Running Strong: Inspiration from the Chicago Marathon

It was cold, dark, windy and early when we dropped the runners off at their gate. With one girl on the top of the stroller, one in the actual seat and one perched on the foot rest, we quickly became Chicago’s Finest Spectator Mobile, off on our own adventure.

After months of training, my dear friend, Jayne, and her husband, Matty, were in town to run the Chicago Marathon.

While they would spend the next 4.5-5 hours running, I was responsible for keeping their two girls and my kiddo alive, safe and in one piece. Confession: I may have laid awake from 3-4am wondering how the morning was going to play out. A 3:1 kid to adult ratio with energetic girls under the age of 6 in a huge city with 45,000 people running through the streets just sounded a tad bit overwhelming.

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Nevertheless, I put on my brave that day and headed down Michigan Avenue with one Bob stroller, three girls, two blankets, a plethora of snacks, an activity bag filled with crayons and coloring books, three posters, one iPad with kid shows pre-loaded because sometimes we all need a little mental break, and a partridge in a pear tree, for good measure.

Panera became our base. It was warm, comfy and served kid food and coffee. God bless those saintly employees. Every single one of them helped me with all of the water cups, all of the extra bowls and extra spoons and I’m so sorry, but can I get one more GoGurt, and all of the door holding (getting a stroller piled with 120lbs of children in and out of narrow doors is no small task).

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I’m pretty good with kids, but little things can suddenly get very tricky when you’re out-numbered 3:1. For example, potty breaks. After catching a quick site of our runners at the two-mile mark, everyone needed to go potty. Back to Panera we went.

“Quinn, go ahead and wash your hands, but stay in the bathroom, okay?”

“Adellyn, it’s your turn. Remember to wash your hands when you’re done.”

“Maeve, come with me, honey. We need to go potty.”

I was so in the throws of shuffling the girls through the potty process, that I hardly noticed a lady standing against the wall, making her way through her own potty process, quietly observing our little potty-stop.

“Excuse us,” I said, trying to shuffle one of the girls out of her way.

“No worries at all,” she said, smiling perhaps one of the most encouraging smiles I’ve seen in a while. “We are all running our own marathons today.”


Indeed we are

Indeed I am. Indeed you are. All running our own marathons. What a statement.

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I don’t know what your marathon is today or this week or in this season. I don’t know which mile you’re at or how you’re doing. Maybe you feel like you’re sailing along or maybe the next water stop can’t coming fast enough. Maybe you’re nearing the finish line or maybe you’re doubting your ability to see this thing through to the finish line. Maybe you’re the runner. Maybe you’re the spectator.

The marathon requires endurance and a steadfast commitment to grinding it out, one step at a time. It requires resilience. Determination. And the will to just keep going.

The beautiful thing? When we run with each other, with our communities, with the people who love us no matter what through all of the things for all of the years, we find the strength we need for each race. Sometimes you’ll be the runner, sometimes the spectator, but always a critical part of the team.

Whatever marathon you are running today, run your race strong, my friend. The finish line is just ahead.

*Jayne and Matty, this post is dedicated to you. Biggest congratulations on a great race!


#lakelife lesson: The Good Stuff is Worth the Fight

Hello, friends! I decided to take summer seriously this year and celebrate being back in the Midwest, where summer means open windows and weekends at the lake and bonfires with s’mores, of course, because it’s not a real bonfire unless you leave with marshmallow residue in your hair.

And while seriously summering has meant a break from blogging, it hasn’t meant a break from some lessons I’ve learned from #lakelife. Lessons like: Breaks are necessary and lakes are a good place to take them. Coffee tastes better when sipped on the shore. Mornings walks make me a nicer person. Having no cell phone signal or Wifi for a day or two is a good thing. God paints beautiful sunsets.

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And one lesson worth elaborating on: The good stuff is worth the fight.

I got up on water skis this summer for the first time in 17 years. It.was.awesome!

It was a sunny morning when I jumped into the chilly in the water, pulled the skis on my feet and felt…awkward. They say some things are like riding a bike and it all comes back to you, but 17 years is a decent amount of time, and I wasn’t so sure. I knew what I needed to do, but as the boat took off and I held on to the rope, my knees felt wobbly and my legs looked like Bambi on ice, each going the opposite direction. Saving myself from the dreaded face plant, I quickly let go of the rope and sunk back into the water. I could have given up, but I wanted to get back up on those skis..darn it…and I was going to fight for it.

The boat circled around, I grabbed the rope and tightened my legs. As the boat accelerated again, I squeezed the rope handle, holding my best in-water chair pose, fighting to see through the wave of water in my face. And then, after what felt like a day, but was really about 15 seconds, I popped up and was cruising along the water.

