The Discipline to Start, The Will to Finish

My friend and I after the race…we look much better than we feel.

I’ve never said so many Hail Mary‘s in my life and I now understand what it is to offer up pain.  I’ve pushed my body beyond its limits(and now I’m paying for it).  I have officially run the half marathon I set out to do 7 months ago.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your support – both monetary and spiritually!

So what did I learn from this?  Training and discipline is everything.  I didn’t pace myself in the beginning of the race and paid for it later on.  I wasn’t as disciplined in my training as I should have been and wasn’t as prepared as I could have been.  A lack of training and discipline makes it that much harder to push through the walls you will inevitably hit when running 13.1 miles.  This is an easily transferable lesson: if you’re not “spiritually fit,” you’ll be unprepared to deal with crises and those times when your faith is shaken.

Looking back on the race, another thing I learned is this: even when you think you’re alone – you’re probably not.  When I was limping towards the finish line, sure I was in dead last, I caught up with one lady who became my personal cheerleader for the last couple of miles.  Then my brother came out of nowhere and jogged beside me as I used the last of my energy to sprint across the finish.  We often don’t recognize the help that God sends us throughout life because get caught up in self-pity over our loneliness and suffering.

Most importantly: suffering makes us stronger and with the right amount of mental willpower, you can go farther than you ever imagined.

My one question: when can I do another one??

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“Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles of the body.” -Lynn Jennings

“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.” -Juma Ikangaa, 1989 NYC Marathon winner

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” -Oprah Winfrey

The “aha” Moment

I think I fell in love with running yesterday.  The first time I went out a few weeks ago I experienced an endorphin rush and felt like I was on top of the world.  Since then, I’ve been dragging my feet and feeling like I want to die.  But yesterday, something clicked or I crossed some threshold.  It was a beautiful day and I felt like I could run forever.  I’m supposed to be doing three minutes running/1 minute walking intervals and I found myself forgetting about the clock and running for longer than three minutes without even noticing.  And then some guy yelled at me from his car asking if I’m on a track team, so that made me feel good…

Anyway, I’ve decided that running is a great life choice and thought about why that’s so.  You know how people always talk about how great exercising is for you, and you just laugh?  Apparently those people are right.  Go figure.  Firstly, running can be extremely meditative and relaxing.  As a chronic worry wart, I need as much meditation and relaxation as I can get.  Secondly, it’s an amazing self-esteem boost to realize that you just ran 3 miles and you’re still standing (can’t wait till I get to 13.1!)  I’m generally hard on myself and tend to focus on the things I do wrong.  Running makes me feel really good about myself for some reason, so it’s definitely helping in that area.  Thirdly, running has no inherent purpose and there is no destination!  This is incredibly liberating.  I’m always planning, trying to accomplish goals and thinking about where I’m going next.  Somehow that all melts away when I’m running.  It’s just me and God, putting one foot in front of the other and paying attention to the ground so I don’t fall…(I’m completely serious about that last part.)

Anyway this got me thinking about “aha” moments like the one I had yesterday.  Sometimes we work really hard at something, like running, and it seems like we’ll never be able to run that half marathon.  Or we keep doing something because we know it’s good for us but we don’t quite understand why yet.  That happens a lot with matters of faith.  There are three levels to learning something: knowledge, understanding and wisdom.  For instance, I’ve been meditating a lot on the love of God lately.  We all know on some level that God loves us, whether we accept that love or not.  I’ve been trying to understand what it really means that God loves us completely and unconditionally.  Then I had an “aha” moment and it clicked.  I was thinking about my motivations for becoming a sister and how important it is that I do it out of free will and a desire to serve others.  Then it clicked: if I don’t become a sister, even though that may be God’s will, he will love me no less.  And that’s when I reached a new level of understanding – God’s love literally does not depend on anything we do.  He loves us simply because we exist.  Nothing I do can make Him love me any more or any less.  Wisdom means discerning what this understanding means for my relationship with God and others; the next level is having the wisdom to let this understanding transform how I act.

Running the Race

As many of you know, I will hopefully be entering the convent in August 2013.  Before then, I need to pay off my student loans, which accumulate to about $25,000.  I figured out that I need to raise about $1,600 per month from now until then to be able to pay them off.  I’ll be launching a whole fundraising campaign (probably over Easter break) so be on the look out for more details on how you can help me out.  Also, I’d love to hear your ideas for creative fundraising.

Anyway, I’ve discovered one of the most popular ways to raise money for entering religious life is running a marathon.  At first I laughed at the idea because I’ve never run a day in my life.  Then I thought about it more and decided it might not be a terrible idea.  I keep saying I want to start exercising and I need a huge dose of discipline in my life – training for a marathon will help me achieve both of these things.  Running can also be meditative and prayerful (although I probably won’t feel that way about it at first).

So, I am stating this here so I can’t back down from it:  On October 13th I will be running in the ING Hartford half marathon.  Info will be up soon on how you can sponsor me.

The bible compares life to running a race several times, so I’m just taking it literally 🙂

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24

“let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” Hebrews 12:1

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

I start training tomorrow so I’ll let you know how it goes!