I ran my first 5K today! It was pretty awesome. I never really thought I would run a race. You know, since I’ve always hated running and never even ran a full mile until I was in grad school. But achieving something unexpected can be just as fulfilling as achieving a life goal, because you didn’t even know if you had it in you to set the goal in the first place! My goal was just to run the whole thing without walking (which took me a few months to work up to), and I was also kind of hoping for a decent time. I finished in 34:05, which is a good time for me. So it feels good to have done well by my standards.
Anyway, as an exercise in living fully in the present moment, I decided not to bring my iPod, which I have used on almost every run to help keep me going. And I really did enjoy taking in all that was going on in and around me at the first race I’ve ever even attended.
Here are some of the things I remember noticing:
-How it felt a tiny bit lonely and really awesome at the same time to be standing in the middle of a huge crowd of strangers at the starting line, not knowing a single other person in the race.
-The smiling faces and cheers of encouragement from spectators along the route.
-My surprise that I wasn’t bringing up the rear!
-Running through a minefield of empty green Gatorade cups
-Finding it humorous that I was running past IHOP, Pizza Hut, Panera, Walgreens, an InterVarsity office, and a tattoo parlor.
-Being aware of the parts that were slightly uphill and trying not to let it phase me.
-Finding out that I’m not the only girl who gets cranky when running with her significant other.
-Watching a little boy who refused to listen to his family’s advice to pace himself, and thinking there might be some life lesson in that but not being able to concentrate enough to come up with one.
-A dad running with his daughters, encouraging them along the way.
-A guy jokingly saying, “Uh oh, I hope we don’t get stopped at this light!” when we were crossing an intersection where the light was turning yellow. And a girl saying, “I do.”
-Taking in the view of the field in Memorial Stadium for the first time ever, and doing it as a runner.
-The feeling of having someone waiting for me at the finish line.
-Realizing that the best part of my experience was cheering on the other runners. And that cheering for strangers was just as rewarding as cheering on my friends.
-Biking home down the middle of Florida Ave. thinking about how much I like this town.
There were a lot of other things, too, and my failure to list them here is not due to my failure to notice them but my poor memory and your finite attention span. But I will end by sharing one of the most important things I took from this experience…
I noticed that this was the easiest 3 mile run I have done. I’m sure it helps that I did it 11 times to prepare, and that I had the excitement of thousands of people to get my adrenaline pumping. But I think the main reason was that I was not keeping track of my progress. I was just running. I had no time clock, stopwatch or playlist to go by. I wasn’t on the treadmill looking at the time every 15 seconds or on the track constantly thinking about how many laps I had left. When writing papers in school I used to scroll back up the screen dozens of times an hour to see how many paragraphs I had written so far. I struggle a lot with motivation, and I have always felt that I needed those constant progress markers to keep me going.
I am also pretty time-conscious, and always have been. My parents never understood why I needed to know ahead of time exactly what time we were leaving on family outings, instead of just going with the flow like a normal kid. When running, I always want to know when I’m going to be done, and I tend to continually recalculate my finishing time based on how I’m doing. And in life, I always want to know what is coming next, and I want to know well in advance. When it comes to God, I haven’t tended to struggle with the question “Why?”, like many people do. My question for God is usually “When?”. But as you’ve probably read in the last couple posts, I am slowly learning to stop impatiently waiting and planning and calculating so much. It occurred to me today that the most likely reasons people would do that is either because they are extremely unhappy in the current situation and desperately want to know when it will end, or they think something in the future is going to be a lot better than what they have or what they are doing right now. I guess this has been me a lot of times, but I don’t want to live like that anymore. Today proved that I don’t need those progress markers to keep me going, that I could just be. I’d rather look at the Gatorade cups and smiling faces than at the mile markers and the clock. I’d rather feel the wind in my face, and mutually encourage the people around me, and appreciate what God is doing in my life right now, and live fully in the present. Because that’s the only place you can really live.