In the Long Run

Photo by  This isn't me.  I hate running on beaches.  So there.

Photo by This isn’t me. I hate running on beaches. So there.

I’m training for a half marathon and each week I’ve added an extra mile onto my long runs.  Can I tell you they have each been hard in their own way?  The ten-miler was tough because my brain had to get around the double digits involved.  The eleven-miler last week hit me hard because my heart wasn’t in it at the start.  Then my legs started to hurt.  A lot.  I walked a ton and ended up feeling defeated by the time I reached home. 

This pattern didn’t encourage me.  How could I recapture enjoying running long distances again?  I thought about it off and on over the week.  I knew I needed to run this morning, a Thursday, because we leave for Rockaway for a family reunion-beach vacation in about an hour.  Running 12 miles along Hwy. 101, aka the road with a teeny shoulder, fog and log trucks, didn’t appeal to me.

I talked to Jonathon about it last night. I thought there might be a mind-body connection, meaning the more I worried about it, the more the muscles seized up.

“You need to change your meta cognition,” he said.

Huh?  Dr. I., you lost me!

“You need to think about how you’re thinking,” he explained.  “When you ran long before, you didn’t focus on your legs hurting.  You didn’t care.  You got excited thinking about the distance involved and just getting there. You love being out on the road.”

I pondered this for a moment.  It’s so long ago now.  Did I?  Methinks he’s right.

“So, you can do this.  Who cares if your leg hurts?  You finished last week, even through the pain.  What’s one more mile?” He smiled his adorable smile, the one that melted my heart.  I got it.

Indeed.  This does not mean if excruciating pain or injury crops up that I will ignore it.  It does mean that aches and pains are part of running and training.  I can strengthen muscles and stretch out kinks, but pain remains. If I don’t hurt, frankly, I wonder if I’ve done enough.

This morning, I got up, did my devotionals and got caught up on the world, ate breakfast, completed my chores and went out for a 12-mile run.

As I moved along, I thought about Jonathon’s insightful assessment.  The pain came.  I let it ride.  Yes, I walked a bit.  Especially when my left calf cramped up in mile 9.  I stretched it as best I could and kept going, walking when necessary. I thought about how I’d mentally counted myself out because of this pain that has dogged me for more than a year.  What if I didn’t let it stop me?  What could I accomplish?

Do I hate walking while on a run?  Yes!  Do I get discouraged when I need to walk now?  No.  I never would have been able to say that to the old Susan. Walking doesn’t mean it’s over.  Walking is taking a break, reassessing, but still moving.  I ain’t dead yet.

And so it is in every aspect of life.  We keep parenting even when we see no visible fruit.  We keep loving and serving our spouses in the darkest times.  We took a vow and the vow binds us.  We go to work and do the best we can to honor God and our employer, though things get sketchy at times.  We may need to walk at times, change tactics and figure out a new strategy.  We may need to apologize and backtrack. Pain is part of the human experience.  It’s not the end of the story, but possibly the beginning of a new chapter.

There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion! – Ecclesiastes 9:4



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