The last point I want to talk about as relates to running and the faith (although, this has been fun, hasn't it?) is the actual race itself. Because the truth is that the race almost never goes like you've prepared for it.
I've been running consistent intervals for a couple of months in preparation for the race that I ran last weekend. Even on my long training runs, my last mile took roughly the same amount of time as my first...and every one in between. I knew the rhythm that I wanted to run, and I had been practicing it. Not only practicing it, but was so comfortable in this rhythm that I could do it with my eyes closed. It was what my body was accustomed to doing, how I was used to performing. It was because of the consistency of this rhythm that I was confident - without a doubt in my mind - that I was going to hit that finish line.
Then, race day.
For some reason, starting the actual race is so different sometimes from starting a good, solid training run. I busted out of the gate ready to set a record time, even though I already knew from my training runs what my time would be. I came out faster than I had ever practiced, and after that, I never could really seem to get back down into my rhythm.
So my first mile was almost 2 minutes faster than my training miles. By my sixth mile, I was pretty sure I was losing it, so that one was insanely fast, too, as I tried to catch up to my own body and ended up running harder there than I had planned, too. By mile 10, I wasn't sure I could run any more, and mile 12 took me almost twice as long as any of my training miles.
When all was said and done, my race was wild and all over the place. No two miles, it seemed, were even close to each other. Despite months of extremely consistent training runs, I just didn't pull it off on race day.
But my time was right where it should have been. I crossed the finish line right about when I thought I would.
I did it.
This is why training is so important.
We invest our times in the things of the faith - in building our faith muscles strong - so that we can run the race. So that when crunch time comes, we're ready for it. So that when hard times fall, we're here. We know we can do it. We can look back on our training and trust in it.
But we have to understand that when that time comes, it rarely, if ever, looks like what we've trained for. We can be absolutely sure of our faith, absolutely rock-solid on what we know and believe, but something about the race...it can still throw us off our rhythm. It can still make us too fast here, too slow other places. Absolutely sure at the start, then a little less certain for a bit. It can make us waver here and there, looking for that solid ground.
The truth is that during the actual race, in the midst of actual struggle, the rhythm doesn't always come as naturally as we think it should. Most, if not all, of us, are stuck searching to get back into that routine that we know so well, that rhythm that makes sense to our hearts and souls. We know that we know it. We know that it's in there. But...it can be elusive for a bit.
And you know what? That's okay.
Because the truth is that our training is there. It does kick in. We do have the stamina and the strength to do what we've set out to do, to accomplish what we've had our eyes on from the beginning. It may not be the path or the rhythm that we thought we'd run, but we still make it. We still come through on the other side with our faith intact, knowing it's real. Knowing it's legit. Knowing it got us through.
So if you're in that space right now where you're wondering what happened to your rhythm and it feels like maybe you're just trying to hold on to what you do have, take heart. It's okay. The race rarely goes the way you trained for it, but that training still pays off. It's still worth it. It will still get you there.
You can count on it.