Running with a Purpose

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.

Those words, made famous by Scottish runner Eric Liddell in the movie “Chariots of Fire” don’t begin to describe me.  While I do believe that God made me for a purpose, I can’t say that He made me fast.  In fact, he made me more like a Clydesdale than a thoroughbred.  And most of the time, I certainly *don’t* feel His pleasure – or any other pleasure – when I run.  In actuality, the pleasure comes after the run, as in “I’m SO happy I’m done running!”  or “Yay!  I can take a shower now!”

Yet it’s been 18 months now since I first set foot on a treadmill – on a whim – to see if I could, in fact, run one complete mile.  Now I’m up to over 6 miles, running an hour straight and have completed several 5K’s and one 10K and am actually contemplating training for a half-marathon.

Yikes.  Who am I and what have I done with myself?

Today marked an anniversary of sorts.  It was one year ago this weekend that I ran my very first 5K.  My good friend Jacqueline agreed to go with me and run at *my* pace, which was significantly slower than hers.  We honored the memory of another friends’ precious little baby by running that 5K, a beautiful little girl who lost her battle to leukemia just days before she would have been 9 months old.  For both of us, it was our first 5K, an emotional time to remember and honor Allie but also complete a significant personal accomplishment.

I couldn’t wait to do it again this year.

But this year, I would have to go it alone, since my running buddy came down with some nasty flu bug.  My goal was to complete the run in 32 minutes or less, beating last year’s time.  This would mean running at a 10′ mile pace…or even faster.  According to my Dailymile posts, my pace has only been 10’/mi. or faster when I’ve been on the treadmill in the early stages of Couch to 5K, or when I’ve run short distances, like to my weekly Moms in Touch meetings where I have an hour of recovery between the intervals.

Lining up before the race, I was really nervous.  For one thing, I was feeling very much alone.  Trey was at a youth group retreat and Matt had opted to stay home with Crisana, so I had no cheering section.  My running buddy was sick and I didn’t know anyone else there.  And then there was my not-so-brilliant plan of having run both Thursday and Friday.  Though Friday’s run was short and fairly easy, it was extra mileage on my gimpy ankle.  To top it all off, I’d had a somewhat indulgent day of eating on Friday…between a donut at breakfast and gelato in the afternoon and french fries at dinner.  I wasn’t sure if my tank was full, and the reserves were well fueled, and how that might affect my pace.

But once the gun went off and the crowd surged forward, I felt all that apprehension fall away.  I had nothing to prove to anyone but myself.  If I needed to walk for a minute or two, so be it.  If my ankle started to hurt too badly, there would be volunteers on the course that could help me get back to my car.  And if I can run that miserable hill known as Meandering Way, I can certainly conquer this relatively easy, flat, smooth course on well-paved, 3-lanes-wide city streets.

Out of the gate, I was in the middle of the pack, and with the crowds I was more focused on not running into people or tripping over their feet than I was with my pace.  But as I neared Mile 1, what I saw on the timer shocked me.  That first digit was a 9!  I passed the timer just as the digits rolled from 9:59 to 10:00.  But there was no time for celebration, because I knew I had to keep that pace going for 2 more miles.

Mile 2 was a little tougher, with navigating the water station, turnaround, and a long slow incline.  At 15′ I hadn’t yet reached the turnaround, and I was concerned that I had fallen well off my pace.  But as I began that slow, steady climb I could see the timer at the mile marker and those numbers were still in the teens.  While I didn’t quite make it at 20′, I passed that timer at 20:10…not too bad, and still close to my pace.

Now came the hard part.  That final mile and the push to the finish line.  Thankfully, I found a good pacer in front of me that I could focus on and follow.  But I was beginning to feel tired.  I wanted to go downhill for a bit.  And doggone it if my mp3 player didn’t decide to go all wonky on me.  I tried to fix it while still running but the bright sunshine made it hard to see if what I was doing was working so I had to pull off to the side and actually take the darn thing off.  By then, my pacer was farther ahead, but I could still keep her in my sights, even if I had no hope of catching up to her.

I made the final turn just before Mile 3 to a sight that disappointed me.  The timer, though hard to read, was somewhere in minute 31.  I knew it would be hard to get to the finish line in less than 2 minutes…and I had done so well up to that point.  But as I turned the final corner, God gave me a burst of energy.  Something literally pushed me forward to the finish line.  I couldn’t see the timer well – someone’s head was blocking it – but I knew it was still in minute 32.  And literally seconds before I crossed it, I saw the number “33:00” pop up.  darn.  But I crossed strong, and felt proud to have finished, knowing I gave all I could have given.

The official results say I finished in 33:05 (according to chip time), which is a 45-second improvement over last year’s chip time.  My official pace was 10:36, placing me 273 out of a total 763.  If I did the math right, which is always a sketchy proposition, that means I ranked 64%, almost in the top third.

The end of a race is always an emotional moment for me as I realize just how grateful I am to have a body that can *do* this.   I may not do it as well as some, and I may not look as good as others, but that’s okay.  I’m not interested in being the best, but in doing my best…and in bringing pleasure to the One who created me, for His purpose.