16 March 2010

March-ing on

I haven't written anything for several weeks (ok, almost a month!)...a couple of reasons for that.  First, our second son was born on February 26th, so we've been a bit busy taking care of him along with our 2 year old!  Overall it's been great and all the joy he brings us more than makes up for the lack of sleep and added stress.  The other reason is it's Lent and well, if you are or were a pastor, you know that's enough said about that...

BUT, in spite of all of these exciting yet time-consuming events in my life, I have been finding time to get out and run.  The weather has warmed up and the snow is gone off the streets, so it's been nice to run without all the cold weather gear or trying to make my way across snow and patchy ice.

A couple things on the running front, though.  Around the time Matthew was born, I started increasing my base distance for my daily runs up to 4 miles a day.  I was able to maintain that for 4 days.  Then I started running on asphalt instead of the gravel (the gravel had turned to mud and that was not fun).  Anyway, it only took one run at that distance in town and the tops of my feet started to get really sore.  The added impact of the harder surface was just too much for them to take at that distance.  My frustration level went up and I really started to have serious doubts about whether I could run this half marathon in these "shoes."  I knew there were several options.  I could completely stop running and let my feet recover before basically starting from scratch, or I could continue running through the pain and see what happened.

After taking two days off, I decided to keep running, but I scaled back the distance and speed, focusing again on getting the proper barefoot running form down.  I'm back to 2 miles, all on pavement, and I try to keep the pace to about 9 minute miles.  I know I haven't done any major damage to my feet because I haven't had any swelling or bruising, and the soreness goes away after a good night's rest.  Basically, it's just the muscles in my feet adjusting and getting stronger.  I still have no knee, hip, or back pain.  I know that this is just part of learning to run differently and using muscles that I've really never used this way.  After nearly a week of this, the pain is much less and I'm regaining my confidence that I can achieve my goal.

On a deeper level, it's reminded me that growing and getting stronger is almost always a painful process.  I think I had almost kidded myself into thinking that this was going to be easy if I took it slow.  Eventually, though, you have to push your mind and body to its limit and beyond what you think is possible.  In my faith, one of my favorite theologians is Dietrich Bonhoeffer and one of his most famous works is "The Cost of Discipleship."  Faith and a life of discipleship is not meant to be easy or comfortable.  The call to take up our crosses and follow Jesus is going to hurt and be inconvenient.  

We live in a paradoxical culture that on the one hand says it values hard work, but on the other seems all too eager to take the easy way out whenever possible.  It's the same in our churches.  We talk about discipleship and the importance of sacrifice and service, but we often drag our feet or make excuses for not doing those things.  In the end, maybe we each would prefer a faith or a savior that wasn't so challenging.  I'd like to keep my own goals, dreams, and ambitions without having to lay them down at the cross of Christ and replace them with obedience to God's will.  Of course, there are going to be setbacks and frustrations and we will fail, but the call remains to "run the race."  So whether we are setting out to become a runner or a disciple, we shouldn't be surprised that it will come with pain and hardship.  I almost forgot, but my sore feet are reminding me again.