In miles 1-3 Traci and I experienced the energy of the start. In miles 4-6 we enjoyed the encouragement of finding our pace. But in miles 7-9 we discovered the hard work of plugging along. Running a half-marathon is hard work. Part of what made miles 7-9 so challenging was the fact that we had just come out of miles 4-6 that were so pleasant. The downhill part of the run was “easy” and the encouragement we gave to, and received from, other runners was such a boost. We definitely found a good pace and rhythm and then...and then we turned the corner at the halfway point.
Two realities hit us quickly. First, the wind had been at our back. Truthfully, I hadn’t even noticed the wind up to that point. When we hit the 6.55mile turnaround, however, I realized that we had unknowingly been enjoying the benefit of a tail wind that now was a head wind. The wind was a little nippy, and not terribly strong, but it was very noticeable and our newly found rhythm met its first real challenge. Secondly, we understood that what goes down must go up -- the hills we had been running down were still there but our downgrade was now an upgrade, and not the kind of upgrade you enjoy!
So rhythm came face to face with work. I can honestly say that until the turnaround -- while we weren’t speeding thru the course -- we were enjoying the ebb and flow of the race. We had found a pace that was manageable for both of us and were getting that feeling of, “Hey, we can totally do this!” By mile 7, our optimism had waned a bit.
In fact, last night as Traci and I were talking about these blog posts and the lessons from the race, I learned that she too felt a hint of despair at mile 8. When I saw the mile 8 sign, I had a not-so-fleeting thought: “Yikes. We still have FIVE MILES to go!!” Turns out my wife had the same idea floating in her head but neither of us had the heart to bring the other down, so the thought stayed silent.
For me, there were three factors that made miles 7-9 so challenging. First, as mentioned above, the hill/wind combo surprised me. I wasn’t ready for the change of terrain or the frontal assault from Mother Nature. Second, I started to feel some aches and pains throughout my body. My right ankle was already a little sore from running on the crown of the road and my left calf was keeping me aware of the discomfort I was causing it. Although both of these were mild (not strong, sharp pain), they were nagging, and as miles 7-9 wore on, they stole away some of my focus. Third, I became increasingly hungry. I couldn’t believe how quickly hunger accosted me between miles 8 and 9. I was running along feeling fine, and then I was starving! It was literally that fast, and since we had just passed an aid station at mile 8, and I hadn’t grabbed any nourishing Goo packs, I feared food was not on my radar any time soon.
Isn’t that just like anything worthwhile we tackle in life? You have the adrenaline and energy that comes from starting something new. Have you ever started a new diet or exercise routine? The first few days (ie. miles 1-3) are fun! You’re fired up at the prospect of change and you are energized by others who are traveling with you or have traveled the same road before. Then you hit your stride and as you enter week two (ie. miles 4-6) you are feeling like you can conquer anything. The food isn’t so bad after all. The exercise isn’t that hard. You aren’t that hungry. You’re really not that sore. You hit your stride and feel like you will achieve your goals with ease.
That’s when miles 7-9 show up. You leave the gym Friday all fired up after two weeks of great workouts, and then on Monday the gym has lost its appeal. You smell the dankness. The stuffiness of the locker room is almost nauseating. You realize the green super-shake you’ve been drinking for breakfast is really hideous and you actually don’t like the flavor that much. You step on the scale and see that after two weeks of new foods and exercise, you’re only down four pounds, and honestly, you feel lousy. Your body aches, your stomach wants something different than a blended garden for lunch and you’re wondering if it’s worth it.
Whether it’s diet and exercise, some other life style change, a new relationship or a new project, all of us will hit miles 7-9 in our lives -- the times/hours/miles when the work is hard. The question isn't whether or not you will hit those miles, the question is what will you do when they show up? Here are four lessons I learned from miles 7-9:
- Expect the hills and wind to work against you sometimes. Whatever you’re tackling in life, the reality is that you will face opposition. Brian Klemmer’s book summarizes it well, If Change Was Easy, We’d All Be Skinny, Rich and Happy. Change, is, after all, a battle of resistances. Especially when living the Overboard Life of faith, you must expect challenges. Paul told young Timothy, “Anyone wishing to live a godly life will be persecuted.” Jesus made it pretty plain that persecution is par for the course for those who truly wish to live out on the water where He is doing His Kingdom work.
- If you’re not willing to work hard, take your God-sized goals and dreams off the table. Traci and I knew that running a half-marathon was going to be hard. We worked for months in preparation, working through injuries (ouch, this hurts my body), emotions (ouch, I don’t like this) and will (I’m grumpy). During miles 7-9 our hard work paid off because we kept running long after the joy of finding a rhythm had left us. Any worthwhile goal or dream in your life is going to require hard work. Sometimes you’ll experience lots of miles 7-9! The writer of Hebrews says, “...run with perseverance the race marked out for you...” Running is hard work. You must persevere (work hard!) to see the end that God has in mind.
- Make sure you prepare as best you can for the upcoming challenges. You know there’s going to be tough times, even though you don’t always (ever?) know what they are going to be. Anticipate as best you can. My friend Clay gave me some great advice the night before the run that saved me some heart ache (as well as some aches in other parts of my body. Can you say, “Runner’s Glide”). Next time I run a long race I’ll be better prepared on the nutrition end and not get caught off guard by my hunger. If you want to live the Overboard Life, you’ve got to prepare for challenges while still facing them head-on!
- Run thru your challenges. When we hit miles 7-9, it would have been easy to walk, to stop at the mile 9 aid station and chat it up with the very kind volunteers etc... But we weren’t in this race to chat things up or to enjoy the sugar-rush, high-energy pit stop buffets. We were in the race to finish, and so when miles 7-9 came up, we had to run thru them in order to reach our goal. Face challenges like a soldier, like a man (woman) on a mission! Keep running, as you move thru the challenges. As Dori would say, “Just keep swimming...just keep swimming!”
Where are you at today? Are you in miles 7-9 in your life? Are you at the hard work stage of a goal, dream or out-of-the-boat expression of your faith? Let me encourage you to press on and to keep running thru the challenges. Living your God-designed life is hard, and requires hard work, but the reward of the labor is worth the effort! Miles 7-9 will make you sweat, but mile 13 is getting closer.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!