Saturday, August 20, 2011

The big, ugly MARATHON

I may have mentioned before that I can be very ambitious, which really translates into me trying to tackle things that are, in reality, over my head. Take for example when I first started this blog and decided that I was going to write every single day. It sure didn't take me long to figure out that blogging daily was a lot more of a time commitment than I had really thought through. Or, how about the time I watched HGTV too much and decided that tiling a back splash would be a piece of cake. 14 hours and many tears later, I decided to stop watching HGTV for a while. The back splash is still not finished. The point is, I love the IDEA of things, but many times, when the rubber meets the road, I wonder "what was I thinking?!"

Recently, I decided that I was going to train for a marathon. I didn't really see this as something overly ambitious. After all, I had run 2 half-marathons, and ran track in high school and cross country in college (sort of. I ran one race, but mostly just worked out with the team.). I was pretty happy with my half-marathon time last year, so I figured, why not run the full?

I signed up for the training class, and things were going pretty well. On our longer 20+ mile runs, I found myself tired, but finishing strong and enjoying myself. I wasn't even sore much. I figured I could run the marathon in about 4 hours, or a 9:08 minute mile average pace. I had run a 8:30 pace for the half, so it seemed do-able. My only setback came about 2 1/2 weeks before the race when I got sick. I was sick for several days before going to the doctor to get some antibiotics. I cut back on my training and tried to rest. It didn't really work.

I was only 6 miles into my marathon on race day when I wanted to stop running and walk. I kept pushing, watching my watch & keeping my pace steady. At the half-way point, I was right on track at 2 hours, but then came "the hill". After that stretch of the race, it was a battle just to keep going. I have never been so tired in my entire life.

Around mile 19 or 20, my husband joined me and ran the last several miles of the race with me. Without him, I doubt I would have finished. He encouraged me to keep going every step of the way, and helped me keep my mind off the pain I was in. I kept looking at my watch, and watched as my mile times slowed down more, and more, and more. I was so disappointed. I finally crossed the finish line, in tears, with a time of 4 hours 28 minutes - almost half an hour slower than my goal time.

Following the race, every time someone asked me how it went, I wanted to change the subject. People kept telling me that it was an accomplishment just to finish, but I didn't feel consoled. I knew I could do better. I had expectations.

I've been thinking a lot about expectations lately. I think it's wonderful to set goals, but expectations can be a little more tricky. Adam & I had a goal to enjoy our first year of marriage before trying to expand our family. I expected to get pregnant instantly. After all, I have gotten pregnant twice without trying, so surely if I tried, I figured it would happen right away. Not the case. And, that's when the disappointment sets in.

So, I find myself wondering how to deal with the disappointment I've been facing lately, and I've learned a few things along the way.

1. Sometimes you have to adjust your expectations.

Runner's World Magazine says to always have multiple goals when running a race: a lofty one, a realistic one, and a goal for when nothing seems to go right. The fact of the matter is that there are things in life that we have no control over. On one hand, we don't want to set our expectations so high that they are unattainable, while on the other hand, we don't want to settle for mediocrity. Finding a balance is challenging.

2. Learn from your disappointments.

Pain always teaches us something - if we let it. Whenever I'm wrestling with something challenging, my mom always encourages me to ask God what He wants me to learn from it.
"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character . . . "

3. Immerse yourself in community

One of the greatest lessons I took away from running the marathon is that we were not meant to do life alone. From the friends that trained with me for months: Alan, Scott, Rod, Ross, Thurston, Carol, Kara (when I could keep up with her for a couple minutes), to the friends who showed up to encourage me along the way: Randy & Darci,(that little poster board meant the world to me), and Nick & Denise who stayed almost 3 hours to watch me finish - all of you helped me get through my race. Finally,I couldn't have made it without my husband. As miserable as I was, I don't think I've ever felt closer to someone in my whole life. Every step of the last 6 miles confirmed that I had married an incredible man. When I told him I couldn't have finished without him, he told me he was just living out his vows to me: "I promise to stand by you when you are feeling strong and to stand by you when you need someone to lean on. I promise to comfort you and encourage you at all times."

I'm so thankful that God gave us other people to walk through the tough times of life with.

4. Remember: this isn't it!

Often, Adam will remind the boys that disappointment helps us remember that we have more to look forward to than life on earth! No matter what disappoints us, we have hope of one day never being disappointed. Paul says "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" ( 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). God's plans are nearly always bigger than we think. The sting of our relatively short-term disappointments in no way compares to the ultimate hope we have in Him.

I love how Rusty Wright sums this all up: "Wonderful things will come our way once Jesus returns to this troubled planet. But even now, God offers compassion, forgiveness, and strength to those who trust in Him. Relationship with Him gives us the great hope that empowers us to face any disappointment.

I'm absolutely sure that I'll have plenty more opportunities to face disappointment. I'm also absolutely sure that no matter what I face, God's grace is enough to carry me through it. Tis so sweet trust in Jesus.