Along with the rest and relaxation I hope to find each summer comes a goal that I set for myself. I need something to aim for, even if it’s as simple as planting a few more vegetables in the garden or printing some of last year’s favorite photos from my phone. Early this summer, I decided to up the challenge. I decided to run.
The excitement of trying something new, especially that which would benefit my mind and body, motivated me, and I turned to my daughter Elizabeth for support. As a high school cross country runner with miles behind her, she knew just the advice to give me, including the importance of stamina and starting slow. Together, we made a plan, bought new sneakers, and chose a 5K for mid-October. She liked that it was near the water; I liked that it was “shaded, with flat roads.” No pressure, she said. Just take it easy. And so, I began.
I learned, however, that planning is a lot easier than execution. I did start slow, but all too soon reverted to my familiar pace of walking, albeit quickly. I tried listening to music one day then leaving the airpods at home the next. I tried running early one day then in the evening the next. Treadmill or road? Podcast or not? An avid walker, I thought running or even jogging would be the next step, but I couldn’t find that rhythm. After a few weeks, my summer goal appeared to be unattainable. I refused to quit but wondered, where was that profound sense of well-being and spiritual comfort that so many said I would find? As I pounded my feet upon the sidewalks, I wondered how anyone could ever find this enjoyable.
Frustrated, I turned again to Elizabeth, asking for her “secret.” What was that innate motivation that kept her going, traversing the gravel trails and wooded paths each day, ponytail flying? “Run to the beat of your heart,” she said, relaying advice she once received. “That’s what I do.”
And so, I began again. Following the path I wanted to take was not easy, but if it was, the challenge would be for naught. What is easy is to abandon the goal—be it a personal one, a professional one, or one through the neighborhood, cautiously beckoning a hesitant runner. Uncertainty and doubt remained each morning when I laced up my sneakers—but lace them up I did, remembering Elizabeth’s words and the words from Romans that have helped me through other challenges: “we. . . glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.” I’ll admit that when the summer heat hung heavy, I avoided the hills and walked more often than jogged, but day by day, I found a rhythm, one I aim to continue. And come October, for at least part of the race, I’ll be running to the beat of my heart.