My legs felt like they were weighted down by 20-pound anchors. With each step, my lower back sent violent spasms of pain that fanned out to the rest of my body. My lungs felt even worse. I took in big gulps of air, but they burned and I couldn’t seem to get my breath under control.
My running GPS app let me know that I had passed the seven-mile marker. I groaned at the reminder that I still had four more miles to go on my run.
I cursed myself for being too aggressive in my weekly long run. I could’ve turned around earlier, but had gone too far and now I had to make my way back or, God forbid, be forced to walk. I cursed myself too for posting on Social Media my goal to run a few races and possibly a marathon in the fall.
I really wanted to stop and walk, but I also had a goal of no walking. “Why did I do that?” I questioned. “You idiot, you can’t stop now.” A clear catch-22.
I tried to put the pain out of my mind and focus on my running form. I changed the song playlist on my iPhone and fiddled with the rhythm of my breathing. My small changes worked for a few minutes, but I still had miles to go. Finally, I decided to just focus on the next 30 yards, and then the next 30 yards, and then the next 30 yards.
In retrospect, completing the run sounds easy. It wasn’t, but somehow I finished it — in one piece without turning into a mental basket-case.
With that run fresh in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience, a topic that seems to be in the news a lot lately. How resilient are we as a society in overcoming tragedy and loss? How do we keep-on keeping-on when everything tells us to stop, to give up hope?
We all face adversity, big events with life and death implications like losing a loved one or overcoming a poor medical prognosis, or even smaller and more run-of-the-mill challenges like finding time to go back to school or losing those extra pounds.
Like most people, my wife and I have experienced a few challenges over the years and the best way that I know to overcome them is to take it one second, one minute, one hour, one day at a time. No mystery steps. No miracle cures. We’ve overcome our challenges by mixing a bunch of small steps with other small steps until we cross the finish line.
A friend’s recent social media post reminded me too of something else that runs through my head when faced with big or large struggles: We may face our share of struggles while we walk the Earth, but God loves us, Christ has suffered for us, and nothing of eternal significance will ever be taken away. The thought has kept me going, kept me pushing through during our most troubled times.
And oh yea, that run, how did I get to the end? As trivial as my run might be in the grand scheme of things, I reminded myself how lucky I was to be able to be out running on such a beautiful day. I thought of the guy I ran into the previous week who lost his leg thanks to a medical illness and how fortunate I was to have my health and to have two strong legs and feet.
My positive thoughts and having some “perspective” on my situation didn’t make the pain magically disappear or shorten the run. It was still a tough run, but it got me to the finish line and another step closer to my bigger goal.