In Transition

A few of my favorite pics I took in Tallahassee, FL

This month marked the beginning of my transition into post-collegiate life. But instead of moving forward like I’d planned, I feel like someone’s tapped the “Pause” button.
It started as I left behind the warm, tropical paradise of which I’d come to know as home for the last four years: Tallahassee. But as much as I’ll miss the sunshine, palm trees and moss-covered oaks, that’s not the only reason it was so hard to say goodbye, (and certainly wasn’t the humidity!)

Garnet and Gold Forever!

Instead, it was saying goodbye my FSU teammates; the girls  I’d spent thousands of miles running with and thousands more traveling over the years. On top of that I had to say goodbye to my fiancé for awhile. Talk about a lot at once!
At first everything was going just fine and I embraced the change with starry-eyes and optimism. I made it home to Georgia to spend a month with the family (yay!) and also had to be home to get a gum graft done in my mouth (nay!) But all seemed well and training was slowly but surely progressing then suddenly everything changed.
What changed? Well, change “hit” me! As I started upping my mileage it became more and more strange to log the miles all on my own, and as I ran a few laps around my old high school track the memories started flooding in like a broken dam. I wasn’t looking back with regret or disappointment that those days are over, it was more like a conglomeration of different emotions forced to fill my mind because I simply haven’t moved on yet to make new memories. “Change will be good for you!” I kept telling myself, but as Anatole France puts it,

Reminiscing those good ‘ol high school days. We kinda dominated!

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”

Still it was strange; watching my little sister run a cross country race last week on the same course I’d set my H.S. PR, catching up with old coaches and friends, and going on runs with my dad who, well let’s just say I hadn’t run with since probably middle school (because I used to insist I needed to run faster, Sorry Dad!). Before I knew it I found myself sifting through old photos because when you no longer have school or practice you have an unbelievable amount of free time. I put together a few mini-collages as I sat there reminiscing of the “Good ‘old days.” Theses “good ‘ol days, I reminded myself, make wonderful memories, but there is always more to come and I needed to move on.

View from the trail, Credit Doug Boyle

Well next thing I know I’m running through my favorite park and I come across a new trail head that’s screaming, “Check me out!” I couldn’t help but be reminded of my good H.S. friend Allyson who would always be my accomplice in trail discovery. Although about 90% of the trail heads we used to investigate turned out to be duds, we still took our risk and climbed over creeks, slid across ice, and crawled through thorn bushes in hopes we might find a new “best trail.” How on earth we actually won state championships off that, “stop your watch, crawl through bushes, dead-end, crawl back, resume running 5 minutes later…”-kind-of-training, only God knows! In all seriousness though, I’ll tell you what got me through high school in such amazing shape…the hills! They didn’t call my high school Collins HILL for nothin!

Credit Doug Boyle

So back to my run, I couldn’t help the reminiscing as I tip-toed along a log to cross a creek in hopes of finding a new trail on the other side. Sure enough my instincts prevailed, although not quite a trail but a paved pathway for another park lie just around the corner. I ran along the pavement in complete solitude and started wishing I had someone else to explore the park with me. However, that solitude was just what I needed to put my mind and body completely in tune as my shoes hit the concrete. “Ouch!” I thought, as I realized how terribly sore my tired legs actually were now that I wasn’t on a soft surface. I carried along, hoping it was nothing but the pain only worsened.
Fast forward a few more miles I arrived at my car nearly limping! All I could think of were two things, “Sure wish I’d discovered something more exciting than a concrete path,” and “Man these hills around here are KILLING my quads, how did I ever survive these in high school?” Perhaps I just needed to adjust, and with an easy day following I assumed I’d feel better soon enough. So I ended that day satisfied with  another long-run etched in the books.

The next morning everything changed. As I headed downstairs to go for my morning run I paused on the second step, “Holy ouches!” Something was wrong! As I fumbled for the handrail I desperately attempted to take the weight off my legs. Regaining my balance thinking, “that was weird!” I tried to carry on but the pain continued. Frustrated with my throbbing quads I figured it had to be those “Georgia hills,” I walked back to my room, hit the snooze and decided I’d wait to run that evening.

