Life Lessons from 5K Training

9:00 AMHeather

I did it.  Or rather--we did it.  Last Saturday, my man and I ran our first official 5K.  I've posted about our training ad nauseum on Facebook.  I'm sure my FB friends are tired of hearing it.  And, yes--you bloggy friends have endured a comment or two about it.  Just in case I haven't completely talked this thing to death...I thought I'd take a stab at wrapping up the life lessons I've learned from 5K training.  

For my own sake.  And for posterity.  And perhaps, you too, can glean something valuable here.  Because I have found such a metaphor for life in the last few months of this adventure.

1.  Dream Big--  This is a phrase I often hear from my dear Auntie Peggy.  Dream big.  And she does.  She dreams big.  She's done some amazing things and had some amazing life experiences because she did just that.  Like taking a team of fellow nurses and doctors to Malawi to work with AIDS patients.   Or traveling to Manchu Pichu in South America.  Big dreams indeed!  

Yeah, yeah--if I was really dreaming big, I'd envision completing a marathon--right?  Listen, perhaps I haven't been clear.  I. Am. Not. A. Runner.  I have never been an athlete.  Two years ago, I spent 5 months in physical therapy--the beginning of which I was literally not able to function.  The crazy idea to even attempt to train for and complete a 5K race is my version of dreaming big.  Or at least--it's a start.  Cause you gotta dare to dream big... consider something you've never done or thought you could do.  

2.  Plan to work... and Work a Plan-- What's your dream?  Everyone's got a dream!  That's a favorite line from the movie Pretty Woman.  So, if you are going to let yourself dream big--what's your dream?  Being Pragmatic Paula here I don't always allow myself to dream big...but I do know that you gotta have a plan!  A goal without a plan is simply a dream unfulfilled.  (I just made that up... but I think it sounds like it could go in a fortune cookie?)  You gotta work a plan...and plan to work.  For me, training for a 5K has been work indeed.  And the Couch to 5K app on our phone was just the plan we needed.  It broke it down for us, week by week, and made it attainable.  The dream was a 5K...the plan and the work were one day at a time.  One training session at a time.  So all you dreamers out there--go for it!  Break it down to a workable plan and time table.  And be willing to work for it.  All you planners out there--think outside the box!  And know that you can tackle a big dream when you put your planning skills to work.

3.  Everyone needs a running buddy-- I have been blessed with many wonderful and amazing friends in my life.  No doubt.  But the seasons of life do not allow us to spend as much time together as we'd like.  I must admit--I can get down about this.  Because I am deeply relational.  I want to sit with a friend over a cup of coffee and spend hours solving all the world's problems.  But, raising three children doesn't allow this kind of luxury often.  So, I pray often for a running buddy.  I've meant that figuratively for years.  For friendships where we can run to the store together, check in often, and know exactly what's going on with each other.  I need that connection.  Truth is--I think most of us do.  I don't mean a social media connection either.  I mean that we are wired to tackle this journey of life in community.  That's God's design.  We just have to figure out how to join in with those around us and connect where we can.  When it comes to connection, the solution might just be right under our nose....
 


4. Rediscover your spouse-- Listen, I may be stubborn sometimes, but I am not so dense to ignore the irony that I have long prayed for a running buddy type of connection.  And have to really chuckle out loud that God spurred me and my man to literally become running buddies!  Oh, yeah!  That man I married!  The one who has seen me through thick and thin and even thinner over the last nearly 23 years!  The one who I couldn't wait to spend every waking moment with when we were Baylor students.  The one who I realized I wanted to even wake up to every day of my life.  The one who can get lost in the shuffle of children and calendars and tasks and schedules.  The one who really is my best friend.  And I remembered all that great stuff about him every time we ran together.  While I huffed and puffed and inched forward every step in my grumpy morning stupor.  And he responded by telling me I could do it and c'mon girl, and you've got this.  What a joy (and how convicting) to remember that he is my biggest cheerleader.  He is my best running buddy.  I just had to literally run with him to remember that.  Trying something new and starting an adventure together has been awesome.  To remember that our lives need never to get stale and status quo.  There are always new things to attempt to do together to breath fresh life into our relationship.



5.  Cute shoes always help-- Okay, okay.  I'm really NOT a shoe girl.  I don't feel the need to own dozens of pairs of shoes for every outfit.  I like my basic shoes and that's all I need.  See?  I am really practical.  BUT, I must say...that sometimes when you are dreaming big and working your plan, you do need the right equipment.  And, if you are able to make that equipment fun and enjoyable--it really does help you in your endeavors.  

Case in point.





Aren't those super cute shoes?  The best part is that they make running so much easier (well, relatively speaking) because they are the right fit for my foot.   Chris treated me to a little evaluation at Luke's Locker where they found the right shoe for my stride.  My choices were a gray and blue shoe... or these fun colorful ones.  I decided that truly--as I tackled this goal--cute shoes would help.  Why not have fun with it?  As long as you are not putting yourself in a bad position financially... get the right equipment and treat yourself to something to make the journey easier AND more enjoyable.

