for God to please not leave me because I was so desperate for this feeling of ease to stay. There was also a sense of wishing that there was someone there cheering for me because I wished that someone could see me.
I spent so many years of my life believing that I couldn't do certain things. I allowed other people to tell me who I was and what I couldn't, shouldn't, and wouldn't do. And yesterday, with each stride forward, I wished that everyone that knew Old Katie could see me. Not because I want to prove them wrong....but because I want to prove GOD right. God says, YES YOU CAN, when the rest of the world says, NO YOU CAN'T.
After the 10th mile, my left knee started to have sharp shooting pains. Even though my body wasn't tired at that point, just looking around me and seeing that I was basically alone and that I still had 3 more miles to go was almost enough to make me stop and walk. Almost... The wind started to blow in my face. My eyes were watering. I felt increasing fatigue. At mile 12 with one more mile to go, my feet started to feel like lead. The wind was still blowing against me. The road ahead started to incline. I felt like I didn't have enough energy. I stopped. I started to walk. I started to tell myself that running 12 miles straight was good enough. No need to push myself. But then a couple that had been running the same pace as me, ran up beside me and said "Come ON! You can do it! You are SO close!" I raised my head up and saw the twin towers in Rosslyn and prayed that God give me the strength to keep running until the finish. I realized that I wasn't alone. There were people all over the place that were praying for me. God was with me. I COULD DO THIS! So I picked up my lead feet and I started to run again. I felt like there was no energy left in me. I started pumping my arms as hard as I could because my legs were dead weight. I remember the Bible verse that I wrote at the top of this blog...I kept repeating the part about running and not getting weary.
As I am nearing the finish line, there are people cheering....I get a sudden burst of energy and start to run as fast as I possibly can. There are people on both sides of me running as fast as they can too. Now...it's a real race. I can't see faces, I can only hear voices and cheering. My eyes are focused on the blue finish line. My right foot starts to cramp as my stride lengthens. With each step the cramp in my foot getting tighter. But I just keep on pushing as hard as I can. As I am crossing the finish line I raise my right hand to Heaven and put my left hand around the cross hanging from my neck and I thank Jesus for a finish I never could have done without Him. The first person I see....is Wajhma. And.... I start crying. There were just so many feelings happening at the same time. I understand that there are lots of people that run half marathons and marathons. I get that. But this race was run by me....and only I know just how big of a deal it was for me to finish this race. I'll be honest with you...at one point, itt was so hard to keep going when there was no one there cheering "Go KATIE! GOOO KATIE". It was hard to keep going when I knew that no one would think less of me if I walked. But that was the whole point of this race for me.....doing what's hard, even when there is no one around to pat you on the back and encourage you while you are in the middle of the hardest part.
Perseverance to run the race of life involves being able to keep going down the path even when you're alone, it's hard, and there are obstacles. Of course, I know I'm not alone in my life....but it can seem like it sometimes. We all feel like we are alone sometimes....even when we're in a relationship, or married, or with our friends and family. It's weird to feel alone when you are surrounded by people, but we've all been there. Running this race gave me courage to never let the lie that I am alone stop me from running toward my goal. With God...I am NEVER alone. I also learned that I can't compare my life to other people. We all have our own goals and purposes. We can't compare our lives to the lives of other people. As long as we are on the path towards God, then we are exactly where we are supposed to be. I learned that I don't need to move too fast in life. When I pace myself I am able to enjoy the world around me. I am able to run and not grow weary because I am going at my own pace. At one point in the last mile there was a lady that was speed walking faster than I was running...yeah, she was right behind the 70 year old Orville Reddinbacher look alike that sped past me like Flash Gordon. If I wasn't so exhausted I probably would have peed my pants laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. : ) In conclusion...I am so above and beyond excited that I ran this race. I can't walk and I'm emotionally and physically exhausted.....but I did it.
Thank you all for your prayers and support. I am truly blessed with such an amazing group of friends and family. I hope this blog makes sense because I am truly out of it right now....lol!