Running On Fumes

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Ready to be carried to the medical tent after racing at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis.

I’ve been waiting for nearly three weeks to write this post.

After my 2018 cross country season ended earlier than expected, I struggled to find closure. Frustrated and embarrassed, I waited around for an epiphany, a lesson to glean from the undesirable circumstances in which I found myself. I waited and waited, but nothing came. Even now, my fingers freeze over the keyboard, unsure of whether or not I should be writing this post. Writing should explain, but I have no explanation. Writing should reveal, but I have no clear revelation.

However, writing should be honest:

I entered the fall with lofty goals — goals which relied on consistent, progressively better races throughout the season. Before solidifying these goals, I even spoke with my coach, who confirmed that my standards were difficult, yet possible, and would require great discipline to accomplish. As an all-or-nothing athlete, I was ready for the challenge.

I monitored my nutrition, making sure I was eating enough food and the right kinds of food. I charted my sleep hours on a spreadsheet. I created a strict daily strength schedule. I chugged orange juice in the morning (to prevent sickness) and water throughout the day. I heated and iced my achilles after a mid-season flare-up, and I continued treatment weeks after the discomfort subsided. Ultimately, I viewed any deviation from my plan as a failure — a self-inflicted obstacle to becoming a better runner.

Consequently, my fitness was high. However, the season created a paradox: while I rarely had a bad workout, I rarely had a good race.

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Racing at LaCrosse, Wisc., with beautiful views in the background.

While other athletes raced, I fought. According to my coaches, I ran with a burden that didn’t need to be carried, tensing up considerably during races. Instead of relaxing my arms, I punched the air. Instead of relaxing my mind, I over-analyzed. Instead of counting my strides, I counted the runners in front of me.

And, as my teammates improved throughout the season, my performances nosedived.

On paper, my races weren’t terrible. But I was never happy. I’d finish races biting back tears, immediately frustrated and disappointment with my performance. Soon, disappointment spiraled into self-deprecation, which slowly depleted my energy throughout the season.

In short, I was running on fumes.

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Fighting to the finish line in LaCrosse.

The beautiful, wonderful, incredibly frustrating thing about God is that He doesn’t reveal the future. He doesn’t tell us what will happen, when it will happen, or even why it will happen. God withholds information for our own good because, as mere humans, we cannot handle all of God’s knowledge. I may never discover why my disappointing junior season was part of God’s plan — and that’s okay. I don’t know everything about my life on Earth, but I know I serve a powerful, loving God who is greater than all my struggles.

After all, God never promised life without hardship; rather, He promised the opposite: we will have trouble in the world, yet because Jesus overcame the world, we may have peace.

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