This Thanksgiving I'll compete in my second half-marathon. Actually, "compete" might not be the right word. This Thanksgiving I'll hopefully complete my second half-marathon.
Running has gradually become a regular part of my life over the last few years, and I've discovered that there’s something uniquely therapeutic about running at just the right pace.
Running helps me do all kinds of things.
I run to clear my head. I run to work out problems. I run to relieve stress. I run to work through sermon ideas. I run to forget about everything except the music in my ears for an hour or so. And, ultimately, I run to get faster and fitter, to challenge myself, and to see progress in my ability.
Running seems simple enough. Just put one foot in front of the other and repeat. At it's most basic level running is that simple, but to see consistent improvement you also have to learn to consistently run at the right pace.
Run too fast and you’ll burn out too quickly. Run too slow and you'll never know what it is to challenge yourself.
Run too fast and you’ll be more susceptible to a sidelining injury. Run too slow and it's hard to develop a comfortable rhythm.
Run too fast and you’ll start to make mistakes in form. Run too slow and it's hard to sustain momentum.
Run too fast and each step becomes a struggle. Run too slow and you'll feel like you're never getting anywhere.
Run too fast and defeatist and negative thoughts begin to mount in your brain—"I’ll never make it to the finish…there’s no way I can keep this up!" Run too slow and you'll never see improvement.
But when you learn to run at just the right pace, wonderful things start to happen.
Run at the right pace and you'll find real joy in the effort. Run at the right pace and your steps seem effortless. Run at the right pace and you’ll feel like you can go on forever. Run at the right pace and you reach the finish line triumphantly.
As simple as running appears--just put one foot in front of the other and repeat—it’s not always easy to find the right pace.
I wonder if life is that way, too. It seems simple enough. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. But it’s not always easy to find the right pace.
There’s a sweet spot to the pace at which we live our lives. Sometimes, the speed of life can feel like a hamster wheel out of control. Sometimes, the speed of life can feel like a long slog through quicksand.
But sometimes--the best times--we find ourselves engaging life at a pace that lets us feel as if we’re effortlessly clearing hurdle after hurdle without breaking stride.
So what’s your pace right now? Too fast? Too slow? Just right? We all need periodic opportunities to assess the race we’re running--and the pace at which we're running it.
Maybe you'll figure out that you’re entering a season of life where you can pick up the pace and really challenge yourself.
Or maybe—perhaps, more likely—you'll pause and figure out that you’ve been pushing too hard and need to settle into a more sustainable rhythm for the long haul.
Whatever your pace, next week we all get a break for Thanksgiving. Everybody gets at least one day off and If we’re lucky two or three. Take them and rest. You need them. Enjoy them and use them to re-assess your pacing.
And don’t just do it for yourself. Your family, your church, and your community all need you to take these days to rest and re-assess, too. They need you to be at your best as you run the next leg of your race.
So, my wish for you this Thanksgiving? Enjoy the break. You deserve it. Then ease back into a familiar, healthy, comfortable rhythm. There’s something uniquely therapeutic about living life at the right pace.
See you Sunday.