By Nancy Paul
“What do you do for a hobby?” she asked. I stared at her blankly, as she continued.“You know, what do you do that’s just for you? What are you passionate about besides your family and outreach in your city?” I blinked slowly and could almost hear the silence in my head. I had only a vague idea of what she might be talking about. I’d read about such things before, and even had friends who had hobbies and interests outside of their homes. I blurted out the only half-true thing I could think of.
“I’ve started running.”
“Great!” she pushed forward in her seat excitedly and smiled. “Keep it up! That’s a wonderful outlet for stress and pent up anger. When you come back to see me next week, I’ll be asking you about how your running’s going.”
So began my running career. The whole truth is that I had really more so thought about running than actually done it. Now I was either going to make myself a liar or a runner. I went home and downloaded the Couch-to-5k program onto my mp3 player and made plans with my neighbor to start the next night.
I hadn’t run at all since college (that was only for about a week – I was trying to catch the interest of my now-husband by running with him), and that was a really, really, really long time ago. I now had the extra weight of six pregnancies, the habits of a couch potato, and the energy and extra time of a stay-at-home mom. For three nights a week, my friend and I left our excuses at home and began to walk/run together. The program we used had voice prompts set to music, which told us when to speed up or slow down. Robert (the voice) was very encouraging as he trained us. The increases were so gradual we didn’t get hurt or sore and our confidence was slowly being built. One night we ran for just 30 seconds and were so excited we were giving each other high fives and feeling the positive effects of the endorphins that we were releasing into our bodies.
That spring, I signed up for a trail run… now I had something to train for. I completed it with a lot of walking and pushing myself at the end because I had no idea how to pace myself. I had a group of friends who were training for a marathon in the fall, and they encouraged me that I could do a ‘half’ if I trained. I began to believe them, and started running with them.
On the first day I showed up to run with my friends, our trainer (an experienced marathon runner) took one look at my cheap running shoes and told me that shoes are probably the most important key to successfully training and running. She took me to a running store where they checked my gait on a treadmill to see whether I was pronating (landing on the inside of my foot) or supinating (landing on the outside of my foot). I tried shoes on at the store to find out what kind I needed, then went home to order them online for a third of the price. When I put my new shoes on, I immediately felt the difference in my running!
That summer I learned a lot. I always brought water, or confirmed that there was a water source nearby. We often worked a Starbucks into our route because they will give free ice water (and they have a bathroom). My body will heat up during a run, so I dress for about 15-20 degrees warmer than it is. I always put something on my head to keep the sweat out of my eyes, and sun from overheating me. I use sunblock. I learned that summer that I can do a lot more than I thought I could, but it’s also important to be realistic about my fitness level, and not over do it. It’s good to run with friends and keep a conversational pace going. When alone, I find music helps me keep going farther and faster. When I run in the morning, I eat better, drink more water, and feel more energy all day. When I run at night, I carry Mace.
I completed my half-marathon in the fall and watched the full marathoners continue on to do another loop. That was when I swore to never do a full.
The next fall I was talking to Jesus and sensed the Holy Spirit drawing me into three specific things for the next spiritual season I was entering. It has been one of no longer just doing most things for God, but of doing things with Him – collaborating and enjoying His presence and relationship in the things I set my life to. One of these three things was a marathon.
I found one I thought looked fun – a trail marathon in May. I found a training schedule online and began to mentally prepare myself and my family for my training, which started in January. This meant facing my worst enemy, my nemesis, my electrified adversary – the treadmill. I’d get on it and run for three hours or so, then look at my watch and three minutes had gone by. I submitted it to the Lord and asked Him to help me (aka whined and told Him in my little bossy voice, “Hey, this marathon was your idea. You gotta do something about this treadmill thing.”). I forced myself onto it over and over and realized one day that with the worship music playing, the creative downloads God was giving me, and the depth of prayer I was able to go into, I was actually beginning to look forward to those mindless treadmill runs.
That’s how my training has gone. I present my obstacles to Him, keep moving in what I know I’m supposed to be doing, and He blesses. For me, running has meant meeting goals, losing weight, growing in discipline, finding sanity and serenity, socialization, and fun. More than that, when I run with God, He has the full attention of my heart. I don’t always need running to be the way I connect with Him intimately, but He has used running to literally teach me the first steps towards the abundant life He’s promised. I am not yet at the finish line, but I am already receiving the Prize.
Contributing Writer, B.L.O.G. Magazine
Nancy Paul is a homeschooling mother of 6 children ages 3-11 and wife of 14 years. She survived a childhood of neglect and chaos as the oldest daughter of addicts. She began to follow Jesus at the age of 18 and went to Bible college to study theology and counseling. She is passionate about being in community with marginalized and forgotten folks in inner city Indianapolis. She has been on a journey of profound healing over the past few years which has led her to ask the hard questions to God and take an honest inventory of her heart and life. Jesus has been giving her more and more freedom and intimacy with Him and she is finding joy.