On many occasions I have tried to be a runner. The first time was when I transitioned from 8th grade into high school and I wanted to play on the field hockey team. (I played in middle school and really enjoyed it.)  To play on any of the high school sports teams you had to be able to run the mile loop around the playing fields every day before practice. I could not do that. To make matters worse, I was so far from being an athlete I didn’t even really know how to ask anyone to help me. One of my teachers told me to practice over the summer. Run from one telephone pole to the next and then walk the next length and vice versa until I could run a mile. Sounds simple, but for a chubby middle schooler who looks kind of like a spastic Fraggle when running, it was not simple. It felt impossible. I kept at it on and off for a month and then I decided I couldn’t play high school sports. 
Fast forward to 32-year-old Audrey deciding to run a 10K for cancer.  Yeah, crazy pants! Well, this morning I went out for another practice run. I’m just starting week 3 of my couch to 10K program and I was not looking forward to this run at all. You see – week 2 did not go so well. I was not able to complete all of my runs during any of my training sessions during week 2. I either had to stop running early or skip a running segment entirely during each of the training runs week 2.
For those not familiar with Couch to 10K programs let me offer an explanation:
Couch to 10K (C210K) is an app I downloaded to my phone that is effectively a stopwatch with a trainer’s voice attached. I plug my earphones into my phone and listen to the greatest playlist of all time (click here to see aforementioned playlist) and the app tells me when to: warm up, run, walk, or cool down. When you first start C210K you walk for a few minutes and then run for one minute and then walk again and then run again… each week your runs get longer and your walks, obviously, become fewer. The idea is that the trainer helps you build up to running for distance. It is a 12-week program.
Okay, continuing on:
This morning I was taking my first run since last Tuesday. (You are supposed to run every other day.) Yep, almost a week off! I brought my running shoes with me on my camping trip but after taking 2 days off to recover from soreness the rain set in and running in the mud while camping with 3 small children was not seeming like a good plan. When I got home on Sunday I planned to go out and run but my hip had been killing me so my wise friend, Missy, told me that Jesus thought it was okay for me to take my last day of vacation off. I spent the day relaxing and recovering from the camping trip. (And I searched online for some good hip stretches.) I felt guilty not running on Sunday, but I knew Missy was right.
This morning I went out to run week 3 day 1. I gave myself permission not to time my pace or to hold myself to any standard aside from simply completing the time prescribed. The run segments increased by a full minute this week. That means that even though I couldn’t finish all my 2-minute runs last week, this week I was going to be asked to run for 3 full minutes at a time. While this sounds easy to many of you, it isn’t for me. Three weeks ago when I started this adventure I could barely complete all of the one-minute runs. This morning when I ran my form was better than it has been, my breathing was more focused, and somehow when I checked to see how much longer my run was I saw that I had completed the whole 3 minutes of the first interval! This continued for each running segment. On the last running interval I huffed and puffed but I got through it. I nearly cried when I realized that I did the whole workout without stopping. I am a beast!
When I got home to dress for my first day back at work I realized something. This week off from running only to come back and have my best training session yet is a parallel of the month of vacation I’m returning from today. At the beginning of July I felt like it was crazy to take a full month off. Sure I was feeling burned out and depleted, but taking a full month off with no plans seemed like such waste of valuable time. But as I’ve returned to the office today I realize that my stress level is markedly decreased, my productivity today has been off the charts, and my general joy about my call is revived. Without allowing my soul this time to recover and renew I couldn’t do the work I am doing right now – just as I couldn’t have run (pain free, I might add) with the form and energy I had this morning if I hadn’t listened to my body and rested it. In life and in races we have to push ourselves to be better but we also have to pay attention and realize that sometimes the most important push we can make is to push away the guilt so we can rest, recover, and renew.
I am grateful to my colleagues and parish for making it possible to take this time away to regain my focus and rediscover my light. I am grateful for the strength it took to listen to my body and to rest it enough to run a smarter race. And I am grateful to God that I’ve gotten over my ego enough to realize that running like a spastic Fraggle can be a beautiful thing.