That’s the funny thing about skiing. That moment. You know the one, where you can’t rush it and you don’t yet know how it’s going to turn out. And you can’t do anything except hang on tight, hold your best chair pose and wait. While sort of trusting the boat. Trusting yourself. Trusting the sport.

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Sometimes, in fact, a lot of times, you fight hard and the lake wins and you have to try again. But then sometimes, you are able to put the pieces together and you pop up out of the water and THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IT. The water under your feet, the wind on your face. And all of a sudden, the fight was worth it!

But you can’t get there without the struggle. Without getting some water in your face, doing the work at the beginning, hanging on tight and waiting and trusting the timing and proving how bad you want it.

This is true with the hardest and best things in life, I think. All of the good things, my most treasured moments or memories or experiences have come with a trial or a struggle that’s required me to stand firm, to get some water in my face and forced me to a place of determining just how bad I want it.

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The good things, the best things have made me answer questions like, what do I want more? Where does the path of least resistance lead and is that where I want to go? If I’m facing this mountain, is what is at the top worth climbing toward? What am I willing to sacrifice and what is the cost?

Chocolate now or ten pounds later? Quit training now or half marathon under my belt later? Mundane and predictable or exciting adventure? Fighting to maintain “control” or standing firm in faith? Taking a chance on someone or something or always wondering what might have been? Giving up now or sense of accomplishment later?

And sometimes, the water in the face part is scary and blinding and the holding on tight part is tiring and taxing, but just like when it all comes together in skiing, it all comes together in life. Somehow, someway, in perfect time. We have a good, good Father. He’s an excellent boat driver. And while I spent a lot of years trying to be the captain, I’ve surrendered the wheel now. You’ll find me either on the front of the boat, hands in the air, enjoying the ride or hanging on tight, fighting for a thrilling ride from the rope in the back, having the time of my life. Sometimes with water in my face. A lot of time with water in my face, hanging on tight, knowing there is a great run ahead if I just fight for it.

If you’re hanging on, water in the face, fighting for something, hang on, sweet friend. You’ll pop up out of the water soon! And if you’ve been knocked down, grab the rope, not the wheel, and trust your captain. Try again. There is smooth water and a lot of life to be lived on the other side. The good stuff, the best stuff – it’s worth the fight!

I hope you’ve summered this summer, and if you haven’t, there’s still time left. Go enjoy it and come back and tell us all about it!

A Few Lessons From the Spin Bike

I took a spin claIMG_6778ss once…and hated every last second of it. Let me make sure I’m clear: I.HATED.IT. I couldn’t get off the bike and out of class fast enough and then I precisely wrote the whole thing off. I was bored out of my mind for 45 minutes that day, and my hiney hurt so bad for an entire week, I wasn’t sure I would ever walk straight again. I could be convinced to do almost any other form of exercise, but not that.

Fast-forward a good nine years. “I think you should try it,” my friend, Linda, said to me, referring to a spin class she takes not once, but twice, a week. As I started to protest, it became clear that she wasn’t interested in my excuses. Next thing I knew, I was slipping my feet into the foot straps and pedaling away.

I now find myself on that bike every week…not once, but twice. And for those of you who love a good list, here are a few lessons I’ve learned from the spin bike.

  1. You don’t have love everything you do, and yet, it’s still good for you to do those things often. Spinning is not my favorite form of exercise. I don’t hate it, my hiney doesn’t get sore anymore and there are some classes and intervals that I enjoy. But I don’t love it. And that’s okay. It’s still a great form of exercise. It’s still good for me to vary my workouts, it’s good for me to be challenged in different ways.
    What is it for you? Eating vegetables? You laugh. This one doesn’t always come easy…especially to my four year old. Being active? How about spending quiet time with God and doing more listening than talking? Taking a spin class?

    You don’t have to love it, but it may be good for you to do it anyway.

