From One Small Step to One Giant Leap

I remember my first 5K race back in 2004 in Durham, North Carolina.  The Great Human Race.  It was hard and I didn’t train for it.  I just kind of went out there and said ok, I’m going to go run a race.  Not really knowing what to expect was a bit intimidating. But the thing I found inspiring was the crowds of people who came out to cheer the runners on and that it was ok to not be the fastest person on the course.  I was out there and that was all that mattered.

Today’s guest blogger, my friend Jessica, ran her first 5K on Saturday and here is her story to tell.  I hope it inspires others who have struggled with something in their life.  Maybe it will give you the courage you are seeking to try something you never dreamed you could do!

Guest Blogger:  Jessica Taylor

“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.” Hebrews 12: 1-2.

If you had told me a year ago I ‘d be running a 5K, I’d have laughed at you. I was always one of those people who drove by runners across Memorial Bride or running by my apartment and kind of scoffed at their craziness (from my air conditioned car) but secretly admired them, knowing I could never do that. I could barely walk a few blocks without getting winded. I’d go to my office, pour myself way too much into my work, and come home and veg out on the couch.

Years of eating badly and not taking care of myself caught up with me, and the possibility of a severe medical condition and some scary test results spurred me to make some drastic life changes, including a new diet and exercise regime. Over almost a year, I lost nearly 75 lbs., and while my weight fluctuates a bit and I still want to lose about 20 lbs more, I’m generally healthy now, have a regular exercise routine that includes working out with my trainer twice a week, yoga classes and cross training, and I have a new job that God has greatly blessed me with that allows me to have much more of a balance in my life.

But until a few months ago, I still never would have even tried running. The treadmill intimidated me (what if I fall off? All those people are going faster than me?) and running outside, passing all those really fit and focused people scared me and I was convinced they’d judge me, the running neophyte.

It was my boyfriend, David, who first brought up the idea of us running together or doing something active. We’d only been dating a few weeks at this point and I wasn’t sure we were at the point in our relationship where I wanted him to see me sweaty and huffing and puffing down a running trail. And I was pretty sure I was going to run about a quarter of a mile and pass out. But I feigned a smile, and said “Sure, that sounds like a good idea!”

Our first attempt at running together didn’t go so well in reality. I barely made it a half mile before having to slow down to walk. I got back and was pretty convinced that this wasn’t a good idea. But for some reason, I suggested we go again. And my roommate, Kelley, also encouraged me and one night we went running, I made it the whole way down one trail, about a mile, without needing to stop. Still high on endorphins (and not having the best judgment), I came back and promptly signed up for the Clarendon Day 5K that a bunch of friends from church were planning to run. And then I sat there and realized I had lost my mind.

Training somewhat halted when I had to go on the road to both the Republican and Democratic conventions. I managed to sneak in a few runs, but between eating bad food they forced us to buy within the security confines and averaging about four hours of sleep a night, when I returned, with just two weeks to race day, I wasn’t in the best shape. I started eating healthier again, and somehow, that first mile went a bit easier. The week before the race, David and I managed to run about 2.5 miles at a pretty comfortable pace, and a few days later I did about the same on my own. It wasn’t close to the 3.2 I was going to run that weekend, but I figured adrenaline would kick in and I could run that last bit.

I was looking forward to the race until the morning of, and as my alarm clock went off at 6:15 am (on a Saturday!) I again wondered what I was doing. But once I got with our group some of the excitement returned, but so did the trepidation. My group of friends were all so encouraging and so many people were telling me that yes, I could do this, but as I looked around at the throngs of people at the starting line, they were all so much more fit than me and looked like runners. My only goals for this race were a) to finish and b) to try to make it in under 40 minutes.

The starting gun sounded, and I started at a reasonable pace, about where I’d been training. But then, all these people started passing me. And a woman pushing a stroller zoomed past me. I sped up, thinking “well of course I have to beat these people.” The first leg was downhill, so it was a bit easier and I hit a stride. But then, after what seemed like an eternity, I saw the mile marker…..for Mile 1. How could I just be 1/3 of the way through?! I can’t finish this, my mind immediately thought. Part of me felt like jumping off the course right then and there, already feeling exhaustion setting in.

I kept going though. Some people were shouting encouragement on the sidelines, and I did walk a bit of the way though kept it up running as much as I could. We ran down to the bottom of Rosslyn, and I thought again, I’ve got this, just as I saw Kelley cheering us on from the sidelines. Ok, I thought to myself, just a bit of a turn up here, and then go back and I’m done!

That final “turn” by far seemed like the longest stretch I’ve ever run. By then I’d lost everyone else from our group and I knew I was at the back of the pack. I glanced behind me and there were still a good number of people still running too, but nowhere near the huge numbers now running back toward the finish line who’d already completed the turn. I saw everyone else from the church all making their way back, still running and looking like it was easy to them.

