The pavement bounces beneath your sneakers. With every push, there’s a pull. The push from the balls of your feet launches against the pull of gravity when taking the next stride. Your kneecaps fly in the air upward. The wind, the elements, the hill you are climbing, can’t stop you. You’re determined. Face like flint, eyes set ahead, heartbeat whirling in anticipation.
You are running.
Better yet, you are running distance.
The heat from the sun is at its peak, blazing its rays seemingly on every part of your exposed skin. Curdling waves of sweat roll into your line of vision, sprouting from every pore. The material from your running gear is plastered and clinging to your being.
But you don’t feel it. All you feel is driven. Driven to get to your destination.
Driven to the finish line.
Running distance is no joke. I ran it for years and became addicted simply because it’s hard. When running in the winter or in the peak of summer, it’s even harder. Running in the winter unveils various enemies, such as hidden ice, rock-hard snow, or freaking freezing cold. You layer up. You hop around until the race starts. You shudder and blow into your running gloves as the puffs of air from your mouth escape with each breath.
But it’s all fueling you.
Running in heat is a different type of challenge. The rules are opposite. You strip down to as little gear as possible. They make those running shorts with the sewn-in underwear for a reason! You’ve stuck on your visor or hat. Even running glasses if you’re brave. You fight and fling off the moisture slithering over every nook and cranny of your body. Your throat screams for water. The fear of heatstroke lurks at every milestone.
It’s not for the weary.
When I was in my 20s I was bold enough to run my first half marathon. That’s 13.1 miles for the uninformed. I did it on a very hot day in Cleveland, Ohio. I didn’t know about the heatstroke thing. I only knew I needed to stay energized by drinking water and eating energy gels. By mile six, I was dehydrated, only I didn’t know it. All I knew was that by the time I saw water available and there were no more cups, I eagerly scooped up a used one off the ground, filled it with water, and downed it. When you’re that thirsty, you don’t care. It wasn’t until nearing the end of my race, when a marathoner had collapsed, and the ambulance was on the scene, that I understood just how hot it was, and just how dangerous it could be running in the heat. The thing is, that marathoner was still trying to complete his race. Even while sprawled on the pavement!
That is a picture of a real runner, though. When you’re a runner, you know it’s often about your mindset than your actual body. If your mind believes you can, regardless of how much your legs, muscles, and lungs are telling you you can’t, you know it’s mind over matter.
On the flip side, there are times you must listen to your body.
I had to learn this in my training. I went out one night with a friend, and we ran 10 miles around the city. But before we completed our race, I grew exhausted, and I couldn’t figure out why. I had drunk water. I had eaten. I was mentally ready to go! But my body was stopping me. Apparently, I had hit the “runner’s wall.” Water wasn’t enough. I needed electrolytes.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. Even when we think we can go, our bodies can’t carry out the mission if we don’t fuel ourselves with the proper resources. So, there’s a responsibility to make sure we have what we need physically, and also lock the right mindset in place.
These days, I’m running again. I had to take a break and give my body what it needed: rest. I was so encouraged by my chiropractor when she said I didn’t need an adjustment this week. It has been nearly a year of trying to get my spine back into alignment, and guess what? It’s working. I’m in the least amount of pain I’ve been in in three years (from various ailments). My body is the happiest it’s been. But this reward didn’t come without sacrifice.
My chiropractor shared that other patients are still struggling physically because they won’t slow down and care for their bodies. Giving up hip-hop step, running, and strength training were huge sacrifices for me. These physical activities have been lifelines, helping me heal from grief and keeping my mental health in check. I had to be patient and tell myself, “I will recover. This is just for a season.” Even as I gained weight. For the first time, I had to be intentionally kind to myself. I’m usually so driven that I want to beat my body into submission. But this rationale is what prolonged my foot injury. That experience taught me I need to listen to my body.
Especially as I’m getting older.
In urban communities, it’s typical to white-knuckle it and do what it takes, but God has revealed that mindset is a survivor’s mentality. Yes, it helped my forefathers survive some pretty brutal stuff, but they did that so that I wouldn’t have to. I have the luxury of thriving, not just surviving. And when I thrive, I thrive for them, just as they survived for me. The cycle of oneness is complete through us.
Now, when I run, I run cautiously. I take my time. I listen to my body. I feel my muscles. I am in tune with what they are telling me. The ultimate goal is to finish the race, and I can’t afford to collapse like that man running his marathon.
Especially in the spirit.
In other news…Did you know that I just dropped my debut novel When Love Wins? You can check out more here! This time around there is an audiobook in addition to the eBook and paperback versions. Make sure you are subscribed to my email list to catch special offers, discounts, insider information, and more!
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And, lastly, if you have read “Stories for the (Urban) Soul, please put up an Amazon review here. I was SUPER encouraged and blessed when a new reader put up her review for my 2nd book which you can view here :).
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