Running Free

Running Free

Something’s not right. And, I know it, a few seconds into my jog.

I weigh my choices; head home to correct the equipment malfunction, or keep running.

I decide to keep going, slow and steady. And, soon, I don’t even notice the difference. Perhaps, I am a bit more bouncy than usual, but that’s about all. I jog the next hour and a half in silence. I relish the air, 50-some-degrees cool, and appreciate the lightly overcast skies — perfect running weather.

A faint, neon-green haze hovers over the tips of a few trees. Trailside, spring beauties sprout from patches of new grass interlaced with old leaves. I spot large swaths of Dutchman’s Breeches, those lacy-leafed greens sending out dangling stems clustered with blossoms that mimic puffy-white, upside-down pants.

I go headphone-free, though I expect to be on this trail for 90 minutes. I find it heightens my sense of the day. I hear the songs of at least a half dozen different birds, and the creek gurgles musically far below. Though it makes no sense, even the fresh, green smells of spring seem more intense with my ears uncovered.

Nine blissfully quiet and contemplative miles later, I call my friend. You won’t believe what I just did. I ran 9 miles in an underwire, leopard-print bra!

I don’t recommend it, and only some, {um, smaller} women can pull it off, but that’s just what I did. The funny thing is: If you’d told me I had to run 9 miles in an underwire bra, I would’ve said,

No way. I can’t do this.

It gets me thinking how we all love to be well-equipped, aptly prepared. But, oftentimes, we are not, and there is not one single thing we can do about it. There are times that, unlike my bra mistake, we can’t choose to go home and suit up properly.

For example, I am not equipped to deal with a chronically ill daughter — I wasn’t then, and I’m not now. I have an 11-year-old daughter approaching her first human growth and development unit at school and a four-year-old son who can spend large chunks of the day in violent tears or downright defiance.

No way. I can’t do this.

I have a book proposal still floating around the nebulous never-never-land that is a large publishing house. And, can I convince them to publish my book, let alone actually finish writing it if they were to say yes?

No way. I can’t do this.

When I begin that 9-mile-run, I am not sure I can do this — this crazy, hard, long, last-thing-on-my-mind half-marathon thing. The winter has been harsh, and I’ve been lax and skipped one too many training runs.

Now, I wake exhausted, even if I’ve slept 8 hours straight, tapped out with worry, worn down by stress. Will she wake smiling or crying? Will I have to help dress her and comb her hair because her arms feel so weak? Or will she literally do a little jig as she gets her backpack and cavort out the door? Because this is how it is here, right now. Every day, every hour, every minute, is different.

But, I run 9 miles in silence — in my leopard-print, underwire bra — and I realize I can do hard things, unlikely things. Because God’s got my back; my friend Jesus can relate; and, the Holy Spirit kindles that which is good and strong and Christlike within me. And, even if it’s just a teensy bit of foolish, old, sinful me, it’s still enough.


I finally settle down around midnight Saturday, though I had hoped to be asleep by 10 p.m. Adam wakes a 4 a.m. and then again at 4:45. {He never does that — unless you’re running the half-marathon the next morning.} At 4:45, my husband and I stay awake. It’s time to get up, get dressed, and head downtown.

I reflect, as we drive, that I am ill-rested and half-trained. But, I feel a certain peace. {By the time you’ve run two half-marathons, you know if you have it in you, or not. You know, on some level, what you’re capable of.}

So, we gather in Corral B with hordes of runners at 6:45 a.m. and, at about 7:10 a.m., once the elite runners and the rest of Corral A go, we approach the start line and begin running. My husband takes off to achieve his time goal, while I plan to enjoy myself. And until mile 11, I smile. A lot.

I smile at the local bands, and wish I could put them in my pocket and take them with me. I smile at the lady clutching coffee in a rain coat, because if I weren’t running, there’s no way I’d be out here cheering, as early, cool, and drizzly as it is. I smile at the kids and slap every one of their outstretched hands. I smile at the llama guys on the bridge {don’t ask… I’m not sure} and the huge cat sign that says: 26.2 miles, Are Mew Kitten Me? And I bust a laugh at the huge photo of Bob Costas from the Olympics that says: Bob wanted to be here. But he has pink-eye. Again.

And, then there’s the worst hill of the whole thing, around mile 11.5 to 12.5, and it just keeps going and going, and it’s tempting to think:

No way. I can’t do this.

But, I find some divine reserve deep in my gut and keep going. At the top of the hill, it’s time to go, and some of us, we kick it in, until we see that 13-mile flag and we think we’ve arrived, and then it dawns on us. The race is thirteen point one miles.

And, it’s the longest tenth of a mile of our lives, but when we see the finish line, we dig even deeper because old sprinters’ habits die hard.

And, then, we finish, breathing hard, sweaty, our muscles almost immediately stiffening in the cool air, and we say:

Way. We just did this.

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  1. Thank you for this today Elizabeth 🙂 such the reminder I needed.

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