red leaf and running shoe

The Second Mile

Reflections from a Reluctant Runner

What challenge are you facing today and who’s joining you?

I am not a runner out of strong desire or natural talent. It’s work. I like to eat, so it’s an effective calorie burner. I’ve succeeded with jogging fairly well in the past…mainly because I had a posse of friends also in the novice stages of running. We leaned on each other hard, taking turns whining and combatting each others’ excuses (“too hot,” “too cold,” “too windy,” “too early,” “too tired”…you get the gist).

running shoes-getting started

Let’s face it. Getting out of the door in the morning, preparing to go for a run, can be a monumental struggle. Drama before breakfast can undo even the most committed. Once the kiddos have left for school, the lure of a quiet house is strong. The distractions of the to-do lists are daunting, the need “to get started” pulls hard. Unexpected delays crash in…phone calls, sick kids, the beloved family dog takes off running after a squirrel…sometimes these are, ahem, welcome distractions because the gumption just doesn’t feel like it’s there.

running shoesThen, if you’ve conquered the getting-out-of-the-house juggernaut, you face the first mile. Sometimes the morning air is crisp and welcomes you, but often the weather doesn’t cooperate or you’re still functioning too much on autopilot to take notice. That first mile is tough. You’re working out the kinks, trying to manage some gulping breaths, feeling ALL the aches of the day before. Thoughts such as “WHY am I doing this to myself?” or “I am NOT a runner. I can’t do this” rage freely. Where’s the traffic cop for negative self-talk when you need her most?

Its the second mile, though, that I begin to settle in. My body is looser, my breathing is leveling out, and I exhale heavily, letting the stress out. The second mile is when I tune in to the nature around me, tapping into my surroundings and noticing the activity around me. This is when my thoughts begin to take shape, to follow a thread…often it’s replaying something from the day before; more frequently it’s focusing on what’s on the horizon, the perpetual “nexts” that are always hovering. Some days I’m more capable of directing my thoughts in a productive way, but generally I let them float. God surprises me in the simple solutions He provides when I allow my mind to wander, to connect with the still, small voice often muffled by the jumble of noise in my head. He answers unspoken prayers and reveals insights in these moments of the second mile. I wouldn’t have received them or responded to them if I hadn’t persevered through that first mile.

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… ” Hebrews 12:1-2

red leaf and running shoeIronically, we always have to plod our way through that first mile to get to the second. We have to put in the effort to get the result. When we do, there awaits a stillness in our spirit, an attunement of mind and body working together. We are His workmanship. God knows we face this struggle and perhaps the Second Mile is His gift to us for striving and persevering. For hurdling through the first mile of homework with our children to reach that “ah-ha” moment in their second round. For calming the tantruming toddler to be able to enjoy the sweetness of an impromptu snuggle later. So let’s bask in the “glow” of the Second Mile for a bit…because I don’t really want to rush to Mile Three just yet.