5 Things I Would Tell New Runners

motivation-start-run-1In October 2012, I started a run/walk class called “Anyone Can Run” at my local YMCA.  I joked that if I completed the training, they’d have to rename the class, “No Really… ANYONE Can Run.” Eight weeks later, I ran my first 5K. Since then, I’ve trotted my way through a few more 5Ks, some relay races, and a half-marathon. This year, I have big goals – run two more half-marathons and complete my first full marathon. Even typing those words sends little thrills of nervousness and excitement through me! I registered for the Bass Pro Conservation Marathon yesterday, and that got me thinking about the first running goal I ever set and what I would share with someone – especially a non-athletic person like me – who is brand new to running. Here are five lessons I would pass along:

1.  It’s a discipline before it’s a delight.
When I first started running, it required a lot of self-discipline. I willed myself out the door to run for 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes. It felt like (and was) an enormous effort. In contrast, very few of my runs today require the kind of discipline and willpower it took to start a running habit. Honestly, most of them are a delight. I look forward to seeing my running buddies, conquering hills, working up a good cleansing sweat, and feeling the rush of endorphins and quiet satisfaction at the end of a tough run. In the beginning, those benefits were overshadowed by how difficult running was for me. If that’s you, keep pushing.  Most skills we master are difficult before they are fun, and running falls into that category. Don’t give up before you get to the fun part!

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One of the fun parts – The Glow Run 5k!

2.  Energy and fatigue come in cycles.
This was something I realized when training for my first half marathon. I would get tired two miles in and think, “Holy crap! I’ve got seven miles left and I’m already exhausted! Will I even survive?!?” But I told myself to keep going (partly because I had to make it back to my car), and out of nowhere, a burst of energy would come and I’d feel renewed. This happened over and over on those long runs. I got to where I could predict the exact miles when I’d feel tired and when the next burst of energy would come. There is a point of exhaustion when your legs simply refuse to move anymore, that’s true. But most of us on most of our runs, do not reach that point. If you get tired, calm down, slow down, and tuck in until the next burst of energy comes. Be patient. It’s on its way.

3.  Buy real running shoes and a running outfit that makes you feel awesome.
As you shuffle along during those first, tough months of running, good shoes will prevent many injuries to your body, and a cool running outfit will prevent injuries to your pride. Plus, if you look like a runner, that will go a long way toward making you feel like a runner. And when you feel like a runner, you begin setting goals instead of limits. If a trip to the local running store can accomplish all that, it’s worth every penny, right?

Blanche and Dorothy get this. Try to look as awesome as they do.

Blanche and Dorothy get it. When you look awesome, you feel awesome.

4.  Running will teach you to cheer for yourself. Try to embrace this lesson.
There is a lot of negativity in the world, and I would venture to say that for most of us, it’s easier to criticize than encourage ourselves. I learned pretty quickly that negative self-talk would get me nowhere in running. Telling myself I ‘m weak or I need to suck it up is not nearly as powerful as telling myself I am strong and I can do it. Actually, one time (maybe the heat was getting to me?), I told myself I was an elegant racehorse. If you’re not used to treating yourself nicely, filling your mind with positive affirmations feels awkward at first. But running exhausts your mind as much as it does your body. I need mental fuel to accomplish my running goals, and positive affirmation is like a cool drink of water or a Cliff gel to my brain. Plus, every time you finish a run, you prove yourself right. You ARE strong. You CAN do it. You DO slightly resemble an elegant racehorse (or at least you have a ponytail). If cheering for yourself is still hard, ask yourself this, if you saw another runner struggling up a hill, would you cheer her on? Why not offer yourself the same courtesy?

If you can't cheer for yourself, recruit Ryan Gosling.

If you can’t cheer for yourself, recruit Ryan Gosling.

5.  There are awards at races, and we all admire fast people, but there is no hierarchy in running.
When I showed up for the first night of “Anyone Can Run” at the YMCA, I was nervous. Like on-the-verge-of-throwing-up nervous.  I was so intimidated, and like a lot of new, non-athletic runners, I was facing down years of believing I didn’t belong with sporty people and didn’t have what it took to accomplish any athletic feat. This was so firmly established in my brain as “fact” that I assumed everyone else thought the same thing about me. I was surprised, relieved, and encouraged to learn that the running community doesn’t think that way at all, about anyone.  Anyone who is making the effort has our respect, and that includes beginners. Especially beginners. They’re doing the hardest part, and we all remember what that feels like.

The medal from my first half-marathon

The medal from my first half-marathon

Although I’m nervous about training for a marathon and the difficulties ahead, I’m also excited for a new challenge. I’m excited to be a beginner again and venture into unknown territory. What does it feel like to run 14 miles? 18 miles? 26 miles? By November, hopefully, I will know. In the meantime, when I think about the grueling training that lies ahead and start to feel afraid, I keep telling myself that I’ve conquered this fear before. After I ran a 5k, I thought, how in the world does anyone run TWICE this far? After I ran a 10k, I thought, how in the world does anyone run twice this far? After I ran a half-marathon, once again I thought, how in the world does anyone run twice this far? I hope to answer that question one more time and conquer that same old fear this fall.


The Impact of Protestant Missionaries on Democracy

Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.

From this article, the cover story for February’s edition of Christianity Today

Moving Day

MovingBoxesWhen I moved into my house three years ago, I did not hire a professional crew.  I sent out a mass text message, created a Facebook event, and made an announcement at small group.  On that bright October day, friends in minivans and pick-up trucks and even a gooseneck trailer pulled into the gravel lot where my storage unit was located.  The owner peered out his office window with a look of shock on his face.  I could imagine his thoughts – that’s a lot of people to move one girl’s stuff out of our smallest storage unit!  We loaded every box and chair and appliance in one trip.

