Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thinking Solitude

Last Sunday our pastor encouraged us to find solitude--the quiet place in life to listen to what God may have to say, or just to clear our minds of the constant din of modern life. He suggested that we turn off the radio in the car for the week as a way to find that solitude. Because I am a good sport, I am keeping the radio off this week. But finding solitude has not been an issue for me since April.

I run by myself 98% of the time. I don't mind having someone else run with me, but I do not feel the same need for it that some others seem to. For me, running = solitude. When I run I am free to allow my mind to be still, or to be filled with thoughts. (While I do pay attention, it doesn't take too much brain power to run a loop from Point A back to Point A.) There are some common places that my mind wanders and sometimes I wonder why. When you put your mind in neutral, why does it go one place or another? Does it go to what is most important? Most pressing? Most pleasant? Most feared? Running has carved out space in my life for me to think.

If I were to stop running after the Twin Cities marathon, I think that I would miss the solitude most of all (or maybe the endorphins--hard to tell). I do not have any other margin in my life just to think. If it were not for running time, when would I think about my career? My family? My past and future? The possibilities? What I would do if I won the lottery? If I did not take time to think, I suppose that the miles would feel even longer than they do. Someone I know does multiplication tables in her head to pass the time. It works for her, but I would rather think.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Dread Bug

Somewhere I picked up a bit of a bug. Not the worst bug I've had, but bad timing. After a couple of days, I was finally able to run again today and it was less than stellar. I was able to slug through 6.5 miles, but could not have made another 20 today. I will try to get rid of this bug and get my strength back.

Sometimes people are stymied by their own mistakes, but sometimes we face challenges that are not of our own making. If we can do something about a difficulty, then we should. Otherwise, we just need to make it through the difficulty and out the other side. Perseverance seems to be the key to most of life.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Executing Past the Finish Line

Just a week and a half until the Twin Cities Marathon--the target of the past 16 1/2 weeks of effort and exertion. As I lay in bed this morning debating whether to get up and run, I reminded myself that I am too close to the goal to back off from what I set out to do. Will this morning's run end up making the difference between finishing or not finishing the marathon? Certainly not. I am as ready as I will be. Getting up and running this morning supports the broader goals of discipline and perseverance--even more important than finishing 26.2 miles.

Most people that I see are not limited by a lack of ideas or even a lack of opportunities. More often, people are limited by a lack of disciplined execution, deficient work ethic, and incomplete follow through. There may be lots of reasons for these factors, but the bottom line is that most people are limited because they do not do what needs to be done--period. Make no mistake, consistent execution is not easy, nor is it the natural order of things. But those who learn to execute, especially in the face of limiting factors, will rise in any organization.

The building blocks of execution are in the small things. If I cannot get out of bed and run on a daily basis, why would I think that I can manage a team on a multi-million dollar project? So for me, this marathon thing is much more than just crossing the finish line on October 7th. It is about continuing along a path that was set by my father--do what you need to do to get it done, whatever the "it" may be.

Thanks Dad!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fresh Again

This morning's run was the first run in the past couple of weeks that has felt really good. It is hard to think of what is different today, but it was a pleasant surprise. Part of the difference may be realizing that it is all "downhill" from here. My training lightens progressively between now and October 7th. Next weekend's long run is 12 miles, the next one is 8 miles, then comes the marathon. In a sense, the next couple of weeks are a matter of keeping the machine running smoothly and not hurting anything.

The past couple of week's malaise may also have been a function of feeling the "have to" of training more than the "want to." It makes a huge difference to me to have a choice in what I do--even if the activity is the same. It just feels different if I have to. It seems that people in our contemporary culture place a high value on choosing. We want to choose our TV stations (how many cable/satellite stations could we possibly watch?), our breakfast cereal (an entire aisle at Cub!), a place to worship (does any small town really need 15 different churches?). Even if Cub only stocked the three types of cereal that I would choose, I would think they were deficient if those were the only options. Would I be satisfied with a satellite plan that only included the four channels that I ever watch? What if there was only one church in our town?

Another reason that today seemed fresh again may have been that it is day one of my brother's half marathon training plan. While I usually look forward to running alone, I often find myself looking forward to running the Holiday Halfathon with him in 12 weeks. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed some of the fun coming back into my running today. Makes me look forward to tomorrow even more.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Not Another Treadmill

I am more glad than you can know that the marathon is not run on a treadmill. Some people seem to like them, but not me. I love the variability of the terrain outdoors and there is much more to see along the way. At the same time, in an unfamiliar place and unfamiliar running routes, at least no one ever got lost on the treadmill. Traveling presents challenges (and opportunities) with finding safe routes of the proper distance and I think I am getting better at it.

Part of what is tiresome about the treadmill is that I cannot detect progress from my surroundings. If I cannot see movement or progress, it is easy to believe that there is NO progress--which is simply not the case. And lack of progress is demotivating to me. I find the same to be true in my journey as a Christ-follower. If I am not experiencing what feels like progress, it is easy to become demotivated and lethargic in my pursuit of Christ. I have not yet figured out how to crest that particular hill, but I do not think that I am alone. How can we stay motivated to pursue Christ even when visible progress is elusive?

For today I am finished with the treadmill (5.5), and maybe I can even find a place to run outside tomorrow.

I am curious about the new book containing Mother Teresa's letters. From what I have read of the book, she continued to serve even in the midst of feeling distant from God and abandoned. I feel like I may be able to learn something from her perseverance. I should even be able to get through much of the book on my current trip.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Working the Plan

After this morning's run I am up to 560 miles this year. It has been surprisingly painless to this point and I am thankful to have remained largely injury-free. I credit the Hal Higdon training program with much of that success. It has been a program of measured increases in mileage that have allowed my body to get used to the new levels of exertion without breaking. To the point that I can rip off 7 1/2 miles this morning and think nothing of it.

In this case the plan is making the difference--not just in staying free of injury, but in knowing what comes next. I would be in a very different place of the plan had simply been, "train for a marathon." The plan I am using breaks the total mileage down by weeks and even gives the distance to run on a particular day. For what purpose? For the focused purpose of getting me not only to the starting line, but to the finish line in one piece. Certainly this endeavor requires a significant amount of personal effort and discipline, but without the plan, all of the effort that I could bring to the process would not be sufficient to see it through to the finish.

I continue to be amazed at how few Christ-followers, as well as their churches and church leaders, have a plan for spiritual growth and development. We put more time and effort into planning for a vacation that may last for a week than into planning spiritual development that may last for eternity. If churches and their leaders could focus on helping the people in the churches develop a personal growth plan, more good would come of that effort than a lifetime of sermons about marriage, family, and parenting. Doesn't it seem rather arrogant for someone to think that they can master (or even scratch the surface) of the greatest mysteries and highest calling of all time by sitting in a room for an hour a week and giving a little time during the week? Strikes me as self-delusional as well.

I know this for certain, I could not be looking ahead with eager anticipation to the Twin Cities Marathon if I had no plan and only trained for an hour a week or so.