26.2 Miles

Registration for the Lincoln full and half marathon is one month away. For the past two years, Nate and I ran the half-marathon, and it's been a blast. The first year was an emotional experience for me as I never imagined myself accomplishing a goal like that. Last year we ran it with Nate's sister, Amy who had never ran a half before. It was exciting to be a part of her journey. This year I've decided to register for the full-marathon. 26.2 miles of pure agony. Believe me, I know it sounds nuts. When I first started running distances four years ago, I NEVER pictured myself running a full-marathon. In my mind, only crazy people paid $75 to run 26.2 miles and risk losing toenails.

Something in me changed this year. I spent most of the summer and all fall running with our XC team and training for the Market to Market, so my times, form, training habits, and endurance have all improved tremendously. And this year, for the first time, I've truly enjoyed running. Sometimes, the thought of going on a run after work is what gets me through my day. Pushing myself each day to reach a new goal is invigorating. But on Thursday morning I set out at 6:00 AM in below 30 degree weather to run 3.5 miles, and it felt terrible. My legs felt heavy and my arm movements choppy with all my cold weather gear. My lungs burned and snot dripped down my numb face. My fingers burned from the cold air despite the gloves covering them. My stomach screamed for food, and the further I ran, the more I pissed off I grew. I kept checking my pace on my Garmin to find myself running an 8:09 pace--almost 10-15 seconds slower than my typical pace for that distance. And in my mind I kept thinking, "If you can't handle this, you can't handle a marathon." The thought played over and over in my head--the whole 3.5 miles. For the first time since June, I questioned my decision to run the full. Thursday was a real blow to my confidence.

But today as I read through some of Matthew and Romans, I'm having a change of heart. Lately I've been contemplating a lot about Christ's sacrifice. I can't imagine how difficult it would've been for him to live here on Earth---a perfect being surrounded by imperfect people, many who doubted Him and eventually crucified Him. And as I contemplate this, the more I am convinced that I have to follow through with running the full-marathon. I am confident that it will be one the most difficult tasks I have ever completed. Juggling my marriage, teaching, writing my thesis, planning two youth writing festivals, and whatever else comes my way will be insane. Abandoning sugary, processed foods and cutting my caffeine intake will not be easy. Oh and winter running will blow. Treadmills are my worst enemy, and if my run on Thursday is any indicator of how my body handles cold weather--then I'll be in for a rude awakening during the winter months of training. But...putting my comforts aside to honor God with my abilities is more important. After my run on Thursday I read Matthew 16, and these verses stuck out to me: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it'" (Matt. 16:24-25). I know Jesus is referring to pledging our entire lives to Christ, and I don't mean to take the verse out of context, but I feel like this will be my verse for training for this beast. My goal is not to run the marathon in record-breaking time or to beat anyone, it's simply to honor God with my body. I want to push myself to new limits where I will be forced to rely on Christ as my only source of strength (Phil. 4:13).

This year's race is on May 6th, and I'll start training in January. I'll post updates here not because I think any of you want to read about it! But more as a way to chronicle and work through the journey for myself. Finally, if anyone out there has training tips to share, don't withhold them. This is uncharted territory for me, so I'm open to suggestions :)


Amy said...

If anyone can run a full marathon, it would be you! I can't wait to watch you complete your goal!!

Stu said...

Running a marathon: totally worth it. At least once.

I wouldn't think of it as 26.2 miles of pure agony. I would think of it as about 15 miles of a pleasant morning jog followed by 5 miles of worryingly less pleasant exertion, followed by 6.2 miles of pure agony. But that's just my opinion.

As for the treadmills, I agree: they were made for gerbils.

Here on the California central coast I'm "burdened" with day after day after day of perfect running weather. (well, burdened insofar as I feel guilty any time I'm not out there taking advantage of it...) But having lived many years in less pleasant climates (Wisconsin, South Dakota, Maine and Ontario among others) All I can advise is that bad cold weather runs happen: try not to punish yourself for noticing how much they can suck. Next time out it probably will be better. But you're a runner from Nebraska, you probably know that already.

Anyway, best of luck.