Sunday, November 15, 2009

Running to Win

The road race season wrapped up several weeks ago. The last race in the 5K tour was October 18 with a run through Tawawa Park in Sidney on a very cold Sunday morning. As last year, my time suffered significantly between the next-to-last race in the tour and the last race. It’s hard to maintain the motivation to train when the days get shorter and cooler.

I won my age group on tour points not because I was the fastest, but because I ran in more races. Thus, receiving the first place medal having never beaten the recipient of the second place medal was a pyrrhic victory at best.

Meanwhile, the Oktoberfest 10K was also run on the first Sunday of October. My time was slower than last year, and I was amazed that it wasn’t until we made the turn to head out of town that I was able to finally break into my stride. Nonetheless, I did well enough to win my weight class. The nice thing about the Oktoberfest 10K is that they have weight classes for heavier runners in addition to the usual age categories. Thus, I was the fastest runner that day in the over 220 lb class. I was about a third of the way down in my age group, with 21 other runners my age crossing the line ahead of me.

I was registered as a member of our corporate team this year. I ran fifth for our team, contributing to a second place ranking. It was the first time in many years that the corporate team beat the team from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. We had little get-together for lunch a week or so ago. As the conversation tilted toward marathons and training and repeat miles, I realized that these guys were in a different class than I. When they talked about struggling to run through the wall after twenty miles, I thought about my own sorry experience of struggling to keep running after a mere two miles.

And so for me, once again, as it has so often, running became a metaphor for the spiritual life. I know what holds me back physically, it’s just that I’m reluctant to make the changes necessary. At 230 lbs, with an atrocious diet and mercurial training habits, I’ll never improve much, and I’ll be lucky to avoid injury. I like my 44 ounce Mt. Dew, my Skittles, my coffee, and my bacon. I like being able to compete at Oktoberfest in the heaviest weight category, because I doubt that I’ll ever be competitive in my age category. If I want to run faster, though, I’ll have to reduce my weight, improve my diet, and train with more consistency.

Spiritually, my selfishness, diet of pop culture, and immersion in noise and distraction are weighing me down. But I like indulging my appetites, watching television, and surfing the blogs for the latest political gossip, even though I know that it’s not good for me, hindering my growth, and keeping me from fully embracing my Christian vocation.

In both cases, what I need is a good dose of self-discipline and sacrifice. The things that I need to do physically and spiritually are not extreme. They consist, in essence, of say “no” to things that might not be bad in order to way “yes” to things that are better. The good can be bad when it gets in the way of the best. Unfortunately, recognizing the highest good is not the same thing as choosing the highest good. Even desiring the highest good is not sufficient; action is required.

Another 5K tour has ended. The next one will begin in April. Whether I run with the pack or ahead of the pack is largely up to me.

No comments: