On a Friday afternoon in June, preparing for the Warrior Dash, I pull on my running togs and head out the door. It is cloudy with no wind, two factors that are definitely in my favor, at least for the short term. In reality, it would be better preparation for the event if it were ninety degrees or so, more like the conditions likely for the race a week from tomorrow. But today, I am grateful for the clouds, cooler temps and the possibility of rain.
After a brief bit of stretching in the kitchen, I head out the door and begin my slow jogging trot down toward the highway. At the mailbox, I turn east and set my pace on the wide graveled shoulder. I have two goals for today: one is to run a full mile without slowing to a walk and the other is to complete this run in thirty minutes. Actually, there is a third goal; I’d like to not be in agony when I finish.
Past Fleek’s Market, I begin choosing targets: the utility pole in the curve, then a road sign, finally the “No Passing” marker. I keep pushing the goal just a bit further but keeping it within determination’s reach. Finally, just beyond the yellow marker, I give in and begin my segment of walking rest.
Absorbed with the running, I barely notice the fields and traffic. Finishing my minute rest, I resume the jog and turn off the highway onto Saratoga and 190th. Just before I get to the top of the first rise, I feel the pain start in my left knee. The same pain that would start sixteen years ago during the downhill parts of our long hikes in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. The same pain after every basketball game since I was thirty years old. Not debilitating, just aggravating.
Alternating walks and jogs, I make my way back to Blair, back past Fleek’s and up to the house. It took thirty-three minutes, not too bad for just under three miles. After icing both knees and changing clothes, I check the distance by driving the truck around my route. As I approach the yellow sign that marks my first rest point, I realize that I have done something that I have not done in forty-one years.
For the first time since my senior basketball season, I have run a mile without stopping. It’s not much for any decent athlete but six weeks ago, I couldn’t jog a quarter-mile without a break. It’s not too surprising that a couple of Bible writers use physical exercise to teach us about spiritual endurance. It’s always the giving in that holds us back, the pushing forward that takes us beyond.