Trail running has become my metaphor for life. Pretty much everything can be explained by running over packed earth.
It’s taken me three years, but I think it’s safe to call myself a runner again. I never really thought I could run a marathon, or even it’s 13.1 sibling. Now, thirteen miles doesn’t seem like such a big obstacle.
You know why?
Because I stopped thinking about how far I had to go, and started focusing on the next footfall.
I wish I would have learned that about, oh, say 3 years ago.
There for awhile, my life felt like one big obstacle. The road was too far to travel down, I couldn’t see the end, and most days I couldn’t even see where to put my feet next.
Back in high school, I ran track. Some teams practiced. We trained. I didn’t run for the pleasure of it. I didn’t just run for the heck of it.
I ran to compete.
I ran to race.
I loved gunning down the competition coming out of the last turn, lungs on fire, legs seizing up underneath me. I was strong and fierce and it was thrilling.
These days, I don’t have a jersey in front of me to draft behind. There’s just me out there on the trail. I’ve had to learn how to compete against myself.
I think I love trail running so much because you can only focus on a short segment at a time. The miles don’t stretch out endlessly in front of you. There’s just the next rock, the next corner, the next hill. Kinda like life.
Things go so much better if you stay present in the moment. Looking out on the endless miles takes away your focus from the next rock. More than likely, you’ll break a toe on that rock.
Worrying about somewhere you aren’t even at yet is a waste of time and a good way to cause yourself unnecessary pain.
Focus on the next footfall.
Faith: focus on the next footfall. You have no idea what God has beyond the next bend. He just needs you to keep moving forward, one step at a time and trust that the next footfall will be followed by the one after that. In running, you have to trust your feet. In life, you have to trust God.
Love: focus on the next footfall. These are always uncharted trails, where hearts get dashed upon the rocks and breaths are stolen. It’s awful and exhilarating. No one ever regrets a run. No one ever regrets trying for love.
Challenges: focus on the next footfall. This rock, right here beneath your feet, is the only one you need to focus on. Then, you hit the next rock. And, the one after that. You keep moving forward. You might stumble, but that’s a step, too.
Fear: focus on the next footfall. Some days, that’s just lacing up your shoes and telling yourself that you will try. Other days, it’s pushing past the limits, into new terrain. If you focus on the fear, you’d never get out the front door. Put your shoes on.
Courage: focus on the next footfall. The essence of courage has always been putting one foot in front of the other. The secret is to never stop.
Pain: focus on the next footfall. Recovery takes many, many forms. You have to know when to push through and when to slow down. Healing means listening to your body and responding appropriately. To take the next step, remember the last step.
Joy: focus on the next footfall. There are so many ways happiness gets stolen from us. We immediately start looking for the next moment of joy, instead of savoring the one we are in. Joy asks us to be present, to feel the ground beneath our feet and breathe in the clean air.