I ran my first 5k! Okay, let me clarify, I “jogged, trotted, trudged” through my first 5k. Do not get me wrong, I am super proud of myself. I still cannot believe I actually signed up to participate and am over the moon that I finished. But it comes as no surprise that it would not be my athleticism or cardio fitness that would get me through this event.
This crazy idea started at the prompting of my friend Ann. She took on a project in the spring to run a 5k. I was so inspired by her effort that I decided to try it too. I plunged into my training and worked hard to learn how to run one, two and eventually three miles. They are not pretty miles. Unlike the numerous runners/joggers I pass in our town, I pant, wheeze, and fight the pavement for forward movement the entire time. Seriously, I wear headphones to drown out the discouraging sound of my own labored breathing. I get through each mile by repeating to myself, “I must keep moving, no matter how slow, just keep moving.”
I knew committing to the 5K was important, it gave me a set goal and quickened my effort to run farther, but I must admit that if Ann were not with me the morning of the run, I would have got in my car and gone home. Before I knew it we were gathered with the others to begin our journey. My adrenaline was flowing, my heart already racing, when they sounded the start.
This was not Ann’s first 5k. She has worked hard to accomplish being able to run farther and at a good pace. I knew if she were going to run with me, she would need to slow herself down considerably. I told her she did not have to stay with me, I felt bad at first. It did not take long before I realized how grateful I was that she insisted she pace herself with me.
We did not talk during the run, I was too busy breathing and telling myself to keep moving. We exchanged an occasional glance, thumbs up, smile or grimace. It must have been a very lonely time for Ann. I was running faster than usual and trying hard, but one by one other runners passed us by. While I had no expectation of being first or fast, I was surprised at the emotional impact this had on me. In no time at all two women enjoying a pleasant conversation as they jogged, a man running with his dog and alternately running then walking, a woman who had just recovered from a sprained ankle, and numerous others, passed me. “Just keep moving,” I told myself.
When I looked at Ann she would be smiling, never letting on if she worried if I’d make it. Although I knew she could run faster, I never felt like she was dismayed at how slow we had to go. She patiently stayed by my side. When I was too busy trying to breathe and run to pay attention, she would steer me the direction I needed to go, keeping on the course and the appropriate side of the street. As we crested the last horrendous hill, Ann pointed up ahead to the illuminated time clock at the finish line. “Do you see it?” she asked. “You’re almost done.” I was beyond done. Suddenly I had to slow to a walk. The finish line in sight, I just could not get my breathing to cooperate. Ann, slowed to a walk with me for a few yards before we picked back up our pace. I’d like to say I sprinted to the finish…but I can’t. As we approached the finish “shoot” (a cordoned off path which allows only one runner at a time to assure accurate times and placement), Ann graciously allowed me to enter before her, keeping me from being the last one to finish. She did not deserve last place, no one made her do it, she just did it out of her care for me.
What a wonderful earthly example of my heavenly father. You see, like Ann, my God never leaves me. He meets me at my pace and goes with me all the way. He challenges me to keep going, shows me the hope of the finish, and does not give up on me when I am not where he wants me to be. He keeps me on course and safely on the right side of life. Others may pass me, succeed when I fail, but He stays with me still. Though I falter and even slow to a walk, He does not give up on the plans He has for me.
When I told my daughter that I was actually last, I expected her to tease me a bit…but she quickly replied, “Someone has to be last, what matters is you ran.” I’d like to add to that…”What matters is we don’t run alone.”