At the beginning of July 2020, I made an executive decision to start running again. Running or anything remotely involving running is a bit tough for me. I assure you, in high school, I was as far from an athlete as a show choir chick could possibly be, but after the birth of my daughter, I took up running to try to lose the weight and get outside more.
I’d put baby Alissa in that running stroller and we’d tool around and down country roads. We entered a few 5Ks and I even have a picture of little Alissa clapping as “she” crossed the finish line, as everywhere she looked, people were clapping for “her.”
I’ve often wondered if that’s why she loved running so much.
And now she can’t run and I can.
If you think I don’t feel guilty, think again.
But in 2020 and all its craziness, my best friend and I took up socially-distanced running on some of those same country roads I ran with my small daughter some 18 years earlier. We were training for a virtual 5K being held in Chicago. We started from scratch athletically. At almost age 50 and still dealing with residual injuries from the wreck, in the beginning, it was rough.
And just a few short weeks later, on the five year anniversary of our wreck and my daughter’s paralysis, a Friday, July 17 offered us yet another “gift.” It was confirmed my father had a fairly significant stroke. It initially took his speech and ability to swallow. We were all heartbroken. And in typical Jagger fashion, where sarcasm often rules, my daughter sighed and said, “Well. . .we always do love a good Friday, July 17th!”
My father’s stroke helped motivate me to keep running and training. I don’t want clogged arteries. I want to be healthy. So my running friend and I did everything we could to try not to get hit while running on opposite sides of country roads early in the mornings. We mapped out our eventual “Virtual 5K” course and realized we would be finishing uphill. Yes, at the end of 3.1 miles we would not easily ride in on the wings of glory, but instead, would gasp for breath as we dealt with a significant hill.
It feels as if I’m always dealing with “ significant hills” and let’s remember, perception often feels like reality. Maybe you feel the same way too, Dear Reader.
There’s an interesting thing that happens every time I take a hill on our course and especially on that final hill. I. Dig. In. I have discovered the “hills” are literally where I speed up, where I try harder, and where I tell myself over and over, “Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Don’t stop!” There I am, on a hill, at the end, wanting to quit, running towards traffic hurtling by on a main road and it’s literally where I do some of my best work.
My friend questioned this and I told her it was my life. I recently heard a mentor say researchers have discovered that the people who are the most joyful in life are the people who acknowledge bad things are going to happen to them and rather than questioning why, they instead, keep on going and choose to be grateful. I hope that’s me. I want that to be me. I’m trying to make that me.
I am determined to finish this race we call life. And no matter how much longer I have to run, I want to finish well. I want to finish strong. I want to not be thrown by the hills: the strokes, the cancers, the paralysis, the wrecks, the hatred, the uncertainties, the pandemics, the heartaches . . . they are all there, for sure. Yet we are not alone on these daunting hills of life. Our Coach is there encouraging us, waiting for us, loving us, holding us accountable, and reminding us. Because of what His son did on the cross, we may feel as if we are running uphill, but when we realize Who we are running towards, it will be totally worth it in the end.
Two things, Dear Reader: One, I invite you to join me as I try my best to be positive in a negative world. And two, if you can walk or run, please do so, because you can and because we all need to do what we can to keep our physical bodies as healthy as possible. Take those hills! We can do this literally and metaphorically!
Until the next Wednesday the Lord allows.