Half Marathon Insights

I ran the Kooky Spooky Half Marathon yesterday. It was a small race (maybe 500 people or so) and the course was beautiful – right in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I haven’t really had the opportunity to train for this race.  Usually the 5 or 6 Sundays leading up to a half-marathon I do increasingly long runs. So by the time race day arrives, I am ready for 13.1 miles.  This time, I did not have that luxury.  It has been a really rough few months. Rough in the world at large, rough in my personal life, and often rough in my head as I try to navigate through. Depression even overtook me for a couple of weeks. I am so glad it lifted, as that feeling of utter aloneness, even when among hundreds of people or even your closest friends and family members is torture.  Thank God, I spend a lot of time when things are “good” building up my immunity to despair through the study of EMUNAH (loosely translated as faith in God – that God is ONLY good and everything that happens is ultimately for the good – even though it doesn’t always feel or look that way).  So even though I was in a deep, dark pit, emunah became my life preserver. So dealing with all of this – Sunday runs were not 10 milers.  They were more like 6 or 7 miles tops.  So I would be out of shape, oh well.  Since my only desire for running a half-marathon is that I finish unhurt and with a smile on my face, I have never put pressure on myself to finish in a certain amount of time. So I go at whatever pace I can. And the non-timing pressure allows me to luxury to stop and take pictures along the way and enjoy the scenery.

This is mile 11.

This race had an unusually late start time.  Usually half-marathons start around 7am, but this was scheduled for 9am.  Sweet.  Its usually really really cold early in the morning and I usually FREEZE waiting for the race to start.  This time it wasn’t cold, but it was very windy.

The announcer pulled the start trigger and we were off. The first few miles were LONG….I have done enough of these half marathons to know that the first few miles ALWAYS feel the longest.  Once I hit the halfway mark it goes by much faster. So I was very happy when I got to mile 7.

I new it was all downhill from there.  Except it wasn’t.

The second half of the race – particularly around miles 8-11 were full of switchback hills and it was SO windy.  Wind and hills – a perfect combination to say “forget this….I’m calling an Uber.” However I found myself just putting one foot in front of the other.  And while I always take regular 1 minute walk breaks every 3 minutes (I do the “don’t-get-yourself-hurt-run-into-your-90’s” method known as Run-Walk-Run or the Interval method – don’t judge…its is STILL running!), I found myself walking more often or for longer periods of time.  I saw many people – even men and women who were younger than me, having to walk at times during that hilly/windy part.  I was not alone.  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Whether it was walking, jogging, running, I just kept moving.  We all did.  I listened to my daughter’s playlist “Holy Music for My Soul” to keep me inspired. Listened to inspiring talks given by some powerful women like Esther Wein and Aliza Bulow.  Phoned a friend.  Talked to God.  I even said to myself “I think I can, I think I can” like the Little Train that Could.

Eventually, the switchback ended and we were running downhill. What a joy! I  made up for my extra walk breaks on the downhill as I had gravity in my favor and cruised along skipping a walk break or two.  And then….there it was…the hill that My Kooky Spooky running buddy Meredith warned me about!  She told me that there is a hill at the end of the course. I just figured it was the switchbacks I had just done.  But there was another one!!! Just when I was catching my breath.  MORE?????  Yup. Here we go again…..

And then at about 12.75 miles Meredith was there cheering me on.  She held her finish medal against her chest while she ran the last half mile with me. I usually try to “give it all I got” as I approach the finish line, but I couldn’t give any more than I had. I could only give the best I had at that moment, and it was good enough. I ran through the finish line with my arms in the air. I did it!!!

It was hilly and windy, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other.

And isn’t that how life is?  Just when we catch our breath, we are hit with another hill. (Or just when we get a chance to roll over and float, we get hit with another wave – that metaphor works too!).  That is LIFE. Judaism teaches us that life is about stretching ourselves to reach our potential. It is about getting spiritually stronger day by day. Last year I did some one-on-one strength training with a coach.  About 3 months into training, it felt so hard. “Melissa, why is this so hard?” I said.   “Chaya, don’t you realize that I have to keep adding weight? As you get stronger, you need harder exercises to challenge you.”    I feel like God is saying the same thing.  When it comes to lifting spiritual weight, my spiritual exercises get more challenging.  In spiritual growth, sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other feels like I have lead feet.  But the point is to keep on keepin’ on. God has a plan.  The plan is GOOD.  Everything God does is for the good.  These are basic tenets of Judaism.  And even when it is hilly and windy, we can always make it to the finish line….Until the next race of course.

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