More Than Conquerors

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAs of yesterday morning around 9 am, I crossed the finish line of my second half marathon race! Specifically, the Bearathon here at Baylor that claims to be “The Toughest Half in TX.” This go around looked slightly different than my first time last year, though, for several reasons.

Much of the notorious hills portion of the course was rerouted due to construction in Cameron Park. Perfect, right? It’ll be easier! LIES. I promise it was not any less intense. Instead of maybe three or four big hills that leveled out at the top to catch your breath, this was more like constant rolling six or seven hills. There were quite a bit of unnecessary out and back loops also that weren’t my favorite, just because I would see people running the opposite direction that I knew and figured my pace wasn’t much behind them. Obviously the turnaround should be soon. Well, it was never soon enough.

Last year, I wanted to run by myself since I really poured myself into my training and had a specific time goal in mind of 2:10, and if I was really honest – 2:00. I never did training runs with friends, just me, the road, and my music. I didn’t want to have to worry about keeping up with someone too fast for me or if someone was running with me, I didn’t want to feel bad about wanting to go ahead. It worked well for me because my adrenaline allowed me to finish in 1:58 – beyond what I thought possible! Well this year, after my roommate and I had shared our training struggles the past few months (simply not enough hours in the day, medial shin splints, random allergic reactions, knee issues, and just our hearts not being in it) and figured our paces were similar enough, we decided to run it together so we could just have fun, push each other, and not be as caught up in our time.

I did still have a goal this year, though. A more realistic 2:15 all things considered, and I would be happy. The first few miles were pre-sunrise, and I was already soaked with a mixture of misty fog and sweat from 90+% humidity. Despite that, I was feeling pretty good. My playlist was definitely top notch – Switchfoot, Katy Perry, Lorde, JT, OneRepublic, Rend Collective – and so far my body and lungs seemed to be on board with this whole insane idea of running 13.1 miles.

One of my favorite parts about a race that makes it immensely better than a solitary struggle of a long training run is simply the overwhelming encouragement by all the spectators and fellow runners cheering you on at every mile. It makes it near impossible to want to even think about slowing down or walking. We continued pushing along and even came out of the butt-kicking hills section with an average pace still under our ~10 min/mile goal. Chelsea and I talked afterwards how for the first half, I let my adrenaline take free reign and pushed her hard for us to stay together and set our pace up for success. Then came the second half, when the roles shifted. I was really feeling the pain set in, and each hill I was huffing, coughing, and frequently spitting out nasty stuff (I’ve been suffering from some kind of allergies/congestion this past week). She was great at keeping our pace consistent and really made me push past my lack of enthusiasm about the last few miles.

Finally back on campus, we knew the finish line was just around the corner. Still, the last mile or two was definitely the toughest for me. I rounded the last corner and did my best to sprint the last straightaway. I did end up getting under my goal time, and I couldn’t have been prouder of Chelsea and myself. Every ounce of pain and exhaustion left my body, and I was overcome by emotion. I promise running a long race like this is immensely a mental game, and you go through such an inner battle with yourself. I was overwhelmed by all the encouragement from loved ones in the finishers’ area and so thankful that God blessed me with this incredible opportunity of honoring him with the health, strength, and endurance that He’s given me.

One of my favorite songs on my race playlist was from Rend Collective’s new album (HIGHLY recommended by the way), and it captures so well the power we have in Christ to overcome absolutely anything. These lyrics based on Romans 8:35-39 did wonders when I wanted so badly to give up and reminded me of the immeasurable power of our God to do so much beyond helping me run a simple race. He gives us strength to be victorious every day.

