Last weekend, I completed only my third 10 plus mile run in my life. I still had the lasting impression of last year's ten mile run just before my first half marathon. Both were terrible experiences, during which I wished myself dead rather than finish the last mile. My body ached, my hips felt like they might possibly rip completely apart like a wishbone from a thanksgiving turkey, and everything from my knees down had been numb for the last few miles. I anticipated the same kind of experience this time, so I took my time getting started. I "worked the crowd", meandering around making small talk with people, and taking an extra long time stretching. I sort of felt like the older gentleman at my gym, who spends more time stretching ON TOP of the treadmill (which baffles me-aren't there better places to stretch???), than actually using it. All the while, he is wearing his college track team shirt, shorts that are shorter than I would dare to wear, and tall stripy knee socks. For fear of turning into Mr. Elderly track star, I bit the bullet and got started.
I had a plan this time, though. I would take intermittent walk breaks every half mile or so for one minute at a time, and run it slow and steady. I would suck down sport gels in strategic intervals, so that I could keep my electrolytes replenished, and no matter what, I would NOT give in to the "you're weak and frail, and shouldn't even attempt this" thoughts.
I began with my mp3 player on, but oddly, only the Christian music station on Pandora was getting a signal. Fine enough, I could do this without the Black Eyed Peas and Eminem this time...I hoped. But, as I ran and listened to songs with lyrics reminding me of the power and faithfulness of God, I was energized. I ran right through my first three planned walk breaks, and made myself take the next one, feeling as if I was actually holding back. Odd for me, since I normally have to repeatedly remind myself that I am not going to die from lack of oxygen as I clop down the road like a clydesdale, huffing, puffing, and gasping all the way. I actually felt light and full of bounce.
I made it to the 5 mile point, and turned back, stopping to stretch and refill my water bottle. I was asked by someone how I was doing, which made me realize I was actually feeling fantastic. This was turning out to be the best run I had ever completed.
I decided to turn off my mp3 player and listen to the silence. (Silence is rare for my ears, since I have two active, boisterous kiddos under 5, but I thought maybe I should remind my ears of this long forgotten elusive thing called silence ). It was nice, just hearing my footsteps for the next couple of miles.
My goal had been 2 hours and 15 minutes, which would be a stretch for me, since I knew this same distance had taken me almost three hours last year. Beyond that, there was a likely chance that I had put my muscles through so much with all of this running over the last year that they had broken down and been unable to rebuild. Still, I refused to believe that, and set my goal at 2 hours, 15 minutes...firm....sort of. I had a backup goal of 2 hours, 20 minutes, in case I needed it, and then I could still say I met my goal. Goofy, I know.
As I realized that I was now in the last mile of the ten, I looked down at my watch to see that less than 2 hours had passed. I checked again, assuming I had read it incorrectly. There was no way I was going to beat my goal by that much! I looked down again a few minutes later. 2 hours, 5 minutes. What? If I had gotten this much faster, that had to mean that I had gained muscle in my body, and lots of it. I knew that my body had changed throughout the last year, and even firmed up significantly, but I also knew what medical professionals tell me is likely to happen.
Approaching the stoplight that marked the completion of my tenth mile, I began to cry. Huff, puff, step, cry, whisper, "thank you, God", repeat. That is what it sounded like for the last block of my run. I stopped at the corner, lifted my arm and grunted a "Yes!", not even caring that cars were actually stopped at the light, watching me. Tears were coming down my face, and I didn't mind that they thought I had lost my marbles. I was just understanding what was happening in my body- the result of God's miraculous work. My persistence and unwillingness to accept that my muscles will waste away had paid off, and here was my proof.
2 hours, and 7 minutes is what it took for me to complete that ten mile run, and the extraordinary thing is that I did NOT feel like I had been hit by a truck this time. In fact, I went home, walked in the door, and played with my kids the rest of the day. I felt completely bad to the bone! I had come so far in the last year, and am still overwhelmed with gratitude for the miraculous steps of progress I see in my body everyday. This is all quite improbable, except that I believe in the One who makes the improbable Probable!