The Richmond Half Marathon
I remember signing up for my first distance race. The Richmond Half Marathon back in November 2014. I did it after getting caught up in the wave of emotions pouring from the runners coming to Richmond that fall to honor Meg Cross Menzies. The day I signed up I'd been reflecting on this scripture:
Like many people I'd been moved by Meg's story. When she died I wrote this article: God's Newest Angel, One With Years of Experience. I signed up for that first half marathon believing this angel had set a race before me, one that was pointing me to Jesus. I confess, though, me of little faith thought the angel had lost her heavenly mind. Who points an overweight couch potato to a half marathon? But Meg clearly felt emboldened by her newfound connection to the greatest miracle worker ever.
I eventually crossed that finish line on race day. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't pretty when I crossed. It wasn't pretty when I hobbled a mile or so to where I'd parked my car. It was ugliest of all the following week when I felt like every handicap parking space in Hanover County should rightfully be mine.
That's alright, I kept telling myself. You did it. And you'll never have to do it again!
The Richmond Marathon
To the many friends I've been blessed to share this running journey with, that has become somewhat of a punchline: "I'll never have to do this again." Because by the time I signed up for my first full marathon 2 years later, I'd run several more half marathons. All of them out of state. One of them as far away as Missoula, Montana.
To be honest, signing up for the Richmond Marathon wasn't a response to another prompt from Meg. It was actually quite self centered. It was ego driven. It was burying once and for all past failures in my life. Things I'd messed up really bad as well as things I'd never taken on for fear of messing them up really bad. This marathon was about finishing so many things in my life, including that first half marathon. It was never lost on me that it was only "half" a marathon.
So, I went into this one thinking about taking care of me.
finished with anything. Not if he can use it for his purposes.
When I crossed the finish line I felt and heard God's voice. He put a scripture on my heart, one that just happened to be printed on the back of the shirt I was wearing that day. 2 Timothy 4:7 says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." God was about to completely steal my running journey and use it to help others keep fighting, finishing and keeping the faith. And he wasn't asking me to accept that - he was demanding it.
The Podcast Interview
As part of God's plan to begin encouraging others through my running journey, I started a podcast. I interview runners or people in the running community who have inspiring stories. My hope is these stories will shine light on folks who might need it.
through the mountains of northern Georgia. If there was only the 100 mile option, this race would have been in and out of my mind as soon as Jenny was done telling me about it. But the race also offers 50, 35 and 17 mile races.
Long after our conversation was over, The Georgia Jewel kept popping into my mind. I had no idea why. It was just one of those nagging whispers that have come to predict something crazy is about to happen in my life.
Registering for the Georgia Jewel
2018 has been a crazy running year. The year started with a did not finish at the Houston Marathon. I lined up hoping I could keep up with the 6 hour cutoff pace, a pace nearly an hour faster than my only previous marathon. But at mile 18 my hopes were dashed. I couldn't keep up. My record against the mighty 26.2 dropped to one victory against one might Texas defeat.
A little over a month later I had an opportunity to get back in the win column. Several friends were headed to Little Rock, Arkansas to tackle the Little Rock Marathon. At the last minute I decided to join them. Little rock had a much more forgiving 8-hour cut off. If I could go down there and conquer that race I could get back on the winning side of this marathon thing. And after 6 hours and 45 minutes on a rainy, hilly course, that's exactly where I ended up. Back in the win column.
Then comes March. The end of March and the annual Run the Bluegrass half marathon in Lexington, Kentucky. A race that has tried not only to defeat me twice, but not so subtly tried to kill me just to make sure I never came back. It's one of the most challenging courses I've ever run.
This March felt different though. After Little Rock my running only improved. I felt strong coming into Lexington. I thought I could run my fastest Run the Bluegrass, and by the time I got there, I started thinking I could run my fastest half marathon period.
I need to pause here and tell you one thing all three of those races have in common: my friend Nicole. She was there when I got drug off the course in Houston. She was there cheering me on at the finish line at Little Rock. And on Run the Bluegrass day, knowing I had a goal of running my fastest half marathon ever, and knowing she was plenty fast and inspirational enough to help me make it happen, she was lined up next to me determined to make it happen.
And make it happen we did. By about 2 1/2 minutes, I ran my fastest half marathon ever.
That race was a huge confidence builder for me. I didn't know exactly how big until last weekend.
At the Little Rock Marathon my friend Nicole and I started joking about running the Georgia Jewel 35 mile race. Running through the mountains. Becoming ultra marathoners. Daring greatly. Chasing limits that could only be reached with God's strength at our backs. We joked about it. Then we were mysteriously serious about it.
There was a point at mile 11 at the Run the Bluegrass when my friend Nicole sensed I wasn't going to make it. She'll never admit she was sensing it, but I knew she was. Which is why she forced my hand. Dared me to come 11 miles into our shared goal to set a personal record and quit before pulling it off. She left me no doubt that was absolutely NOT her intention, and basically told me to get it in gear or leave Lexington with nothing but regrets.
I'm grateful for that. In hearing that story you get to know a little bit about just how she's built. A fighter. A scrapper. And a say you're going to do it you'd better do it kind of person.
That's why last Saturday when I got a message from her that included her paid registration for the 35 mile Georgia Jewel ultra marathon, I knew that was her way of saying we're done talking. It's time to tackle what we set out to do.
And so last Saturday, I registered for my first ultra marathon. On Saturday, September 22, Nicole and I will tackle 35 miles of trail and about 5000 feet of ascending mountains to cross the finish line. I have no doubt, when she senses I'm about to pack it in at mile 25 or 30 - what?!?!?!? - she'll let me know good and well we didn't come all the way to Georgia not to finish our first ultra marathon.
So for the next several months, through the long and hot dog days of summer, you can be sure - I'm going to have Georgia on my mind.
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
Life is like running.