Running Through Deployment: Learning to Stop

I never thought I’d be a runner. When I was growing up, I was generally athletic, but never particular good at any individual sport. My brother was the athlete, and I excelled in creative endeavors like theater, music and writing.

After Completing My 1st Half Marathon

When I was 29, I decided that it would be neat to run a half marathon as part of my “Thirty Year Bucket List”. Also, I felt kind of called to run. I don’t know how to describe it, but I more or less knew that I was “supposed” to take up running at that stage in my life. And so I ran.

I downloaded a free training plan from Big River Running Company (my favorite running store in St. Louis) for beginning half marathoners, and I started running. I lived in a national forest where there were miles and miles of trails and fire roads. I would put my earbuds in my ears and blast RED (my favorite – and very aggressive – Christian rock band). I gradually increase my mileage from 1.5 miles to 13.1 miles.

After the first half marathon, I wanted to keep running. Between that half marathon and my most recent one (#6), my foot was run over, and I endured  physical therapy, cortisone injections, and fluid removal.

Waldo Canyon Fire, Saturday, June 23, 2012 from I-25 and Academy

Despite the pain of my foot injury, I kept running. Because somewhere between then and now, it became easier to run than it was to be still.

Last weekend I ran my sixth half marathon, and on the same day, the forest outside of Colorado Springs began burning.

At first, the smoke wasn’t too bad. (See photo, left).

By Tuesday, I was just beginning to feel ready to run again when the Waldo Canyon Fire grew.

The next photo was taken from our home on Tuesday afternoon, June 26th, within an hour or two of more than 300 area families losing their homes to what’s now been identified as the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history. In a matter of just a few hours the fire doubled in size and the number of Colorado Springs evacuees grew from 7,000 to 32,000. The fire was devastating.

Waldo Canyon Fire on Tuesday, June 26th

Air quality was horrendous across the city on Tuesday and Wednesday, and running was absolutely not an option for me. Now, eight days after the fire started, ashes cover my back porch and my car, and the air quality is still so poor that I’m not willing to run.

It’s been a long time since I took a full week off of running. The Waldo Canyon Fire forced me to stop, and it’s taught me an important spiritual lesson, as well.

At some point in the 18 weeks since Nick left home to serve in Afghanistan, it became easier for me to run than to was for me to be alone with myself. Easier to run than to rest. Easier to run than to do nearly anything that forced stillness or introspection.

I want to continue running. I love how confident it makes me feel, and I believe that running has the power to be an excellent source of stress relief as I juggle working a demanding full-time job, keeping our home organized, and handling the ups and downs of being on the home front while the man I love is so far away.

As we near the halfway point of Nick’s deployment, though, I want to find a way to run more gracefully. I want to run because of the fulfillment it brings, not because I’m too lonely or scared to do anything else with my free time.

If you’re the prayerful type, please pray for me. I’ve learned that – with the right training, rest and nutrition – I can achieve the distances I set out to achieve, so please pray that I not run in an effort to prove something to myself or to others. If I run longer distances, let it be because I’m driven by my heart, not by my pride.

This week it took the devastation of a wildfire to make me stop; make me rest; allow some peace to catch up with me. Over these remaining five or six months of Nick’s deployment, I hope to keep running, but I also hope I will know when to stop.


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