It was early January when I decided to take a risk and register for my first marathon. It’s this weekend, April 27. It’s happening in the city that’s been my home for almost two years now, Louisville, Kentucky. It’s been a long and cold winter with hundreds of miles run. Training for this race has looked like a part-time job with five runs a week, averaging an hour each day; there’s been a mid-week long run plus a weekend run upwards of 12–18 miles. The longest distance my plan had me tackle was 22 miles. This Saturday, I’ll set out for 26.2, with 18,000 other runners, as we aim for the finish line, one step at a time.
The past two weeks of training have been the “taper weeks,” so my distances have been decreasing each day in preparation for the race. The Monday that the Boston Marathon took place, my distance was four miles. I had to work the morning at the coffeehouse, which meant I’d run that afternoon. When my shift ended, I exchanged a few text messages with my good friend and pseudo-running coach, Beth, to hear how it went. She was watching from her home in West Tennessee, cheering on female runners Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher. It was exciting to hear of the winners and of the many other thousands of runners there who had qualified for the esteemed race.
When I got home, I changed into my running wear and went out for my four. It was warm outside, and I was thankful for the short run. Later that afternoon, while thumbing through the racks at a consignment store, I received a message from my running buddy Jamie, asking if I had heard about the bombings in Boston. She gave me a run-down of the immediate known news, and I went home and started reading the headlines online.
I could not believe it. My heart sank. Who would do such a thing and why? We live in a fallen world where wickedness marks our daily lives, and yet, these horrific things still shock me. One of my initial thoughts was, Come, Lord Jesus. These bombings took my breath away, forcing me to cry out for mercy upon those affected and really, for the world.
Training for the marathon has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve found that there’s a great amount of sacrifice that comes with running. Discipline is required to wake up early, to run until you’re done (even when you want to quit), to eat the food your body needs to replenish nutrients you’ve used while running. Sometimes you run so much your toenails bruise; then, over time, they fall off. Sometimes, you run and your foot gets hurt; you take a week off and rest, hoping that your foot recovers so you can keep going. Sometimes you go out for a run, and it’s perfect. Other times, you cry while you run because you think, I’m not ready, I can’t do it. That’s a hard day. On a day like that, running is hard.
The day of the bombings and for the next several days, many people have asked me if I’m afraid to run my marathon. Yes, in a way, but no, not in the way they’re thinking.
What am I afraid of? I’m a little afraid of the pain. Because 22 miles hurt. A lot. And I’m certain that 26.2 will, as well. I know that running a distance like that requires incredible physical strength and stamina, and also a determined attitude that says, I can do this and I’ll keep going. Running a marathon is an appointment with pain. Pushing yourself to run 26.2 miles is truly dangerous to your body, with studies showing the heart strain comparable to that of a heart attack.
But I’m not afraid to run my marathon because of a potential attack like the one in Boston.
The way I see it, running is risk. But choosing to face the risk on a run each morning and for Saturday’s race is no more dangerous an act then getting in my car to head to work. I am convinced that God is sovereign and has numbered my days. I rest in the reality that He is in control, and His will is being done daily in my life and in the world—even when things go crazy like in Boston. I breathe deep, recognizing that trusting God for the events of Saturday leaves no room for fear, or for questions like, What if?
When I first started running a year and a half ago, for every race I entered, I had one goal: to finish. The races I entered this spring had a goal as well: to beat my time from last year.
What’s my goal for my first marathon? To finish. To see with pictures and touch with the finisher’s medal the efforts of months of hard work. What’s going to happen on Saturday? I hope, Lord willing, the sun will shine with a beautiful low-40s morning. The course will be filled with excited and prepared runners, all with goals each their own, ready to meet them head-on. Months of training has led to a moment where one recognizes, this is it. This is what I’ve worked for.
But it’s not just that. I want to run on Saturday without fear, reminding my soul, God is sovereign and He owns your life. I want to run each step with words like: Determination. Endurance. And I want to cross that finish line with a rock-solid trust in the Lord’s sovereignty over my life.