I remembered why I started running about ten and a half years ago. I remembered how putting one foot in front of the other brought me further away from stresses and closer to clarity of mind, a peaceful soul, and eventually a rested heart. I remembered that the gift to me was not that I was talented or fast, but rather that I could run with purpose. I thought of the first time I ran with the sun rising around every corner, the first time I prayed on a run, the first time I knew I wasn't alone. I recalled my first 18, 19, and 20 milers... and coming home on hot Virginia summer mornings, collapsing on the lawn, and letting the girls (then 5 and 7) spray me down with the garden hose.
10 years, 5000 more feet in altitude, and 60 fewer degrees later, I'm still running. I still love to pray when I run, I still love the promise a quiet sunrise brings, and I still put one foot in front of the other finding peace in the rhythm of the run. Why the marathon event, if the joy comes from the training runs? For me the marathon event allows me to celebrate the blessing of the run with others. The marathon is a traveling party, really, where people come to find closure to months of hard work, encourage others, and simply finish what they started.
I've driven the route of my scheduled marathon many times. I'm training mentally and physically for miles 6-8 and 20-26.2. I know the course. I know when I will hurt, and when I will be tempted to walk, when I will want to cry. I know when I'll remember to pray, quiet my mind, and really listen. I hope to accomplish a time goal at this race. I hope to qualify for Boston, or, at the very least break 4 hours. I hope that real focus, for the first time, will pay off. I hope at the finish line, I will find something I've been looking for, for over a decade.
And then what? Then begins a new chapter and decade of running in my life, and I'll likely find the very same gift of peace and clarity then as I do now. The steady stepping will carry me through seasons of packed snow, muddy puddles, hot roads, crunchy leaves. I'll hear in my mind, hymns to the beat of the run, answers to prayers, and sometimes nothing at all. Dusty trails, paved roads, and even the treadmill will continue to yield a brighter life experience in general if I am willing to always take one more step. It doesn't have to be fast or strong. Just one more step.
My happy time today? Remembering the blessings that come through effort in general.
My sad time? Remembering that the greater the blessing, the greater the required effort.