God winks and the birth of a Passion

I just read an article on Runner’s World that reminded me of something I often think about, or wonder about when it comes to the human body and what it is capable of: when will the day come that humans can run faster than the speed of time and jump across county lines, state lines, oceans, the world??

Between the dates of May 6-8 (barring optimal weather selection), three runners will set out for the Nike Breaking2 Project – with a goal to complete the full 26.2 miles in less than 2:00:00.  The start date attempt of May 6th marks 63 years after Roger Bannister broke the sub-4 plain by running a sub-four minute mile.

So at this rate, I suppose in the year 2080, we will almost be running sub-time marathons in the negatives.

Running always causes me to reflect.  Whether it’s talking about, hearing about or physically setting out and logging miles.  Anything that involves running, at some point puts me in reflection mode.  Today is no different.  Reading the story about the Nike Breaking2 Project, set me back in time 18 years ago, when I couldn’t even run a full mile around the track.

Let me explain.

I was going into my freshmen year of high school.  We were a few weeks away from our first day of school but Captains Practice for soccer was getting underway.

So I show up to day one of Captain’s practice and dive in to the “easy” 1-mile warm up.  I think the Captain’s Goal here was to set everyone straight, weed out the weaklings, what have you.  I was a weakling.  If it’s any consolation, I had surgery two months prior to remove a benign tumor from my knee and was still in recovery  mode.  But before you break out the wine and cheese for my pity party of an excuse, let me continue….

I barely made it two laps around the track by the time everyone else was finished.  Baring down on lap two, the upperclassman weren’t cheering me on; but rather jeering me across the line as I continued on with Lap #3 of 4.

I was embarrassed, I wanted to run home (okay, okay…walk or possibly hitch-hike, because I was about spent with running).  I wanted to hide under the bleachers.  I wanted to be absolutely anywhere but on that black rubber surface, running in a circle, chasing, or being chased by, my shadow, being chastised by others (sorry, I know that wine and cheese is getting closer to coming out).  Maybe saying I was chastised was a little dramatic.

Anyway, I pressed on, sheepishly, shamefully, embarrassingly, with my Hufflepuff, turtle shuffle.  As a continued on the straight away section of the track, a Sophomore ran up beside me.  I thought she was going to either run right by me and mock my slowness, or run right next to me and keep yelling profane things to make me feel even smaller than I already felt.

But something amazing happened.  And I’m fairly certain it forever changed my life.  Or at least shaped it in a direction that God wanted me to go in.  (A God wink, as I like to call it.)

See, I don’t take to yelling as an approach with coaching or encouragement well.  Especially if I’m sucking at what I’m doing and I know it.  It’s why I decided high school basketball wasn’t going to work for me.  During Summer camp, I was struggling with my foul shots, the coach kept screaming at me to “correct my form, correct my form, correct my form.”  Finally he approached me and tried to adjust my form…only he was adjusting me as if I were a right-handed shooter (which I’m not – I’m full on left and in no way ambidextrous enough to try to pretend otherwise).  So I politely advised him that I’m left-handed.  To which he grabbed the basketball out of my hand, slammed it off the ground like a football touchdown spike and stormed away.

I was mortified.  It was absolutely not how I wanted to feel while trying to play a sport I enjoyed.  So I decided high school basketball wasn’t going to be my calling…and I quit.

So when the upperclassman were screaming at me during that 1-miler to hurry up, I really was about ready to call it quits and decide that soccer also was not going to be a high school calling of mine (despite playing the sport my entire life).

But when that Sophomore ran up next to me and started giving me words of encouragement to not give up and keep going and that we would finish the rest of the mile together…everything changed.

It wasn’t so much in the form of a snap of the finger change where all of a sudden I was Forrest Gump running without braces at a much faster speed.  No.  The remaining two laps were still just as pitiful and grueling (if not more) on my cardiovascular system, than the first two laps.  But my spirit?  My spirit was lifted ever so slightly by Molly’s kindness.  It was just enough to get me to stick with it and finish the laps.

I stayed on the team.  I played all four years through high school, and all four years through college.  But Molly not only put a resounding settlement of soccer into my soul, she lit a spark for my dire passion for running.

I vowed at the end of that run to never, ever, ever feel that way again.  I won’t say I finished the four laps and never looked back. Because I do look back on that day. Often.  I think about that feeling when I’m tired or don’t feel like going for a run.  I think about that feeling when during a run I think I’m getting burned out or can’t make it.  I think about the kind words of encouragement I received from someone who could have easily sat back and either jeered on with the others, or not said anything at all.

I now run as much as I possibly can.  I’ve completed a half marathon and three fulls…and plan to do more.  I’ve found my Happy Pace and while I can thank a lot of people along the way for their encouragement.  The number one person I have to thank is Molly Greiner Suhoski.  Thank you, Molly, for lighting the spark in me 18 years ago.  While I may likely never be able to run a sub-2 hour marathon, I will forever hold on to the memory of your act of kindness.  With a simple God wink, my passion was born.

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3 thoughts on “God winks and the birth of a Passion

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