After the success of the 2006 Grandma's Marathon, I was very optimistic about the upcoming year of cross country and track. The 2006-07 school year was my last full year of NCAA competition as I finished classes after the following fall semester. It ended up being a great year of running and being a part of a team of great guys. My best friend and fellow marathoner, Justin, decided to run Grandma's at the end of the school year, much like I had done the year before.
I approached the race much the same way as I had done in 2006 at the end of the track season. All seemed to be going well until about a week before the race when the heel of my foot began to flare up with a lot of pain. It ended being the beginning stages of plantar fasciitis, an injury I would later deal with 2 other times. I caught it very early and took the entire final week before the marathon off of running. It relieved the pain and I was feeling pretty good going into the marathon.
The morning of the race arrived, and the weather was not cooperating like it had the year before. It was hot, humid and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. This proved to be my downfall on this day. Justin, his brother, and I began the race together but the heat split us apart very quickly. Justin responded well to the heat and had a great race. The heat destroyed me and I ran my second slowest marathon of my life. It was a frustrating day knowing the weather was out of your control and you were in great shape to run a great race. Perhaps the hardest part was knowing how well I had done on the same course a year earlier and that being in as good of shape (or better) and I performed so much worse.
Having a horrible race can feel like the end of the world (at least in the moment) and I know a few years earlier this is exactly how I would have felt. Having a better, more mature understanding of the important things in life, I took a different perspective after this race. Certainly, I was very disappointed, but a lot of what went wrong was out of my control. I looked at what had come from that race: I got an opportunity to test myself on one of the greatest physical challenges someone can put themselves through and I got to share it with a great friend on the course, and my entire family cheering me along even though they knew it wasn't what I had hoped for. I no longer would allow a single race to define me as a person, good or bad.
Romans 8 is a phenomenal chapter in the Bible that so clearly defines this. Some of my favorite Bible verses come directly from this single chapter, but one that seemed very fitting to me after this race was Romans 8:38 which says, "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love."
Paul (the author of Romans) is saying here that once we are alive in Christ by accepting Him as our Savior, nothing can ever separate us from that identity. We are identified by God as one of His adopted children. If we have a bad day, get angry with someone, stress out about a big test or meeting or presentation or race, these things ultimately do not define us. We are His sons and daughters and nothing can ever change that. That is where I found comfort in that understanding that I belong to God and a bad day on a race course in Duluth, Minnesota would do nothing to change that.
What I didn't yet understand was the challenging time ahead of me over the next 16 months before I would be healthy enough to run another marathon.