Archive for October, 2011

July 2011

Four years ago, I donned a pair of shoes and set out to walk.  I was just trying to do the minimum bit to be healthy, and walking is rather inexpensive, convenient, and easy.  Well, my first couple of walks left me feeling down.  I felt like I had wasted thirty minutes that I could have been…ummm…doing something very useful…like…sleeping.  It was July, which means I had to get up and out at an unseemly hour so as not to fall dead from heat exhaustion.  Walking was not my friend.  Where was the feeling of doing something good for my body?  I knew that walking was likely to join other exercise routines that I began with my best intentions only to be dropped because I lacked interest and didn’t see any great benefit in them. One morning while walking, feeling irritated and wishing to be doing something else, I started to run. To my amazement I discovered two things:  I found that running felt amazingly good, and I found out how shamefully out of shape I was.  In only two minutes, if that, I was huffing and puffing, had a side stitch, and was looking for a place to sit down. But a door had been opened, just a little crack, to better things to come.

What a revelation! I could run – or at least do something like it. It had never occurred to me before that running was an option.  I wasn’t the athletic type at all.  I really didn’t like getting tired and sweaty too much.  I was, I must confess, a wimp. But that short run, the crack in the door, gave me just enough excitement to wonder what could be.

Now I had to tackle and deal with my pitiful out of shape self. Starting out I would walk then run for a thirty-minute time frame with the goal of increasing my run time each week.  The exertion, the sweat, the aches in my legs and lungs made me feel alive like never before. I was amazed. It was a whole new world of muscle aches and sweat soaked clothes and early mornings. One day while running, I looked down at my watch when it was time to stop and walk and realized that I didn’t want to stop, so with great elation and a feeling of running on air, I kept going and going and going.

Running was not only good for my body, but my mind became clear, I could focus better, I was eating better, and I was happier.  I was happier! That was profound.  Depression and anxiety and all that go along with a cloudy mind had dotted my weeks and months like an unbearable weight.  I could see the blessings before me, but I couldn’t enter into the joy of them. But because I was doing what was good for my body, my mind became healthier too. I could “handle” life and enjoy it too. I had received a most precious gift – the ability to connect with the beauty and joy that God surrounded me with that at times I felt isolated from. The prattle of my children, the humor of my husband, the taste of food, the loveliness of colors…the list is endless. Running was not a cure all, but it did help push away a large portion of the dark clouds when they appeared and helped me see through them.  And I knew when the clouds came back; I could get through them again.

My first race!

The next step was to sign up for a race, a 5K. I needed a challenge to keep me going and to push me further.  The race hooked me.  More races followed as well as the dreaded running injuries.  Apparently I have weak ankles.  I iced, wore a brace, looked for softer running surfaces, tried different shoes, and had to stop running a couple of times for a short period of time.  Those times were not fun, but I knew that the body generally heals from such minor ailments and is often made stronger. I had no doubt that I would be lacing up my running shoes once again.  Time off from running was just part of the course for me.

5 mile run in July, in MISSISSIPPI!

Eventually, I signed up to run a half marathon.  This race would mark the third anniversary of my first 5K.  I started training early being mindful of my ankles and the heat of summer. I had not expected to ever run more than a 10K, but something restless within urged me to do more. I can safely say, I think, that the half was my limit.  I don’t need to run anything longer… I think.

finishing the half!!

During the race, around mile 8, I felt as if blisters were developing on the balls of my feet.  No big deal, I thought.  ‘I will lay off running until they heal.  I deserve a nice rest, maybe a couple of weeks, after this race.’ At least my ankles were not hurting. The last five miles were not at all pleasant.  My feet burned! I made it to the finish line, though, despite taking a spill in the tenth or eleventh mile. And I made it just within my goal. I knew I wanted to do another half again – maybe every year.

