It was a mid-August long run. Temperatures were already 80 degrees. The humidity was high. There were no clouds, no wind, to offer natural relief from the elements. I was slogging through my run fighting this overwhelming sense of frustration.
Coming off a difficult race a Grandma’s Marathon in June coupled with the relentless heat, I decided to try training by heart rate. That meant keeping my heart rate in a lower zone during long runs. That, in turn, meant a slower pace. I mean a very slow pace. The kind where I was fairly certain turtles could pass me.
I came home, uploaded my data and searched for positives. I could no longer judge my training on my average pace. I could no longer say, “This 15-mile run was a referendum on what will happen on race day.” Because I was running so slow. My body, by the way, felt great. “Pile on the miles!” my body said. “We’re a little tired, but we could keep going all day.” I was no longer a physical zombie for the rest of the day and any delayed-onset muscle soreness was minimal.
The problem was my ego. My ego didn’t like going so slow. My ego judged me. My ego told me I was going to fail miserably in my next race My ego wondered if I should give up racing all together after this one.
My ego popped out on some of those long runs, making me miserable. Would I ever get to where I was going, literally and figuratively?
Then I remembered something I had read online, taking me back to my Catholic roots.
All that frustration and fear and uncertainty?
I offered it up.
I’m pretty sure I’ll get the theology wrong here. (My theological background limited to the required three required courses I took at St. Bonaventure as an undergraduate about a million years ago. And the most vivid thing I remember was Fr. Trabold keeping the front row open for any spirits who wanted to join class.) But the basics, as I understand, is offering your suffering as a sacrifice to God. You can do this with intention, coupling your suffering with that of others.
And so on these long runs, when my frustration hit and my ego started to spew all kinds of negative thoughts, I offered it up to assist the women at Carolyn’s House.
The women there surely face frustration and fear. They were homeless. They were almost all victims of domestic violence. They need to learn life skills that I take for granted — how to open a checking account, how to keep yourself healthy, how to keep your physical environment healthy. Sometimes they need counseling. Other times they need education. All of them need a supportive environment, one that cares but is firm, one that lifts them up and holds them accountable.
They, too, likely get frustrated. They want to be further along the process to becoming self-sufficient. Some days it may become too difficult, too challenging, too slow, and they think about giving up. Some days it’s easier to stay where you are, even if where you are is nowhere near where you want to be.
I thought about them on my long run. I thought about their suffering. I thought about mine. I offered it up.
Our own level of suffering is relative, but we all suffer in some way. I wanted these women to know they’re not alone in trying to create a better life for themselves. That’s what we all want. Some of us have the privilege of a better starting point. I have a pretty good starting point. I have an amazing support circle of family and friends. I have health. I have enough money to be comfortable. I have faith, hope and love, even on the days when I don’t see clearly that I do indeed have faith, hope and love. More than enough, to be precise.
So while I scramble to hit my fundraising goal for Carolyn’s House before the Niagara Falls International Marathon (hey! if you want to donate there’s plenty of time and no contribution is too small or too large) I can also offer what I have, including my own frustrations and fears. And that is a powerful start.