Climbing Our Hills

Woman Running

About three years ago a good friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. As part of our rallying around her, a few friends signed up to do the Run for the Cure. At that point I wasn’t running, but I spent the intervening months training first on my treadmill and then as summer arrived, taking my training outside. I had never run a 5K in my life, but I was determined.

The morning of the run was cold and it had been raining so some of the path was really muddy. My friend Ryan, who is about fifteen years younger than me and I think may have been born running, stood with me as the run was about to start. He knew that this was going to be my first 5K and that I was set on running the whole thing. Ryan started his running app and we were off, and from that point until I crossed the finish line, there was Ryan, at my side. He kept talking about anything that seemed to come to his mind, and occasionally threw in a very brief remark of encouragement before returning to talk about music or work or something else not related to the run.

Woman Running

There was one point during that run that really stands out for me. Saskatoon is in the middle of the Canadian Prairies, which are really quite flat. There’s a joke about being able to see your dog runaway for a week, that’s how flat things are. The planners of the run, however, chose a location that wasn’t quite so flat. With most of the run behind  us we came to a hill, one of the few hills that could have been on a running path in Saskatoon. We hit the hill and I hit the wall. I kept moving, but I just couldn’t run. Ryan ran his way up the hill and kept running, just not straight ahead. Somehow he was back at my side when I started to run again.

There were a few points throughout the run that I didn’t think I was going to be able to keep going, but in addition to my constant companion, there were a few phantom voices along my trek, like the voice of my friend Amy, the one who first told me that I was a “bad ass”, who was nowhere near that run that day, telling me that I could get my bad ass over that finish line. And I did, and Ryan, who couldn’t have helped me more unless he’d actually carried me over the finish line, looked at his phone and said, “According to my GPS that was more than 5K.” So I think I ran 5K that day and I’ll believe that for the rest of my life.

I’ve been trying to run up a hill for about seven months now. At the top, at the finish line, is the end of this bout of depression. Ryan, who I share an office with at work has been encouraging me up that hill. Amy continues to tell me I’m a bad ass, and her teenage daughter keeps sending me encouraging quotes and messages. My friend who had breast cancer is thankfully healthy and has had my back going up this hill. Of course my wife and daughter are my biggest cheerleaders, and there are so many other people who send me encouraging words, spend time with me talking and laughing (I know some pretty funny people).

Encouragement is important. Todd Henry pointed out in a recent podcast that encouragement is “putting courage into someone”.  I am so grateful for all of the people who have been pouring courage into me these past seven months. It makes more of a difference than they probably realize. 

We all have our hills to get up. You may feel like you just want to sit down on the side of the road and give up, but don’t. You don’t have to run, but keep walking. Look around, listen carefully. You’re not alone on that hill. You have your fellow runners / walkers. You have the friends and family who may not literally be there, but are still there. There are people pouring courage into you, whether you realize it or not. You will get up that hill.

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