I have been married to the same patient, loving, lovely woman for 19 years; I have been in the same line of work for 18 years; my children are in their twenties, my oldest grandchild starts school in the fall; I have lived in my home for over twenty years…so being “new” at something is, well…new to me – specifically, being a new runner has opened such a wonderful range of experiences for me. Running has also forced me to examine my life and my habits in a new light, and perhaps make some different choices…or reaffirm the choices already made. I ran into such a case this week, and it’s been on my mind…to the point that I feel I need to share it with you, my running/blogging/social media family! I read somewhere that if you decide to do something, you don’t always need a reason; sometimes the impulse is justification enough…but if you decide NOT to do something – which is different than not deciding, mind you – you should be able to explain why. I have decided NOT to make running my highest priority this fall, at least as far as selecting races…and I want to walk you through that decision, the reasoning, and the consequences. It may touch on something some of you have faced, or maybe it’s still ahead for you, or you found a different path…here is mine, for what it’s worth!
I make no excuses for the fact that I am a Christian. I entered the blogging world with a Christian site on Blogger (long since abandoned) and most recently a site here on WordPress (not abandoned, but sorely neglected lately, something I hope to correct soon). My return to active faith caused me to examine my life story, and make decisions about which areas I could serve Jesus and His Church, ways and places I could be a minister. For the last four years, I have used my criminal history (yes, I have one…but I am not that person any longer; thanks, God…literally!) as a kind of common ground to reach men in prisons, as part of the Kairos Prison Ministry. It’s not a huge chunk of time or money, relative to other ministries: a handful of Saturday afternoons and a four-day weekend, with a follow-up a week later; and monthly reunions we are encouraged but not required to attend…much less than the training schedule for even a minor race, isn’t it? The only real difference is that if you agree to serve, you are signing up for the whole package; other than genuine emergencies, team members are required to attend the entire weekend, including all training sessions. We do two retreats a year, spring and fall; since becoming involved I have served on seven consecutive “Weekends”, as the event is called, only taking off after to be available for Karen as we faced her cancer diagnosis and treatment. (And even then, Karen and I attended the Closing Ceremony, with her deep in chemotherapy and sick as she could be from it). The visible power of the Holy Spirit in action, and the relationships born of shared hope and joy, are priceless beyond measure, and I have been eagerly waiting for the current Leader to send out the dates for the next Weekend, so I could get back into the mix. Well, I got the email a couple of days ago, and here’s where things get complicated…
See, I started running just this year, not having idea what I was getting into – but doing it anyway. I have had success on many levels – completed some races, seen improvement in my performance, and I feel great! These effects, along with the relationships (among both the running and the blogging communities) born of shared hope and joy, are priceless beyond measure, and I have been eagerly looking at upcoming races and events, so I can stay in the mix. I have started putting some tentative dates on the calendar…and now come the conflicts:
- The Houston Half Marathon, the first “kick-off” race leading up to the Chevron Houston Marathon, the one sponsored by the running club I just joined, falls on the final Sunday of the prison retreat.
- The Jailbreak 5K obstacle/mud run, the one I have been working to make into a charity benefit/Running Blogger meet-up, is the same weekend, on Saturday.
- The Wounder Warrior 8K, in San Antonio in September, falls on the same day as a training meeting.
There are probably others that I am not aware of yet, but the point has been made: I cannot do both things – serve the ministry AND run the races I had already planned – so a choice must be made. Turns out, though, it wasn’t even a contest…as soon as I put the prison dates down, I began deleting things that were in the way…including every race listed above! It happened so fast I almost missed it; then I thought about what I had just done, and decided NOT to change my mind. Seems that the discipline of running, training, choosing…has strengthened the process of assigning priorities; and I am very glad that my priorities are solidly in place, and in the right place. Once again: Thanks, God…literally! It’s not a grudging or resentful feeling, but rather a wonderful lightness of the heart, knowing I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Positive final note: Having dates on the calendar inspired me to expand my search for races, while I am waiting for the lottery drawing, and planning a “base training” routine to prepare me for what lies ahead. I have settled on two potential goals: if I miss the Houston Marathon lottery, the Inaugural McAllen Marathon runs in mid-December, and/or the Rock’n’Roll Marathon/Half-Marathon comes to San Antonio in November (and who says I can’t do all three?) For now, I still have plenty of time to decide…the hard choices have been made!
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
– Joshua 24:15