When I moved to the country, the idyllic rolling landscape quickly became my nightmare as a runner. The roads are long and the route choices are limited. Regardless of the direction you go, you face hill after hill after grueling hill. Also, our area is a topographical miracle because somehow every run is uphill the whole way out and the whole way back. I was a seasoned runner, but I didn’t have the endurance for this kind of terrain.
In order to make it through any run, let alone up the hills, I have to stop and take multiple walk breaks. I made peace with it, figuring that running with walk breaks is better than not running at all. But I always wished I’d be able to scale those hills and complete a run like I used to be able to – without walking.
I thought I’d get better at running the hills over time. But after eight years, the hills never got easier. I asked for advice from more athletically inclined friends. I googled, “how to break your walk break” and tried different techniques. Some days I would go run just the hills over and over in hopes that my body would become conditioned to them. But nothing seemed to make a difference. Every time I set out for a run, I’d still cave to multiple walk breaks. And it was defeating.
One day, out of the blue, something shifted in me. I hadn’t changed my routine, technique or speed. But I noticed the hill I was running up just didn’t seem that hard. I reached the top without a desperate need to walk. It was a foreign feeling, this feeling fine at the top of a hill, and I didn’t trust it. So I took a walk break anyway, just to be safe.
The next day, I decided to try doing the first hill on my run without walking. As I neared the top, my breathing was even and my steps sure. So I skipped my usual recovery walk. I faced the next hill, a shorter but steep little bugger that nearly kills me every time – walking or not – and I ran up it like it was nothing.
So I kept going.
For the entire three miles out and back, I was able to make it up hill after hill, even the longer ones, with no walk breaks at all. I was elated that I had finally FINALLY made it through a run without walking.
As I neared home, I reflected on some trials I have faced recently. In a seemingly intractable season, my life has been filled with a series of hills and mountains that stretch in every direction.
I have begged God to move these mountains. Or make them flat. Or melt them. All the things scripture assures me He can do. I have done everything I know to do while waiting. I’ve saturated my heart and mind with scripture. I’ve changed in areas I felt convicted to change. I’ve repented where I felt He directed me to repent. I’ve prayed without ceasing. And I’ve praised Him even in my darkest moments.
Though my trust in God’s goodness, power and sovereignty hasn’t wavered, I’ll admit I get discouraged. Because as I look out on the landscape, the mountains haven’t seemed to budge. The pesky foothills have nearly done me in. And there are days when I don’t just want a walk break from my life, I want to lay down in defeat.
But as I finished my run, I realized that nothing in this hard season has been wasted. I might be weary and breathless, and I have taken my fair share of walk breaks, but I am so much stronger. I haven’t been defeated. I am still running. And I’m closer to God than ever.
I sensed the Lord was using my victory to remind me of a simple truth:
Sometimes God moves the mountain. Other times, He builds your endurance to run up it instead.
I’m going to keep praying my mountains will move. But in the meantime, I can be confident that God is at work while I wait. He uses every trial in life to train us, refine us and build our endurance. So I am not going to shy away from the hills. And whether the mountain moves or not, I know I will have the strength I need, when I need it, to keep running.