I can run. I've done it before.
I run when my child is screaming in the stroller, and I have to leave quickly.
I run when my child is sprinting toward the road or toward a bonfire.
I run when I say, "Come" and my child chooses to disobey and go the other way.
I run when I am the "Tickle Monster", and I have to get my victim quickly.
Notice how I am only running in those situations which include children...yup, those are pretty much the only times that I run.
Well, it just so happens that many of my friends run. They run for exercise. They run for (gasp!) pleasure. I do not understand what goes on in their crazy brains, but they do seem to enjoy it. They all stand around and talk about how they ran this 5K or this marathon or this mud run thingy. And I stand there looking at them with my mouth hanging open, thinking...they're nuts. Then, after I think that unkind thought, I think...oh come on, how hard could it be?
One day I made a decision. I was going to run...without a child convincing me that I needed to run.
I donned my tennis shoes and my Umbros (circa 1995 - I was looking good folks) and jogged into the living room (trying not so hard to hide my ridiculous giggling). Nate, hearing the odd bursts of noise coming from behind him, looked at me with his signature raise of the eyebrows and an amused grin.
I gave him a big, toothy smile. "Running!" And with another laugh (from both of us), I was off.
Heading down the driveway I remember thinking, this running stuff is not so bad. It's easy. It even feels good! I turned onto the road and kept up a good clip.
For about 10 yards.
By the time I made it to the end of the road (which is probably about a quarter mile), I was gasping for air and had to walk around in circles, trying desperately to catch my breath with my hands on my head (hadn't I seen runners do that?). Why didn't I bring my stupid cell phone so Nate could come pick me up?!
When I regained an ounce of strength and a pint of breath, I had to set goals for myself. Big goals.
If I walk to that mailbox, I'll run to the next one - the one that holds the newspaper.
I started plodding along slowly, putting one foot in front of the other. I was fake jogging. When a car came, I kicked it into high gear. Running like I knew what I was doing. Arms pumping, legs stretched out in perfect form, awesome runner's expression on my face (you know the one), head nodding at the passing cars like I was thoroughly enjoying this torturous form of exercise.
As soon as the car was out of view, I slumped, looking more like a whining child: body forward, arms hanging limply, flailing around with every thump, thump of my heavily falling legs, huffing and puffing. With each puff of air that escaped my lips, I prayed, "Lord..help..me..Lord..help..me..Lord..help..me.."
I. just. needed. to. get. home. without. DYING!
A quarter mile had never seemed so long. My house at the end of the driveway had never looked so distant. My legs had never felt so...not there...and totally, painfully there. My lungs hadn't expanded that much since I ran the two mile in awkward 7th grade, always finishing dead last, despising every second of the cheering crowd that was intent on making me feel better about my complete lack of athletic ability.
Sweaty, red and blotchy I fell into the front door (about 15 minutes later - laugh all you want you sick runners) and flailed my sorry body on the floor while Nate watched on in amusement, giving me helpful pointers like, "Don't stop moving. Stretch. You can't just lay there."
"So," he asks while I'm attempting to touch my toes. "How was it?"
"Great!" I'm flinching at the tight pain.
"You gonna do that again?" He's curious, teasing.
"Oh yeah!" I'm just now able to sit a little. My side aches. My legs are tingling. My face is still speckled with sweat and redness. I'm wondering how I'm going to be able to get out of bed the next day.
My running career was over after about the fifth time I ran.
There's a verse that makes me a little nervous after failing at being a runner.
"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." Hebrews 12:1
There's nothing more disturbing than reading this verse while picturing my floppy running self. Good thing this is metaphorical otherwise I'd be in big trouble.
I'm glad I have an image in my mind of my running friends. Running well. Finishing well. I'll keep that in mind as I go about my life as a Christian, as I "run with perseverance the race" that the Lord has given me.
Now I know the answer to my ridiculous question, how hard could running really be?
Stinking HARD people. And I fully respect those who do run. I may still think you're nuts, but I admire what you do.
Way to go you running people. You're a strange, strong breed.