Worship and running. It’s all training.

This was an article I wrote for our church email newsletter last fall, but I was reading over it as I’ve begun training now for the Bangkok Marathon, and reminded of the discipline in our lives it takes not only for physical things, but also in our expression of worship… (October 15, 2010)

FBC weekly

Staff Corner
Meridith Johnson, Director of
Worship Ministry
One step at a time.
     Many of you may have heard or knew that I ran the Portland Marathon this past Sunday, and the only way that I was able to accomplish this life-goal of mine, was to run one step at a time.  The last few miles of the 26.2 mile race I verbally repeated to myself over and over, “it’s almost over, I’m almost done”.  And then, before long, I did finish.  I ran the race.  I accomplished a goal.
     Now you may ask, “I thought this report was about worship?”, and yes, it is, let me get to that.  You see, I’ve never been an athletic person, I was a cheerleader in High School, and could hardly run a mile until I was probably 21.  But with perseverance, practice, and discipline, I trained for shorter races, and soon the distances I once thought were hard and unbelievably long, became easy and didn’t seem as long as they seemed to be.
     Worship is something we will never really understand, or comprehend, but through Scripture, we see that as God’s people, it is an act we are commanded to do.  Something happens when as a church, we gather and corporately praise God and verbally sing, say, and pray what we know to be true of our God.  Just like the marathon I ran, I had no idea what the experience would be like until I began training, and working at doing something I wasn’t comfortable with.  Worship I would say is the same in many respects.  When we ascribe that our God is worthy (where we get the word “worship”), sometimes it is uncomfortable and sometimes we don’t feel like worshipping, but the end result and goal is always accomplished when we are willing.  God is always lifted high, and his name is glorified.
     During my months of training, some mornings I would wake up only to see it was way too early for anyone to do anything on a Saturday, then eventually I would stumble out of bed to run.  Sunday mornings, or all mornings our worship may feel the same way to us, like a chore.  But when we worship, Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of his people.  Other translations for this Hebrew word yashab are “to dwell”, “to remain”, “to sit” or “to abide”.  This verb implies God’s action on his part to dwell and be among us when we worship him.  There is something uncomfortable about the idea that God dwells with us when we worship, the living God, among us, his people.  The experience is indescribable, but worth the effort of our time and attention.
     Now, many of you have never run a marathon, and maybe never will, but you can choose to work at your personal worship and as a body our expression of praise corporately as a church.  This weekend, may you worship God in every word, activity, and breath, and on Sunday, every Sunday, may our sacrifice of praise be authentic, and change our hearts and lives.

wrapping up week #8 of training!

Dearest readers,

Maybe these marathon training updates bore you, but this is my reality, so here you go.

Long runs.  Those of you who run races much know the concept.  Basically, one day a week (usually Saturday or Sunday, depending on schedules) you push your distance gradually, including some taper weeks, so you can work up to the distance you will run on your race.  Many people have the misconception that people training for marathons run long distances every day: not true.  Rest days are just as important as any other day of the week.  Anyway, long runs are a chance to build mental focus, and just help log more milage for the week for you too.

My confession: the past 4 weeks or so, my entire life has been up in the air, with VBS, moving, among other things, I haven’t been able to get a good long run in during any of the weekends. Last Saturday I was supposed to do 12, but only ended up doing 8 or 9.  Anyway, the significance of that is: I have never run more than 10 miles, EVER… so I had this looming fear that once I did, I would get injured, or just not be able to actually do it.  Upon looking at my training schedule earlier this week, I realized: I had to run 13 miles this Saturday.  And for those who don’t know, that’s a half-marathon!!

So, yes, if you’re wondering, I DID in fact survive.  I ran from Central Point to Jacksonville and back.. it was STUNNING this morning.  Running along the fields and watching the sun slowly come up.  It’s amazing out there when you aren’t driving and in a hurry… A few interesting happenings took place though, but I won’t share the details.  You probably don’t want to know.  If you do, ask me.

As I was running today, my thoughts drifted back to 8th grade (some of the “mental focus” just means finding things to think about that really don’t matter much at all..), when I first did any kind of running at all outside of PE class.  I joined Track my 8th grade year, and I still to this day have no idea why!

Anyway, when I joined, I knew I was going to have to find some event to do… tried all of them, couldn’t really do any of the sprints, did hurdles but during one of the races tripped and fell (short legs)… somehow, I ended up choosing to run the 400.

