Brave Enough to Keep Running

This post was originally published on The Road to Brave

Subject: Victoria
Location: Running Trail
Minute: 2:30
Runner’s Log: Wow, it feels good to be outside. What perfect weather. Man, I love running. 

Subject: Victoria
Location: Running Trail
Minute: 10:00
Runner’s Log: Afternoon runs are the best. This is so great. I’m glad we have time for a long run. Why don’t I do this every day? 

Subject: Victoria
Location: Running Trail
Minute: 35:00
Runner’s Log: We’re not turning around now? No? Um…okay…sure, that’s fine…I can’t figure out why my foot hurts, though. I mean, it’s probably fine…

Subject: Victoria
Location: Running Trail
Minute: 67:00
Runner’s Log: We definitely should have turned around earlier. I hope I make it all the way home. I probably won’t make it all the way home. Where’s that runner’s high they talk about? My head hurts…my foot hurts…oh, look, that person has a bike…I wish I had a bike…

Yes, go ahead and laugh at me. I certainly do. But in all honesty, that’s an accurate summary of a recent run I went on after a couple weeks off for travel. And I like running! But I like running more when it’s comfortable, and feels good, and doesn’t push me too hard, and the weather isn’t too hot (or too cold), and my clothes fit great…

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I also like life more when it’s comfortable. And easy. And feels good. And doesn’t push me too hard. And…

Well, you probably do, too. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself. That’s why we don’t wear burlap for clothes and we have comfy beds and these things called pillows and loungewear that I certainly never steal from family members. 

But that desire can reach around and bite us, too, and leave quite the mark on our lives. Sometimes even a scar. Sometimes it makes us forget that this is a war we’re in, not a vacation. Sometimes it makes us forget that the life of a good soldier is one of self-denial and choosing character and comrade over comfort and pushing beyond our limits to give a little bit more. 

Sometimes the most courageous thing we can do is to stop, accept that we’re human, be still, and rest. But other times, our bravest possible decision is to just keep running. 

If you’re in a season right now where God is asking you to press ahead, to keep going, to keep running past what you think you’re physically able to do, I hope these simple encouragements are a blessing from the soul of one fellow soldier to another. 

You don’t get to see the view if you don’t climb the mountain. It sounds so cliché I almost can’t type it. But it’s cliché because it’s true, and there are an awful lot of views I’ve never seen because I chose not to climb the mountain. I chose to listen to fear or to worry or to pride and to not lean in, to not risk failure, to not keep going. No climb, no view. 

It’s as simple as that. 

There’s an old volcano (Lassen) in northern California I’ve hiked a few times with my family. It’s a hike that can be completed in less than a half-day, but Lassen has a somewhat high elevation and makes you work for it. In the middle of that hike, I can distinctly remember my heart pounding, lungs asking for a lot more oxygen, and back sweating profusely beneath my backpack—until the next break, when the cool wind off the mountainside would almost immediately turn the sweat to chill. In such times, it’s easy for me to ask why exactly it was that I decided to commit to this climb. The more tired you get, the easier it is to forget why. 

But on the other hand, the higher you climb, the more glimpses you begin to get of what lies ahead. The horizon stretches out further and further away as the valley below becomes increasingly miniature. The higher you climb, the more incredible the picture. And once you’ve reached the summit, 

you get to see the view. 

If you’re in a season right now where God is asking you to keep running, keep just taking the next step, friend. The view will be worth it. 

PC Savannah Grant Schell

Second, push yourself hard—but also take care of yourself along the way so that you can keep running. 

My first-ever 5k race was not quite a disaster, but the last 1,320 feet were definitely embarrassing. 

In addition to being plain old nervous, I was also afraid of anything that might cause cramps during this first race, and I was adamant that NOT happen. So I rose, gave myself a wee bit of water and a banana, and figured that was plenty sufficient. Breakfast after the 5k. 

It was also an east-coast July, so even though the race took place early in the day, the weather was already hot and humid by the time the starting buzzer went off. And off I went, one lap, two laps, three…slower than I wanted, but still determined to beat my personal record. 

And then, less than a quarter mile before the finish line, my body decided that was that and, to my utter embarrassment, started dry-heaving. : ) There I was on the side of the road, subject to many sympathetic glances, trying to slow my heart rate and catch my breath so I could keep walking and finish the rest of the race at a turtle speed. Needless to say, I did not set any records.

“So the moral of the story, children, is…” when you’re running your first 5k, consume more than a thimbleful of water and a banana beforehand. 

Also, when we’re running this race of life and we’re starting to wonder how on earth we can keep going, and our muscles are aching, and our lungs are burning, and we know we must keep running but don’t know how

In the midst of that, make enough space to get some water and more than a banana. : ) Maybe you need extra support from your people (odds are you do). Maybe you need extra time to process and journal (odds are you do). Maybe you’re cutting corners on self-care and you need to hit your basics of sleep and movement and healthy food and more water (you definitely do). 

Make sure to cover those “surface level” needs—things like sleep and nutrients. But also make sure to tap into those deeper needs that are easy to overlook. You were created to be with your Savior, and you need that to keep running. You were created to heal, not to stay stuck in the midst of pain or trauma. You were created for relationships, and you need them to keep running. 

And speaking of that…run with other people. 

For most of my life, I was a solo runner. I liked being off by myself, enjoying many introverted moments as the world cycled through its seasons. Since getting married last year, though, I’ve run more often with my husband than by myself. And funny old world, but I’ve run further and faster with that extra person beside me than I did running alone. 

Part of it is because having a companion pushes me to run harder, competitively. Part of it is because I’m immediately accountable to keep running till we hit our goal. Part of it is because it’s been more fun to run together than separately, so I’ve done more of it. And part of it is because I have someone to encourage me, to cheer me on, and to take each step alongside me as I’m running. 

Life is much the same way. When we’re pressing through a season where each new step and each new day feels increasingly weary, when we want to see changes happening and they’re not, when we want to move out of this wilderness or out of this marathon that we’re in but there’s no finish line in sight, we need companions. Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms. We need people to hold up our arms, too. To cheer us on. To encourage us. To be right there next to us, taking each step alongside us as we labor on.

For much of my adult life, I also made the mistake of isolating myself whenever I faced something extra difficult or painful. It felt easier to just keep things tucked away, where I didn’t have to explain anything and where people couldn’t see the raw, hurting corners of my heart. I’m not a great stage actress, but I’ve had a lot of practice in life. To my detriment. 

We weren’t meant to isolate ourselves. God created us to have community, to have relationships, and that often makes all the difference in the world. 

So when you’re in a season where you need to keep running, let go of the isolation thing and reach out instead. 

Sometimes it’s very brave to slow down, to say no to things, to say yes to a simpler pace of life. But other times, it’s the bravest thing in the world to just keep running. 

And if that’s you right now, don’t forget that there is a view coming, and it will be worth the pain and the hardship. Don’t forget to take care of yourself even as you keep putting one foot in front of the other. And don’t forget to reach out and let your people come alongside you, running in step and helping hold up your arms when you can’t do it yourself. 

This week, may we be brave enough to keep running.