  1. Rest is critical.
    I hate this one almost as much as I hated that first spin class nine years ago. However, regardless of my love or hate of it: Rest is critical.It’s not possible (for me, anyway) to make it through the entire class if I don’t rest well during the active recoveries between each interval. Sometimes the breaks are longer, some are shorter, but each is necessary to prepare for the next challenge. And without that rest, when it’s time to work, I become sloppy, exhausted and off my game.When I’m spinning, I’m desperate for the rests. But in life, man I try to blow right through them.In life, I’m not a good rester. I’d much rather be the event planner than the event attendee. I’m a Type-A, hard-working Martha, not a natural Mary. I like to be busy, I like a project and I love to plan my work and work my plan. Ask me to move across the country and start a new chapter of life, essentially from scratch? Sure. Ask me to be still and rest? Ugh. So hard.However, I must refer myself to point numero uno. In life, just like on that spin bike, and something I must do even if I don’t love it.
  1. Sometimes we have to fight for the finish line.
    While the entire class is 45-minutes long, it takes 40-minutes of warm-up and workout all to get ready for the last 5. The last five minutes, for me, are an indicator of how well I’ve prepared, how well I’ve trained both physically and mentally, and how well I rested during the last forty.The last five minutes are where it counts. It’s when I’m mentally ready to be done. It’s where I’m physically fatigued and where the only way to the finish line is through sheer determination.Whether it’s a conversation at the end of the day, or a request…for the thirteenth time…from my four year-old, or the paper that I need to finish or a project that needs to get turned it, sometimes I have to fight for the finish line. And sometimes, I have to dig deep through lots of uncomfortable emotion and exhaustion to finish strong.Strong finishes feel so good. It’s where we grow, I think. If you have a finish line on the horizon, dig deep and finish strong.
  2. It’s good to get out of our comfort zones.
    One of the reasons I didn’t like that first class was because it IMG_6179was all-around uncomfortable. Spinning made me breathe differently, it fatigued me differently, it made my legs burn…bad. And I wasn’t sure half the time if I was even doing it right.But it’s so good for us to be out of comfort zones. For me, it’s where growth happens. Where I break through the barriers, ceilings and limitations that I put on myself. It’s often where I prove myself wrong. It’s when I’m at the place that Jesus likes me to be – feeling like a fish out of water and fully dependent upon Him.If you haven’t done so lately, step out. Do something that scares you. Let yourself be made uncomfortable. Perhaps you’ll meet a part of you that you’ve met yet. Perhaps God has something in mind for you to learn.

So, while I haven’t had a spinning epiphany and I won’t claim to love it, truth is, I’ve learned a lot on that stinkin’ spin bike over the last three months. Maybe they’ve been helpful for you.

Whatever hills or valleys you’re facing on your trail, stay on your bike and keep peddling, my friends.

Willing To Be Made Willing

IMG_1333I used to have a motto: The only way you’ll get me to run is if you drive an ice cream truck down the street faster than I can catch it by walking.

I was 19 and 194 pounds, not exactly the goal of teenager unless you’re a guy trying out for a spot on the defensive line of a football team. I knew I needed to watch what I ate and do something about my weight and exercise. I knew I wasn’t healthy and I felt trapped in my own body. Like my soul and the person I knew I was inside was not reflected on the outside.

For as long as I could remember, I used food to cope with life. If I was happy, I ate. Scared, I ate. Bored, I ate. And I didn’t want to give that up. I couldn’t give it up.

By the time I got to my sophomore year of college, something had to be done. I was so frustrated with being frustrated. I was barely squeezing into size 14 jeans and XL shirts. Yet, as frustrated as I was, I didn’t know where to start.

In life, so many times, my stubbornness and my will get in my own way. So many times, I don’t want to surrender, give something up, let someone go, or do what I feel like God is asking me to do.

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Joe Zickafoose was my pastor in college. He was one of a kind. He had such a passion for helping young people navigate life. When he found something funny, you couldn’t help but to laugh along with him. He taught me so many little nuggets that still echo in my head today, but I’ve returned to one prayer he taught me many times over the years.

“Lord, I’m willing to be made willing.”

The first willing to be made willing prayer I ever prayed was about food and my unhealthy relationship with it. Shortly after, I was home in North Dakota on winter break from college. It was -30 degrees with the windchill. I put on long johns, insulated pants, three shirts, a double-lined Columbia jacket, two pair of socks, an ear warmer, neck warmer, and gloves. I put my hood up and ventured out for a run through a nearby park.

For two miles, I kept a run one minute, walk four rhythm. I felt good and nothing was frozen by the time I returned home. So, I got up the next day and did it again. And there, in that cold tundra, my love of running was born. It was the first step on a journey to being healthy that continues for me today.

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The strongholds still show their strength. My will and stubbornness still fight what I know is better, what my soul strives for. And when I find myself stuck, I begin with being willing to be made willing.

And then I go for a run, regardless of the ice cream truck.

Maybe for you, a run or Joe’s prayer could be helpful. I hope you use them when you need them.

PS. The pictures from this post are all from my runs over the last few years, including the unintentional selfie that I accidentally took while shoving my phone into a baggie while running in the rain on the beach.