* Running groups might look odd but they are effective. I never considered joining a group. I love my time alone and didn't want to have to make small talk with strangers. During the race there were several stretches where it was just me, my I-pod, my thoughts and my Jesus. I prayed, I rapped aloud to Eminem, I pondered who it was that had pooed on the side of the road and I enjoyed my alone time.
However, two times, a running group surrounded me. Literally. Surrounded. A group of 7 men in their 40's came on both sides of me, and ran directly in front of and behind me so I was completely engulfed by bearded men in neon attire. I was forced to run at their pace and I think it must have been a joke on their part. Who knew old guys could have such a sense of humor? They said something to me but I think it was Steven Curtis Chapman who drowned them out and I just flashed the courtesy smile. I laughed and thought about how funny it would be if my cheering squad saw me at that moment- surrounded by middle-aged men, running on the heels of a strangers and acting like it was totally normal.
These men helped me run faster. I moved with the tide and it was suddenly much easier to move my legs while I was surrounded. These men reminded me of the need for community and fellowship. Alone time is necessary and beneficial, but if I want to keep running this race in a manner that glorifies the Lord, at a pace that pleases Him, I need a "running group." I need people to surround me to push me forward when I want to stop. I need community. I need fellowship. I need people who keep me running hard and fast and give me no choice to stop. This is the power of the church. This is why we aren't called to live out our lives in isolation. There will be moments when I want to slow down but if I surround myself with a community of like-minded believers, I won't be able to.
* Be careful when you braid your hair. Not just because you might look as homely as Sarah Plain and Tall, but because you might end up with dreadlocks. I often wear a braid when I run but I had never run this far before and somewhere around mile 20, my braid mutated. It started as a long, thin braid. By mile 23, this is what it had become. And it got even worse. Even shorter and even more gnatted.
I sat in the bathroom for a good 40 minutes while my mom put conditioner in my hair and combed out this mess of a rats nest which was my hair. Lesson learned.
* It is never wise to compare myself to others. Lots of people finished the race ahead of me. Not just the Kenyans and running freaks. Girls my age. Girls with my abilities. Girls I could have beaten if I had trained harder. This would have bothered me in the past but I've been learning about the dangers of comparison. This race wasn't about beating other people. It was about accomplishing a goal, sacrificing and striving to finish strong and run well.
And yet, I was admittedly a bit peeved when she passed me. Stocky and adorned in tacky tie-dye, at mile 15 she passed me and I never caught her. For about a mile I was bothered. "How is she running faster than me? I can't lose to her." But she was faster and I did lose to her. However, I quickly realized I couldn't catch her but I didn't need to either.
I've often fallen prey to this strategy of the Enemy and until recently, I didn't even realize I was under attack. "You're not nearly as talented as she is. You are way less stylish. Her life is way more meaningful and adventurous. Her hair is fuller, her teeth are straighter, her body is leaner. You aren't nearly as interesting or funny. She's more spiritual and loving, more patient and kind. She's a way better teacher than you'll ever be. " And so the arrows fly. Flaming arrows that have been bombarding me and burning me for years. Until now.
I just read about the armor of God and though I've read and recited these verses plenty, I literally just realized that I've been failing to use my shield. Verse 16 says, " ... take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."
When Satan tempts me into playing the comparison game, he is shooting some deadly arrows and it is crucial that I bust out my shield, extinguish those fiery arrows and fight back. I have to first realize that those self-deprecating thoughts are from the enemy and then refuse to be lured into his sinister game of comparison. When he sends his flaming arrows, I will block them with my "shield of faith" and not get burned. But what does this mean? It means I will counter the negative, comparative thoughts with FAITH. Faith in Him and His word and His promises. I will trust that God is who He says He is. I will trust that His promises are true. I will trust that I gain my worth and identity in simply being His daughter. Knowing this and believing this makes comparison to others silly and nonsensical. But to truly believe this requires faith.
So yeah, a short, unathletic-looking woman in tie-dye beat me. So what? I am His daughter and accomplished what I set out to accomplish. So good work tie-dye, way to finish strong. And Satan, don't try to steal my victory by making me compare myself to others. Arrow extinguished.