Summer was over and I was entering the seventh grade, determined to try out for our school’s volleyball team. At 3:10 pm, the last bell rang and I nervously made my way to the gym. Out of nowhere, my hilarious friend, Janie, came running toward me, pleading between gasps of air, “You’ve GOT to run cross-country! Come on! It’ll be so much fun!” I was torn. Here, I had been mentally preparing to try out for volleyball, a sport more familiar to me. I liked to run but had never considered cross-country. The cautious, level-headed part of me screamed “No! Don’t do it! You don’t know what you’re getting into!” But the spontaneous part of me thought that running with fun Janie would be worth all of the unknowns. So, I walked away from the gym, toward the cross-country meeting room. And never looked back.An adventure it was indeed. For the next six years, I ran cross-country. (Ironically, Janie only ran cross-country that year; she played volleyball for the remainder of our sports careers.) So, Janie, if you’re reading this: THANK YOU. Your invitation worked. And without those years of cross-country, I’m not sure I would have learned a lesson in the way I needed to learn it. And that lesson is: keep going.
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been struggling lately. There’s a lot going on in my heart and life. Overwhelmed by the adoption process. Elated for the addition who will join our home (hopefully) soon. Guilt for knowing how this wonderful new baby will change our lives. Tired from too many late nights and too many early mornings. Discouraged by the state of our country, our world. Hurting for family and friends. And let’s be honest, hurting personally for various reasons that I’m just not ready to blog about right now. And all of these emotions have brought me to tears. I’ve just wanted to just sit down and cry and not get up until these storms pass. But that’s just not realistic. The dark clouds will always come. They’re part of life.
Don’t get me wrong. Crying is a normal human response. Crying is necessary, cathartic. But I don’t want to stay there. I want to keep going. I need to keep going. And that’s what running has taught me. My cross-country coach used to preach to all of us, in his Kermit-the-Frog voice, “I don’t care how slow you go. But never, ever, ever stop.” Good advice.
Like many runners, I tend to think of meaningful mantras to help me time my breathing with my pace. For all of the races I’ve run, the one mantra that is drilled into my head is, you guessed it: KEEP GOING. I would time those two words with my breathing and my steps until there was this beautiful, synchronized sound of my feet pounding pavement, my lungs pumping air, and my mind chanting truth.
These days, I haven’t been running as much. Mostly because this spring season has been unusually cold and I hate, nay LOATHE, running in the cold. I do work out indoors but it’s just not the same. I miss the rhythm of my feet pounding, my lungs pumping, my mind chanting. I miss the constant physical reminder to keep going. And Lord knows, this is one piece of advice that I need to hang on to right now.