I ran my first race back running on Thanksgiving. When I say “ran,” well…it wasn’t exactly my best race, but there was running and I did the distance and I’m still very proud of it.
This year hasn’t been a normal year in any way and this race was a virtual 5k due to Covid. I ran it with my daughter and our two dogs. Originally, my son was also supposed to run with us, but he’s in the hospital right now. It was hard training for this race with him in and out of the hospital and my daughter away at her high school dorm during most of the training time. I didn’t do many real training runs, instead concentrating on lifting weights and doing indoor cardio. Many days, I was doing good just to do…something. There were so many sleepless nights where when my alarm went off at 5am I wanted to just roll back over, so I felt like getting up for any workout at that time was a huge victory. There were several weeks where those sleepless nights were on a cold cot in my son’s room, only half-sleeping as I listened to the sound of him sleeping.
And yet…and yet…I still laced up my shoes on Thanksgiving as planned.
I didn’t have to. I’d already donated our entrance fees to the charity the race benefitted, so they gained nothing from me running. My daughter wasn’t thrilled at first about the idea of going out and running before turkey time. It was cold and windy and gray. I’d already done a weight workout earlier that morning, so I had the perfect excuse to skip it.
But…I’d promised myself I would do this race and that it would be my first 5k back to running.
Still, we bundled up and headed out and hit the sidewalks. It was a difficult run. My shins, feet, and ankles had lost their resiliency that I’d picked up when we all first started training. My daughter struggled to keep up and I chose to drop my pace to match hers…I didn’t want this to ruin Thanksgiving…we already had a table with an empty chair to come home to. We slowly but surely made our way across streets, the dogs always a lot more enthusiastic to go faster.
But we didn’t stop. We didn’t give up or give in and we didn’t stand still until we’d done 3.1 miles and then we walked home, a little more cheerful than when we set out.
And I looked at my daughter and our dogs and I thought about how often in life I have every reason to give up or give in, every reasonable excuse right there…and I have a choice to make. Whether it’s at work fighting my way through a complicated task I’ve never done before, at home, finding the will to put up my Chanukah decorations in a year that feels anything but bright, or with my loved ones, always looking for hope that better health is just a turn in the road away…there is always the choice to keep pressing on or to give in to the temptation to be satisfied with something less than my all.
There is a feeling that I have when I know I’ve given all that I had, whether it’s at the end of a project full of long nights and complex solutions or a workout where my muscles have reached the point that they plain out no longer work…or when I’ve set aside my own fears and feelings to embrace someone I love and put their needs first. That feeling is one that fills me completely and is better than anyone’s praise or admiration. Only I know when I’ve held nothing back and given my all. Only I know when there’s nothing left behind. That feeling is clean and honest and deeply satisfying and I wipe my brow and rest without any tossing or turning.
Even if no one else notices, like a race run without a cheering crowd or finish line, just a tracking watch and us and the wind, I know. The One who made me knows. Somehow, it’s almost more special when it is just between me and Him, like it has more power in the fact that there is no human praise I worked for, just that knowing that I did my best. A secret gift sometimes is more special.
I’m sharing this because this year, each of us is running a race like this in our own unique ways. Each of us is alone without a crowd cheering us on and life is throwing us so many reasons to give less than our all…good reasonable reasons that no one would fault us for. And yet…I know so many other people who are also still moving forward, even if they feel like they’re crawling. I see so many other people in my life who can’t see the finish line yet for the things that they’re struggling with, but they’re not giving up.
And I believe that there is a reward for all of this, even if it is just that feeling that we may get when we know we gave our best and held nothing back.
So yeah…I’m still proud of finishing 161st in my age group…because I finished and sometimes that in itself is a HUGE accomplishment.
And I see so many others out there, still working to finish what they’ve started and I’m virtually cheering you on.