Sunday, February 26, 2017


I firmly believe that what you believe, you become. While running in the Chicago Marathon this past fall, my Garmin signal cut out in the first mile and was intermittent throughout the course. With the loss of my pace lifeline, I ran by feel and at one point found myself running upfront in the 3:00 pace group. With limited training and absolutely no expectation of a 3:00 finish, I felt like a spectator among athletes of a caliber not my own.  And so when the wind picked up and I started feeling the distance, I willingly receded to the back of the pack, and at some point not distinctly beknown to me, I made my way to the slower pace groups, 3:05 and 3:10. In the same fashion in each pace group, I made my way from firmly upfront to dangling off the back of the pack. However, despite running scattered paces throughout the course, I finished proudly, joyfully, and in complete awe in 3:11:39, as it was a decent P.R. following  a very difficult comeback. It was a glorious moment of conquer against my perceived odds; I will always remember the Chicago Marathon as one I ran with all my heart. However, I can’t help but reflect and wonder: did my beliefs, or lack thereof, hold me back? If I believed I could run a 3:00 marathon, could I have hung on when the going got tough? Did I cut myself short?

After three months of recovery and casual running, I begin my training for the Cleveland Marathon tomorrow, which by coincidence happens to be in the first week of Lent. If you’ve been following my training (or if you know me even just slightly), you know I most certainly don’t believe in coincidences; something special is bound to come of this perfectly timed synergy. In his beautiful, heart-warming, enlightening book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says, “We may be content to remain what we call ‘ordinary people’: but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan. To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. To submit to it is not conceit or megalomania; it is obedience.” There has been so much clarity in my perspective since reading his book; there is a level of contentment and peace that comes when you recognize and better understand the love of Christ in your heart. With that said, my goal for Lent and for my training this spring is to connect my heart with my mind, knowing that I can accomplish all the extraordinary goodness He has planned for me if I move forward confidently, patiently, and faithfully according to His time and His plan. I know I’m capable of running a 3:03:30 marathon (an average of 7:00 minutes per mile), and aiming for anything less at this point in my running career would be out of insecurity and laziness. The time is now to try to make this happen, as I will (hopefully) have some pretty exciting obligations this fall that will likely prevent me from being able to take on training. Working to make this happen is going to require a good plan, mindfulness, unrelenting determination, and trust in His plan; I know I have my work cut out for me on many levels.  

Although I considered looking for a new training plan and perhaps a coach to make sure I attempt this wisely, I’ve had too many other commitments over the past few months to dedicate the time and resources to seeking and building the trust I’d need to move forward with something new. Finding the time to write this blogpost has been challenging enough! So, I’m going to once again wipe off the dust on my good ol’ McMillan Training plan and focus on 12 weeks of solo training. I’ve managed to P.R. in every distance on this plan, and most importantly, I enjoy it. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…right? I do plan to tweak it a bit, cutting it down from 16 weeks as it is intended to 12 weeks, as less has proven time and time again to be more for me. I successfully trained 10 weeks for Chicago, and believe an extra two weeks will be just the right formula to have me fit but not burned out prior to getting to the start line. I also plan to stagger my training paces, dedicating weeks 1 through 3 to 3:10 paces, weeks 4 through 6 to 3:07 paces, weeks 7 through 8 to 3:05 paces, weeks 9 through 10 to 3:03 paces, and weeks 11 to 12 3:10 paces. Weeks 9 through 10 will serve as my “peak” weeks, and weeks 11 and 12 will be my “taper” weeks. I also plan to get in at least one half marathon, which will likely be the Tow Path Half Marathon in early April, and perhaps one or two 5ks.

To help with my "belief" training, I have my Chicago Marathon finisher’s certificate posted on my refrigerator with my current P.R., along with my new goal inscribed underneath it; hopefully by seeing my goal time each day, I will come better to believing it as I’m tirelessly squeezing in each training workout amidst the chaos of everyday life. I know I’m capable of achieving a 3:03:30 finish, and also I know that working toward this goal is a process, and most certainly not an end in and of itself. In the Book of Joy (another amazing, must-read book that dissects Joy from a Buddhist and Christian perspective), Douglas Abrams describes the Dalai Lama’s perspective saying, “Whether or not we succeed often depends on many factors beyond our control. So our responsibility is to pursue the goal with all dedication we can muster, do the best we can but not become fixated on a preconceived notion of a result. Sometimes, actually quite often, our efforts lead to an unexpected outcome that might even be better than what we originally had in mind.” All things considered, only the Lord knows what will happen on Sunday, May 21, 2017, but I’m most certainly excited to embark on the journey to find out! 

(My "belief" training! **Just for clarity: I was the 220th female, not overall; perhaps someday...LOL!)

My spring marathon training experiences of the past have not been the most pleasant (feel free to read through any spring blog post from 2011 through last year if you’d like to find out why, LOL). From all my good, bad, and ugly experiences, I know that focusing on only one training run at a time, constantly listening and responding to my body, seeking medical advice when I need it,  and adjusting my plans as I go will be vital components to fulfilling my goal of connecting my heart with my mind. As said in Hebrews 12:13, “Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.” I plan to make straight my path, knowing that this path by which I walk is not my own, but His. He does not challenge us to push our perceived limits without guidance, and so I plan to train carefully and close to Him through this Lenten season, and thus with clarity. With this clarity, I know that each training run for this marathon is for the greater good of more than just myself alone, but to further enrich my relationship with Him and to bring an abundance of light and goodness to others along the way.

May God bless everyone through this Lenten season. Happy Spring training! 

<3 MP