I’m not entirely sure when my relationship with running shifted from “something that I happened to do” to “something that I truly love.” I just know that it happened; and boy, am I glad that it did.
After all, it’s common knowledge that running is deeply embedded in the physical. Yet, while many people recognize this, they are often unaware of the deep mental and spiritual aspects of running that also exist.
For me, a lover of long distance, this spiritual side of running has proven to be a major part of my life, something that has provided such restoration and peace that I simply can’t imagine my life—or myself—without it.
This past summer, I ran my first full marathon in Charlevoix, a small town in northern Michigan. Now, I must admit that I took a rather laid-back approach to the whole thing at first. But believe it or not, talking about running 26.2 is quite a bit easier than running 26.2.
So I went through the extensive training. When you’re training alongside your dad who has not missed a single day of running for the past 29 years, this training involves no rest days.
It was definitely taxing—physically, mentally, you name it. There would be 90-degree days in the beginning of June that didn’t necessarily make me want to go for a 16-mile run. But you have to do it. You have to put in the effort and the time if you want to reap the payoff.
And then race day comes along, and you realize that all of those crazy weeks of training have come down to this. It’s kind of daunting, kind of super cool, kind of unnerving.
So there we are at the start; and soon we’re off. The first five miles fly by, and forgetting the fact that I have 21 more to go, I start to think, “Wow, this is great. I love this. Man, I feel alive.”
So naturally, I surge forward and enjoy the next five miles or so. And then after a little while, I stop enjoying myself. Now, the Charlevoix Marathon happens to be an out-and-back course, which means that when you hit the halfway mark, you then turn back and retrace your steps for the remaining 13.1.
Needless to say, I had been a bit too eager during the first half of the race and could not wrap my head around the fact that I had to do all of it again. So for the next few miles, I was a mess.
I felt tired; I felt like I was in over my head; I actually entertained the thought of what would happen if I collapsed and was stranded out on the course. I guess when you have that much time to think, your imagination does all sorts of fun things.
But then, shortly after mile 17, I came over this hill (barely), and there in front of me was perhaps the most beautiful panoramic view of Lake Michigan I had ever laid eyes on. Gosh, if I had had any extra breath, it would have taken my breath away.
You see, I was feeling weak at that point. I was feeling really weak. But at that moment, I just felt a rush of new strength; and I think that’s what has always been so enthralling to me about running—the sweet paradox of it all.
Running can totally strip you of your strength only to reveal that there is even more there than you had originally conceived, that amid the great weakness rests undeniable power—to press on, to push through, to move forward, to go on the strength that ordinarily doesn’t seem necessary.
And so you do. In the case of my marathon, I pushed through the last nine miles or so. In the case of an everyday run, it might be a matter of pushing through a 10-minute rough patch or those last three miles. Whatever the case may be, you do it. And you grow.
How sweet to experience the strength that only weakness can make known.