The 400 was one of the more difficult races, in between a sprint, and a longer run.  One time around the track.  A fourth of a mile.  As it so happened, for some reason in our league, there weren’t many girls that ran the 400.  In fact, at almost every meet, there were usually only 3 of us that ran.  And, as it would be, almost every time, I placed 2nd.  Granted, I KNEW I wasn’t very good, so don’t worry, it didn’t go to my head.

Somehow, I made it to the overall, league qualifying meet.  Wow, I still remember it as clear as day.  There were 8 of us that day, the most I’d ever raced against.  The stands were full.  I was so nervous.  I knew I was slow!!  Anyway, I started out probably in the middle of the pack, but then half way around the track, EVERYONE sprinted to the finish line, and I was left at the end of the pack… all alone.  I was the slowest, and last one!!!

What was even more embarrassing was when I finally drew closer to the finish line, all the parents and fans in the stands rose to their feet, clapping for me.. the last one to finish.  I was red I’m sure, but I also didn’t feel too well.. almost puked.

So back to now.  Today as  I was running I remembered that story because I know I’m not really a “good” runner, but part of pushing yourself is all mental, and really nothing physical.  Last week, I ran a 5K on the whim with my sister and Lindsey.  I’m not a 110 pound 6’3″ skinny 16 year old boy that can run a 5K in 10 minutes… slow and steady at times.  (However, I did win a ribbon for finishing 2nd in my age/gender category in the race!)

I was also today thinking about a 10K I ran while I was in Thailand.. the International River Kwai Run.  I didn’t train at all, and actually at that point, hadn’t even run much while in Thailand, so I wasn’t at all used to the humidity.  While plugging along and breathing loudly, I’ll never forget, the sweetest Thai man started running along side me and said “one step at a time”, while smiling from ear to ear.  That’s my modo for this… one step at a time.  I’m not unique person, anyone could throw on a pair of shoes and finish a marathon.  But for me, this is about overcoming what my mind and body have said for so long isn’t possible.  This is for me , to conquer my fears, and to do something I want to do before I die: train and finish a marathon.

Who knows, this could be the start of something new! 🙂

The Marathon Diaries, Week 4

Beginning of week 4: the Marathon Diaries.

Twenty-six point two miles never felt farther to me.  Currently in the training schedule, I don’t run close to that much in a WEEK.  Let alone one, single, run.  Holy cow, what am I doing?

Maybe that’s why I’ve put off registering…

No, I have a better reason why I’ve put off registering, I’m waiting to see how my knee/IT band does once I’m up a little more mileage, basically, this week, and next will tell.  If you see me passed out on the side of the road some morning, you’ll know that: 1) I probably won’t be running the PDX Marathon after all and 2) that I may be in need of your assistance.  Call 911 and come help me.  Hopefully I won’t already be dead.

You know, when I tell people that I’m training for a Marathon, everyone seems to get the same look of shock, amazement and terror in their eyes as they reply, “YOU ARE???”.  I laugh.  They stand there shocked a few moments more.  Then they say, “Wow, I could never do that, I’m not a runner, I hate running”. To that, I reply, “me too, I hate running, I was a cheerleader in High School and never ran more than a mile until I was probably… 20”.

Truth is, I’m not really a runner at heart, but there are a lot of things I’m learning to love about it.  Once you get over the “wall”… which usually takes a while… I don’t think I have in the past 3 weeks… Once the wall is broken, your legs become wings, and you could run forever.  Mentally you come to a place of triumph, and you soar down the road and leave clouds of dust behind you.  It’s an amazing feeling.  I can’t wait to get back to that.  Hopefully this week.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to get into a routine of getting up early and running.  Let’s just say I haven’t been successful.  This morning, as I lay lifeless in bed, with my nose still throbbing in pain from how many times I had blown it yesterday, I suddenly woke up, seeing the dim dawn light coming through my curtains. I rolled over to glance at my phone to see the time was: 5:54 a.m.  Of course my first thought was “wow, I should really get up and go running now”… but instead of listening to that still small voice, I tried to sleep a little longer. As the minutes slowly passed by, it was like my shoes were calling me.  They wanted to run.  6:02 a.m.,  I jump up, gaze out my window and stare at the allergy infested grassland around me, I thought once again about going back to bed, but somehow my arms reached for my running shoes instead.  This was a truly out of body experience.

So yeah, I ran early this morning.  Short run, just 3 miles.  (And yes, there was once a day when a “short run” was more like five steps, but these days, 3 and 4 milers are short.  Wow, I’m a runner.)

Well, if you care, you’ve finished this blog.  I’ll keep you all updated on how my body is surviving this venture.

10.10.10.  If I’m still alive and make it to race day.