I spent ten years in the Army, and not until the last four did I actually enjoy running.
My first two years in Panama I hated it. Three miles at a fast pace in 100 degree tropical heat with 100 degree humidity, at 4 o’clock in the morning, up and down horribly steep hills……. I don’t think in the two years I was there I ever completed a run with my platoon. I was always lagging behind. I was one of the last to make it home, last to get in the shower, and often had to skip the mess hall just to get to work on time. There was never a morning of leisurely getting ready because there was little time between the time I finished my three miles to the time I had to be in the office.
Those of us who ran slower than the expected pace just knew to begin in the rear of the formation. First hill was a steep one, and that was where we got left behind each time. No one encouraged us, they just kept on going. It’s just the way it was.
Fast forward a couple of assignments later, and I finally had a commander who ran my pace. SLOW! We would run and run and run and run, and we would sing cadence (I don’t know, but I’ve been told!), and encourage each other, and laugh, and try to look like we had it all together and were not struggling when we ran past the barracks of the infantry. We’d sing cadences like, “Chairborne!” making fun of them being “Airborne!” If someone was lagging behind, our commander would turn the entire formation around to pick up that person so that THEY landed in the front, and then THEY got to set the pace for the next few miles. There was just no leaving anyone behind. We started and finished together. All of us.
I really began to love running. In fact, on the days when we didn’t have to, I did anyways. My roommate Espy and I would run during our lunch hour, or we’d go running after work. We’d run through little towns in Yong San, Seoul – down dirt roads, up hills, jumping over holes, waving to the Korean folks who looked at us like we were nuts, and stopping to high-five little Korean kids on the street. Pretty soon we were running five miles a day. When Espy didn’t feel like going, I’d tell her 100 reasons why I needed her to go with me. In fact, I’d nag her until she would go, and run fast so I had to keep up. If I didn’t want to run one day, Espy would remind me of all the times she did it for me. And away we would go! When I left Korea, I was in the best shape I’d ever been in my entire life. I felt great.
Here’s Espy & me….
I can’t help when I read Paul’s letters but to wonder if he had friends, running partners like Espy – ones who encouraged him to keep on going, even when he was being chased out of town, threatened, jailed, stoned, flogged, lashed, beaten, and shipwrecked. I mean, he writes a lot about running in his letters! Check this out:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
My back is all screwed up nowadays, and physically running is not a possibility for me anymore. But like my commander in Korea, and the soldiers and friends I ran in formation alongside through Camp Coiner, Korea, I am surrounded on all sides by comrades who will turn the formation around to pick me up when I lag behind, slow the pace, encourage me up the hills to “lean in,” and high five me when we reach the finish line. I run these days the most important race of all, and I am so grateful for those in my formation!
So, I gotta ask ya…. Does your current formation look like the one I ran in when I was in Panama? Does anyone care when you find it difficult making it up that hill? Or what your finish looks like?
Or do you have a formation like mine in Korea, the kind who together, stops traffic, does a U-turn, and picks you up and encourages you all the way to the finish line?
Is it time to change formations?
I know this video is a wee bit long, but ….. even though it really takes me way, way back – it’s actually a pretty accurate comparison to my life right now, in a cool kind of way…