Oprah’s influence upon our society is evident. Because of her, we eat more sweet potatoes. We have Dr. Phil. And we run.
According to an article posted on NOLA.com (a New Orleans, Louisiana, news site), Oprah’s 1994 marathon finish made long-distance running “accessible” to the person who valued fitness but not necessarily competition. Since then, long-distance racing has increased exponentially.
I’m one of those noncompetitive fitness runners.
My history with running goes way back to my junior high days—even before Oprah’s marathon feat—when I ran with large-lens, clunky glasses. (Yes, way chic, 80s style.)
High school running was slightly better—I shed some (some) of my awkwardness by trading the glasses for contacts—but I saw little improvement over the years because I’ve never been much for self-inflicted pain. After high school, running became something I did for just a few weeks every year when I got really motivated to get in shape.
By November 2008, I was 36 years old, completely out of shape, and suffering from an all-around lack of discipline. I had morphed into a real-life Goldilocks, always wanting things to be just right—not too hot, not too cold; not too big, not too small; not too hard, not too soft. This mentality left me a very small range in which I could roam without being a big wimpy whiner.
That’s when I started to sense that internal nudge of conviction. I lived a very comfortable life, but I was always seeking more—more rest, more soothing, more entertainment . . . more, more, more. Living for comfort caused me to miss out on lots of good things that would require a bit of discomfort in return.
I no longer wanted to live a safe, little, comfortable life, but I didn’t have a clue how to actually live for more than my own comfort. So I asked God to show me. That’s when I began to see how running could be the training ground for dialing back my Goldilocks Mentality.
It took months of running to build my physical and mental stamina. It hurt. A lot. I feared I would give up before being able to run more than 20 minutes straight, so I registered for a half marathon slated for one year away. Such a goal would require more continuous running than I could fathom. It scared me into a regular pattern of shuffling that seasoned runners call training. The Lord met me on those jaunts, helping me take a few more steps every time I wanted to quit.
A year later, I toed the start line of that half marathon with fear and trepidation; I crossed the finish with great relief.
But finishing one half marathon didn’t eradicate the Goldilocks Mentality from my being. Just as physical fitness isn’t a destination so much as a journey, the same is true for spiritual fitness. I cannot expect one year of stretching to last a lifetime. I need regular, ongoing stretching to maintain the ground gained and to keep pressing ahead.
I’m not sure why other people run, but I’m running because I don’t want comfort to steal my life away from me anymore. Oprah may have ushered in the long-distance running craze, but it is God who has made me a runner who lives for more than my own comfort.