My 21ish mile run yesterday was much needed! My goal was simple: To get one last really long run in before my marathon and to run it slow and comfortable. I planned on running 60-90 seconds slower than my desired marathon pace. Just like I always used to do ALL my long runs before I started reading running books and blogs. I missed this LSD (long slow distance) and I am convinced that I have not been running enough of my long runs like this. Overall, I felt great! My groin was thankful for my slow pace and I felt strong. Most of it was without my Garmin because it died at mile 7.
Note to self: Do not put your ipod in your sports bra for a 21 mile run. It will surely not handle the sweaty and warm environment well and will mostly likely quit working before you get through your first podcast! This makes for a long and quiet run! Just like I prefer I guess.
My 21 miles yesterday wasn't just a run. It turned out to be a reconnection of sorts. Reconnecting with myself, my beliefs, and with God. Ah, yes, I said God. And this brings me to a rather personal and sensitive subject. I'm convinced that spirituality, religion, personal beliefs can often be lumped in the category of Politics these days. At least for me. It is a subject I don't talk about often or publicly share my beliefs about but I've decided to share a few things today.
It isn't easy for me to talk about my faith, spiritual beliefs and certainly not religion. These subject run deep with me and I usually keep them to myself. A little background and bulleted points:
- Running has always been more than just exercise for me. It has always been an emotional and spiritual experience for me. I often find myself connecting with God in the deepest ways when I'm on a run.
- I have BIG issues with TRUST when it comes to religion. Faith isn't something that comes easy for me.
- I'm very open minded when it comes to accepting people of all walks.
- Religion is definitely something I struggle with and am hesitant to want to be seriously involved with.
- My faith in God and my spiritual walk isn't necessarily connected to one organized religion.
- I was raised a Jehovah's Witness until I was 12. I was taught to believe that there was no other truth except this organization. I never celebrated holidays (I was the kid in the library during class parties), my birthday, saluted the flag, or had friends that were not in my religion. I believed in this religion with every fiber of my body. Why wouldn't I? This is the way I was raised and what I was told to believe. This was what my brain was "washed" with for lack of a better term.
- At the age of 12 my parents (mom and step-dad) basically said :"Nevermind! We don't believe that anymore!"
- This was seriously one of the hardest things I've ever dealt with in my life. It was like my life carpet (everything I had known or believed in) was ripped from underneath me. My foundation was chopped up into little pieces and I was SO CONFUSED, angry, sad, scared and LOST! It was almost like my parents were dead to me. In a religious way, they were. I started having nightmares every night and I have journal entries from that age where all I did was write how scared I was for my parents. My friends wouldn't talk to me, family who were JW's disconnected from us, and people shunned us.
- I tried to keep going by myself but this didn't last long since a 12 year old really doesn't have many resources to organize rides, stay connected and keep on keeping on without parental influence.
- Shortly after this "Everything we ever taught you is wrong" part of my life, my parents started going to a reformed orthodox protestant church in Denver. Yikes!! One extreme to the next. This church had lots of legalism going on. Lots of rules. Lots of Judgment. Lots of lessons on why only some of us were going to heaven and the rest were going to hell. Lots of focus on The reformers like John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Knox, etc. Very little GRACE! Very Little CHRIST focus. Very little LOVE in my opinion.
- I went from never believing in a hell to being taught that not only was there a hell but that God didn't love everyone (only the elect) and that everyone that wasn't chosen (and there were very few who were "chosen" according to them) was going to burn in hell fire. OH MY!
- I went from one extreme to the next. A life of living in FEAR!
- My family had some serious struggles during the time I was going off to college (driving myself to Iowa). Our church kind of seemed to have us marked as "The sinners". We just got more and more buried in our sea of shame and guilt and fear so eventually my parents stopped going to church and I was on my own again.
- I went off to college in Iowa (far away from this Denver church) and was one lost little girl. Confused. Scared Shitless. This was one reason that running was a stressful thing for me. I knew I had to run because it helped pay for college. I knew I had to get good grades because it did the same. So I worked my butt off. Running and getting A's. But still one confused kid!
- I eventually got a letter in the mail from my church in Denver telling me they were going to basically kick me off their church roll for get ready for it...."Unfaithful attendance!" What?!! I'm in Iowa. You're in Colorado.
- Yep, no letter or phone call of "Hey, how are you? We love you and hope you are well." Nope. Just a "you've been a bad bad sinner for not coming to church". I think they were also pretty shocked that I went to a school affiliated with a liberal denomination not related to them at all.
