I’m in the midst of half-marathon training. I’ve run three half-marathons, and they never really go as well as I think they will. Truly. I have the best intentions when I start training. I buy some fun new training clothes and make sure that the shoes I have will last me through the race.
But after about eight weeks, the enthusiasm for the training wears off and I’m ready to be done running. I start slacking off, I find excuses not to run, and by intensive purposes, I’ve quit before the race is even arrives.
So far, training for this one has been different. Because I’m training and running it with one of my best friends.
During one of our recent long runs, I told her I needed to walk. We hadn’t really gone that far yet, so I gave the excuse, “We started out really fast.”
Now that’s a great excuse for someone who doesn’t run with you often, but since we run a couple of times a week together, she immediately realized exactly what I was going – making an excuse to quit.
This starting out fast, with energy, and giving up when the enthusiasm wears off is pretty classic Caitlin. I put my heart and soul into the beginning of projects, but struggle to finish them because I simply just don’t feel like it. Follow-thru is not my gifting. This friend knows me well enough to know this is how I operate.
She also knows just how much I’m capable of. She knows that I desire to be a woman who perseveres through the hard stuff. She wants what’s best for me, and knows how hard to push me. In fact, as we train for our runs, we dream about the kind of women we want God to mold us into, and the things we’re eager to achieve that require persistence.
So she responded, “You’ve run farther than this faster than this. If you really need to walk, we can, but if it’s a mental thing, you’re going to push through it.”
Thankfully, her encouragement was enough to make me keep running. I ran another mile and a half without walking. It wasn’t my best long run, but that’s okay. I kept going when I wanted to stop. Because a friend made me keep going. She made me keep going because she’s in it with me for the long-haul. She cares about this half-marathon, but she cares even more about the other hard things I’m going to come up against in my life. She knows that if I’m really serious about my dreams, it’s going to take grit to get there, and she is willing to help me practice so that I’m used to doing hard things.
I’m tempted to say that relationships are especially important to me because of my tendency to burnout quickly, but honestly, we all need friends who wouldn’t let us quit on them or more importantly on ourselves. It’s important to invite our friends into our long-term dreams so that when the going gets tough, they can remind us what we’re ultimately fighting for. I love to run, really and truly, but if training was just about running, I would have given up on many long runs. Instead, I remember and my friend helps to remind me that running thirteen miles isn’t as hard as parenting a child who has experienced trauma or staying in a hard marriage. Running is simply a vehicle to develop perseverance in me. And I desperately need friends around me who will come alongside God in the cultivating of that endurance and perseverance.
Not only do I need friends who challenge me when I want to give up, but I want to be a friend who encourages others when they want to give up. I long to be a cheerleader not just when the times are easy, but especially when the times are hard, when the days feel impossible and when the heart is weary.
There will be difficult miles, endless weeks and dark seasons. Friends keep us going. Friends remind us what we’re capable of accomplishing. Friends help us do hard things.