The Last Five Miles--Pushing through Pain and Leaning In

"So, why don't you just do all twelve miles tomorrow?" A cavalier question from my husband after I noted that I would need to fit in six miles each day for the last two of this month to hit my 100 mile marker, a streak which I have kept since June 2015.

It felt good to know that he believed I could simply do that on a whim, but I couldn't remember the last time I had run that mileage. Sure, I had done several seven mile runs in the past several months, but a whole half marathon?

Knowing I had the luxury of two days, I planned to do ten today. Just run the lake. Again, I couldn't recall the last time I had done it and the conditions today were good enough with snow that had already blanketed the roads, minor winds, and a balmy 18 degree real feel temp.

A run around the lake means you are committed with that plan because the further you get, the more you need to simply press on since going back doubles the mileage versus making the loop. On today's run, I had an opportunity to turn around at mile three when I had to track back a full .5 miles to retrieve my good running gloves and the girls' Bentelyville hat that had fallen off my belt. When I had realized they were gone, I had just begun to think about the reasons I had not run the lake recently. Bears. Are they sleeping comfortably yet? Fear started to seep in, but I leaned into that calming voice that guides my decisions on runs and knew I could overcome it. After retrieving the gloves and hat, I pivoted back around to my original trajectory, chalked up that my 10 mile run would turn into 11 with that doubling back, and I pressed on.

What a glorious first five miles! It crossed my mind that I would run a half marathon today. It was so gorgeous, and I would only need to tack on another mile now. It struck me again as it had when I was training for marathons that you know you are a distance runner when you think that you "only" have seven miles left.

At mile 7.22, the pain struck again. The injury that had nagged me all last year. I had ignored it for so long because it has not been an issue with my relatively shorter running. And I had started foam rolling like a smart person. Only, I had not been doing the band exercises recommended like a REALLY smart person.

It once again occurred to me that I cannot do great things on my own. That once again, even though the rest of me would easily have been able to pull off great mileage today, my leg was going to be a problem. The pain is pretty strong, friends.

So, I did what I have come accustomed to doing. I gave it to God. My ability to finish this run at any length would be His will, not mine.

And the last five miles were my greatest feat in a long time. I ran/walked, taking into account what it was He wanted me to do. The distance I should run versus how much I should walk. How far into the pain I should press and when I should let up. Five. Miles.

Here is the kicker: I completed that half marathon in under two hours this morning. It's not my best time, but it's also pretty solid, given the conditions.

And that was one of the lessons I was to take and share today, my friends. We may not always achieve great feats in the same manner as we had once or what others expect. We can still achieve with what we have been given. Yes, it hurt. But as I continued to listen and move through the pain, I still rocked my own expectations today.

I really believe we all can do that. Move through whatever it is that is hurting us by leaning on God's strength, grace, and His love to help us accomplish more than we can do on our own.

If I had tried to do it on my own, I would have taken any easy exit along the path. Shaved off the last miles I could and been happy with my original plan for ten.

But I didn't. Instead, I allowed my footsteps to be guided to the dirt path, which required even more exertion with the snow covering it. I couldn't help but think about how my own path into starting up a business and moving away from building leadership has been painful. Hard. I could have easily cut out. Still could. Instead, I am following the path that is meant for me, and though there are great pains involved, I can do that with the spirit in me too. So, I ignored the shortcuts and kept pushing through the pain, believing that all the effort, energy, and obedience in both scenarios are teaching me and building me to the best version of myself.

The last five miles represent a test of what we truly believe of our abilities. Of how we can overcome pain, push through it, and run into the promise.

This post may be about running, but it really is about more than that, and I hope you can see that as you read. Apply it to any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual pain you may be feeling. See that you are not alone, and that you can not only endure, but you can thrive as well.

Life is full of pain. Hard choices. Shortcuts. Distractions.

When we choose to persevere through the pain and the hard pieces, we end up with the wisdom, lessons, and even some pretty awesome accomplishments that we couldn't do on our own.

If you are reading and considering that you are ready to take the hard path but you need help, please consider the following suggestions:

  • Therapy: Did you know most counselors have counselors? The days of seeing a therapist as stigma should plain be over. Take the leap. Find someone to help you grind through the tough spots. 
  • Open up to a trusted friend who can walk alongside the pain and listen. 
  • Consider speaking to your pastor or religious leader about any suggestions they may have for support groups or counseling. 
  • In crisis? Reach out. Now. Here are some great resources: 


Is there an example in your own life of the last five miles? Please consider sharing it with me in the comments below, email me at sarahsajohnson@gmail.com, or tag me in a reflective post.




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