Life hits us with setbacks. Oftentimes we encounter moments of discouragement and frustration. In those moments when we’re down, when we’re out. We need faith. We need to have faith that the difficulties we experience are not forever. We need to have faith that our current difficulties have meaning. We need to have faith that some good come come out of trying times.
When I consider my experience as a runner, this is absolutely the case. There have been far more discouraging days than good day. Just to list a few of those low points.
In my first season of track I could barely run a mile.
I finished dead last in my first cross-country race.
At track state I sprained my ankle during the 4x800 relay, ran the slowest time of my high school career.
I’ve had three stress fractures.
I wasn’t fast enough to make my college team.
When I took over the running club at my college there days no one showed up to practice except for me.
There were many days it would have been reasonable to have given up. But to give up would have been saying those setbacks, failures, and struggles didn’t have meaning. That meaning may have been hard to see in the moment. But in retrospect I’ve come to realize that every failure had a valuable lesson, every set back was an opportunity, and every struggle led to a breakthrough.
I’m writing this as I head into the final months of training for the Chicago marathon. The past few months have been filled with many training sessions where I’ve seen how far I’ve come. When I began running I never could have imagined running 2+ hours non-stop. When I had my injuries I was scared to even dream of running free. When I failed in important races I had a hard time believing I could overcome fear and pain to accomplish a goal.
I’m training to break 3 hours for the marathon. It’s an ambitious goal. But it’s not a goal I expect to reach overnight. 5 months of training has been directly devoted to this race, and indirectly it’s been over 10 years in the making. Every time I pull on my shoes for a run, I think back to those early days. Without a doubt it was all those hardships, sacrifices, and failures that has made this current goal a possibility.
It takes time for your breakthrough to happen. Do not be discouraged when setbacks occur. Do not be discouraged when you fall short. Have faith, and keep going. A sculptor does not create a masterpiece with a single strike of a piece of marble, but through many small, deliberate blows. In the same way, the masterpiece God is creating in you will come from that small, daily decision to keep going in the face of adversity.
“Our human nature is the raw material; our will is the chisel; Gods’ grace is the energy and inspiration.” -Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
Earlier today I finished my longest run in 7 years: 15 miles. The crazy thing is it felt good. Really good. I'm not sharing this to brag or show off. I'm sharing because IT WASN'T ALWAYS THIS WAY.
In 7th grade, I cried because I couldn't run a full mile at track practice. Had to walk.
I've had at least 8 injuries.
I came close to having an iron rod placed in my leg.
I didn't make varsity until 4 weeks out from state senior year.
Wasn't good enough to make the college team.
Missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon by 3 minutes, or 7 seconds per mile.
Canceled a marathon attempt due to injury.
Haven't run a race in 2 years.
There were many days I didn't think I was good enough. Days where I gave everything, left nothing, and it still wasn't enough. Days I wanted to quit. Days I couldn't sleep I was so scared of the race the next morning. Days where I wasn't my best. Days where I failed.
So why keep going? Because of days like today. Where the darkness lifts and you see what you're capable of. You see how far you've come. It makes all those painful moments and setbacks worth it. And there's no way I'd be running like a maniac above 8,000ft if it wasn't for running all those miles during the hard times.
You don't have to be a runner to appreciate this. Running is so much like life. At times it's hard and scary. But you owe it to yourself to hang in there. To hang on even when you have no hope left. If you do you're going to have moments like I had today. You're going to see that every setback, every sacrifice, every painful moment you've been through was worth it.
I realize there are people who have been through far worse than me. I still believe this applies to you. As far as I can tell God made each of us with our own race to run. I don't know why bad things happen in the race of life. But I am convinced if we don't give up some good can come from it all.
Wherever you're at. I hope you dream so big it scares you. I hope you have the humility to work for that dream. And when your strength fails I hope you pray to God for help to continue.
If there's anything I've learned about life it's that my own strength will fail me. But God's will not. And that's enough. If you're hurting right now that's a good thing. It means you're still breathing. It means your story isn't over. Go out and write it!