What It Means to Run with Faith

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 “I have learned that track doesn’t define me. My faith defines me. I’m running because I have been blessed with a gift.” –
Allyson Felix

Ten years ago when I started running seriously, I would never have imagined it becoming so intricately woven into the fabric of my life that not a day goes by when I either don’t run or think about running.  Back then, my future mapped out looked pretty simple: humanitarian work, writing at some level, and travel and adventure on the side.  The New York City Marathon was to be a bucket list event among a host of others.  Today, I remember it as the running event of a lifetime that inspired many others.

I recall completing my first half-marathon and the heady feeling that ensued, but I really didn’t think it would transform into the passion for running that it is today.  Life often hits you with nice surprises like that.  Eight years ago when I moved to the united States, I moved with a ton of baggage by which I don’t don’t mean suitcases; rather, my issues and a ton of issues on top.  In hindsight, running was my saving grace. If you have ever made a major change in life, then you can attest to the life transforming event it is.  Because I was in a new environment, where a lot was also new to me, I had to find something that was at once comforting and familiar, but which gave me the opportunity to lose myself and not focus on the uncertainties I was faced with.  Enter running – my saving grace – it became my outlet, my escape, my connection, my mode of survival.

Running, I discovered peace, beauty, tranquility, inspiration, challenge and a profound sense of self.  Conversely, my future loomed, a blank, uncertain canvas.  Many years, runs and races later have added splashes of color and slowly an image is breaking forth.  The process has been painstaking: deliberate and tough, but extremely instructional and not a journey I could have completed without my faith.  Daily, those runs have taught me that I do not, nor have I ever, run alone.  I am immersed in the love of God; whether evident in the trickle of a running stream or the mad rush of a waterfall, the burst of sunrise or the quiet outrageous sunset; He runs with me.  In the white mass of winter or the first signs of spring, the solitary morning run or the packed course filled with runners, every step I take, I take with Him.  He surrounds me with His presence, covers me with His protection, enfolds me in His love and when the going gets tough, armors me with His strength.  He is the wind at my back, the lift in my legs and the power in my stride.

The Joy of Trail Running

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Running is a sport that’s hard to love. It could be because it requires so much of one’s energy among other emotions that there’s hardly room left for anything else. Most runners run either because they’re good at it, are very competitive, like the physical & psychological results of running or a combination of the above. Very few, I believe, will admit to loving the constant pounding of heart, feet and muscle to the insistent beat of their personal-health-aspiration-drum.

imageQuite frankly, after my teenage years and before I discovered trail running, I saw running as strictly a competitive sport and would hardly consider it something I did for fun. The trails changed all that. There among nature, I discovered my inner ying that responded to the call of the wild with a resounding yes that echoes wherever trails are found. I want to discover, explore and enjoy them all. Within those trails I am able to step outside of myself and see the beauty of God’s creation as He intended it and it’s a wonder to behold. I don’t know why I respond this way, what it is within me that unfurls at the sight, sounds and smell of nature blossoming in my midst..I just know that I do and that to be given the opportunity to experience it is a precious gift I treasure. Upon my return to the track and roads there’s really no comparison. Time stands still among the quiet chatter of birds and insects; the cackle of leaves underfoot is background music to the sighting of a unique flower or plant as the fresh air pleasantly tickles my nostrils, and my senses are thoroughly assaulted by the explosion of color as the seasons change. And If per chance I encounter one of my wild friends, it’s always with a gaze of awe as I humbly submit to their authority in this world of theirs..where I am but a guest..a world seemingly untouched, unspoiled by the passage of time and those who are fortunate to enter in.

I try to get to the trails as often as I can, which is not often enough in my mind. Thank goodness New York offers lots of opportunities to the desirous trail runner, as there are lots of parks surrounding the city that one can get lost in. Venture a little further upstate or head out to the Catskills and it’s trail heaven out there and great for hiking too. What I have not been so fortunate to find are running events that involve the trails, I guess it’s harder to organize those, but be that as it may, there are always opportunities for those so inclined; my eyes and ears are open to new trail experiences this year.

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Running Miami

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Less than twenty-six days stand between me and 3:25, my projected finish time for the Miami Marathon on February 2. I feel pretty confident I can achieve this time despite my last result here in New York, as nothing is more motivating to me than failure. Some may say The INGNYC Marathon wasn’t a failure and maybe so, given my injury and all, but I see Miami as an opportunity to redeem myself – to no one but me.

Training this time around hasn’t been so easy. Post the NYC run, I was still struggling with recovery from my ankle injury and was forced to take pretty much all of November off while I resumed running on Thanksgiving Day. Then along came Christmas and my Georgia trip, where I managed to squeeze some running in but not a lot.  Back to New York and it’s been crazy cold, snowing, even frigid at times; not-so-great weather for running outside, but here too I’ve been trying. I’m looking at the days dwindling away and I’m like..”wait!” But of course time waits on no one, least of all me, and I’m getting quite antsy here trying to get my miles in. I’m not too worried though, I’m relying on God, determination and self motivation to get me up-to-speed and across the finish line in record time.
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In the final weeks leading up to the big day, I’ll be altering my regime somewhat to accommodate, what I pray is, a healthy and whole ankle. Not that my training plan for New York wasn’t ideal..it was and worked great in spite of the circumstances, but I really couldn’t reap the benefits then. So I’m speeding things up a bit, with the promise of ‘nicer’ weather on the way. A long run this weekend is long overdue followed by a shorter recovery run on Sunday. Thereafter, I’m planning five days of running next week; to include another long run and then on to some short tempo runs the following week. As I taper down leading up to race day, I also plan on stealing a day for some cross training, which will provide the necessary variety to keep me sane. My diet will see some slight changes as well, as I increase carb intake and amp up hydrating methods to include coconut water, tomato juice & smoothies..I love! Finally, stretching, stretching and stretching; very important to avoid injuries and to keep my muscles agile and relaxed.

Beautiful Miami, you inspire me!

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