More Than Conquerors

When my hope and strength is gone
You’re the one who calls me on
You are the life
You are the fight
That’s in my soul

Oh, Your resurrection power
Burns like fire in my heart
When waters rise
I lift my eyes
Up to Your throne

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

I will sing into the night
Christ is risen and on high
Greater is He
Living in me
Than in the world

No surrender, no retreat
We are free and we’re redeemed
We will declare
Over despair
You are the hope

Nothing is impossible
Every chain is breakable
With You, we are victorious
You are stronger than our hearts
You are greater than the dark
With You, we are victorious

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

Let Us Run With Endurance

IMG_2992

Writing this post has honestly been something I’ve been thinking about since I started this blog last summer. One of the most significant, physical, mental, and even spiritual journeys of my life was making the once-thought ridiculous decision to train and run my first half marathon last March – and the “Toughest Half in Texas” at that. It sounds shallow when I say that it was such a big deal to me, but if you’ve ever joined the “half-crazy” club you might understand where I’m coming from. It’s not just about running some silly race, it’s about overcoming a battle inside everyday and accomplishing things that seem impossible while honoring God with the gift of health that He’s given me.

If you would have told me in high school that  I would run a half marathon in college, I would have laughed in your face. Sure, I was always an athlete growing up and played volleyball, softball, and basketball in high school, but the extent of my running career was the 100 and 300 meter hurdles that only lasted through middle school. Any time we had to do distance conditioning or run outside for team workouts, I would easily be one of the ones grumbling under my breath about it. Long distance (aka anything more than maybe two miles) was never my thing. I really don’t know what changed my mind, but I woke up one day with the foreign idea that I could actually call myself a “runner.”

8813d2c3e6a0891910e93f30c46b19ce

I figured I’m in my twenties, quite possibly at the peak of my physical prime, and I’m also such a believer of goal setting and focusing on a certain project at any given time. My university puts on The Bearathon every year which helps raise money for scholarships and attracts people from all over the state due to its challenging course full of hills and that runs through our beautiful campus and nearby park. My freshman year I started easing my way into this running thing and actually trained to run the 5K portion of the event with a great time. 13.1 is an entirely different animal, though.

I signed up for an Aerobic Running class the fall semester before the race to fulfill one of my degree requirements while getting a good maintenance run in three times a week. We never really went more than about 3.2 miles in the class due to time restrictions, though. At home over Christmas break I think my longest run was about a 4.3 loop around our county roads. I browsed the web for a 10 week training plan (the exact time from the start of the spring semester and the race in March) for beginners and just picked one, printed it out, and posted it on my wall. As I looked at those little squares with scary big numbers, I didn’t know if I would actually be able to go through with it.

7e47372c20520ec5f51485b7564ae6e60e6228d6001f8792b110455c481c8dc4

I sucked up my fear, and I remember crossing off that first day of actual running. Now there was no turning back – I was really doing this. I prayed daily that God would give me the strength and endurance to keep going further – literally and figuratively. Not only was running an investment in my physical well-being, it was some of the most precious times spent in the Lord’s presence, listening to worship music, and being outside enjoying His creation day after day. I do always listen to music on my runs, but I also use the time to think and pray about things on my mind. I also believe exercise can be a form of worship if you let it be. I think honoring our body as the temple God created and taking care of our physical selves daily brings Him joy just as much as sitting and reading His Word.

68c032aaf08b56fc78f0cded839b408a

On a different note, one of my favorite things about training for a big race is definitely the liberty you can take with the amount of food you can eat. Yes, it’s important to eat the right things for fueling and recovering, but let’s be real – you certainly can afford ample extra calories (and specifically carbs) around the times of your long runs and still never gain weight. I wasn’t training to lose weight, but just after a few weeks of regularly running, I could visibly see a bigger gap between my inner thighs, that signature defined muscle cut above my knees of a true runner, a slimmer waist, and my calves that I always thought were muscular grew even more (funny but sad story – my favorite riding boots from that winter season now no longer zip up over my calves).

“It’s all out there, with nothing but the drumbeat of your feet and the rhythm of your ragged breath and the green of the trees on the path.” – Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine.

Each Saturday my long runs became longer, and I somehow kept finishing them – sometimes with even improved paces despite the mileage increase. Once I got past six or seven, eight, nine and ten really all did start to feel the same (I know it sounds crazy, just trust me).

