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The unknown path was necessary for success.

I signed up for a half marathon in the Oakland area thinking it was a “let’s close the streets and run on cement” race. I pictured the Santa Rosa half marathon I ran about 10 years ago. My experience (and my incorrect reference) was a flat and paved half marathon, which was so fun with all the booths and music and people waiting at the finish line to cheer you on- complete strangers clapping and congratulating.

The trail run half marathon I signed up for and completed last Saturday, was NOT what I thought and but it was exactly what I needed.

Through the elevation of the East Bay mountains (above the sea), through the ankle deep mud because of the rain the night before and morning of, through the ups and downs and twists and turns- I needed that race for a perspective shift and pure raw gratitude.

“I paid for this!” was a thought followed by a crazy laugh that happened a few times on the slippery trail. I was ankle deep in mud, sliding backwards, thinking about gripping bush branches to pull myself forward as I was “running” the half marathon.

“I paid for this” was what I said as my legs were turning into jello and my hip flexors- oh my hip flexors- burned.

What is crazy to me as I think back to the 13.1 miles of running, jogging, walking, sliding, hiking, and almost crawling up the hills was that I LOVED IT. I paid to challenge my mind and body and I thoroughly enjoyed every crazy inch.

Lots of thoughts (and prayers) came to mind in the 2 hours and 44 minutes of this race.

Here are two that stood out to me:

1. How utterly grateful I was thinking about God’s goodness. I was healthy enough to DO that. I was ABLE. I was so joyful THROUGH it. And all I wanted to do was thank God over and over again for such an incredible experience.

2. How much I loved my husband. Didn’t think my mind would go here (even though I cherish my husband) but I paused a lot to linger in my thoughts of him. I kept thinking about Jakob and I the kids while I trekked alone through thick trails (worried about mountain lions). I thought about how blessed I was and how much I loved the 3 greatest blessings God graciously gave me. (Also praying I’d make it back to them in one piece #jokes) I knew my hubby had fed the kids, dressed our toddler, and loaded the car to drive two hours to watch me finish this “I paid for this” half marathon. My husband that has cheered me on no matter what wild hair I’ve thrown at him in the last almost 17 years.

My perspective, my frame, was gratitude all throughout my run. Even when I was thirsty and a bit angry at myself for not stopping long enough to drink more water at the checkpoint on mile 5 or 6, I was grateful I knew that my next half marathon, I’d be more prepped and run with my own water.

This run kept giving me a reframe of what could be negative thoughts into positive ones, and it was a breath of fresh air.

I’ve always enjoyed physical challenges. A couple tough muddders, a CrossFit competition, a spartan, a handful of 5ks, a 10k, and now two half marathons later- I clearly love “paying for pain.” But the exhilaration of the training, the anticipation, the journey, the race, and the finish line all make me feel ALIVE. Grateful for the life I get to live.

Will I be running a marathon? Maybe one day. But we were looking up city half marathons that weren’t “Surprise! This a mud fest up hill trail run” in the car on the way home. So I’ll definitely be running (not trucking through) another half marathon this summer.

The point of this blog:

•Be grateful for the body you have. Walk, jog, run, hike BECAUSE YOU CAN.

•Do things that scare you. That challenge you. That bring you outside your comfort zone. That make you breath hard and pray. Why? The reward is tremendous and it’s one you have to experience on your own. It teaches you that you CAN do hard things.

•Show your kids what’s possible. I love having my kids at these events because they see outside their normal routine. They see their mama (and dad at times) outside the normal day to day- doing hard things.

My daughter has seen me compete in these events all her life and I love that she now wants to do them too. She’s seen both her parents push past their limits, and I pray she does so also- now and as an adult. She had seen it’s possible and doable even when you’re shaking after a race and need help putting on a jacket.

I’ve always wanted to be an athlete. In school growing up I was a mediocre one, but now as an adult I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished. I don’t want to be an athlete anymore, because I know God’s made me one.

Friend, if you run, you’re a runner. No matter how far or how slow, you’re a runner.

Post run takeaway:

The Lord is a lamp unto our feet not a spotlight to the journey ahead. (See Psalm 119:105)

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know the elevation or the mud…but I’m SO GLAD I DIDN'T KNOW. And that’s why God is a lamp and not a spotlight. He knows that if we saw the whole path, we would opt out thinking we weren’t ready, trained, qualified, or prepped enough for what He had ahead for us.

I didn’t train for a muddy trail run, I ran in a climate controlled shop on a zero incline treadmill, but with God and what He equipped me with through the journey on the inside, is what helped me completed it non the less.

Friend, you may want the spotlight on your bravery thinking it will help you do the scary thing ahead. But I’m here to tell you to be grateful for the lamp at your feet because one step in front of the other is how we conquer the whole muddy unknown path ahead, and become victorious at the finish line.


Want run a half marathon? This is the training program I did the last 3 months. (Cross training is lifting weights, but you can also just do the prescribed runs and do great!)

Also, I encourage you to find a friend to do it with- it’ll make the journey so much sweeter.

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