September 20, 2006

“Ralk” On

2006 1525 page6 cap recently took up running. This development in and of itself may not seem terribly significant, but anyone who knows me well will testify that this is indeed a big deal.
In high school PE class, when quarterly presidential fitness tests rolled around—namely the mile-and-a-half challenge—my heart was filled with dread. Despite the fact that I was an avid gymgoer and did all kinds of group aerobics classes—some silly and some serious—running was the one form of exercise that eluded me. I continued to avoid it until recently.
A few months ago my hatred of running came to an abrupt halt when members of my church (including a fellow mom from cradle roll who runs marathons for fun) formed a fitness group with the goal of preparing participants to run/walk a half marathon at the end of a six-month training period.
The “marathon mommy” made the whole thing sound doable, and before I knew it, I was signed up. I’ll admit the thought of actually being able to say I completed a half marathon was huge, but I felt bound and determined to conquer a sport that before I could only watch from the sidelines. Our training program was gradual and digestible, and our weekly “long runs” were encouraging because of the great camaraderie among those of us who rose early on a Sunday to bound along our suburban training trail.
2006 1525 page6I even checked out a book for novice runners from the library and started reading Runner’s World online for tips and suggestions. What really appealed to me was a surprising revelation from veteran running experts, that walking is not a no-no in a running program! Gone was the pressure of feeling that I was compelled to gallop a course in its entirety. I essentially could do whatever I could with the confidence that I would gradually get better. So I adopted a philosophy of running till I felt like walking and walking till I felt like running. I coined my method “ralking.”
As the weeks and months flew by, “ralking” enabled me to slowly shift the balance in favor of more running. Running, my foe from long ago (at press time), is slowly becoming my friend. And even with my many walking breaks, several benefits of the sport have not been lost on me. I’ve learned to endure more. I’ve learned to persist more. I’m doing something that I never thought I could do, and when I get tired, I know that my legs will still carry me just a bit more. Sound familiar? “Ralking,” in a sense, is my way of doing whatever I need to do to reach my goal—the finish line, in this case—and it applies to more than just races.
The young adults you will read about in this issue all work, play, study, and live in different ways, with different purposes, but with one common denominator. With their own style, they have deeply affected others for the better. They may not have all set forth to be the movers and shakers of their day, but they are simply doing what they can. In quiet ways, in gentle ways, in funny, driven, and determined ways, they are running their own races and making a difference.
I’m reminded of a verse that should be the mantra of all race runners—of half marathons, triathlons, and ordinary living—Isaiah 40:31 (KJV). “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” At the risk of sounding like a greeting card, permit me to make my point. Life is like a race, and everything we do seems to be measurable. When you think you have nothing left to give, there is always someone or something demanding even more. But as Christians, parents, friends, employees, and even young people, we keep on keeping on. It feels like plodding through the last mile of a tough course—body parts are hurting and the urge to stop and pass out is strong, but you don’t because the end is in sight.
Today, look at the world around you. It seems as if we can’t go on anymore. There’s too much that hurts. We are tired. It’s enough.
Go to Him and let Him comfort you. Renew your strength. Run, walk, do what you need to do. The end is in sight.
“Ralk” on.
Wilona Karimabadi is filling in as an assistant editor during Kimberly Luste Maran’s maternity leave.