If you had asked me how I expected to feel on Day 157 back on Day 1 or 3 or Day 33 I would probably have told you something to the effect of: adjusted, strong, giddy with wedding plans. Here we are, 35 days until the wedding—17 until I see Mark. So close to the end. That’s really what this day-counting is about: days of being in Columbia without Mark, days of working a grownup job. I knew I was in for a journey, taken from the warm arms of university and thrust into a lonely and very sobering reality. It’s been a difficult season, one I can best understand in the context of running.
I’m training for a half marathon. I don’t know why, really, just that I want to. It started years ago when I ran one mile and then wondered if I could do two. Two became a 5K and then a 10K. It’s invigorating, running farther or faster than you ever have before. But it’s all in the training. There are days I want to run but know I should rest. More often, though, I clumsily hit the alarm and pour myself out of bed and into my running shoes. You’ve probably heard that the hardest step is the first one? It’s true. Anyway, Sundays are my long runs. I save my energy for Sunday mornings because this is the run where I build mileage, where I run my farthest. It’s a mental routine. I wait as long as possible before heading out the door, in nervous anticipation of the long run ahead of me, and I spend the first mile warming up—feeling the kinks in my steps, the stiffness in my joints. After that first mile, though, I get amped up. I can do this. Bring it on. I will own this run. Thoughts like that. Then somewhere around mile 3 I slip into “the zone.” The place where I stop thinking about my run altogether and relax my mind. I pray or think, sometimes sing in my head, but most often pray. The zone is interrupted by brief hiccups: moments where I notice the way my feet strike the ground, the way my knees kind of hurt, my breathing, the pain. They’re only little hiccups. I slip back into the zone fairly easily. Then there is the last mile. The last mile, no matter how many or few hiccups I’ve had, is where the zone dissipates and there is a sudden realization of pain, exhaustion, questioning. My quads are so tired. I am so tired! Why am I even doing this? I start to wonder if I’m going to be able to finish this run. As if after seven miles, one more will kill me. But that’s what it feels like. There is no zone, no buffer to keep your eyes off the pain, but somehow you have to do it. You have to keep your eyes off the pain. You don’t know how, but you push through. And then euphoria, but only because you made it through that last mile, not because you made it through eight (or nine or fifty, whatever).
If I had known that this season was going to be a long run, I would have had a better idea of what to expect. In the midst of being burnt out from a job that keeps me face-to-face with a computer and not a person, having few accessible friends in Columbia, and being exhausted and stressed with wedding planning, I have lost my zone. This is the last mile and I desperately want to finish strong.
My prayer requests: that I would be able to boldly share Christ in my last two weeks in the office, that I would have energy and peace to finish wedding planning, and (most of all) that I would be socially satisfied.