About three weeks ago my training schedule demanded I start running three and seven mile days twice a week instead of three and six, this is a small change (just half a mile longer both ways) but that slightly longer distance made a huge difference. Suddenly my body was struggling to run a 9:50 mile when I had easily finished three miles at a 9:40 pace. Worse than the heightened physical challenge was the fact that running wasn’t fun anymore.
At the beginning even the longer runs where enjoyable since my body always had a little something left at the end and could run a fast time. But when the extra half mile was added it didn’t respond in the same way; when I needed an extra boost of energy for the long hill there wasn’t any, on the downhill runs where my average pace of running (minutes per mile) went down now instead it was going up, and most importantly the confidence I had at the beginning of my marathon training was nowhere to be found.
During the first six weeks of training most of my runs would end the same way…glancing down at my iPhone and smiling because the run had been finished strong. For almost two weeks after my training change I would always look down and shake my head in frustration. But then towards the end of the second week something happened; it wasn’t a massive change, but was enough to start giving me confidence.
Towards the end of my run there is a large hill which takes a lot of energy to conquer and was a particularly discouraging part of my run during weeks six and seven. On Friday of that week I was starting up the hill expecting to slow down as usual but instead found there was enough energy to power my way up and through it. The seven mile run (training week eight) which had haunted my dreams suddenly began to feel easier, and last week that new-found strength allowed me to run it faster than ever before.
For two weeks I went through a physical and mental struggle. Physical because my body didn’t enjoy running anymore and it begged me to quit, mental because my mind was discouraged over my bodies struggles, particularly since I wasn’t even halfway finished with the training at that point. However the Lord helped me keep pushing forward and it resulted in my becoming stronger.
This week I set four personal bests for training; longest time running, farthest distance, highest elevation climbed, and most calories burned. All of that happened because I endured runs which where painful, slow, and very frustrating. God many times puts us through situations that stretch our limits or comfort zones and in the midst of those experiences it’s easy to ask Him why, but we must remember each of those are meant to make us stronger.