Sunday, January 29, 2012

Keep Running

Seven weeks ago today, I was sitting in church, listening to the pastor speak about how God uses unlikely people to do amazing things. You can see it all throughout the Bible--the young David defeating the giant Goliath, Abraham and Sarah giving birth to a nation in their old age. Often, the more unlikely the person, the greater the victory for God. Where we are weak, he shows his strength "so that no man can boast". It cannot be the person, it must be God. So it got me thinking, what am I highly unlikely to do?

Something came to mind instantly: run a marathon.

Huh? What?

I am the least likely person to ever run a marathon. In sixth grade, I could barely run a mile. If I ever exert myself, I get this knife in the throat sensation, something I've always self-diagnosed as exercise-induced asthma. This has been my limitation my whole life. There are runners and there is me. The two do not mix.

I talked this over with God and he assured me I can trust him. I do trust him, so I said okay. I cannot do this, but if you want me to, You can. I downloaded a document from Fitness Magazine on how to train for a half-marathon in 8 weeks for beginners. It said if you can run two miles, you can do this.

I'd never run two miles in my nearly four decades of life.

That day, I set out on a painful journey where I had to pray for every step, pray for the breath, for the pain in my throat to go away. I felt things jiggling in places I never knew existed. It was excruciating. It was elating, because God brought me through. I told him, "I will take the steps if you will meet me." And he did. When I completed 2 miles in 30 minutes (that's 2 15-minute miles), he said, "You can do this. I got you." And I began my training the next day.

I have been faithful to take the steps. I have woken up at 5 AM and run in the dark just to get my run in before I had to hop on a  plane. I have blessed the houses I passed, prayed for the people I passed. I have been blessed with an old woman on a walker who told me to Keep Running. I have been blessed with people who have prayed for my runs because as I tell them, I am not a runner, but God is. I've never experienced such an amazing growth in faith by learning endurance and learning to pray for every step.

My family used to laugh at my running style, arms rigid so I wouldn't get cramps. If you see me now, you might watch a left hand raise in praise as I am blown away by his faithfulness to me. He has healed my "exercise induced asthma." He has taught me how to breathe. He has taught me self-discipline. When I run, I ask him to take captive my lungs, my heart, my legs, my mind, and he does. It is an awesome ride. Some days are very difficult still, but I am faithful to meet him on the road because he is faithful.

To make matters more interesting, for the past three weeks of my training, I have been fasting. Normally, I would not mention this private matter, but for these purposes, it illuminates how totally awesome God's work has been. Yes, I gave up caffeine and had to run on water only. I gave up seafood (I don't eat meat), dairy and breads and pastas and wine and all sweets and sweeteners. When I was out of town and all that was served was barbecue, I had to survive on a bag of peanuts, and He ran 8 miles with my body that weekend  in Jefferson, TX. Can you imagine how my faith has grown? In doing the Daniel fast, I felt a bit like Daniel. No, I don't need to eat what the king eats, feed us fruits and vegetables and our God will show up and give us strength.

And boy, has he.

I am not a special person, no more special than you. But I have learned that God wants to do great things though me. And He wants to do them through you, too. He wants us to draw closer to him. He wants us to thirst only for him. When I run, he is my water, he is my bread. I would not trade these hard 7 weeks, running and walking anywhere from 8-28 miles per week, for anything.

Yesterday, after training for 7 weeks, I ran my first race - 9.4 miles (15K) in the Charlie Post run on Sullivan's Island. I won't go into all the details here, but let me just say that not only did I run that race, but God gave me a running companion I would have never guessed as well -my sister-in-law, Megan. Her plan was to run, walk, run, walk her way to the finish line, and when she caught up to me in the third mile, she stayed with me and my pacing and ran the whole way. I prayed for her the whole way and I was witness to her amazement as she passed each mile marker. We encouraged each other and praised God mile after mile. And though we came in almost last, we finished that race together at a 12:30-mile pace.

This is only the first race, God-willing, and hopefully a half-marathon is in my very near future. After that, who knows?

I am learning endurance. I am learning that God will put people in my path at just the right time to encourage me and keep me going in the right direction. I am learning that in running by Him, for Him, through Him, and to His glory, I am running a miracle.

And I believe in miracles. I have seen many in my lifetime. And I needed to share this with you, for you see, I am still not a runner, but He is. Through me.

Now tell me, seriously, what are you highly unlikely to do that you have always admired in others but was simply impossible for you? Dare you talk it over with God? It might be an interesting and life-changing journey to begin. God speed.


Chris Jager - Baker Book House-fiction buyer said...

Dear Nicole,
Congratulations and welcome to the running world. I have a love hate relationship with running. I hate running but love the feeling after being done. My 2 daughters and I finished our first 1/2 marathon in Sept of '11 and are planning our second in Nov in Kitty Hawk NC this fall.
I love your idea of blessing the houses and people you see. Awesome, it is something I am going to try. I usually am praying that I survive the trip. (lol)
Thank you for sharing.
Prayers and Blessings.
P.S. Can't wait to read your newest book. :-)

Susan Cushman said...

This is awesome, Nicole. My father was a marathon runner... did all the big ones--New York, Boston, even a triathalon... all after age 50. I've never been a runner (bad knees from years of teaching high impact aerobics on bad floors) but I'm considering what I'm most unlikely to do now, thanks to your wonderful story!

Michael said...


Very inspirational story. For years I ran at least 50 miles a week and I really miss it.

But giving up caffeine... You are crazy! (Just kidding).

Can't wait to read more about this journey you have taken up.

-Michael Hartman

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your post. There is one thing I have always admired in other people and that is their writing ability. I have always wanted to write and I believe I have some encouragers in my life that God has placed there. I am going to try this as you have tried running.
I also like the verse you used about Daniel. I have been teaching that to the children in my nursery class at church. The theme is "Be Healthy". It is wonderful how God uses a Sunday School lesson right when you need it. I am trying to lose weight and I was encouraged by that verse.
thanks again. Keep running

Shellie Tomlinson said...

GO NICOLE! Knowing the story of your marathon challenge before reading this post, I hung on every word as I began devouring this post, fully expecting to see and hear the Father and the strength of Jesus in your words. I wasn't disappointed. Thank you for letting us see God in you today. Shall be asking Father what is it I can't do that He wants to! :) Love you!

ShaRon Leaf said...

Your story brings back memories of my running days and all of the emotions I experienced. I was in my 30's when I ran my half marathon with my 54-year-old friend. I wrote a book "Lady and the Road" comparing our spiritual race with our physical race. You have challenged me to have this story published to encourage others to run the race that is set before them. You go, girl! I'm so proud of you. I'm here to root you on!

sarahsmithstorm said...

Thank you so much for the opportunity to read your book " Beyond Molasses Creek". While it wasn't my cup of tea, I know that many others enjoyed it! Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post and also receiving my criticism graciously! I can't imagine what that is like as an author. Congrats on running! I look forward to reading another book from you soon!! Blessings, Sarah

Paula said...

Powerful story! Thank you.