Well, Derek is on the road again, so hence the blog.  It is 84 degrees in the upstairs of my house presently, so this might be a short one.

I haven’t thought this through whatsoever, but I decided I better start typing.

On New Year’s Day this year, I was chewing on the fact that this is the year that I will be turning 40.  9/11 is the day, which inherently exudes gloom now anyway.  So, I decided, on that January 1st, that I was going to greet 40 with a punch in the face, and begin training for a half marathon.  I found a 12 week training program online, and the Flower City Half on April 29th here in Rochester, and registered within the week.  And for those of you who know my Dad, and what it means to be a Reynolds, that was 50 bucks that was not going to go to waste.

I knew this would mean that I was going to have to run faithfully throughout the winter months…we don’t own a treadmill, and the Reynolds in me once again prevented me from paying for a gym membership when the road is free.  So rain, snow, sleet, or shine, I ran.  It was a rather mild winter, thankfully, and rarely got below 0 degrees.  For this, I was grateful.  On one of the coldest days, I called my neighbor, Amber Basesner, and asked if I could come over and use her treadmill.  As we chatted it came to light that this was her 40th year as well, and she too had a boat load of children.  So, I said, hey, we’re the same person…if I can do this ( which remained to be seen, but was of good use in the argument), so can you!  She hemmed and hawed a bit,  but I told her that I would email her my training schedule and she could decide then if it looked doable.  I was delighted to get a facebook message that simply said, ” I’m in” a few days later.

I would feel deceptive if I didn’t tell you that  a month has past since  I started writing this…that crazy thunder and lightning storm knocked the power out, so I quit that night.  Derek’s gone again, so I’m back.

Soooo, I ran and I ran and I ran.  ( Occasionally meeting Amber on the road and high- fiving.) It was the first time that I had run on consecutive days, and I was encouraged that these old bones could do it.   It was a bit of blind faith, really,  to trust in a random training program to work it’s magic and cause me, in the end, to be able to run 13.1 miles without perishing in the way.  But as the long runs got longer, I began to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  I was set back a bit midway through, with pulling my right hip flexer, but decided to just keep on keepin’ on.  To this day, it hasn’t healed completely, though it seems to be improving some,  with my scaled back post race running.

One very memorable moment during my training was the day Amber, her husband Bill, and I ran a 10k together in February.  It was the last race in the Freezeroo Series (which should have been our first clue) and it was in Scottsville.  We figured, hey, we are supposed to run that far on the schedule anyway, why not do the race?  Well, the day came, and it was snowing some here on Dutch Hollow Rd.  We thought, hey, this shouldn’t be too bad.  By the time we got to the race site, it was a total white out.  We ran that 6.2 miles in crazy blowing snow, and I didn’t have those Yak Track things for my shoes, so I was slippin and sliding the whole way.  It was RIDICULOUS.  And to add insult to injury, the course was not a loop, but a “run half way and turn around” type thing.  SO, me being the slowpoke that I am,  was challenged to keep my chin up as I started meeting runner after runner.  And some of them looked, hmmmm, how shall I say this, like I should not be that far behind them!  I couldn’t believe I was doing that poorly time-wise.   I kept going though, and finished dead last, behind a 63 year old fast walker dude.  Amber finished 10 minutes before me, of course.  Only when I had returned to the lodge and saw the posted results, did I realize that there had been an early start time for slower runners…(I still only beat a handful of people!)

So April 29th came, and Derek and I, joined by Bryan and Shelby Jones, headed up to Rochester bright and early in the morning.  It was a chilly 35 degrees, but sunny, so we bundled up a bit.   We parked in a parking garage, had to walk a 1/4 of a mile or more, but found the start line, and more importantly, the bathrooms.   There were pacers from 1 and a half hours to 3 hours mixed in among the crowd, so Derek, Bryan, and I found our places among the masses.  Bryan slipped in near the 1 and a half hour pacer (crazy man), Derek the 2 hour, and me, the 2 and 1/2 hour.  And thus it began.

I settled in to my easy 11 and 1/2 min mile pace and was ready for the long haul.  Bryan, on the other hand, did his first mile in 6+ minutes…and then proceeded to hurl in the grass at mile 5. LOL

One of the hardest things for this Reynolds girl was this:  due to the chilly weather, many runners started out wearing gloves and headbands, but shed them along the way.  It was all I could do not to stop and pick up all this awesome gear!  If only I had brought a Walmart bag and attached it to my water belt…

The Flower City was a great race…with many distractions along the way.  Percussion ensembles, big bands, and oh so many family members and friends holding up signs of encouragement.  Me being me, I also made many friends along the way.  Conversation, though accompanied by belabored breathing at times, does help the miles go by.  And then there was the guy right in front of me that just stopped and took a leak…

My three calculated 2-3 minute walk breaks did wonders for my stamina.  Made me almost think I could run a full marathon…almost.  Running through Mt. Hope cemetery was beautiful, though having that many hills on miles 7-9 was a bit rough. Many times,  I would focus on the lyrics coming from my Ipod, and ask the Lord for strength to finish.

On the home stretch, somewhere in mile 11, I got a text from Derek that he had finished, and that Bryan had yacked.  That made me smile gave me a good chuckle.  Another chuckle came from the guys from some yacht club,  offering the runners passing by, cups of beer instead of water or gatorade.

Just a half mile from the end, it started to hit me…the four months of training were coming to an end.   This goal of a half marathon, that I had had in my mind for years, was about to be reached.  Just then,  I ran past this guy, sitting in the bed of his pickup.  He looked me straight in the eyes, with a huge smile, and said, “  Great job, ma’am.  What a great pace you have there!”, and it was all I could do to not to cry like a baby!  Being the competitive person that I am, it has been tough at times, being one of the slowest people at races. (See previous blog, The Empty Finish Line).  I’m not good at running, bottom line.  I just finish.  So to hear him encourage me about my pace was just the right words for this tired soul.

As I neared the finish line, the street was lined with cheering people, and I caught eyes with my favorite person, snapping shots of me with our video camera.  He had run all the way back to our car and back to get it, having just run 13.1 miles himself.  Knowing I was being filmed, I did my best to appear like I wasn’t in pain,  though everything below my waist was hating me, especially the arch in my right foot.  I crossed the line, pumping my fists, and they put the medal around my neck.   2:39:11.  I did it!

As I think about all this, I always end up in the same place:  thanking God for the work of grace He has done in me.  Understanding that I am His cherished daughter,  and that nothing that I have done or haven’t done has produced my right standing before Him, but only trusting in the work of the Cross, has transformed me.  I used to be completely unmotivated, and could NEVER stick to an exercise plan that wasn’t fun.  But my new confidence, that comes from living in the gaze of my loving Father in heaven,  spurred me on when it was hard.  The Gospel really does change people.  I am living proof.  So this blog is not to show off, or lift myself up…it is my way of glorifying my Biggest Fan.  He is my strength, and my song. (in the Psalms somewhere)  All the glory goes to God.

So put on those running shoes, people!   And run,  to the glory of the One who made you!