0c8464d868dac716e56d7733526b2153

Once the actual day of the race came, I had so many emotions. Nervous, scared, and excited, adrenaline pumped through my veins like never before. One of my biggest fears was that I would start off too fast and tank way too soon. I use the app MapMyRun on my phone when I run, and I was shocked and worried when my first mile (and the next and the next) was at a pace about a minute faster than most all of my training runs. I couldn’t slow down, though. I loved the feeling as I passed people and felt my entire body powering through each stride. As I came into the last mile or two of the race, I was overwhelmed with the fact that I had actually made it to this point after months of dedication and sacrifice. I crossed the finish line and was blown away when I saw my official results (beating my goal time by over 11 minutes!).

IMG_2994IMG_2995

These feelings are why I run today and am training to do this same race again this year (although if I’m honest, I don’t think I’ll PR). Right now, the miles once again feel long, slow, and impossible at times. Still, I know I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run again and go on a new journey, discovering more about myself and God on each run, in each sunset, and with each step.

9834cc59db5b8a3fab7d3b9e408fe9b6

Roasted Veggie Power Salad with Hummus Dressing and English Muffin Croutons

Sunday – a day for rest, refreshment, and recharging for the week ahead.  As much as I would love to say I spend my Sunday afternoons napping, soaking up the summer sun, or reading a good book, that is far from reality most of the time. I do love Sundays because of my amazing church home and always look forward to the much-needed time of worship and a good word. After that though, I usually have to hit the ground running (in today’s case – literally). In a school-minded college student’s vocab, Sunday is code for “Time to catch up on all that studying I didn’t do this weekend.”

This is my brit lit and spanish professors. The joys of summer school..

This is my brit lit and spanish professors. The joys of summer school..

Also, I always seem to wake up with a fresh motivation to workout hard and eat especially healthy on Sundays in an effort to somehow cancel out the weekend’s relaxed mindset of no alarm clocks, the occasional pizza, and social life revolved around fro-yo and coffee shops.  IMG_4122Today I went for my longest run in awhile on the indoor track (after my first half-marathon in March and the dreadful summer months in TX, I definitely let up a lot in my long distance running) which felt surprisingly good, followed by an intense core circuit. I then spent the majority of my afternoon reading Middle English literature and writing another lack-luster essay for my summer class.  I did get to enjoy a time of catching up with a close friend who I haven’t seen all summer and has been living a much more adventurous life than me the past couple of months.  I’ve definitely been living vicariously through my friends’ thrilling summers via Facebook and Instagram pics.  To keep my healthy trend rolling, I had this made in time for dinner to sit down to my one TV show I’ve still made time for this summer, The Next Food Network Star. I threw this salad together and it was just too good not to share.  Again, this is a “non-recipe,” since salads are almost always very versatile and it’s not like you can really mess it up.  Remember that hummus I was so excited about last time? It’s back! (I made a slightly different batch since then, but same idea).

IMG_4137

Ingredients

Broccoli

Cauliflower

Yellow Squash

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

S&P/Italian herb blend/garlic/crushed red pepper

Grated Romano

Spring Mix Greens

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (check my last post out)

Lemon

Light agave

Half an English muffin

Directions

For the veggies, roughly chop, season, drizzle (or spray) with olive oil, a couple splashes balsamic vinegar, and a light dusting of Romano. Roast at 375 for about 15 minutes or until done to your preference.  For the dressing, I used a couple tablespoons of hummus and thinned it out with extra lemon juice, a splash of balsamic, and just a touch of agave for sweetness.   Then I microwaved it for 20 seconds just to meld the flavors together (I’m a fan of warm toppings and dressing for certain salads).  Cut the muffin into small cubes and toss with about a teaspoon of oil, spices, and a pinch of Romano.  Bake/toast at 350 (I did these in the toaster oven while the veggies were roasting) for about 15 minutes or until golden brown and slightly crunchy but still with the good doughy “chew” of an English muffin.  Top a heaping bed of greens with the veggies, a generous drizzle of the hummus, the fresh croutons, and a final dusting of Romano. Dig in and enjoy this light but flavorful salad, perfect for summer.