Being Thankful for What’s Missing

Fall tends to make me feel wistful. When I was a runner, fall was my favorite time of year to run. There is nothing better than a run through streets that are lined with trees exploding with color, with the crisp morning breeze brushing my cheeks. Even though the falling leaves are a reminder that death approaches, never did I feel so alive as when I was running through the beauty of autumn.

It’s been three years since I last ran. I was training to run the St. Jude half marathon when I started having problems with hip pain, and it was on this day three years ago that I finally admitted defeat and knew I wouldn’t be running that race. I had hoped to take up running again after my hip surgeries, but that has not been possible yet.

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I feel the ache of that longing to run hit me at unexpected times, like this morning as I drove my daughter to school and looked at the fall foliage and thought how great it would be to run underneath the gray, cloudy sky. I will hear a catchy, upbeat song on the radio and even now still think to myself, “That would be an awesome running song.” Despite not running anymore, I guess sometimes I still think like a runner.

I wrestled with God a lot about letting go of running. I couldn’t understand how I had to say goodbye to something that was good for me, that made me feel strong and healthy and happy, especially when my body was constantly reminding me that I was weak and broken. Three years later I can’t say that I understand why I can’t run. I can’t really say with certainty why most of what has happened to me the last five years has happened. And ultimately, why isn’t the point; it’s what I do with what happens to me that matters. It’s why gratitude has been a lifeline for me. If I didn’t consistently ask the Lord to help me be grateful, I would instead find myself a very bitter woman.

Today I could have gone into a tailspin of self-pity, thinking about how sad it is that I can’t run. But instead I remembered some of my favorite runs and rejoiced in the fact that I once knew what a runner’s high felt like, that I once tasted the thrill of pushing myself to do something I didn’t think I could do, that I once did cross the finish line of a half marathon. Running was a happy surprise in my life; I was never athletic or physically active, and my body is not what you would consider a “typical” runner’s body. The fact that I was ever a runner at all is a blessing. I’m thankful that I was able to call myself a runner, if only for a few years, because it awakened in me a part of myself I didn’t know was there. If I’m ever able to run again, I will embrace every slow step and every shaky breath, and know that even if one run is all I get, it will be enough.

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