One Thursday afternoon in March I drove over to White Rock Lake with the intent to run for two hours. I briefly considered running nine miles around the lake. I had plenty of time available, but I didn’t want to get caught on the far side of the lake and my knees fall apart and no shortcuts back to my car. We were in Dallas for four days. Cyndi had a training workshop and I came with her so I could hang out around town reading, writing, and running. It worked out great for both of us.
The thing is, I hadn’t run for two hours at one time since the Rockledge Rumble 50K in November 2010. This was March 2014, 40 months later. And my knees were stiff and sore because I was at the end of a six-month Synvisc cycle. I had no business running so far.
But I couldn’t resist.
Since I had five hours until I was scheduled to pick up Cyndi from her workshop I had plenty of time no matter my pace. I knew I could sit for the rest of the day and the next day to recover. And I am always inspired to run at White Rock Lake because of the beauty, because of the other runners around me, and the expectation born from so many epic adventures there.
Which all means, I couldn’t let this opportunity go to waste. I parked my rental car on the hill at the northeast corner of the lake off Mockingbird and changed into my running gear in the front seat. Then headed south with plans to turn around after one hour.
I knew it would be rough and slow. I also knew I would walk stiff-legged for several days afterward. So, why did I do it? Why was it so important?
I don’t know. Except that it was.
Maybe the bigger question is, how did running become a big deal for me? If you’d known me in high school you would never have predicted I’d run for 36 years. How did something like running become a spiritual thin place for me? And why did God put something in my life I’ve never been very good at and probably never will be?
Who knows? Who cares?
I finally settled with the wisdom I don’t need to know God’s total end game for my life. I just have to trust Him, that He has it working, which means I have to keep doing my part.
As I ran alongside the lake through the trees I thought about the other trails I’ve followed. Mostly mountain hiking trails. It wasn’t a random connection since I’ve been meditating and ruminating and journaling a lot lately about trails and rock cairns and trail markers and how they speak to spiritual life, teaching, and mentoring.
It occurred to me I’ve been marking trails, stacking rocks, for a long time.
Whenever I tell the same story again and again, whenever I revisit a place to renew my memories, I’m stacking rocks to mark the trail so I won’t get lost. Whenever I tell the same old stories to Cyndi over and over, the stories about our early days together and how we found each other and how we fell in love, I’m building rock cairns to show the path we took so we won’t forget, and maybe so others can follow.
The running trail around White Rock Lake gets lots of traffic and is easy to follow, but the trails of life are not so simple. We have to work to keep them open.
One of the reasons we all need mentors is because it’s so easy to get lost along the way. And we serve as trail guides for others so we won’t get lost ourselves.
As it turned out, I ran for two hours and fifteen minutes. I was so proud of myself I celebrated with a vanilla milk shake. I can’t wait for my next time on the trail. Maybe next time I’ll be brave enough to run three hours.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32