On Pacing

I’ve recently started running, after years of saying I would never understand how people could actually enjoy something so… well, miserable. The thought of a side stitch stabbing the inside of my ribs, gasping for air that was escaping me, for long periods of time–sure sounded miserable to me. But what I failed to understand then, was that the reward was greater than the struggle of the process. The feeling of getting lost in your thoughts as your heart pounds in your chest faster than you’re used to, finally getting to the cool down after you surpass a new goal, endorphins overtaking your body at the end of a run… it makes the hard part worth it.

What got me to realize that I was in fact capable of running if I set my mind to it, was all about my pace. My runner friends were in agreement that if I thought I “couldn’t run,” it just meant that I was running too fast. My pace wasn’t right. I was exerting too much energy at the beginning, and didn’t save enough for the follow through. Once I learned to start running so slow it almost felt like walking, I noticed that it actually wasn’t so difficult to keep going. Before I knew it, I was running my first mile, then two, then three, without stopping. Something I had never been able to do before, not even close! Because I learned to slow down in order to do things the right way, and because I went in with the mindset that I was capable of accomplishing these new goals I had been setting for myself, I started to see myself do things I would’ve never thought I could.

I think our lives are a lot like this scenario. We push so hard to get where we want to go, that we burn out and get discouraged that we aren’t seeing the results we hoped for. In life, we tend to sprint here or there without realizing the stamina we actually possess. We strive for goals while comparing ourselves to those around us, upset that we are not where they are.

As a runner, it’s easy to hear other people talk about the long distances they trekked while thinking to yourself that you could never go that far. As a student, it’s easy to get frustrated seeing your friends graduating when you’re taking your time to figure out what you truly want to do. As a professional, it’s easy to watch those around you head down career paths that seem as though they deserve more admiration than your own. As a single person/girlfriend/boyfriend/etc., it’s easy to look at married couples as though your hopes for that life won’t be fulfilled anytime soon. As a parent, I imagine it’s easy to observe the behavior of other people’s children and wonder why your own won’t behave that way.

It’s easy to compare our pace to the pace of others. Pace is defined as “consistent and continuous speed in walking, running, or moving.” What if we learned to be consistent and continuous in pursuit of our heart’s desires? When we learn the rhythm of our natural pace, it becomes simpler to go further with what we are given. We get burnt out less when we notice how much less effort we have to exert at a consistent and continuous pace.

As a runner, this means slowing down (even if it feels like walking!) and controlling your breathing as you make it through your distance one step at a time, without regard for the people running literal or metaphorical laps around you. As a student, this means taking the time to explore your options until you feel set on a field that you can genuinely see yourself in long-term, without regard for what anyone around you wants you to do. As a professional, this means being willing to take positions that you trust will be valuable experience to help you land that next opportunity, without regard for what your peers think of it. As a person hopeful to eventually be married, this means learning how to love people well before you enter the next season of life, without regard for whether or not a relationship looks like it’s on the horizon. As a parent, this means practicing patience with your children, without regard for when other people’s children learn the lessons you’re trying to teach yours.

When we learn to take the objects of our affection and see them as a journey instead of a destination, we can find joy in sticking with a pace for ourselves that will allow us more success. Slow down, take deep breaths, and find a pace that works for you despite what is working for everyone else.

“So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.” Hebrews 12:1b