facebook.com/robbylarson twitter.com/robbylarson

Sunday, April 11, 2010

six point two

Yesterday morning I ran 6.2 miles in Champoeg Park. It was the annual Tilikum 10K race to raise money for summer camp scholarships for the camp just west of Newberg. This was the third year that I considered participating, but the first time I've actually done so. In fact, this was only the third time in my life that I've ever run so far.

The first time was when as a high school freshman, I decided that participating in a 10K walk for a local food bank was boring and decided to run the entire route instead. Chalk that one up to the boundless energy of a 15-year-old that was too impatient (and/or stubborn) to walk with a bunch of older people from local churches.

The other time I ran this distance was in January 2008. A good friend invited me to go for a run with her, and wanting to spend as much time with her as possible, I eagerly agreed. Nevermind that I hadn't been on a run of any length since the previous June. Nevermind that it was the dead of winter, the prospect of snow looming overhead. Nevermind that only a few years earlier this same friend had completed a half marathon, and from time to time would secretly contemplate the idea of running a full marathon (which I still think she will do at some point). Nevermind all of these facts, because that's what I did.

Let me be clear, I did not expect this run to last 6.2 miles. Based on her comments about starting to run after a lengthy layoff, I reasonably assumed the run would last only a few miles. We'd jog for a half hour or so, build up a sweat, maybe feel the muscles start to burn, and then call it good. I was wrong. Unbeknownst to me, we took off on a hilly out-and-back route that continued to go "out" much farther than I would have hoped. But feeling my heavy legs, I refused to slow down or give in at all, even as the snow began falling on us. She'd charge up a hill, and I'd charge right alongside her. Throughout the run we talked and even laughed from time to time.

When we made the final turn, she complimented me for keeping up and attacking the hills. I laughed it off, admitting that it was just my pride that wouldn't allow me to slow down, which was true. Ultimately however, I'm thankful for the unexpected length of our run. It was an incredibly memorable experience that I won't soon forget. Our run also proved that I had something in me that I didn't even know was there, even if it only manifest itself because of my pride. Chalk that one up to a guy's willingness to do just about anything to impress the girl he likes. Months later, she admitted that our run had been a bit of a test, and I had passed.

And so I came to yesterday's 6.2 mile race knowing that it was physically possible for me to run the course laid out along the Willamette River. But unlike my first time 16 years earlier,  I couldn't rely on abundant energy to carry me through to the finish line. And unlike my run two years ago, my masculine pride and desire to impress a beautiful girl wasn't the overwhelming motivation to run strong and finish the race. Instead, I was running to challenge myself, to push myself beyond what is comfortable. And I was running to prove that I could do it. Simply put, I was running for me.

Along the way there were times when I questioned whether I actually had what it takes, whether I would actually finish without having to walk a portion of the course. Over an over I found myself praying for strength.  Even as I made the final turn with a quarter of a mile to go, my legs were done and my lungs were burning. I had gone out faster than I had planned, and I could feel the consequences with every stride. But I wanted to finish strong, to press on toward the goal. As the finish line came into view, I ran faster, mustering every bit of strength from deep within.

I finished the race in 51 minutes and 59 seconds, nearly 3 minutes ahead of my goal. Crossing the line, I truly felt like I had nothing left. I had used every bit of strength that God had given me and it felt good.

This wasn't my fastest 6.2 mile run, nor was it my most memorable. But it was the most satisfying. I ran for me, in the strength that He provided, and I finished the race strong.