Yes, let’s get the spoiler out of the way right up front: I’m training for my first full marathon.
If you’re a longtime reader, you know that the half marathon is my “thing.” And you also know that I sort of hate running but do it to practice discipline as well as community as well as general health.
If you’re new here, then you may not realize just how big of a bomb I dropped in that first sentence.
But it’s the truth. In January of this year, I signed up to run the Kansas City Marathon, which will be taking place on October 19. I intentionally kept the news a secret from all but a very few people. I know it seems like an absurd thing to keep secret, but I had my reasons.
First, I’ve never run anything close to 26.2 miles. The farthest I’d gone, as of January when I signed up, was 13.1 miles, and I’ve always been proud of myself beyond measure for doing that distance. And, every time I’ve finished a half marathon, I’ve felt totally spent, incapable of moving another half step, let alone another mile, let alone another thirteen miles. I’ve many times considered signing up for a full and have always chickened out, sticking to what I “know” my body can do.
But over this past winter, the idea started weighing really heavily on me. Should I try? If I don’t try, will I regret it? I’ll never know if I can do it unless I just go do it. I turn 29 this year. I don’t have any “I want to do this before I’m 30” bucket list items, so maybe now’s a good time to make one.
So I decided to sign up, but a primary reason I kept it a secret was that I decided I’d switch to the half marathon if I got into my training and realized my body just couldn’t handle it. And I didn’t want to have the humiliation of having announced that I had signed up for the full and then have to let everyone know that no, it was too much, and I was going to do the half instead.
I had one more reason for keeping it a secret, and this one had to do with some conversations I’d been having with God during that time about humility. As I’ve already mentioned, I am extremely proud of myself for the distances I’ve accomplished since my running career began a little more than three years ago. But I had let my pride become boastful. I spent a lot of time bragging about how far I’d run, and how many half marathons I’ve finished, etc. Truthfully, I did this not because I’m think I’m amazing but because I’m amazed at myself that I could do it, if that even makes sense. Running doesn’t come easily to me, and it’s not something I enjoy, and my pace is not one that will have people getting whiplash as they watch me go by. Using these and other reasons, I found myself easily able to justify all my boasting as “not really boasting.”
But it is, and it was. And God pointed that out to me in our conversations, and I felt disgusted by it. So when I signed up for the full marathon, I decided that I would show Boasting who’s Boss. I would keep it a secret, and not brag about my training distances at all, and nobody would have any idea that I was doing anything more than my routine 13.1 until the week before the full marathon. Then I’d announce it.
I decided it would be lots of fun to lie to people about my training, and I decided it would be okay to lie because, even though lying was wrong, it was simply a means to an end that was ultimately for my own good. And I’d explain it all eventually, and everyone would understand, so it wouldn’t really be lying. Lying’s okay if you have a legitimate reason, right? And what reason is more legitimate than spiritual formation? At least, that is the logic that made sense to me in January.
Here in August, with the last few weeks of training coming up, it seems absurd and totally nonsensical, and I realize now that maybe I didn’t finish listening to God’s side of those conversations we had about humility. Perhaps God had something in mind like that I would train, like normal, and talk about it when asked but not go out of my way to brag about it by posting my distances all over social media like I always do. Or maybe there was a different, even more intelligent plan that I never heard because I received the message “You need to practice humility” and then totally ran away with it, shouting, “I’M GOING TO TRAIN FOR A FULL MARATHON, AND THEY’LL NEVER KNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW.”
I can see God now, shaking his head and chuckling at me, maybe even leaning over to Jesus on his right and saying, “Welp. This should be interesting. Let’s watch and see what happens.” (I kinda think that exchange may happen between them more often than not when it comes to discussing me.)
Besides the common-sense fact that lying is rarely a smart or healthy or wise way to go about doing anything, it hasn’t taken me long to learn just how difficult it is to lie creatively, whether by misleading someone or by omission. As my runs have gotten longer, it’s gotten harder to evade questions about where I was, why my run lasted so long, and – the most difficult one to dodge – how far I went.
Furthermore, I had forgotten how much I relied on people’s encouragement when I trained for my first half marathon. I soaked that stuff up like a heroin addict. I needed it because I didn’t believe in myself. I’m not sure if I believe in myself yet this time around, and so all the more, I will need encouragement in these last few weeks as I hit some of the farthest distances I’ve ever done (I’ve reached 15; 16 is up next). And what better place to seek encouragement than my communities? My friends? My family? People who appreciate me and want me to succeed. I’ve not only been robbing myself of that joy; I’ve been robbing all of those who would want to participate in the encouragement festivities of the joy of doing so, and if any of you feel hurt by the fact that you’ve been left out of the loop, know two things: 1) I’m sorry; I’m a foolish and silly person; 2) You’re in good company, since I left almost everyone out.
So, there it is. It’s all out there now. I’m training my body to run a total distance of 26.2 miles, which is exciting and terrifying and daunting and slowly becoming manageable all at once.
I am still trying to work on my humility, but in healthier ways. I’ll do my best not to brag all the time if you’ll do your best to send me an encouraging word now and then in the stretch of these last few weeks that are going to be increasingly difficult for me. All boasting bets are off if you enter my house, though. I proudly display my medals on the fireplace mantel.
Finally, if you live in Kansas City, I would love to see you at the finish line on race day. I’ll be wearing orange. And I’ll definitely be crying. And probably limping. Or maybe crawling.