Lagging in the middle
Any runner will tell you: it’s a mental sport.
You train hard to be in good shape, but even the most fit runner knows that it’s easy to get psyched out — not just by competition, but by yourself.
When I run, I’m always strongest at the beginning at the end. It’s the middle of my run, no matter the distance, that lags the most.
I start to worry that I don’t have what it takes to keep up my pace. I calculate and re-calculate split times in my head, trying to figure out what benchmarks I need to be hitting.
And all that anxiety and self-doubt slows me down.
That’s the irony. It helps to stay focused, but it doesn’t help to fret.
Don’t listen to your head
My brother, also a runner, sometimes does time trials with me. He stands at the finish line, watch in hand, and encourages me to hit my goals as I come around for each lap. Sometimes he’ll even run a few of those middle laps, the lagging ones, right behind me to keep me on pace.
“Listen to your body,” he tells me, “not your head.”
And I do.
Underneath the mental chatter about whether or not I can keep this up for another 10 minutes is the quiet, steady truth of what my body is really capable of. I often find that my mind has been telling me I can’t maintain a pace that actually feels fine for my body.
When I stop checking in with my fear and start checking in with my capacity, something inside me settles down. Those are the times I’m able to run more smoothly and easily.
The truest love story
I think often about how our spiritual lives follow the same pattern: when we get caught up in stories of self-doubt, we often slow ourselves down. We can cover over what is most deeply true about us: that we are created, redeemed, whole, and beautiful.
That we are, each of us, children of God. That we are immeasurably and abundantly loved.
That we have been given a spirit of power, not fear. That we are set free.
So, if you find yourself lagging in the middle, distracted by stories your mind is telling you about whether or not you have what it takes to keep going: stop checking in with your fear, and start checking in with your capacity.
Don’t listen to your head. Listen instead to the ever-present truth:
Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.