- This letter from them was a first step to my healing from religious abuse and confusion. I hope I don't offend anyone with this term religious abuse...it is from my personal heart/mind. I don't at all mean to judge your religions. I just think that there are churches out there that can use their power for abuse, making people fear, feel guilt etc. This is what I was experiencing.
- I wrote a letter to them explaining that I no longer wanted to be a part of their church. I explained to the what I had learned about LOVE along the way and how I was ready to live with LOVE and not fear and judgement of myself and others. I chose to love ME. For the first time really. I chose to believe that I was loved and not shameful.
- This was also my first step to truly exploring Christ Jesus and who he was and what he stood for. It was my first time seeing the Christ part of the Christian faith and realizing that there really were Christian faiths out there that embraced GRACE, LOVE, ACCEPTANCE and PEACEFUL LIVING.
- I still had a long way to go with faith and still do.
This is the BIG thing for ME, Amanda, Runninghood.....
My entire life, no matter what "religion" I was part of, or what I was dealing with, the God that I had a relationship with has always been the same. The God that I prayed to or that spoke to me from a very very young age has NEVER CHANGED. Even when I changed religions from the Jehovah's Witnesses to the Protestant church, my prayers were always to the same BEING. This is fascinating to me really. Even though my beliefs were changing or different beliefs were being taught to me, I never felt like my walk with "God" was any different. And this is where my faith is strong. I believe in God. I believe that someone, something, somewhere LOVES ME and has been there for me all along....through my dad's death, the changes in religion as a child, losing my friends, seeing my brother almost die in a drunk driving accident, dealing with all the many wonderful and fearful moments of my life. This relationship has never changed for me. It is constant. My Love and belief in God and God's love and belief in Me!
This brings me to how running comes into play with my spirituality. I didn't really start running until I was 14. I was home schooled during this time and I decided to get involved with the cross country team as a way to get involved and have a social life. My brother was the runner. 10 miles a day. He was kind of hard core. I made fun of him. I told him that it took no talent at all to run and that runners were stupid. Funny that he was the one that bought me my first pair of running shoes and got me to join the team.
For the first time in my life, I had an EMOTIONAL release! And I was good! I was good at this thing called running and it filled my soul immensely! As much as it was a release for me, I also brought all my fears, anger, confusion, and hurt with me when I ran and this often came out in weird ways....puking before and after my workouts and races, crying A LOT, being way too hard on myself for not being able to run the way I should have. I would run repeat 800's at 2:45/2:50 for six to eight of them but then when it came to being expected to perform, I was one BIG HOT MESS!!! Luckily, I had a mentor/father/friend relationship with my coach and he was also the school counselor. He was hard on me but also patient and loving and he believed in me (this is another blog post). I never could get myself to run the times I knew I had the potential to run but every once and awhile, I'd have break through moments where all my baggage would chill for a bit and I'd run like the wind and then be scared to death to do it again.
During my first 8 years of running competitively, I realized that my long runs were often prayers for me or conversations with God. I would have moments of clarity and peace. Often I would almost hear God and come back with a feeling of having had one big long HUG and reassurance that I really was loved and that someone was watching out for me. I wasn't alone like I often felt.
So, yesterdays run....
It was a gift. My Garmin and Ipod shutting down were blessings. Once I realized that I was going to be running a very long run with only my thoughts to listen to, I began to pray. I prayed about so many things that I've been needing to focus on. I had a real, solid, quality conversation with my God. And I could feel God with me, through me, next to me. Towards the end of the run, it had been awhile since my long prayer. I was just focusing on my breath and my visions of my marathon. I was happily tired.
At mile 21ish I had a half mile left. Just then I started talking to myself but I didn't realize what I was saying really until I had tears running down my face. I am convinced that it was God, my God reassuring me of how much I am loved. These are the words I was whispering to myself when I finally caught what I was saying:
- You are amazing Amanda
- You are a child of God
- You are good enough and wise enough
- You have been given many gifts and you have the responsibility to use your gifts for yourself and for others.
- You were NEVER alone.
- You have always been loved and cared for deeply
- All that your life has been has been for a bigger purpose
- You ARE LOVED!
So, there we go. This is probably the most personal I've ever gotten on this blog. I rarely write about things that I'm this sensitive about but it was one of those moments that I just felt right about getting it out and giving you a bigger window into my world, my heart, my soul.