Saturday, October 10, 2015

I thought it was over

Two years ago today, I thought my running was over.

I had trained for four months for that Chicago marathon in October 2013, through late spring rains and summer humidity, on long lonely stretches on suburban trails, darting along paths through the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the great delight of running for miles on the breezy shores of Lake Michigan.

One September morning just several weeks before the race, I felt a creaky place in my right foot.  I didn't think anything about it at first.  Aches are part of a runner's life. But as it persisted, I tried doing something different to hold off injury. "Just a few weeks more," I begged my foot.

I changed to a new pair of shoes.  I tried icing my foot after a run.  I took Ibruprophen to reduce inflammation.  I kept running, knowing full well that this could be my last marathon.  The last weeks of any training program involves a "taper," when a runner gradually decreases mileage to be fully charged for a physically challenging event.  About two weeks before the marathon, I didn't just taper, but I completely stopped running to give my now-injured foot every advantage to heal ...and in my mind, to save up anything that was left for the big run.

I knew that I didn't have to run the marathon.  I didn't have to go through with it.  But I decided to show up and run even a token amount.  If my foot hurt even in the first mile, that would be enough.  I would stop at the nearest coffee shop and call Bill to come and get me.

You can read about what happened in that race in Finishing the race set before me posted on October 14, 2013. 

The race was followed by months of rest and physical therapy.  And still, no matter what I did or didn't do, my foot still hurt.  I hobbled.  I hung up my running hat, thankful for that unexpected decade of running that God had given me.

"Time to take up a new hobby," one of our daughters recommended.  "Like knitting."

A lot of life has unfolded since that race two years ago -- new locations for every member of our family, new jobs for most of them, two new grandbabies, and a lot of driving miles.  No more running, but no regrets either.

And something happened along the way.  God healed my foot.

One morning last spring, as I walked in the city park near our house, I ran from one big tree along the path to the next.  The following morning, I tried a little bit further.  No pain, no cramping, no little cringes.  I went out and bought a new pair of running shoes, the absolutely most important first step in any running endeavor. I was not sure what was going to happen after eighteen months of not running.  I ran a bit.  I walked a bit.  Each day, a little further.  Just like I did when I first began running fifteen years ago.

And each day, God brought running back a step at a time.

I am not keeping time any more, or pace, or measuring distance, nor following any kind of training program.  I am just running, some days on the public greenway along the river, some days through the woods at the city park, some days not at all.  Will I ever race again?  I don't know about that.

There is just joy in being able to run again, praying outloud, meditating on Scripture, and thankful for every step God has given me.

As I found in all those years of running, God redeemed every mile with what I learned not about running or myself or life, but about Him.

I will close with what I had posted in this blog right before that last race:

First place or last.  God works something deeper than we can behold.  There are always bigger things to conquer than what appears on the surface.  I don't want to wear a bib number in this race.  I want to bear the name of Jesus.

And in whatever we do,
      in whatever "place" we are,
not just what we run
                   but in how we do it,
we can bring Him glory.

...but this one thing I do,
forgetting what lies behind
and straining forward to what lies ahead,
I press on
    toward the goal
for the prize
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

                              Philippians 3. 13-14

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