My feet continued to hurt for the next week, especially when I wore heels or when I would go upstairs or stand on my tiptoes.  After a couple of weeks I began asking people what I should do about my problem and followed their advice.  I soaked them, I rested them, I iced them.  They continued to hurt in varying degrees.  Some days I thought they were all better only to hobble again the next day.  Not only was I unable to run, but I couldn’t enjoy hiking with my family or even a nice walk around the neighborhood without pain.  It was winter at the time and I joked with a friend that it is always a good idea to get a running injury in the winter so you can stay by the fire with your feet up and out of the cold.  But I was not happy.  I would have loved to work up a sweat in the winter air.

I prayed desperately not only for healing, but for the right attitude, to learn to be content while being still, to see what God wanted me to see, to hear what He wanted me to hear, and become what He wanted me to become during this time of rest.  After three months, though, fear took hold of me.  I wondered if this was how God wanted me to live the rest of my life.  That fear drove me to the doctor.  He gave me exercises to do, a prescription for physical therapy and orthotics.  My condition was called “metatarsalgia”, which is inflammation of the metatarsal heads. I was optimistic. I was sure that I would be running again by March! After following the doctor’s orders, there were some improvements.  My hobbling days decreased significantly.  But then I hit a plateau – slight pain on and off but still there and not going away.  Despair crept in again because my options had run out.  I cried silently and prayed silently, not telling anyone how deeply I was hurting, not in my feet, but in my soul and my mind. I felt the clouds accumulating around me, the joy seeping away from my days.  I knew this place and it wasn’t where I ever wanted to be again.  But my feet would not let me do what I knew would help.  I needed to run! I prayed and wept, became angry and felt forgotten by God.  I experienced some dark days and nights that frightened me and made me question everything I held dear, but God is merciful and they didn’t last longer than a day or two and relief would come.  I would feel embarrassed by my dark thoughts, would repent of my doubt, and would be okay for another few days.  It is so much easier to run than not to run!

I praise God for answering my prayers even when I didn’t think He did.  He upheld me even when I thought I was lying in the depths of hell. He didn’t relieve the pain in my soul, but He helped me endure.  He helped me to seek for the joy He alone can give.  He showed me that I am completely dependent on Him. Weakness is not a shameful state to be in.  It makes us look up because we can’t look anywhere else.  It makes us let go of our pride knowing we can’t rely on anything within us.  It makes us refocus on who God is and what we are.  These are blessed lessons not to be regretted in having learned even if learned in dark places.  I can’t say I am thankful for the darkness of the clouds, but I can say I’m thankful God is tending me, keeping me, and working in my life, though it is hard to see sometimes.

I have started running again, though slowly and with great care.  My feet are not cured and still need tending, but so far the pain is not escalating. I thank God for every step and every bead of sweat, for every joy and also for every day I sit with my feet up.  My days are His to ordain and I am to be content.  His Grace is Sufficient.

Update: October 2011

4th anniversary of running races.

Today, I ran a 5K. This is the forth anniversary of my first race. It’s good to start again.


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Today did not start our very promising.  I woke up with the same headache that plagued me the day before.  The gray skies were not very welcoming either.  I headed out to run anyway in the misty rain.  After about a quarter mile, I decided to head home, but not until I reached the half mile mark.  When I got to the half mile mark, I decided to keep going but to turn back if the throb in my head worsened at all.  Well, I ended up doing my whole run and when I got back home, I had completely forgotten how horribly I had felt on getting out of bed.  I went about the day oblivious to the relief and forgot to be thankful.  How often does that happen?  How often do I receive mercy and relief and not even realize it?

So, this afternoon I stopped, had a second cup of coffee (because that is okay to do when it is raining outside, you know), and ate some ginger cookies, and thought about the unacknowledged blessings God pours out on me. I know that it really is the little things and the things we take for granted that are the great blessings.  Health, family, hot water 🙂 But, instead of looking at these things and realizing their great abundance, my mind is usually engaged with what I don’t have and full of worry about life in general. That is such a waste, isn’t it!  I hope to do better.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,

The clouds you so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break,

With blessings on your head.
William Cowper

I loved my run in the rain, by the way.  Very refreshing!  And I am so thankful to be able to run.  My feet are healing, though still painful at times.

So, sit down with an extra cup of coffee and some cookies and count your blessings.

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