Jingle, jingle, jingle, jingle, jingle…

My dog tag necklace jingles as I run, adding some percussion to the cadence of my footsteps. It’s nothing fancy-just a plain silver cross with a dog tag engraved with Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me). I wear it to every race. Some runners have a good luck charm that they carry with them. For me, it’s not about luck. It’s more like a reminder of how far I’ve come, and why I’m doing this…and where my real strength comes from.

Today is my first 10-K race in probably five years. Since I lost weight, then regained it, then lost some of it again, I’ve been pushing myself harder and harder. I’ve done quite a few 5-Ks this year, and my first triathlon. Most people look somewhat surprised when I tell them I’m doing the longer race. After all, most distance runners are lathe-thin and aren’t carrying an extra 70-some-odd pounds with them. I laugh it off, because I know I’m not fast, but I am capable.

At the starting line, I notice that lots of runners are bundled up. This morning happens to be the coldest this fall, at a reasonable 40 degrees. I show up in a poly t-shirt and shorts, in a sea of puffer vests and hoodies. The sun is shining brightly through the beautiful autumn foliage, and I know it’ll warm up-and so will I. One advantage to being overweight is having extra insulation. This makes fall runs much more pleasant than mid-summer 80 degree races.

At 9am we’re off and running. Part of me is focused on what I have to do. The rest of me wishes I were back in bed, like a normal, sane person. I had positioned myself at the back of the pack with the walkers, to make sure I didn’t start too fast. Starting at a fast pace when you’re not ready for it can be tough for a 5-K, but can be a catastrophe for a 10-K. It’s easy to start out too fast in a race, because of the excitement. I start at a comfortable jog and keep the pace for over a mile.

My mind wanders off, and I reminisce about the time I purchased this dog tag. Back in 2002, I had just graduated from college, and I had won two full-event passes to Creation. My friend Jeanette and I took her family’s 8-man tent and headed out to Mount Union for the event. One of the vendors there had these dog tags. You could choose a Bible verse to engrave. Sadly, they didn’t have any Isaiah 40:31 available (my favorite verse), so I chose my second favorite. That week at Creation, I remember Jeanette going for runs around the festival. I had no interest in running, and actually kind of thought she was nuts. Now I’m one of those running nuts…and I love it.

I don’t remember when I started to wear the dog tag to races, since I’ve been racing for ten years now. Today is the first time I have noticed that it jingles when I run…and stops when I walk. As I push past my third mile, I keep thinking to myself, “Just keep jingling”. At my weight, walk breaks are vital to conserve precious energy, and give my legs and sore ankles a rest. But if I want to make my 1:15 finish, I need to keep jogging…and jingling. I decide to run from one tree or post to another, then take a quick walk break. This strategy actually works pretty well for the remainder of the race. I finish five minutes later than I was shooting for, but I finished strong, and felt amazing.

I once heard it said that life isn’t a sprint…it’s a marathon. This can also be true of weight loss. Most of the time, our dreams and goals don’t happen overnight. It takes time, hard work, and determination to make our desires come to fruition. Whether you run a 5-minute mile or a 13-minute mile like me, a mile is still 5,280 feet. It doesn’t matter how fast you get there. Even if you walk the whole three miles, you’re still lapping the old you, who would have still been in bed. Are you waiting for the right time to take action on your goals? What are you waiting for? The time is now.

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