Running the Race

“If you’re brave enough to start, you’re strong enough to finish.” -Nike

This line is saved on my phone, a picture I see when I bring up my workout apps. I didn’t really catch the full significance of it until this moment. Bravery seemed to be the theme of the day. I even wore the lyrics You Make Me Brave on my shirt, as a way to remember why I was doing this in the first place. The it I am referring to is my first ever 5k. While it may not seem like that big of a deal, to me this race represented a whole new step in my life.

If you had asked me one year ago, I would have laughed at the idea of running. In fitness class, we had the choice to either walk or run a mile for an assessment. At the time I was under the weather, plus I knew I was not in good shape, and so I blew off the idea of running it making the claim that “I’m not a runner”. Yet with the number of times I repeated this phrase over the coming months, including when my friends all went on runs, I should have known then. Deep down, I really wanted to be able. But I didn’t think I was. Insecure about myself, especially when it comes to my track record of not being overly athletic, I shut those thoughts down. I let fear of people’s perceptions in. I did not feel healthy or confident in who I was, and honestly that is something I still struggle with.

However, I decided to start trying to run a little bit in the winter. I did very small test runs on the treadmill, but did not really get that far with them. I was not really trying and certainly did not progress in my ability. Since it was spring semester and very cold, it made it that much easier to just hide inside under a fortress of cozy blankets and warm lighting and have Netflix parties. But this summer, for reasons I don’t entirely recall, I picked it up for real. I wanted to see if I could even actually run distances, and thought it might be a useful exercise habit to have since you can do it virtually anywhere.

So I tried one. Rocking Nikes, embracing the unseasonably cool breeze of that May day, and jamming out to the rhythms of twenty one pilots, I went for it. I felt terribly slow, but wonderfully exhilarated. I came back so excited. And I was determined to keep trying. So I kept running, a couple times here and there over the course of several weeks. My goal wasn’t to become a runner, but to keep pushing myself in this new area. At one point, I gave it up for over a month due to heat, lack of progress, and lack of interest. But then I started going again and finished out my summer strong, enjoying my little route through neighborhood streets as sunset fell.

Once school arrived, I tried to keep it up. I have been very inconsistent with it this semester. My pace is slower than many people’s, so I never had someone to run with, and I felt awkward doing it by myself. Then a friend suggested training for a 5k. I knew we had a free turkey trot in this area, so I figured that would be a good start. The training plan flew out the window with tests, projects, commitments, activities, and deadlines. I started pulling muscles and having to slow things down. The week of the race, I was overwhelmed with a mountain of things to get done. The last thing I wanted to do at the end of my long week was run a race. I couldn’t find anyone to run with, and was terrified of finishing last. But everything fell into place: my injuries resolved, I found a friend to go with who runs about the same pace I do (which I was SERIOUSLY excited about), and I signed up.

The day of, there were beautiful blue skies and large amounts of wind. My body was tired. I had never trained on grass or with many hills, both of which come with racing on the cross country course. I had a general time goal in mind, but I determined to make my goal simple: to finish and get across that line. The race was rough and far from a surprisingly great first start. But with the encouragement of my friends and the strains of twenty one pilots coming through my headphones, I did it. (And side note: they told me once I finished that I had won a drawing for free ice cream, which was pretty fantastic). There were no loud cheers, overwhelming fireworks of joy, or glamorous post race events. It was not at all like I had pictured, but it still symbolized so much. It was about overcoming fears, taking steps towards being healthier, and glorifying God with the body I have been given. On my hand I had written “finish well” and “He makes you brave”. Those inked words gave it all purpose. It is the One who makes me brave in all areas of life, big and small, that gives me the breath to do these things, and to pursue new challenges that grow me in my faith.

So to all of you out there tonight, whatever you are scared of, just try it. Go for what you always considered yourself not capable of doing well in. You might surprise yourself, and you’ll definitely learn some lessons along the way. Whether it’s running a physical race, writing those words you’ve been too scared to, or trying out a new activity, or attempting to reach a specific goal (success isn’t the main idea and might not happen, and that’s okay) the One who gave you that desire also makes you brave enough to do it. Run that race well, and you will see the invisible one of faith grow stronger. If He makes you brave enough to start, He’ll make you strong enough to finish.

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