Where does strength come from?
The other day I was finishing up a “yog,” as Sara and I call them. “Yogs” are runs on those days after really hard workouts when the fatigue is so great from the previous days effort that it reduces us to a humbling snails-paced easy run that is even slower than a “jog,” thus a “yog.” These are the less glamorous days that never make it into any web video. On such days there are many humbling moments when recreational runners of both genders come screaming by me.
From where shall my help come?
Anyways, as I was finishing up my “yog” I was thinking about strength and where it comes from. In the final couple of weeks before the marathon there isn’t much hard training left to do so with the extra energy I train my mind and my spirit. There are lots of different ways I like to train my mind and spirit, one of which is to confront some of the thoughts that I know will come up in my mind during the course of the marathon. I have never run a marathon when I didn’t have a passing negative thought or a thought of doubt when I questioned if I had what it took to get to the finish line successfully. The key for me is being prepared for these thoughts when they come, thus I must train myself how to mentally react when these thoughts come.
The biggest doubt that creeps into my head is, “I don’t have the strength to keep running this fast all the way to the finish line.” To combat this thought I like to think about where my strength comes from so that when I am questioning my strength I can use this negative thought as a que to remember where my strength comes from.
One of my favorite things to do when I am really hurting in a marathon and questioning my strength is to look to the sky. I love this verse in the bible that says,
“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
I find strength when I look to God and I fix my gaze on Him. For me, looking to the sky is my way of looking to God. The sensation I get when I look to God isn’t always a physical surge of power, although it can be at times, but what I always experience is a deep sense of peace that comes over me allowing me to endure the pain. With the peace I am able to relax in the pain and then usually with the relaxing into the pain I find my body starts moving more freely and effortlessly, allowing me to run faster.
The Bible talks about Jesus “enduring the cross for the joy set before Him,” (Hebrews 12:2) which I find very interesting. I am in no way trying to be a scholar here but my simple interpretation of this passage is that Jesus was inspired by the reward He would get as a result of enduring the pain. I try and apply this same line of thinking by thinking about the reward of my suffering. If I know my suffering is going to bring lasting health and wellness to others I find that I can endure far more pain then when I am just focused on the rewards of money, prizes, ect, which is why I run for Steps and why I try and encourage everyone to run for some type of charity. Not only is it good for others when we run with a heart to help others but it is also extremely motivating.
My last thoughts on enduring pain is the importance of remaining thankful, joyful, and excited throughout the race. When I was running the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, for the first half of the race I did a good job of maintaining a thankful, joyful, and excited heart but when things got really hard at the 13 mile mark and the lead group began to split apart as a result of a hard surge I lost my connection with God and as a result, lost my joy, thankfulness, and excitement. Though I did battle to run my very best over the second half of the race it was difficult because my focus shifted off of God and onto results. I was getting lots of negative thoughts and allowed myself to get bummed that I wasn’t in contention to win the race or run a personal best anymore. It says in the Bible that “In His presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). So I am learning to train myself before the race that no matter how hard it gets, or how fast or slow I am running, or how I feel, if I am looking for strength I need only to look to the sky, get into God’s presence, and as a result be filled up with joy, thankfulness, and excitement, then I will be filled with the strength I need to get to the finish line successfully.