It's a familiar scene: I'm out for a run, enjoying the scenery or the conversation, and holding a good pace. Minutes later, I start to get fatigued. My muscles feel tired, and I'm starting to drag a bit. I try to stay with it, to think about how I will push through this discomfort, but fears and weariness start to set in. Soon, I am afraid that I might burn out or injure myself. I'm not enjoying this anymore, and I wonder why I keep running anyway.
In the midst of most training runs, regardless of what my training plan says, I find myself debating whether I should push the pace or back off. Easy runs can become interval workouts and interval workouts can become easy runs depending on the dialogue that ensues in my head. (Just a side note: are there really "easy" runs? I rarely feel that a run is easy!) The questions that I ask myself in this situation are the same as the questions that I ask myself when making decisions in so many other areas of my life when things start to feel difficult or uncomfortable:
How do I know if my fatigue or negative feelings about my _________ mean that it's time to stop? Or quit? Or leave?
Should I keep going, or should I stop?
When this happens with running, there are many factors that determine my next move. A caring spouse, running partner, or race spectator may encourage me to keep with it. I practice positive self-talk. I set goals to get to the next phone pole, next quarter mile, next hilltop. I try quickening the pace to see how my body responds. On the other hand, a nagging injury, bathroom emergency, or just plain weariness may force me to stop. It's always difficult for me to choose to stop, even on those occasions when every fiber of my being is telling me that it's the right thing to do. I'm not a quitter, or at least I don't think I am. I don't like to admit defeat.
When this happens in other areas of my life, it often seems that there's much more at stake. How will my decision impact my family, friends, coworkers, or others? How will it impact my future? What will others think about my decision? What will God think?
So today, as I ponder the decisions in front of me, I look back over my life, searching for a pattern, for some wisdom to give me direction as to what to do next. What I think I truly need is some time with God along with the courage to be honest with myself about who I am, how I feel, and what I want.