I didn't run the White Rock half marathon yesterday. That one is in December. No, I ran the Heels and Hills half marathon and I finished in two hours, fifty three minutes, and fifty seconds. In other words, I accomplished my goal of running a half marathon in under three hours...seven months ahead of schedule.
I am not posting this to brag or to show everybody what a super athletic person I am. Um, actually, I'm not. I never participated in athletics in high school. My phys ed credits in college included bowling and ballroom dance. I ran a bit here and there during those years but never further than a 5k (3.1 miles). I started running in earnest during law school but was more interested in preserving my ability to lift a twelve ounce longneck and stay thin than in any kind of physical conditioning or competition. The triathlon I finished in 2004 was the only medal-worthy race I had ever competed in and it was immediately followed by a long, long, long break from any kind of physical fitness at all.
I'm posting this accomplishment because I want to tell everyone, including anyone who might just be stopping by from cyberspace, to look at what GOD can do. (Subtitle: Be careful what you pray for because you just might get it.) I prayed to be physically fit and God gave me a burning desire to get off my rotunda and get moving. He put people in my life with the same desires, similar goals, and they inspired me to set bigger, better, crazier goals for myself. He gave me focus and He gave me ability. And He saved me from myself.
Because I have issues. Really big, nasty ones. And one of these is an ability to get an oversized ego in lightning quick time. If I do anything praise-worthy, my first reaction tends to be, "Look what I can do." It's a character defect that I hope one day will be removed from me entirely by the grace of God, but in the meantime maturity and sobriety have at least bought me awareness. I am aware that I have this tendency and that it is a problem. So, anytime I feel the "me" in all of this rearing her ugly head I respond by praying one of the most difficult but also one of the most frequent prayers I pray. "God, please keep me humble."
A word to the wise: Don't pray this prayer unless you really, really mean it. Humility is a quality of Christ-like living and the gateway to gratitude and all other good things, but it is a lesson learned through ego-shattering humiliation and the appearance of defeat. Every time I pray for humility, I cringe a little inwardly and hope He's gentle with me. And normally He is, but He also answers the prayer and does what needs to be done to keep me humble.
I'm not going to list all the ways that He has done me this difficult favor during my months of training because many of them are embarrassing and I frankly don't want to share them. On the lesser side of things, there have been times I set out to do eight miles that I could hardly manage one. Times when I remembered the wheezy, injury prone, weak hipped, non-athlete that I have always been with sudden and alarming clarity. In the week leading up to this race, I faced more physical difficulties than I had in any week since I have begun running again. On the Saturday before the race I was a wreck. I felt like I had a cold, was nauseated, my hip and knee were killing me and I could not get any rest. I knew I couldn't run 13.1 miles the next day, but I wasn't panicked about that. Because I knew through Christ, I could.
I knew God wanted me to run this race. I don't know all the reasons why. I know I've been blessed by it and I hope others will be somehow. But, as with all God things, I don't need to know why. I just knew He did. And if He wants you to do something, you can do it, no matter what. So I got ready Saturday night with all the excitement and anticipation of a race day ahead, ignoring the pain in my leg and my throat. I went to bed Saturday night, prayed that everything would stop hurting by morning, and got some rest, aside from the "Christmas morning" moments of waking up to look at the clock in anticipation.
Sunday morning I woke up feeling fine. Energized. Ready to go. My friends surprised me with a running shirt commemorating my first half and a 13.1 charm for my laces, as well as Team Abby shirts for themselves. We ran, we laughed, I dry-heaved and kept moving. It was hot, humid, hard, humbling and fantastic. At the thirteen mile mark, we sprinted for the finish. Within yards of the finish line, it felt like my legs were going to give way and I was going to do a face plant. I heard my husband's voice yell, "Go, Abby!" and looked over to see my beautiful family and friends watching and cheering for me. Face planting was no longer an option and I pushed and prayed and thanked God that I was really, truly doing this thing. I finished strong... and humble.
Because I didn't run a half marathon by myself. God gave me the strength and desire to train for it. He spared me from injury. But He went above and beyond that. I didn't earn those friends who ran with me and carried me through; God gave them to me. I didn't create an amazing family in my own power; God sent me my husband and He blessed us with these children. He used all of them and this race to show to me less about what I can do than what He can. He wants me to dream big so that He can do even bigger. So that He can push me through 13.1 miles two months after I began training for 3.1 miles. Because His plans for me are so much greater than any plan I might have for myself and His means to accomplish anything are infinite. And that is a wonderful, painless lesson in humility.