I went to bed last night and woke up this morning in a significant amount of pain. My knees are very sore. The weird part (for me): it is from running. If you know me, you know I do not like to run. The only incentive I had for running in high school was during rugby and that incentive was tackling the person with the ball. However, a little over a year ago, a friend of mine was inspired by someone we both know to be brave and daring. She prayed a bold prayer and cast a broad vision. Several months later she saw the benefits of her obedience to what could now be seen as God's call for her in a specific ministry; running a marathon to help people in India.
After the first marathon, Dana prayed more boldly and asked for a number only God could truly fulfill because - as she would be the first to tell you - this story is NOT about her, it is about God! Last year there were 15, so she prayed this year for 100! 100 runners to run in the Harrisburg marathon in order to raise funds for clean water wells in India. Last year I wanted to run but I missed the deadline. And if I am honest, I was nervous to commit to something so big. After all, I do not run, I do not like it and I was not sure my "non-runner" body could complete even a 4 point something mile leg. But I was not idle. Taking my camera with me, I joined a group of volunteers on the "sidelines" and supported those that were jumping in to run. Upon the completion of the first marathon, a video was made for Global Partners to use. What I did not count on was the impact God intended.
As I mentioned, Dana began praying a true God-sized prayer for 100 runners for the following year, 2017. Team meetings began to happen. God saw fit to use that video as a tool to help recruit runners. Relay groups were formed. The video now would be a tool in fundraising whether it meant sending it to donors we had never spoken to before or sharing it with people we did know. Eventually the video was even sent out to the contact list by the man that heads up the marathon. He was showing people how the marathon could be used to benefit others. But, like this story is not about Dana, nor myself, it is also not about the video.
God has worked in amazing ways and that is what I truly want to share.
The 2017 Harrisburg marathon began approaching. Still nervous about the commitment to run, I decided it was "now or never". Without a clue on how to train, or what I really was even getting myself into, I attended a meeting and began putting a team together. 2 best friends in mind, I had only one more leg to fill and that was easy as one of my best friends' roommates is also a runner. Once Jocelyn and Kellie let me know they would love to join Nicole and I in the relay, we began the training and fundraising. We were put in a tricky spot though because Jocelyn and Kellie had both just moved back to the States from Honduras. To add to their "lack of connections" since they had just spent 4 and 5 years out of country, they moved from their "home" states to Ohio where they would be working in a new school. I had decided, since I was already involved in pre-field ministry that it would be a conflict of interest and an unwise decision to solicit donations for this marathon. So Nicole was saddled with the incredible task of seeking friends to give. Working tirelessly, Nicole raised above and beyond her "goal" of money and God graciously gave to the rest of our team beyond our wildest dreams! By God's great hand, our team with few connections has raised enough money for a clean water well to be built in India! What a great blessing!
Yet, still, God is most glorified (I believe) in what I am about to share. June 19 was the day I assembled my team. Shortly after that I began training. Remember, I do not enjoy running so training was not really that exciting for me. Actually, I pretty much dreaded it. One of my first runs was with my mom and Nicole. I do not remember much about it except we were all pretty slow and wondered - as we struggled through that first (and only) mile that day - how we were ever going to complete our 4.9 and 5.3 mile legs. But we kept on going. Setting goals for ourselves was hard because we were new to this. Making time to run sometimes seemed a hassle. Actually going running was a literal pain most days. Between cramped calves, shin splints, side stitches, wheezing breaths, foot issues, and more, I definitely wanted to quit. As I continued to run each week, I saw improvement. When summer ended, school began and so did work. My schedule changed and it was harder to make time to run. Markedly, I could see the progress I had made working backwards again. Frustrated and discouraged, I wanted to give up on it. But my mom and my teammates were constant sources of encouragement and I continued to call to mind the real reason I was running. This race, this commitment, this training, had NOTHING to do with me! Sure it was me doing it, but it was about something so much bigger.
This commitment to run and raise money was about being a part of God's work in India so that people might receive LIFE through both physical drinking water, and the Living Water that is Jesus and His Gospel of salvation!
November 12, 5:00AM
Why was I awake? Because my nerves knew that in just 6 hours it would be my turn to run. Was I nervous? You bet! But something made it even worse that morning. I had woken up and noticed the pain in my foot that I had thought was just due to some old running shoes. It had been faint in my new running shoes but not that bad. This morning though, it was bad. Walking was painful. Quietly, I left my teammates sleeping away and put on my race clothes. As I laced up my shoes that morning I just kept thinking, "please do not let this pain keep me from finishing. I am already slow and I just want to finish and now I am nervous I will not be able to". Half jokingly and half seriously, I kept asking Jocelyn if she wanted to run my leg for me. She kept saying, "yes, but I will not. YOU trained for this and YOU have to do this".
Kellie crossed our checkpoint. I put the tracking band on my ankle, took a deep breath, and began to wog (walk+jog) down the street. My music was too loud to hear them but I saw my fellow relay runners (yes, God gave us 100 runners in all!) cheering me on as I began my leg. Foot throbbing, I set out and just kept saying, just get that first mile done.
I reached mile 1 and I said to myself, "do not stop! If you stop, you will slow down and you still have gas in the tank. You can walk after you hit that second mile". Well, that second mile went by - slowly but it did. I prayed, "God, if You keep my legs from hurting, I will not walk the third mile either". The pain in my foot came and went in waves. It would be excruciating at points and almost nonexistent at others. This third mile I doubted my resolve and said, "ok, maybe I should walk", but I could not bring myself to stop. Mile 4 approached. Judy - the name I gave my phone's GPS tracker - told me I was close to 4.9, "At the start of this last mile, I will walk a little, maybe a minute, and then get back to it." But I knew stopping to walk would only make it worse. "God, please keep the pain from my legs. Give me strength to keep moving. I do not want to walk this. I only have a little bit left to go." Turning the corner, I caught sight of Nicole taking off her hoodie as she came out to meet me. I turned the last corner and just to the left my little brother came out too. Just above the music I could hear them both cheering me on. I smiled when that finish line came into view - as much of a smile as I could manage through the wincing at my foot pain. My stride lengthened and my speed increased. 56 minutes and 10 seconds after I began, I FINISHED and I did not walk a single step along the way!
What I learned through these last 6 months, I could not tell you in this post but the biggest lessons I learned probably were taught to me in the last 3 days.
- Do not give up!
- My mind is weaker than my body so I must focus on being mentally tough
- God is bigger than my problems (He can take the pains away - or He can help me push through them)
- God is bigger than my success (100 runners and $60,000 is nothing to God - He gave us the runners early on and on the eve of the race, we found out He superceded our $60,000!)
- God does not care if I am fast, He cares if I am faithful
- Encouragement is crucial
- Others can do what I am called to do but God has called me because He wants to bless me
- Friends that encourage and push are invaluable
- Frustration is normal but it should not stop you from pressing on
- Finishing something does not come without distraction, discouragement, or pain
- We > I
- He > We
- My biggest enemy is often myself
- Running well means STARTING and FINISHING
- The process is not perfect, I will fail along the way, but God will use the failures if I continue to press on - after all the finish line is sweet
- The finish line does not mean the pain is over, but it proves that it is worth it
- I still do not like running ;) (and that is OK!)