Let me start by clarifying that this post is not merely about running. While my Journey to 5k is used as a running theme (pun intended lol), the purpose of this post is to describe a few significant life lessons that were reinforced throughout my process. These lessons are applicable to several different areas of our lives and it is my hope that you are encouraged by at least one of them.
During my process of learning to run, there were so many times I wanted to quit. Not only did I want to give up completely, but even in the middle of my runs there were times I wanted to just stop before I was done. With every single run throughout the entire process I had to push hard! There was one run specifically where I didn’t think I could make it. God literally started speaking to me. As I was running up a hill, I just felt like I couldn’t go any further and I suddenly felt a sharp conviction in my spirit. He was saying “Just keep going. Don’t stop. You are almost there. Trust me.” Then I wanted to check my timer to see how much time was left in the interval and God started saying “No ma’am. Don’t check your phone. Just trust me. In real life, you can’t see what I’m doing or where I’m taking you and this is no difference. Just trust me when I say keep going. You are almost there.” So I kept pushing and about 40ish seconds later, my timer went off.
See, the lesson here is to just keep going. Don’t stop short. You are so close! I always think back on that encounter with God and think “what if I had given up?” I would’ve been so disappointed to find out I gave up and I was right there. Sometimes life is difficult and things can feel pretty overwhelming – but that doesn’t mean we give up. That means we endure. There will be growing pains, but they are crucial for the people we’re becoming. We have to push through and come out on the other side stronger than we were before.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. Romans 5:3-5 NLT
2. Trust & Appreciate the Process
Don’t rush your process! This life we’re living is nothing but one long process and everything we’ve had to deal with up to this point has been a necessary piece of the puzzle. While there are some situations we find ourselves in that are totally our fault, even those moments help up to learn and grow. We should seek meaning in our different situations. It can be so easy to get caught up on achieving the next goal or getting to a certain place in life, but in doing so we sometimes forget to appreciate where we are currently.
I dreamed about crossing that finish line often. I was ready to just be able to run the 3 miles, but that’s not how this life works. Imagine if I had signed up for a 5k without enduring my process. I would never have been able to make it the whole way. I wouldn’t have been prepared for that moment. I wouldn’t have had the wisdom to handle that race. That beautiful moment at the finish line would not have been nearly as significant if I hadn’t put in the work. My process was challenging, but it was worth it! And all throughout my process, I was able to celebrate my small gains, too. Finishing the race was my ultimate goal, but even achieving my week to week goals was just as important. Our process is important. Ask God to prepare you for your next moment and just focus on enjoying, learning and growing right where you are currently!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Don’t compare yourself or your process to others. I remember when I asked my sister to run with me for the first time. I had been training for about 9 weeks already at this point, and she hadn’t trained at all. She left me in the dust and was constantly checking to make sure I was okay. She also ran the 5k with me a few days ago and finished 7 minutes faster than me with no training compared to my 4 months of training. She was able to roll out of bed and just run while I had to put in some serious work.
I am proud of her, but this experience really spoke to me. Don’t compare yourself or your process to others. You don’t know what a person had to go through to get where they are and regardless of their process, just focus on your own. You are two different people and all that matters is how you’re going to accomplish what you set out to do. Comparison can quickly lead to discouragement, judgement, bitterness, envy and discontentment. Instead of worrying about what others are doing or how they’re doing it, just focus on yourself. If anything, let others be motivation for you to keep pushing.
Also know that no one else will truly understand what it took to become the person you are today. Even the people who have witnessed your growth first hand will never understand your process the way you do. You were the one that had to put in the work behind the scenes. The one who had to deal with the demons, check yourself, and put forth the effort to overcome the rough patches. You are the only one who will ever really understand your process. You might not always get the credit or recognition you deserve, but never forget to celebrate each of your victories. You and your process are unique to you, so Be You!
