It took me a while, but I’ve finally been able to accept my natural limitations.
Two years ago I decided I wanted to start running. Long distances. Real running. Not just “I’m running from the house to the car because it’s so stinking cold outside” running. What brought this on, I’m not quite sure. Especially since for most of my life, I’d avoided running at all costs.
Over the years I’d spent little time running, but a lot of time watching people run. I’d watch the runners at the gym and think, Yeah, that doesn’t look too bad. I can do that. I have a friend who’s a runner and would knock off four or five miles in a single workout. She’d even completed a half marathon.
Oh, if she can do it, I bet I can too, I’d think. Such high hopes. So little understanding! I just loved the culture of running and I wanted to be as good as those around me.
I started out my new hobby using the treadmill at the gym. Two minutes in and I felt like I’d been running for 30. How do people do this? I wondered, wincing through the burning pain in my legs. I couldn’t foresee a day when I could run for 10 minutes, let alone 30. Still, a few times a week I’d hop back on that treadmill and do what I could. As time went on, my breathing improved, my strength improved, and I could run for longer than two minutes at a time.
A short time later I signed up for a 5K race with some friends. That’s 3.1 miles. The race gave me something to work toward—a running goal. Three or four times a week I’d dutifully run and try to run the entire three miles without stopping. That was my goal—no walking. It didn’t matter how long it took me, just don’t walk. The race day came and . . . I walked near the end. I finished last among my friends. It was frustrating to work really hard and then to finish behind my friends. That’s when I realized that I like running, but I’m just not, well, good at it.
I have friends who run half marathons, friends who have as little running experience as I do and yet finish off a mile faster than me, friends who don’t run in months and then run fives miles like it’s nothing. I’ve realized I’ll never be like that. I’m not a true runner.
Since that race and since my training for it, I began to recognize some pride issues. I wanted to be the best and I wanted to surpass my fellow runners. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). I certainly exalted myself before the race, hoping to beat my friends’ time. And I was certainly humbled when they easily passed me up despite all my training.
I’ve also learned to try not to compare myself to other runners, which is a work in progress. Galatians 6:4 says, “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.” Not comparing ourselves to others seems like such an elementary lesson to learn, yet that was my biggest obstacle in running. I had to let go of the desire to be the best and to run like she did or go as far as he did.
I’ve really come to view running differently. I’ve started running for the enjoyment of it and not just as a means to the finish line. I love going to a park in the spring and summer and running along the path. There’s something about running outdoors in the fresh air that’s completely rejuvenating and freeing to me.
I haven’t signed up for another race since my first one and I’m not sure if I will. Running three miles is—and will probably always be—a challenge. Running one mile after a long drought is tough! I’ll never run a marathon and I’ll never be the fastest runner. I’ve decided to accept my natural limitations, and I’ve chosen to enjoy the sport of running within my own abilities.
When Hebrews 12:1 tells us, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” I know that mile time doesn’t matter at all for the race the Lord calls us to, but rather endurance, perseverance, and devotion.
I’m simply a wannabe runner. And that’s okay.