I began to get upset and frustrated in my mind. Why had I let myself do this. I was just embarrassing myself. I should have trained more. Why wasn’t someone helping me, staying behind to run with me?

As I finally turned the corner, my attitude changed. Jessica, I thought to myself, you’ve gone this far — You can make the very end. Think of everyone who has been praying for you and encouraging you. You’ve got to make it to the end. I began to pray, “Lord, just help me get through the end. You know I’ve prepared as best I can and everything I’ve gone through this past year, and how it’s brought me closer to You and made me realize how prideful I was and how I wasn’t relying on You but on myself. Lord, I can only finish this race with your strength and with your goodness.”

As soon as I finished praying, I was nearing the final turn before the spring to the finish line, and I could see everyone gathered on the street corner. They began yelling my name — and then something amazing happened. Kelley ran out into the street and started running with me. And then Kari jumped out too. They both kept cheering me on, and I just burst into tears. But through the fog, I could see the clock at the finish line — 39 minutes. I can do this — I can still finish under my goal. I sprinted as fast as my weakening legs would let me, and as I passed through, I doubled over in a mix of exhaustion and tears as both Kelley and Kari hugged me tightly. I had just finished my first race, run longer than I ever had in my life — and it was still under my goal and under my normal pace.

Jessica is ready to pass the jogging stroller as she approaches the finish line with awesome friends offering encouragement (left to right: Kari, Jessica and Kelley).

God taught me, and is still teaching me so much through my experience. While ultimately the training and the burden to get healthy was on me and took me acting and realizing my sin, I couldn’t have done it without His grace and goodness. I may have felt alone and weak as I was running, but Jesus was right there beside me — and when I turned to Him and asked for HIs help, I was able to fully run the race and finish. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength, reads Philippians 4:13.

But we’re not in this race alone either. It’s only with a community of believers there to help us when we fall or when we’re feeling weak that can truly help us press toward the goal. Kari and Kelley jumping out beside me, letting me know I wasn’t in this by myself, and greeting me with such joy and pride at the end, was such a tangible example of true Biblical community. It’s no coincidence this was my Bible reading this morning.

“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.” Hebrews 12: 1-2.

I’m never going to be an Olympic athlete, and I’m still sore and creaking from pushing my body so far on Saturday. I may run another race, I’m probably never going to run a marathon, and I’m always going to struggle with my weight and my image of myself. But God has made me beautiful. He has given me the strength and ability to do anything through Him — but anything is not of my own doing. We will press through to the goal — but it will be with him and a cloud of witnesses cheering us on, and welcoming us with open arms at the end.

About mileoneandcounting

I'm a young professional living in the Washington, DC area. Since moving here in 2007 I have honed a passion for running and fitness. Growing up I played soccer and softball (and tested track & field for one year). After college I ran a few 5K races, but running was really only a means to staying in shape for me. Never in my wildest imagination had I thought I'd ever run a marathon, let alone three. Nor did I think I'd get the running bug after doing so, but I'll admit I'm hooked! Over the years my blog has grown into so much more than a running blog though. Sometimes I have deep thoughts. Other times I'm simply sharing a training story or a review of a product. Here's the place where you'll learn about me through my many adventures--even I enjoy going back to re-read some posts from time to time. I've also been able to hone my love for health and wellness through my business called IDLife which stands for Individually Designed Life. I'd love to help inspire you to live your best life yet so please don't hesitate to reach out to me and may my words resonate with you. See you on the trails...
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7 Responses to From One Small Step to One Giant Leap

  1. Tim Smith says:

    What a great story! Races are harder for competitive people and even harder still for the competitive that are just pinning on their first bibs! Toward the end of the blog, that runner wall seems to have just hit you hard but congratulations on fighting through it. It takes a whole lot of perseverence to just keep going when you want to stop-especially since the Clarendon race ended up a hill.

    I’m proud of you, keep it up!

  2. Christy says:

    Jess, this is such a great and inspiring account, and I’m so proud of you! However, with all due credit to David, I have to say that I think your real first run was our incredibly humid quarter mile or so early that morning on Cayman Brac! 🙂

  3. Hayley says:

    Congratulations friend! I am so phenomenally proud of you and inspired by all that you have accomplished. I only wish I could have been there to cheer you on. 🙂

  4. Kathy Wilson says:

    Great endurance. Thanks for sharing your story. It has physical and spiritual impact. Love you girl!

  5. Pingback: Reflections: Hebrews 12:1-2 « inside-out church

  6. Lynne Hamlton says:

    Jess, I enjoyed reading your story. Keep up the good work. You are a great example of physical and spiritual endurance. Love ya.

  7. Pingback: 2012 Year In Review | mileoneandcounting

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