Running Reflections

“Lord, You are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1

For those of you who don’t know me, I was obese most of my life. After the birth of my second son, I desired to get healthy and completed a Bible study called “Breaking Free.” For the first time ever, I believed that God could change me and make me healthy and thin for His glory! I began taking walks around our neighborhood pushing a double stroller. I was huffing and puffing just getting around one block!

Valerie KidsThis picture is of me with my first son, before getting pregnant with the second. The other three little girls pictured are my nieces (one of which you’ll see pictured below).

But, I lost some weight and eventually began running. I live near a path that goes to a park, and it’s just over three miles to go up and back without adding half-mile loops at the park itself. I didn’t time myself, I didn’t run with music, I just ran and enjoyed the outdoors and the exercise. I’m sure I wasn’t fast, but I felt GREAT! I also did some exercise videos while my kids napped. I will say that losing weight is 80% diet and 20% exercise, but it is the combination. More than that, it’s the changing of habits and it’s the will and determination that come only from God transforming our heart and mind. Truly, I was lost before laying my desires at His feet. I start my day with reading His Word and I pray.Before AfterThis picture shows the difference of me six years or so ago to last year. All glory to God!

I got pregnant with my third son and quit. I ate like it was the last time I would ever see food. And I gained 60 of the 80 lbs I had lost back. But, about sixish months after giving birth, we joined the local gym with childcare. I huffed and puffed through the low-impact classes designed more for older folks. I could barely keep up! But, I challenged myself. When they became easy, I tried new classes. I remember going to a class called “Body Attack” and I was by far the fattest person in the room. But I tried my best! I remember taking the low-impact options and still feeling like I was going to die before the eighth track even started. But I tried my best and kept with it. I LOVED it!

I ran only when the weather was nice before, but then I would run occasionally on the treadmill at the gym after BodyPump. I could only run for about 20 minutes before feeling like I had to quit. But, I did my best.

I was invited to join the LMRTT group. I ran my first 5K on June 22, 2013 (just last year!). I knew I could run the distance, but I had never ever even gone to a race before. I was so nervous the night before that I didn’t sleep a wink. I finally told myself that my race entry fee was a donation to my favorite organization and I wasn’t going. I felt calmer then. But, my husband suggested I go. My devotions that morning included this verse: “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights” Habakkuk 3:19. The race was close to home and for a good cause, so I went. I saw some friends there, and I had a GREAT time! And my time was 24:41.63 – something I wouldn’t have dreamed I would hit! My goal was to finish in 30 minutes.

19908_10151765584313755_119312155_nIn August, friends of mine from the gym were running 11 miles, training for a half marathon. I had never run more than four miles before, but I said yes to going along. They said they were taking breaks and I was in much better shape by then – probably the best shape of my life up to that point. I was SO sore afterward, but I did it! I also lost two toe nails in the process (eventually I bought some sneakers a half size bigger, and I also made sure my toe nails were nice and short when running).

I ran with these same two sweet girls again when they were going the whole way to 13.1. I just wanted to see if I could. Again, I was sore, but I made it! And so when a bib came available at the last minute (about a week and a half prior to the race) for the Hershey Half Marathon, I bought it. My goal was just to finish, as I hadn’t done any training. I completed it in 2:04:41.Cropped Medal Photo

That December, I bought my first cold weather gear for running outside even in nasty weather. (I’ve also learned all about the need for Body Glide, what are some good brands and not good brands of running socks and other vital information along the way!) I met some new Mama friends Christmas Eve and ran six jolly miles wearing festive apparel. My Mom bought me a Garmin 110 for Christmas and I was thrilled!1524261_10152187202428755_1510076210_oThen some gals that are part of LMRTT started talking about a full marathon. I didn’t even consider it at first, but then I began to think of the verse in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Could I – someone who’s lost over 100 lbs – finish 26.2 miles? I wasn’t sure, but I decided to sign up. My husband and I made a little bet to help us continue losing weight. If I could reach 5 lbs gone by the date, I could pay the entry fee. We would consider it “throw away” money if I didn’t finish. Even then, I didn’t think I could actually finish it. But, I didn’t want to lose the spot if I could finish the training!

I had researched training plans and read books on marathons. I finalized my decisions and got my training plan in order and marked the dates on the calendar. There was one long run, one tempo run, and one speed work run per week and then cross training. I still loved my other classes and workouts, so this fit perfectly in with my life. The training calculator asked for a race that I’d completed, so I used my one and only 5K time to get my paces. They were challenging at first but not impossible to complete, so I figured I was right where I needed to be.

My first long run was outside by myself, after it had snowed. I ran nine miles in my new cold gear and felt like I was hardcore! I was sore and screamed during the ice bath afterward – that’s cold after a cold run!Me7Another run I distinctly remember doing was in 18 degrees with wind chills in the single digits. The sweat in our hair literally turned it white from frost. Erika Roseanne MeAnd my eyelashes were white, which I realized was them freezing!!!Frozen Hair

My hair turning white with frost as I would sweat! Freezing cold doesn’t even begin to describe the temps of most of our training runs!

The next week there was such a bad snow storm that we decided to do the 13.1 miles we had to run on the DREADMILL!!!! It was downright awful! I will never do that again, BUT I was thankful to finish it with a new friend I had met through LMRTT, Erika.Run1This is where I should stop and say that I’ve met some wonderful other running women along this journey!10003299_10152392148053755_45153466_nI signed up for another half marathon half way through my training plan simply to have a “girls weekend.” It was the Love Run Half Marathon in Philly, and I ran the entire thing with my friend Erika. We both beat our Hershey times! Our goal was to be under two hours and even with the literal monsoon (I mean record rainfall – downpour doesn’t begin to describe how WET and COLD this race was in Philly), we came in at 1:57:50.Erika Me DONEMy friend Erika was running her full marathon a month earlier than me, and praise God, I was able to convince another Mama from the group, Crissy, to sign up for the Bob Potts Marathon. So, I had a running buddy as the long runs became really loooooonnnggg.

