running the race of my life

Last weekend my brother, Josh (known around here as Uncle J) ran the Lincoln Half-Marathon. Here's his fancy registration shirt.
Sorely lacking in this post are the pictures of him stretching, dousing himself with water, straining across the finish line, etc. Sorry about that.
He finished strong, injury-free and with a faster mile average than he trained. What an accomplishment- especially for his first race ever!

My dad is a marathon runner, has been for many years. Several years back we went to Chicago to cheer him on during the Chicago Marathon. It was at this marathon that I first heard about the concept of pacers. I was reminded of the whole idea today as we (my dad and I) discussed Josh's run and his decision to join a pace group that was slightly more aggressive than what he had trained for. 

Note: this pace group is a picture from Runner's World though it looks more like an ad
for the Bachelorette, am I right? Please forgive the lame photos today.

To run a marathon is an extremely strenuous undertaking that requires huge amounts of physical and mental training. Not only do you actually have to make your body run 26.2 consecutive miles, you have to stay hydrated, refuel and prevent injury, and then there is the small task of pacing yourself. Simply put, you run too hard in the beginning and you will run out of steam. 

So for people who are crazy enough to sign up to run 26.2 miles, there are pacers to help. Want to run the whole race in 4 hours? Follow this guy.
This is more like it. Photo credit

Here is a better explanation:

Like Rusty the rabbit, a pacer's job is to run slightly ahead of a group of competitors, providing a moving target to help them achieve specific finishing times. There is a 5-hour, 30-minute pacer; a 5-hour pacer; a 4-hour pacer, and so on.- Amelia Island Runners
So as I think about the race of life (I think that running a race is a great analogy for life- as is gardening and driving on the highway.) I apply this idea of a pacer. And suddenly the analogy explodes with meaning. I'll try to articulate it for you.

Picture me. Running. OK- I'm not sure your imagination is really strong enough for that so let's try this again.

Picture yourself, running down the race of life. You know it's a long haul. You know the finish line is way down the road, and you're trying to steadily chug away each day to continue in this race.

Maybe some days you find yourself looking around at the people running with you.

Wow, that lady is really cruising. I'm going to have to speed up to keep up with her.

Nice shoes on that guy. I need some shoes like that if I'm going to hang in this thing.

I feel like I need to rest, but everyone around me seems to be able to read, eat a banana, update their facebook, and run at the same time. I'll just try to tough it out.

Now that I've added ______ I feel like I should slow down. But people all around me seem to manage at this pace.

I'm not feeling so good; think I feel an injury coming on. I'll just try to slow down a bit and let people pass me. Maybe I'll just take a pretend water break while I try to figure out what's next.

Do you get my drift? Whether you know it or not, you have pacers, people you are trying to keep up with, live life in a similar way, meet or exceed expectations. 

It's important to note that when a wise runner (that's YOU) selects a pacer, he isn't saying, "Here's the people I am trying to keep up with". Instead, selecting a pace is about values: "Here are people who are living life, running the race, the way I want to. I want to run with them." Essentially pacing isn't a competition, it's a realization that everyone in this little group is trying to be about the same thing. 

In your life, who do you look to for wisdom? Who is your example of what a family should be? How a mom should act? What a house should look like? 

I think some of our greatest defeats come from the fact that we are trying to keep up with unrealistic or insignificant paces.

I picture me entering a "race". I have Tessa in the Ergo carrier on my front (special shout out to the anonymous benefactor who gave me the Ergo- you rock!), Isaac and Ella in a double stroller in front of me, and Drew running at my side. I look around and find a dainty little lady holding a sign that says "PERFECT HOUSE". Yep, that's the group I'm trying to keep up with. Now picture me making it about a quarter mile before Tessa is screaming, Ella needs to potty, Isaac wants a drink, and Drew is bored. Sorry kids, just hang in there while mommy runs for this goal. Why exactly am I trying to keep up with this? It doesn't even make sense- AND IT'S REALLY NOT IMPORTANT TO ME. 

For real, peeps. Maybe there are signs that you are running after, groups that you are pacing your life with that just don't matter. And it is running you ragged. Signs like:












Let them go. Let them run on by you and as you grab a gatorade (or a Dr. Pepper- hey, this is my fantasy race here so just go with it) ask yourself two questions:

1- what is important to me? 

2- what helps me keep that pace?

Maybe you value a slow and deliberate life, and it helps you keep the pace when you set certain nights that are off limits to activity. 

Maybe you want to be a wise and compassionate parent. Are there books that help you? People you know who fit that description that you can run with, watching them and asking them questions?

Maybe you want to love the poor, tend the sick, visit the imprisoned. Is that really important to you? Then find a way to do it.

Maybe there are relationships that you value but you don't prioritize over meaningless noise. To keep the pace might be turning off the TV, writing a letter, praying for a loved one, calling a friend. 

Don't just run because people around you are running. Don't sign up for committees, go to parties, volunteer for things, dress your kids impeccably, clean out the car, stash the piles, or smile in church because you are trying to meet an expectation that you feel. Instead, live out what you value. Make decisions based on what is REALLY important to you, what will last, what matters.

And- I hate to say this but it's true- name the things that do NOT help you keep pace. Blogs that heap on guilt. Pinterest boards that only discourage. Glamour magazines that skew your view of yourself. Relationships that aren't healthy. Name the good, the bad, and the ugly- this will help you figure out how to keep pace.

In this virtual race, the one where I sip Dr. Pepper and somehow still maintain a pace, here are some of the signs I want to chase:



WELCOMING HOME (not at all the same as a "perfect home")





Those are the signs I want to chase, the groups I want to pant and labor to join. Not so that people can see me in those groups but because I think those things matter and give life.

Well, guess that's all for tonight. Hope your week is one of purpose and you find a pace that gets at what you value and helps you follow things that matter.

See you Friday. 


Tawnya said...

Love this post. Sam and I learned early on in our marriage (and continue to have it affirmed) that we have a very different pace (or "threshold" as we have called it), as to how much we can manage on our plate than others. It seemed to us we were seeing people all around us handle so much more and we were entrapped by guilt that we should be 'doing' more and should be able to pack more into our schedule and just "deal with it". But then we realized that it's certainly fine for different families to have different thresholds, and we needed to be healthy, not just doing more. It has been so freeing, and yet God has still been able to challenge us in areas where perhaps we needed to change our focus and add more that matters and let go of others that don't. We're still learning as our family developes. And I suppose that the pace of a family may change - some core values always remain - but the pace and ways those values play out may look different at different times. Good stuff Beck. Yours is a pace I follow!

Uncle J said...

Such a good post Becky! My head is spinning right now, mind if I share this on FB?

Alicia T said...

So good Becky. Thanks for the thoughts to meditate on.

Dave said...

Awesomr Becky. You and Garrett have down a great job picking your pacer groups. And the only reason you don't have those pictures of Josh at the race is your Dad can't use a cellphone to take pictures of someone in motion. But I have some great pictures of some other runners. Definitely need to upgrade Josh's camera crew at his next race.

Dave said...

Awesomr Becky. You and Garrett have down a great job picking your pacer groups. And the only reason you don't have those pictures of Josh at the race is your Dad can't use a cellphone to take pictures of someone in motion. But I have some great pictures of some other runners. Definitely need to upgrade Josh's camera crew at his next race.

Dave said...
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