Well it turns out the hills aren’t the only thing you can’t seem to avoid in North Georgia, there are also plenty of…spiders! Mistake number one: I’d waited till dusk to run and decided to go with my dad to be safe but completely forgot about the spiders! We must have done half our run with our arms flailing, spitting out silk string, and screaming, “Is it on me!?” But they weren’t all that bad because once again my mind was preoccupied by something worse, my legs. Three miles in we stopped and walked. Convinced that something serious must be wrong with my quads I went home and made mistake number two: Internet research.
Any serious runner knows the story that comes next. You feel a strange pain, get on Google, and before you know it something you read convinces you that your leg is broken, you have a rare disease, and you might need the dreaded, “time off!”
Well in my case what I began to read was bigger than that nightmare. It turns out there are some serious potential side effects to the medication I was taking to prevent my gum from being infected after my gum graft. Before I knew it I came across dozens of stories of patients who ended up paralyzed, some of them only having taken four pills and then never walking again. In one story, the man claimed everything worth living for he lost from taking this medication and his symptoms started out seemingly similar to mine.

For a moment my life was changed. It was late at night and I was not thinking clearly as my imagination raced with the thought that my career was over. What if just like that I never had the ability to run again? I know, I probably sound like a real hypochondriac as you’re reading this, but I seriously went through a major reality check. Finding myself on my knees I started praying, because when I get worried or scared (which rarely happens like this) that’s the first thing I do. “God, you wouldn’t let this happen to me, right? I’ve already dedicated my life and my running to you, why would you take it away?” As the fog started to clear and my mind became straight it finally hit me; I might have dedicated my running to God, told Him I’d run for His glory, but dedicating my life to Christ meant more than that, it meant my whole LIFE. Not the good days, not the good life I might envision, but EVERYTHING that comes with life. Although it was probably exceedingly rare, even if by some far chance I ended up like that man I’d read about who “lost everything” I was reminded that from a Christian perspective that’s impossible; I would never lose God. Although my mind continued to worry and wander, I drifted off to sleep with a new-found peace and a promise, “God if you heal me I’ll praise you to the world and glorify you through this sport like I never have before….And if you don’t, if at any moment my desires were taken away, I’d still praise you in whatever way I can.”

The next moment I awoke refreshed and eager to test out my legs as I headed for the stairs; one step, two steps…much improved! Okay, maybe I really was being a hypochondriac after all! Then when it came time to run again I realized maybe not quite. The pain continued, a pain I still couldn’t explain to be completely normal, and so after consulting my coach, team doctor and the pharmacist I was told, yes the medication was indeed causing my serious discomfort, but since I’d already gone from limping on the stairs to walking normally it seemed everything would be fine as I discontinued the meds.

Phew, a sigh of relief! Note to self: Always consult doctor before Google! But then again I’m glad I did not do that. You see, as irrational as my thinking was that night, I really believe I needed to learn a lesson.  Staring into the horror of possibly never running again, God needed me to ask myself what I would really do in that situation. You see, Jesus taught that whoever wanted to follow him must deny himself, and take up his cross,” (Matthew 16:24, NASB). Denying oneself basically means dying to our past, a life of sin and selfishness. It doesn’t mean giving up on life, but instead letting go of our own ambitions and focusing on God. I needed to be reminded that being able to run each day is a gift that came from God and I cannot hold that value above the value of my life or the value of God. Jesus also taught that, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25). 
What he meant by that was we must not cling tight to the things of this life (running, material things, good fortune,) for we all will lose those when we die. But those who lose these things or choose to put God before these things are the ones who will find true life through Jesus Christ. Ironically, these verses are strikingly similar to the quote I mentioned before by Anatole France about how in times of change we must accept dying to one life before we can enter another. Change isn’t easy. Devoting my life to Christ is not just something that happened and is over. I needed a reminder that no matter what the future brings I’m willing to “die” to my present circumstances in order to pursue an even better and eternal life God has planned for me.

Sometimes the way God works in our lives is like a slingshot; He has to pull us backwards a little before he let’s us fly forward. Kind of like those who have “near death experiences.” That’s how I believe he was working when I went through my what if I can never run again?-panic-attack. He was pulling me backwards just enough to re-check my priorities. Pulling me back, under his wing he reminded me I’ve got nothing to fear, and I’ve got Him, the most valuable thing worth living for.

And so, with this new-found perspective and peace I continue, as Oiselle would say, “Head up, Wings out!” Ready to see where the slingshot shoot’s me. Shooting for moon but even if I miss, I’ll land among the the heavenly stars.

*I’ll skip “4 fun facts” because my blog was long & I’ve already given you 400 facts 😉 But please feel free to share stories and comments!

Posted in Training.