New Year’s Confession: I Hate Running

By Cindy Koch

One foot in front of the other. Looking down at the earth, my unnaturally white shoes break loose the top layer of dust that has been pressed down by years of runners. Keep going. Looking up to the sky, a cold breeze rushes through my gasping airways, nearly suffocating every icy breath. New Year’s running programs must happen to me from time to time. But each and every new resolution I boldly commit to always starts with paying a price. Aching ankles, dizzying exhaustion, and a frustrated spirit.

Eventually, they say, it will get easier. Your shoes will wear in. Your heart will not remain on the edge of explosion. Eventually, they say, you will enjoy it and look forward to the next run. The patterns of movement will become second nature. The breathing will become rhythmic and steady. Eventually, they might be right. But I’m not sure I’m going to make it through today.

Running is hard. Sweat, slobber, and snot choke out any enjoyment of this path I find myself on. In and out of focus, sometimes counting the beating steps below, sometimes panicking for lack of air in my lungs. Wandering from the dusty trail in front of me, to the uncomfortable journeys in my mind and heart, I don’t know which trail I have come to dread more. Life is hard. Certain people, secret sins, missed opportunities drain the happiness I expected to find in my daily. In and out of focus, sometimes trying really hard to make a difference, sometimes cowering on the couch in those familiar crusty sweatpants.

Eventually, they say, life will get better. You will find your place. You will be strong enough to withstand the constant heartbreak. Eventually, they say, you will find peace with the journey you have been given. You will finally know who you are and what to do. Your life will be easier and more fulfilling. Eventually, they might be right. But how do I get through today?

Wheezing, I look to my left. A graceful goddess glides past. Just a sigh of a breath, an effortless smile, stretching her legs four times the length of my hobbling stride. A small dagger of anger pinches me deep under my lower rib. Why can she run so well? The jealous knife digs deeper with each painful breath, as I watch her beautiful life, her run, pass before my eyes. I am ashamed of my lazy and ugly efforts. I want to stop. The run is too long. The struggle is too much. I won’t make it to the end, I don’t even want to.

But there on my right, I approach an older gentleman severely crippled, running on this same path. Dragging one foot, heaving in pain, pressing forward to the ever-distant end. Overwhelming compassion holds on to my breath for a moment too long. How can he run so well? Wonder and amazement at his journey, as I watch his unfortunate life, his run, pass before my eyes. I am ashamed of my vain and shallow efforts. I want to stop. I am not worthy of such a run. The pressure is too much. I’m not cut out for this race thing—on the trail and in my life.

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. (Hebrews 10:32, 35-36)

These two beside me run with such confidence, enduring struggles whether I see them or not. They fervently run forward, pressing on like all the faithful ones before. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham they all ran straight ahead, trusting in a Word of promise from God. Sarah, Isaac, Moses ran with determination pressing their beautiful feet into the history of our race. How did these great men and women run so well? They ran with the endurance of Another.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)

The great cloud of runners whisper to you, “One foot in front of the other.” A promise of joy comes at the end of the race. Those who have run this trail of suffering before say only one thing, “Keep going.” You are made confident by a Savior that has finished this run completely, and victoriously, for you. Eyes in front, fixed on Jesus, focusing outside of your sputtering failures and worthless effort. Don’t stop running. Look at Jesus. Don’t give up because life is too hard, look at Jesus. Don’t stay ashamed. Look at Jesus. Don’t worry about your run. Look at Jesus.

So, whether or not I make it through the week of this New Year’s running program, I will continue to run through this life with unmatched confidence. Whether or not I eventually experience the mythical runner’s high during my morning trails, I will endure with the victory of eternity. Because there is a greater race that has called my name, already run by Jesus.