Run So As To Win

Can I be honest with you? I don't really like running.

I grew up being told that, because of my long legs, I should enjoy running. That my slim frame meant running should be a hobby of mine. And, for a while, I bought into that. I jumped on the treadmill during high school and even competed and placed in 5K races. But if I was honest, I didn't really enjoy running. Long miles became boring, and I didn't have anyone running alongside me for encouragement. 

When college came around, I didn't run nearly as much. And as those four years passed, I stopped running altogether. Research, homework, papers, and work hours took up my time. So when I graduated, I knew one goal that I wanted to work towards was exercising regularly - and enjoying it. 

It's not a secret that I love a good challenge. So when I talked to Johnna on my podcast last Fall and she invited me into the Catholic Women Run Challenge, I was excited to try running again. But this time, I wasn't running because someone told me I should be good at it. Instead, I was running because it gave me time to chat with Christ and it pushed me out of my comfort zone. 

Want to hear Johnna and I's conversation? Check out 'A Letter to the Woman Running Towards Christ'

But when I decided to train for a 10K, I quickly saw how God could use my dislike of running to weed out things in my exterior and interior life. The miles I clocked in between last November and this past weekend taught me quite a bit about my strengths and weaknesses. 

Running encouraged me to delve deeper into a virtuous life. What does it mean to be patient? Merciful? Joyful? 

I realized that I am quick are to offer mercy to others, yet stingly withhold it from my own story. So often, I'll look at the stories of the women I know and see God's mercy working so evidently in their lives. I'll turn to those I know and love and offer mercy. But when it comes to my own story, I am rarely merciful with myself. 

You should have run that mile faster.

How long have you been training? And you still can't get through the first mile without side stitches?

In the weeks leading up to my first 10K race, I was nervous. Terrified. More than a little concerned. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to finish. That I would end up having to walk the whole race. That shin splints, side stitches, and blisters would win the day. 

So last Friday night, I stopped into our parish adoration chapel. No one was there, and only the candlelight from the altar lit the room. So I walked up to Jesus, sat at His feet, and just left everything at the cross. 

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The fear of abandonment. The fear of failure. The fear of humiliation. The fear of comparison. The fear of finding my identity in the time flashing at the finish line.

Every time you walk into adoration, you leave changed. Even if it's in a small way, no one can encounter the Lord and leave as the same person. Friday night, I walked out of adoration and felt like 10 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. 

I realized that, at the end of the day, a 10K race was 6.2 miles to spend with the Lord. So I planned to write prayer intentions on my arm, along with the phrase 'Be Not Afraid'. And then something beautiful started happening. I got excited for race day. 

When I walked up to the starting line Sunday morning, I was jumping up and down with excitement. Talk about a transformation!

And then I started running. And I didn't stop until I reached the finish line. I ran that race as if to win. Not to win against the hundreds of other runners there that day, but to win against the devil. To reject the lies that he'd planted in my heart. I was running for a better prize that day then the medal they handed out at the finish line. 

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I don't know about a runner's high. I've never experienced that, and I have a hunch that it's something avid runners talk about to encourage newbies like me - maybe one day I'll enjoy running. But I do know quite a bit about the finish line high. The moment where you see the finish and you run as to win.

I spent weeks preparing for a race, stressed that I wouldn't finish. I crossed the finish line with my best 10K distance time ever - 1 hour, 1 minute, 36 seconds. 

I know the joy-filled, elated high that comes with seeing God smash my plans. I've seen Him transform the fears and lies that I laid at His feet and turn them into truth-filled rejoicing.

"Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).