The third kilometre of a five-kilometre race is the hardest. I discovered this when I took up running again recently. My muscles became tired and my breathing more ragged. The heat was unbearable. Doubt crept in. Thoughts like, “I should stop, I am not fit for this,” popped up in my mind. “It’s too hard.”
But with a quick decision to continue running, I pushed through the pain. A surge of the will rose up and determination took over. “I can do it. I want to complete this race. I need to do this for me.” I want to be a runner, an athlete. And I want to be a saint – a spiritual athlete.
I run seeking the exhilaration the endorphins give me. Exercise is one of my tools for wellness. It’s amazing how even a short walk can change my mental state. Creativity flows and problems look smaller. My mental health flourishes when I am active.
When I was five, I tried to outrun cars when heading to school along farm fields. It became a game for my brother and me, and helped get us to school on time! Later I ran in fall races to win pumpkins. In Grade 3, I joined track and started running the longer races. I overheard my gym teacher say to my mom, “She runs like the wind!”
A few years ago, I trained for a race in the middle of a Vancouver winter, so running in the rain was the norm. The first splash would soak my feet and the discomfort became familiar. After that, I would run straight through puddles without a second thought. It’s amazing to see what I can withstand when I don’t rely on my own strength but the Lord’s. In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, he says, “... we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Though I suffer from mental illness at times, I come out of it stronger. These experiences increase my will to live a life full of purpose. As a Catholic woman, I run to the source of my hope, Jesus. When I receive the sacraments of Holy Mass and confession often, they nourish my mind, body, and soul. As my feet fly over pavement, running shoes making a smacking percussion over the hum of cars, my spirit soars. Running gives me a wild feeling of freedom – it’s as if I am racing to my next adventure.
I recently heard a story about Mark Sullivan, author of the bestseller Beneath a Scarlet Sky. One winter day, he was seriously depressed. His brother had committed suicide a month before, his mother had brain damage, he was in a business dispute, and his latest book was rejected.
On the highway, in a snowstorm, he thought about committing suicide, but the thought of his wife and kids stopped him. He pulled to the side of the road and prayed in his car. He asked for a project he could put all his energy into. A few hours later, he went to a dinner party where he overheard a conversation about a war hero. A book idea came to him and that book became a #1 bestseller. This opportunity came only hours after he almost committed suicide.
We don’t know what good might happen the next minute, hour, month, or year. It’s worth living to find out. Hope is the wind beneath my feet.
Follow me on Instagram (@resilientlisa)