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. Galatians 6:4 NLT
4. Don’t Lose Focus
Keep your eye on the prize! For 4 months, I ran 3 times a week faithfully and I’m not sure I’ve ever been this dedicated and consistent with anything. I woke up one day and said I was going to run a 5k and I never lost sight of that goal. When I wanted to quit, I reminded myself of the goal. When I was exhausted, I reminded myself of the goal. When I was discouraged, I reminded myself of the goal. When the weather was too hot or too cold, I reminded myself of the goal. No excuses. I knew that if I were to make an excuse once or take a week off, that I might lose my momentum. Similarly, when I started running for longer periods of time, I noticed that whenever I’d take a walking break, I couldn’t run as long once I started again. I would lose my momentum. While I thought I was doing something wrong, I soon realized that I performed better when I was consistent than when I took breaks.
Consistency is everything! Yes put in the work, but put in the work consistently. Commit and stick with it. Even if you have to slow down – just don’t stop. This goes for relationships, job or volunteer opportunities, hobbies, businesses, dreams, fitness goals and everything else – dedication goes a long way. Dedication to me is doing it even when you don’t feel like it. Let your goals be the driving force of your motivation.
All hard work brings profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23 NIV
5. Remain Hopeful & Keep the Faith
When I first started running, I had no idea how I’d actually pull this off. I saw all the different couch to 5k plans, but I never fully comprehended how I’d go from 1 minute to 30 minutes. I had no real understanding of how my body would be able to accomplish such a lofty goal. But even though I couldn’t really fathom the thought, I had a lot of faith. Faith is believing what you can’t see. Not only did I have faith, but I was hopeful as well. Every day I would wake up and say “it’s going to happen”. I’m going to run a 5k on July 28th. There was no “I might run it”, “I’ll run it if I”m ready”, “I’ll walk-run”, no. It was “I am GOING to run the Color Run in Grand Rapids on July 28th. I spoke it into existence.
I am a firm believer in Decreeing and Declaring things. I believe that there is power in our words. I also believe in the power of prayer, but in order for prayer to really work, you have to believe in your prayers. Yes, I put in a great deal of time and effort, but I also had to keep myself encouraged. I knew this thing was going to happen because I keep my faith strong, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have some days where I felt weak or defeated. There eventually came a point where I had questioned if I reached the extent of my strength, but I had to remain hopeful and remind myself that God keeps His promises. And I’ll let this serve as a little testimony – I just went from “It’s going to happen” to “It Happened!”
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 KJV
6. Believe in Yourself (& Put Your Trust in God when You Don’t)
Even on days where you don’t feel like you’re good enough, strong enough, or worth it, please be reminded that you are. You are amazing. There is nothing you can’t do with God on your side. There will be times when we don’t believe in ourselves, but that’s when we must put our hope and strength in God. I definitely felt like this some days during my training. It was not all sunshine and rainbows. I had some bad days. But we must trust Him. Trust that He has a plan for us and He’ll take care of it even when we feel like we can’t go any further.
This wasn’t a running experience, but I had a situation recently when I felt like I wasn’t strong enough to do what I knew needed to be done. I heard God loud and clear but I felt too weak to be obedient. So instead, I started praying that He fix it for me. I said “Lord, do what you need to do. I’m not strong enough to do it, so take care of it for me, please. I know what I want, but I know that you want better for me, so have your way and ignore me when I beg for things that I don’t need.” And do you know what He did? He came through for me like He always does. He understands we’re human and He knows what we can and can’t handle. So even when you don’t believe in yourself or trust yourself enough to accomplish certain tasks, know that He will carry you through. Trust Him.
I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 KJV
7. Seek Wisdom
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Seek expert advice. Do your research. No sense in making the same mistakes that others before you made when the resources you need are right in front of you. While learning from experience is extremely useful, sometimes you can save yourself the trouble by learning from others. I talked to so many people about my running journey. The man in the running shoe store, other bloggers who run, my boss who has run marathons, my co-worker who has done a color run before, my fit friends, dozens of running articles and blog posts – anyone who had more experience than me! They all saved me so much time and pain. I learned how to breathe properly, what to eat and what not to eat, what kind of shoes I needed, how to pace myself, how to use a plan that works for me, what type of socks help with my calluses, how to treat a blister, and so much more.
Seeking wisdom is important in general. I’m currently in a place in my life where I’m surrounded by many people who are older than me, and I love it! While I do try to seek God and His word first, I find it really beneficial to hear from people who have been where I am. You save time and heartache this way. We need each other and we all have something to offer someone else. Be sure to seek wisdom and pay it forward.
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Proverbs 4:5-7 NIV