A few years ago I completed my first—and only to date—half marathon. Weeks before I was to run, I’d suffered from foot pain that came to visit out of nowhere. I’d gone to a podiatrist who informed me that I should not run. After paying a hefty entrance fee, there was no way I was going to back out of running. It wasn’t just about the money. I needed to run that race to prove something to myself. To prove I was a fighter, that I wouldn’t let anything stop me from accomplishing my goals despite the odds against me. No back injury nor foot injury was going to stop me.
Everything changed the moment my feet crossed the start line. As everyone blasted through the start, I knew there was no turning back, but I wondered, “What did I get myself into?” People were slightly nudging one another out of the way in search for space to move more freely. My feet shuffled to find the right footing and once they did, I moved them too fast. I was determined to stay within the 16:45-pace given. There was no way anyone was going to pull me from the course. So I ran, practically sprinted.
Two miles in, I knew I was in for trouble. My feet slowed from a run to a job to a fast walk. I began feeling defeated. The optimism I began the race with slowly began to deplete with each step I took. People from all ages and sizes began to pass me by. As they did, I began comparing myself to them: She’s two-times bigger than me and just ran past me. He’s old enough to be my grandfather and doesn’t look a bit winded.
I assessed them instead of looking at myself.
I was not about to let those people pass me. I was younger. I was lighter. I was determined. But so were they. They had a race to run just as I had. So why was I allowing their journey to affect my own? Why was I allowing their determination to deplete me of my own? They weren’t running in judgement of me. They were simply trying to run their own race long enough to pass the finish line. Shouldn’t I do the same?
When I took my eyes off of my race, I started to lose hope and sight of why I was running to begin with.
“Focus, Julia. Focus,” I told myself. I only needed to worry about putting my right foot in front of my left and my left foot in front of my right. Over and over again. I needed to control my breathing. I needed to take back control of my race. I needed to take back control of my life.
As I began to focus on the very reasons why I registered for the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon to begin with, I noticed everyone around me disappeared. It was just me and my footsteps. I listened to my music, let me feet hit the pavement with a renewed fervor, and I enjoyed the strides I made in the race and in life. I would triumph. It was in that back and forth process of racing that I had to remind myself: It doesn’t matter how you get there or how you finish, but that you get there, Julia, and you finish. There was no one else running in my shoes. It was me and God. And if I kept my feet moving, I would eventually cross that finish line. And cross that line I did.
What that race taught me was that no matter what odds are set before me, as long as I don’t lose sight of me, I will come out all right. If I only focus on the steps I am taking right now, I will survive. I will cross the finish line. I will win the race—because it is my race and mine only. That race would apply to any dream or goal set before me. My journey is my journey. No one can step into my shoes and run the race that I can nor will they be able to run it for me. My struggles are my struggles; my story is my story. And despite those on the same journey, none of our results will be the same. Each of us has to run our own race to be able to tell our own story. To have our own experiences. To learn our own lessons. Those are the very things that will carry us to the finish line and cross it victoriously.
Word to the Wise: “I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. My friends, I don’t feel I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you. But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed” (Philippians 3:12-16 CEVUS06).