Yesterday, Traci and I completed 7 months of training and preparation by running our first half-marathon -- 13.1 miles in the Sleeping Bear Dunes Marathon event. We joined nearly 400 runners (150 full marathoners, 250 half-marathoners) on the very hilly run just outside of Sleep Bear Dunes National Park. A great run with truly stunning vistas. Until our run yesterday, Traci had never run more than 8.2 miles and I had never extended a training run past 8.6. In fact, in the last three weeks leading up to the run, Traci had been battling a foot injury that allowed her just two runs during that time: a 1-mile interval run that ended with great pain, and a 3.5 mile run, just 5 days before our race, that revealed her pain was gone.
The encouragement we’ve received from friends near and far, made it possible to finish the race when our strength was entirely gone. More than that, the comments of our friends after the race has truly humbled us and reminds us of the importance of what this race represented to us. Over the next five blog posts, I want to break down the lessons I’ve learned form this race through each section: Miles 1-3, miles 4-6, miles 7-9, miles 10-12 and mile 13. Thanks to all of you who “ran with us” and are continuing to join us in the journey.
Traci and I have had the privilege of hosting 3 different races, and now we have shared in this half-marathon. Most races are quite festive since there are lots of people out to enjoy the event. There are serious runners (like our friends Evey and Clay) and people like Traci and I who are there to conquer the course without any kind of time goals. There are people walking, people running with a goal (yesterday a brother and sister team had “For Ma” on the back of their shirts) and people who just enjoy the atmosphere.
And when you first start out on a race, it is a very enjoyable atmosphere! The energy of all the participants, the loud music and the big start where everyone takes off to cheers and whistles through the large starting gate is a big thrill. It’s also a pretty significant adrenaline rush and sends most runners out onto the course with joy and an extra spring in their step.
Yesterday held that kind of thrill for me and Traci. We got off to a great start and we were definitely feeding off the group energy as we began the race. Running with hundreds of people as we each faced the course for our various reasons was exciting. In fact, the first three miles held the same kind of excitement as each runner was establishing his or her pace, and slowly, the crowd began to spread out.
A big part of each race is relatively easy: you need to start!
How many times have we approached a new venture in work, started a new project or began working on a significant change in our lives with energy and excitement? I think most of us are usually pretty good starters and starting is very important! Traci and I began our race today with two goals: Start and finish. As you might guess, one of those is actually much easier to accomplish than the other.
I love starting. I thrive on the energy of the group, the enthusiasm of new ideas and the life-giving excitement of tackling something hard. My wife loves gathering data, organizing new structures and laying out the long-term plans for achieving her goals. She is fired up when starting out. Can you relate?
Starting is usually pretty fun as we set out with new goals, ideas how to accomplish those goals and the lack of awareness of just how painful or difficult the challenges facing us will be. This was certainly true of how Traci and I started our race yesterday.
There are, however, several potential -- and generally expected -- problems with starting a race (or a new venture):
- Starting isn’t usually a very fair representation of the actual goal, project or sought-after change. The energy of starting can be swallowed up in the miles that follow and the hard work of grinding out the miles that are come. Ever started something with zest only to a hit a wall that brought a screeching halt to progress?
- Starting is a vital component to completing any objective, but the objective’s goal must be clear. In other words, Traci and I began a race yesterday knowing what the end goal was. We weren’t running until the end of our strength and then merely stopping and calling it good. Granted, we came very close to the end of our strength, but the goal remained crystal clear: finish the 13.1 mile course. Starting a new plan, going after a new dream or chasing down a great objective without knowing the end goal cannot end in success.
- Starting energy is an important part of the whole project. While we recognize it’s not a fair representation of the whole process (see #1 above) it is a vital part of the getting the ball rolling. Without starting energy, it’s hard to generate momentum, difficult to generate a strong community and almost impossible to get past the first obstacles you will, most certainly, encounter.
What about you? Is it time for you start something? Are you in the middle of starting energy right now and in need of clarifying your goals? Are you sitting on the outside of the race course contemplating your next move?
Since February when Traci and I agreed to prepare for this half-marathon together, Hebrews 12:1-2 has been a big part of this journey. The writer of Hebrews states, “...run with perseverance the race marked out for you...” In other words -- Start the course that God has laid out for you! We will rarely (ever?) know the result of running the race but we will never be wrong in starting God’s ordained journey for our lives.
Are you ready to start?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!