As I’ve written many times, I started running out of stubbornness. I didn’t turn to the sport for revelation, edification, or other forms of improvement. As tends to be the case, revelation found me without my seeking it. Long runs, both training and racing, have been revelatory for me. I have said countless prayers, cried my eyes out, planned retreats and recitals, written poems and blog posts (ahem) while plugging away on the open road. Yesterday I finished my sixth half-marathon (with a time 35 minutes faster than my first!), and if the good Lord has chosen not to reveal to me how to finish in a respectable time, at least God has taught me a few other lessons in the course of my training.
It is hazardous to my ego for me to compare myself to other people while running, which is why I just put my tunes in my ears and focus on the road in front of me. I’ve learned not to look behind me, although I always want to know for sure I’m not last, and I not to even look in front of me, because it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. My body is calibrated to do a certain pace in a certain way, and that has nothing to do with the people around me.
So what have I learned from running? That when you’re exhausted and you think you can’t push any farther, you can always push a little harder – but if you collapse and cry (or vomit) there will still be people who will be nice to you and help you out. That it’s better to push to the top of the hill and then take it easy on the way down. That when it hurts in one place a tiny adjustment can take the edge off – although you’ll just end up hurting in another. That there’s benefit in doing the things which embarrass you the most.
When I was younger I would get jealous of the success of others, especially when I felt it came at my expense: the other singers getting the leads in the school plays, the classmates earning scholarships and accolades, the athletes feted for their skill, the girls with nicer hair and clothes being treated well. Now I see it doesn’t do me any good to size up the people around me or envy their success. I can’t do anything about the way gifts are divvied up, and even if I could I wouldn’t shuffle around the ones I’ve received for any others. When it comes time to work hard and use those gifts, all that counts are me, my feet on the pavement, and the music in my ears.