6.  Do the hard work-- Life is hard.  And it requires much of us.  The older I get the more I see that we live in a culture where we want things to be easy and we want instant gratification.  If it takes too long or is too difficult--forget it.  I see this in how disposable marriages have become and in our general work ethic and attitude as a culture.  We complain about anything involving a long wait, and we certainly want everything to be convenient.  We get so wound in our First World Problems that we forget how our grandparents survived without fast internet (or any internet at all), working kitchen and household appliances, paved roads and completed road construction projects, or the ability to nuke their food in sixty seconds or less.

Working long and hard for the sake of a goal or even the character building process is becoming a lost art, IMHO.  See?  I didn't even want to spell out "in my humble opinion."  Too long and hard.  Give me my abbreviations, please.  LOL.

But, there is indeed great value in working long and hard and doing uncomfortable things.  There is a sense of accomplishment that builds self-esteem and faith and character when you wake up before sunrise although you are not a morning person.  And you put on running shoes and you beat your body into obedience as you hit the pavement when it's raining or cold or hot.  Oh, it's not always fun.  But, it always always, without fail, gave me a great sense of accomplishment to come home after 30-45 minutes and know I'd done the hard work.

I'd remember this verse, as my breath and legs and body were giving out.  

    Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
2 Corinthians 9:24-27

The heading introducing that passage on Bible gateway--by the way--says "the need for self-discipline."  So, I'd run and start to give out and I'd think to myself, "strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that I will not be disqualified.  Run (LITERALLY) in such a way to get a prize... go into strict training." 

And I'd think of my Poppy.  My dear hardworking Poppy, who traveled every week from Sunday afternoon until Friday night, throughout his career.  To provide as he worked hard.  And while on the road, the man would run.  In place--because hotels didn't have gyms back then.  So, he'd run in place.  I can remember from the time I was a little girl through my college years, my Poppy would run for what I think was nearly two hours.  In place.  In the garage, if he was home.  I'd go out there and say hello.  And he would wink or smile, but he wouldn't quit until his work was done.  So, I'd run these last few months and think, "Geez.  If my 70 something year old grandpa could do this, I can do this!"

So I did.  Not just for me.  But also so my children could see that sometimes you have to do the hard work, go the long way, do the uncomfortable thing in order to accomplish what you feel called to do.

7.  Run your own race--  Last Saturday, as I ran, I realized a huge stinking mistake I was making.  It was a big issue for me.  Chris and I had never run with anyone else.  Just us.  In our little neighborhood, on our own little pace.  But, in our first 5K, I was running in a crowd of people.  And it messed with my head.  Because they passed me by.  And I was left behind.  Truth is--even before the starting gun--this was actually a problem.  Because I saw the runners with the white race bibs.  Those running the 10K.  Which made me think, "Oh.  I'm just doing a 5K."  To console myself, I'd glance at the green race bibs.  "Oh yeah?  Well, at least I'm doing the 5K and not just the mile fun run."

As we ran the course and we got passed up, I struggled.  It really messed me up mentally.  It made me literally have to stop to walk three different times.  Briefly--but that's how badly it threw me off.  I couldn't even keep running until I pulled myself back together.  When we finished, we realized that we'd run a minute faster per mile than we ever had.  Because we were trying to keep up.  Yes, we did it.  But it was a strain.



Because we didn't run our own race.  We didn't run the race marked out for US, at the pace right for US.  And it made us struggle as we felt off balance and weary.  The result was the same--we crossed the finish line.  But, we made the actual race much harder because we were trying to run someone else's pace...and someone else's race.

How like life that is.  We look around us and feel passed up.  So we speed up and we spend more and we work harder to keep up with the Joneses.  Or, we look behind us, prideful of those who are merely walking and have fallen behind.  And we forget that we each have our own race to run.  We all have the same finish line.  But, we each have to get there in our own way.  In the way marked for US.  In the way God intended it just for who we are.

I must say that this whole experience has been remarkable really.  I feel different.  Not just because I can now run three miles all at once and even without stopping.  But, because the process changed me.  The process has taught me so much.  I'm sure there are many more life lessons ahead as I sort through this 5K training and what it's meant.  And my race isn't over.  Because I'm not going to stop running and I'm already registered for another 5K.

Much like life.  I can't stop running.  God has more for me.  And I need to allow him to continue the process.  I can't just run without any training.  I can't just float through life to the finish line.  That won't work.  No.  I must commit and submit to the training here in this life.  The race marked out for me.  Even when I can't see the course ahead.  He does.  And He will be waiting at the end of it all, cheering me through.  Ready to pat me on the back and give me a victory hug and tell me I did it!      
   
 (side note:  this is after the race.  I had to laugh when a little girl I know said to us, "Y'alls faces are really red!"  Yes, darlin'.  They are.  Really red.  But we did it.  And we are still on our feet.)

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