Keeping my eyes on the goal

A little over 3 years ago, my mother passed away.  That same year, what would have been my mom and dad’s wedding anniversary happened to fall on the same day as the Evansville Half Marathon.  I opted to walk that half-marathon in their honor.  I managed to complete that one, thanks to help and support from Leah Davis and another walker we met on the way.  It was interesting, as despite all my preparations, my right leg cramped REALLY badly even before the first mile.  But Leah and our new friend, who was also having leg problems, helped push me.  Together, we walked the remaining 12 miles, cramps and all.

A few months later, I joined my sister in Cincy and walked the Flying Pig Half-marathon.  That was a lot of fun, given the amount of hills that I hadn’t really trained for.  Add in the massive rainstorm that assaulted Cincy in the early hours and drenched us, and I had a load of fun completing that half marathon with serious blisters on the balls of both my feet.  I think I completed it walking on the blades of my feet.  I hurt, but I did it.  Knowing my sister, my friend Trish, and my gf (now wife) were waiting for me at the finish line really gave me the desire to finish.

So, I managed to lose some weight, then gained a lot of it back, and have been working on trying to lose it again.  I created an unofficial “bucket list”.  One thing I put on it was to actually RUN a half-marathon.  This doesn’t sound like a big deal, except I have never enjoyed running.  Even short distances winded me, shin splints, killed my legs, and basically reinforced my desire not to run (unless my life really depended on it – at which point, I figured I was dead anyway).

I started slowly, and on a treadmill while doing my distance walking.  At first it was short bursts, maybe not more than a tenth of a mile, maybe two/tenths (okay, math freaks, a fifth).  The shin splints really made it annoying.  But I decided I was going to keep pushing.  One day, I got up to a running speed (about 5 mph for me), and said I’m just going to run for ten minutes.  And strangely enough, I did it.  I looked at the distance meter, and I was at about .9 miles.  And that gave me the desire to hit that last .1 miles the next day.  I still remember the feeling I had when I managed to run a mile solid (something I hadn’t done since my high school days).  And it was in less than 15 minutes (also something I hadn’t done since high school).

Okay, fast forwarding.  I trained for walking a half marathon by using Hal Higdon’s training method for beginning walkers (THANKS HAL!!!!!!).  So why not follow his plan for running?  My goal is to run the Evansville Half in October, and backing up from that date, I had 14 weeks to the marathon date.  Plenty of time.

And I’ve been following Hal’s plan successfully ever since.  Slight tweak though.  This weekend Ha;s plan says to run a 5k.  I did that 2 weeks ago.  The YMCA 5K warmup run was two weeks ago, and it was the first time I would try to complete a 5K for real.  With Dani and Sam Morris waiting for me at the finish line, and a few people I know also running, I completed it in just over 30 minutes. 

I had what I’d like to call a “ministry moment” while running the 5K.  I’d rounded the next to last bend on the map.  Literally, I was at mile 3, and had a tenth of a mile left.  I hadn’t stopped up to that point.  But in the last little bit, I had a sense that I just couldn’t make it, and started to give in to a pain that had been building in my side.  Head down, and disappointment in my heart, I had mentally convinced myself that I wouldn’t finish this race running.  And I knew that I wasn’t that far from the goal, I could see it as I’d been able to see it while running up one of the previous legs of the course.  After about 20 feet, I looked up, and there was the “corral”.  And I said, I can do this. 

What I realized is that I started to fail because I started to watch the ground instead of keeping my eyes up and on the end-goal.  I knew where I wanted to be, and I knew it was close, but I started watching my feet and looking at the path instead of where the path would ultimately end.  Not until I looked up and remembered that my goal was there, in sight, did I get the strength and motivation to finish strong.  Scripture says “I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:13).  This was a moment when God gave me that final strength to get across that finish line. 

As my training has progressed, my long runs have of course, gotten longer.  I’m now up to 6 miles on my weekend runs, with next Sunday being a 7 mile run and the following week an 8 mile run.  Saturday the 9th of September is the YMCA’s 15K Warmup run.  I realized something this past Sunday while out on my 6 mile run.  I will always have the long-term goal in mind.  I will keep my eyes looking towards the end, looking for the finish line.  But there are times when I start to get weak.  And I have to pull my goal sights back a bit.  When I start thinking I can’t do it, that I’ll just stop and walk for a moment, that is when I pull my goal sights back, and look six, maybe twelve feet in front of me, and say, “that’s my goal.  I’ll just keep running to that spot.”  And as I near that spot, my goal moves forward another six to twelve feet.  And I get to keep moving forward. 

So as I charge forward and look to the end goal of completing the Half Marathon in just over a month, I will remember that my long term goal is always in sight, even if I do have to look down and reach it in a series of shorter goals.  A lot like my weight loss goals, each pound of weight loss was one pound closer to my goal weight.  And each step, each dozen feet, is just that much closer to my 13.1.  I will do it.  And with God’s strength, I’ll do it strong.  And I’ll do it for His glory, because I can’t do it without Him.  I know God gives me that strength.  I will run with Phil 4:13 in mind and heart.