This photo below includes a couple of the moms running this race and other moms from the LMRTT group. Unfortunately, Crissy wasn’t able to be there that day. And we haven’t grabbed any pictures on our runs, but I’m hoping we get one at the marathon itself!10168136_10152397350913665_2500270781727004067_nAnother memorable run was a solo 10-mile tempo one on a nearby trail, where I jumped over this snake! I was almost on top of him until I saw him. YIKES!!!603647_10152424869708755_2126084682494160566_nThe first time I went to run 16 miles, I was only able to complete just under 14 until I quit because my right leg was so sore. I cried the whole way home and told my husband it was time to quit. He encouraged me to wait until the next long run to make my official decision.

Then a short sermon-ette came on the radio (how I wish I would have listened closer to hear who it was to give them proper credit!). The message was on perseverance. The speaker said our society is full of quitters. If we don’t like a job, we quit. We drop out of college, etc. And today so many times when marriages get tough, we simply walk away rather than sticking with our commitments. I think the sermon was probably about marriage, but my mind was reeling. Indeed, I have quit most things I didn’t care for. When it got tough, if I wasn’t loving it, I stopped. If I wasn’t good at it, I would move on to something else. Not too long after hearing this on the radio, mMe Racingy kids dug out a DVD that we hadn’t seen in a long time (you know the ones at the back of the shelf). One of the short segments from this “Auto B. Good” DVD was on perseverance and how it’s important to keep trying and never give up. Again, I felt like God was speaking to me. I had signed up for this race; I should keep trying at least! I felt in my spirit like I was to keep going with this commitment I made. So, I told my husband Shawn that I was going to try and stick with it to the end.

With new-found determination, I had a great 16-mile run. Then 18-miles was another hard one (while I finished, I had to walk a small part of it and was so sore!) Again, I decided it wasn’t a good choice to keep trying. But, I prayed and asked God for strength and courage, and this time I asked some friends to pray for me as well, and our 20-mile test drive of the course went great!1 Me FaithLast weekend I ran the GOTR 5K with my niece and I wasn’t nervous for the race, other than knowing she can be a sprinter at times which is hard to keep up with. I was glad to encourage her and finish my second 5K.

Other than the race, most of my runs since the 20-miler have been pretty awful. I know that tapering is tough mentally and physically. My right leg is so sore I can barely stand it – my calf, Achilles and all around my ankle and heel are ungodly painful. I have potty issues during most runs (TMI?) and I’m still not sure what I want to wear to race day because the skirt that looks so adorable requires an additional application of Body Glide for my skin not to chafe.

But, today was a new day of thankfulness for me. I finished the entire 18-week calendar of training. Never before had I stuck with something so intense. Even if the marathon doesn’t go well, I’ve at least done my best in each and every run. I haven’t always gone the entire distance or kept to the required pace. But I’ve always given it my all.

I looked at my training log (my New Year’s Resolution for 2014), and as of today – May 22, 2014 – for this calendar year as I’ve been preparing for this marathon, I’ve run 413.39 miles, logged 46 hours of additional cardio cross-training (whether biking or classes like Body Attack or Step), and completed an additional 41 hours of strength and flexibility training (classes like Pump, CXWORX and BodyFlow or Yoga).

3Me

Even with my training and being in the best shape of my life, if I’m being completely honest, I’m still terrified for the marathon. Even that is an understatement. I have no idea if I can finish 26.2 miles. In fact, I’m pretty sure that on my own in my own strength, I can’t. That’s a long time to be going and giving your best. I’ve had to quit running four miles due to pain or just not being able to get there mentally.

But, I’ve had so many people praying for me and encouraging me that I believe that through God, all things are possible. I still believe that nothing is too difficult for Him! When I look back over my journey, I remember being the girl who was obese most of her life, even getting married when I weighed over 60 more lbs than I do today. (I’ve lost over 100 lbs from my heaviest weight ever!) For that girl to even sign up for a marathon on the off-chance she could finish it is something. To complete the training is amazing!

1545164_10202980502046574_7425368994317317358_nThe above picture was taken by LMRTT member Jen Eby as she was completing her marathon training. She shared it on my wall, and I absolutely love it!

May I also say that God has been faithful! I haven’t been so sick that I couldn’t run. I’ve also had friends to run with. I have a husband who doesn’t really ‘get’ running (where’s the ball? you’re not being chased? why would you pay to run?) and yet encourages me to be my best and do my best. I have people who are even willing to come and see my finish this race – which is craziness as it will be as fun as waiting for water to boil (or worse!) on a hot day. And this race starts at 6 am!

Plus, the encouragement and prayers overwhelm me! The Bible verses that have been shared are close to my heart. In addition to the one above, a couple other favorites include:

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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…”

1 Chronicles 5:20, “They cried out to God during the battle, and He answered their prayers because they trusted in Him…”

There are more I could share, but I realize this post is getting long already!

All that said, I am determined to try my best. I’m giving it to God. So long as I finish, I’ll have a PR in a marathon! And I’ll share the end of the story…

Ladies, even if you’re just starting to run, keep going. No matter what your pace or what your distance, you are doing great! Praise God that you have lungs to breathe and legs to carry you! I don’t take either one for granted! I cheer on those who are faster than me and those who are slower. I can’t keep up with either faster or slower very well, BUT I can cheer you on. When I see someone running, I always pray for breath and perseverance. We are all on our own journey – may you finish yours well!

 “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

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