I had a bit of a mental tussle going on within me early Saturday morning. I was running along a single track trail through the Pine Grove State Park with about 100 other trail runners. For the majority of the race, runners were one in front of the other and there was little if any visibility of the runners ahead of you given the winding and weaving nature of the trail. For the first 3 miles I was closely trailing my sister at a fairly sustainable pace. I made the mistake of letting her drift on ahead of me thinking in a few miles I would reel her in along with a few other female runners ahead of me. I was pacing myself I thought. She trained for short, faster distances while I trained for longer distance at a conservative pace. She might not be able to sustain the current pace for long. I knew I needed to be conservative during the first half of the race to let my weeks of long runs pay off when my endurance mattered more than my speed.
I don’t know why, but for the last 6-8 weeks, I was super focused on beating my sister in this particular trail race. I was a little too focused on beating her and my training reflected that. I logged more miles building up to the race and was intentional about pushing the pace on the shorter mid-distance runs. I started the morning of the race fairly confident that I had done what was necessary to really be competitive with her. I knew I needed to run my own race and keep my own pace and be patient during the first half of the run.
Around mile 9 the mental tussling began…and it was caused by an annoyingly persistent and rather painful side stitch. (Not something I believe God intentionally gave me as punishment but rather something he allowed to happen to me with the intention for it to further refine my character if I was open enough to Him working inside of me.) I knew the best way to shake a side stitch was to just keep running through it so that’s exactly what I did. My pace certainly suffered but I knew I had to keep running to shake it and then hopefully regain some lost time. When it became pretty apparent that the stitch would follow me to the finish and that I had no shot of catching back up, I started to run through a laundry list of mopey thoughts. “Who am I kidding, I can’t beat my sister.” “How silly to think I could have held her pace the entire race.” “She’s my twin, I should totally be able to do what she’s doing!” “Those stupid crunches and squats were literally for nothing.” “Those extra miles logged during training were worthless.” In addition to the self-defeating thoughts, had to fight some shameful jealousy toward my sister. (What am I, a 6 year old girl again?–grow up!) I had about 2 miles to trust God to transform my bum attitude and finish the race truly be happy for my sister (who was the 1st place female finisher!)
I needed to replace my selfishness with thankfulness and as experience has taught me, I knew I wasn’t capable of that kind of selflessness on my own. I needed God to graciously redirect the object of my focus- off of me and onto Him. “Thank you God for this beautiful morning in the woods.” “Thank you for the strong legs and lungs to get me this far.” “Thank you for my sister and the time we can spend together.” “Give me the strength to finish my race.” “Help me be truly grateful and joyful for her success today.” I had to stop thinking about myself and start thinking about who God is and the work He’s doing in me. I had to be less concerned with the results and more reflective of the journey I was on- the journey throughout training as well as the morning of the race.
I finished the race and was super thankful when it was over. I was (and still am) really proud of my sister’s first ever 1st place finish. We have a few more races lined up for the remainder of the year and am looking forward to some more healthy competition with a dose of character building and spiritual growth along the way.