The sky was grey, the air warm, and the atmosphere thick with rain in the near future.
I vividly remember the first 5K race I ever took part in. My ex-wife’s father was an avid runner; we’re talking about the distances such as half-marathon and marathon. At this point in life those were distances that made zero logical sense to my own cerebral cortex. Why would someone want to run that far? Why would anyone want to run, period?
The course, my first 5K, took place along the bluffs of the Missouri River in the state capital of Jefferson City, Missouri. Though it had been advertised as a ‘novice course’, it became clear along the steep grades that this course may be more towards the individuals of the…professional level.
It was a horrible experience. I walked nearly half of that course, and I remember the frustration of thinking how this family would judge, how I couldn’t catch up to the guy whose daughter I was in love with, how I was once a joke of a runner and that I would always be that joke of a runner.
I had dry heaves following this event.
My first 5K, in the rain, with a balmy time around 52:00.00.
The purpose of the story-within-a-story was to lay the framework of a tragic beginning relationship with an adventure that I would have never been able to predict. For the past 90 days I’ve been focused on one specific goal with training and health; running 3.1 miles (a 5K) under 20:00.00. The one consistency, whether at the gym, on the trail, or the road is that I log right at 30 miles of movement per week. I needed to create a base of mileage from which I could begin to focus on specific areas of improvement (speed, cardio, stance, etc…). Today was the 90th day of this project.
Today, at approximately 5:00 PM CST, I strapped on my shoes, running shorts, technical shirt, and took off for what I thought was going to be a brisk 6.2 miles.
I had no clue what was about to follow…
Mental Conversation: Turn right at the top of the street; go through the intersection. Stretch out the legs to get a feel for the asphalt. Breathing is relaxed, calm, and the strides are in line. No overpronation noted, not running on the sides of the feet. Keep the breathing calm. Focus. Music. Look for dogs briefly. Fix shorts. Turn right at the T-intersection, take a sharp right out onto the highway. Little traffic, hit the hill. Calm down at the peak and stretch out on the flat. The cows are running with me on the side of the road. Wave to cows. I think I started too fast. I’m moving too fast at the moment. No time to recover, keep stretching out the legs. Push up the incline. Feel the potential side stitch. Deep breath, raise the whole body with each breath. Corner is up ahead. Keep pulling through with long strides. Weather is nice. Wind is from the south. Sun feels nice. Gear feels good. Up the hill and turn right. Look for cars. Keep right, dodge left when able to see downhill. Let loose. Stop resisting downhill and let your body catch you. Pick up speed. Keep the momentum, stretch up the hill. Hamstrings are fine. No tightness, no tension. Keep breathing. Keep moving. Keep breathing. Pull farther up the hill. Hit the sign. Hit the sign, stop the clock. Hit the sign, 3.1 is met. Hit the sign, stop the clock. Embrace a 25:00.00-26:00.00 3.1 with success. That is success after a long week. Look at your watch. Glance down at your watch. No 26. No 25. No 20. 19:10. 19:10? 19:10!
I have a goal. There is a specific race in a few months that I want to win; literally win. I doubt I can, to be truthful, but then again I never thought that I’d ever be in this position in my life. In six years of chaos, change, and ongoing struggles I’ve shaved off over thirty minutes from that first 5K on that rainy day.
God is so good for allowing me to move my legs every day in this crazy life. So many things I could look into the future from my past self and not be overly surprised of taking place, but running? The concept of muscle movement in a form of worship to God is something that I would have never imagined.
I hope that this is only the beginning of something incredibly beautiful.