You may have seen the bumper sticker that says, “Running is Cheap Therapy.” I remember the first time I saw that sticker and how I giggled a bit about how witty it was. At the time I wasn’t running at all and didn’t realize the profound truth of that statement. Many things have happened since I first saw that sticker. I have gone through many valleys and I have become a runner. Looking back I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that little sticker on that stranger’s car was more true than I ever thought possible. Here is my story.
I started running again about a year ago. I used to run before the birth of my son but I never got beyond the 5K distance. I didn’t know much about proper training at the time and I suffered knee pain and a stress fracture in my right foot. I figured running just wasn’t in the cards for me and I quit. It was just one more thing on my long list of things I have quit. Fast forward about five years or so and I started thinking about giving running a fair shake, a more intelligent shake if you will. I downloaded the Couch to 5K program and off I went. Little did I know at the time how much I really needed running. I completed two 5K’s before the New Year and set my sights on a Half-Marathon in February. I finished the Half-Marathon and now I am in my fifth week of marathon training . I may be a rather slow runner but I believe I have earned the right to call myself a ‘Runner.’
Looking back over the last year and all my running adventures I also see a lot of valleys in my life. It has been a tough year full of overtime, finances, and loneliness. There were plenty of days of sadness and tears. How in Heaven’s name did I get through this year in one piece? I will tell you. It all comes down to prayer and running shoes.
I will not lie. I am a Christian and I base my life on that very intimate faith. Who knows where I would be without Scripture and Prayer. It is my relationship with Jesus that gives my life complete purpose. It gives me direction. I would be absolutely nothing without it. Honestly, I would probably be dead.
That being said, I have come to realize what a pivotal role my running has played in my spiritual life and in my fight against depression. There have been plenty of days this past year when the sadness and depression felt so overwhelming that I could barely muster a prayer. My mind was so messy that I could barely think let alone pray or read Scripture. It did not take me long to realize that when I ran my thoughts cleared up quickly. My otherwise cloudy mind would become clear as a sunny day. It would be then that I could sit down and pray about my worries. Many of my best prayer times have actually been during long, slow runs. For that reason, I prefer to run alone even on my long weekend training runs. The only problem I have not solved yet is how to carry a notebook and pen on my runs. I get so many ideas while out there.
Where does racing come to play? It brings community and a challenge. I am member of a local huddle of FCA Endurance (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and I love it. My schedule does not allow me to participate as much as I would like but even then I know that I can race for a greater purpose. I put on my bumblebee yellow jersey at every race and I am recognized by fellow team members. I race to raise money for mission trips and to bring the Good News of Jesus to the endurance community. By racing with my team I am part of a community that gives my running a higher purpose. I am also challenged by my racing. I trained for and finished a half-marathon during this tough, tough year. I challenged myself to dig deep and do something seemingly impossible and I completed it. So, when I have days when I feel like I can never finish anything and that I am worthless I just look up to the wall above my bed and see a cross and my half-marathon medal hanging up there. Both of those prove that I am not worthless and that I can indeed finish something great.
You see, I was a simple homeschooling housewife who was struggling. I was struggling with hard work schedules, tight finances, loneliness, and a sense of failure. The depression was settling in. I needed something that would clear my mind. I needed something that was all mine. I needed to do something that was great. I needed a success. Then I discovered running and racing. I found clarity of mind. I found a deeper dimension to my already very personal faith. I found community and I found constant challenge. Who would’ve thought that something so simple as running could save this housewife? I am happy to say now that the smile on my face these days comes from the prayer on my lips and the running shoes on my feet. Thank the Lord for cheap therapy.