Back at my house, people hoisted boxes and filed past one another in and out of my new, blue front door.  They laughed and joked, pretending to drop boxes if they knew I was looking.  All my earthly treasures were unloaded within minutes and soon we were sitting around with bowls of ice cream in our laps – the only form of payment exchanged that day.  Why did all these wonderful people show up to help me move? Why didn’t I hire professionals to take care of this for me?

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

Jesus told the disciples that they were no longer merely his servants – they had become his friends. The difference between a servant and a friend isn’t just a paycheck. A friend knows your business. My friends wanted to help me move into my house because they understood what an important day it was for me.  They knew I had saved up money for a down payment, that I had prayed about which house and when to buy it, dreamed about the interior and designed it a hundred times in my head, worked hard to clean and paint and make this house inhabitable.  My friends knew that I bought it with hopes of making a home that would be a blessing to others and an outpost of God’s kingdom.  They knew my business.  Servants show up to do a job and collect a payment.  Friends know the details, they understand the greater plan, and they come to your house ready to help and bless and laugh together.

Jesus calls his disciples friends.  It’s a different relational dynamic, and it means that I come to his house out of love, not obligation.  I understand why he wants me there and why his plans are important to him.  I come to his house because I love his company and our mutual friends.  And because he promised to share everything he knows about the Father with me.  He is an awfully good friend.

The Journey of the Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

“The Journey of the Magi” by T.S. Eliot


000000_CommunionWhen I became a Christian, I was young.  Ten years old, a bright and chubby fifth grader, convinced that Heaven was real and much better than the alternative.  I knew that being a Christian involved following a moral code derived from the Bible, but I didn’t know much else. I didn’t know what it meant to have a relationship with God and I couldn’t have anticipated how much joy such a relationship would bring me.  One thing I learned pretty quickly:  there was something special about communion.

During the week, I prayed and read my Bible as often as I could remember to.  Those tasks were a discipline and not much of a delight to me at the time.  But on Sundays, when I heard the clink of silver communion trays being passed down the pews, it was different.  I took the bread and the cup and bowed my head to recognize Jesus for his eternal feat, and I felt something. Something not-guilt.  Something easy and quiet and other, yet familiar.  Those five minutes on Sunday morning were my only real interaction with God for many years.

Communion is one of those familiar words that is so worn with use, we toss it around without much attention to accuracy. Like church. We say we’re “going to church,” but church isn’t a place you go.  Church is the people of God.  We say we’re “taking communion,” but communion isn’t really the cracker and juice.  It’s a transaction that happens when we observe the ritual, when we imbibe the symbols with spiritual substance.  We join with the believers in the upper room and every believer since then and say yes to Jesus. Yes, while I was yet a sinner, you died for me. Yes, you knew no sin and yet became sin. Yes, when you spread the cloak of your righteousness, please do cover me.  Yes, Jesus, your death is my death and your life is now my life.

I’ve been a Christian for 22 years and two months. I remain bright and somewhat chubby and fairly excited for Heaven.  And still, the weekly habit of communion with God on Sunday mornings feeds my soul.

I break a piece of bread and think of Jesus, whose life slipped out of his broken body, who wants to heal every broken heart.  I dip my crumb of bread in grape juice until it soaks up the purple which stands for the red that cleansed me white.  I drink a thimble-full of something sweet and thank Jesus for drinking the big cup of God’s wrath and for giving me Living Water.

We commune.  I think it’s a miracle.

A Manly Wreath

Standing at roughly three times the size of my parents’ house, the machine shed is a formidable building.  I’m pretty sure astronauts can see it from space.  My dad spent a lot of time thinking about how it should be constructed – the thickness of the walls, the size of the doors, the heating and cooling system, the organization of the tools and equipment it would house.  As a farmer and owner/operator of a trucking company, he needed a large, functional space to store farm implements and work on machinery during inclement weather.  But in all his dreaming and planning, there is one thing my dad forgot to consider:

Christmas decorations!

That’s where I come in.

(What would he do without me?)

My goal was to create a manly wreath that would add a festive sparkle to my dad’s machine shed without compromising the masculine vibe that such a building should possess.  To make one for the grease monkey in your life, you will need:

  • a tire (I ordered this one from Amazon, because it was just the right size.  If you can find one for cheaper or – better yet – FREE, even better!)
  • fake evergreen stems (I had some lying around, but you can pick these up at Michael’s)
  • small wrenches (I took the smallest ones from my wrench set, but you could also pick up a few at Lowe’s)
  • holiday ribbon
  • glue gun & glue sticks
  • twine
  • scissors
  • over-the-door wreath hanger

Here’s what you do:

Step 1:  Use your holiday ribbon to tie a large bow. I worked at a flower shop in high school and learned to make big bows, but if you don’t know how, check out this tutorial on YouTube.

Step 2:  Attach your bow to the tire using twine.  I tied my bow on with twine (rather than gluing it) because I knew this wreath would be hanging outside, and the big bow might catch in the wind. The twine is covered up by the loops of ribbon anyway, so you don’t really notice it.

Step 3:  Glue the fake evergreen stems to the tire, and then glue the wrenches on top of those.

That’s it! Here’s what the finished product looks like hanging on the entrance to my dad’s machine shed.  He sent me this picture yesterday and told me that all the guys who stop by his shop love it.  In his exact words: “It’s quite the hit.”