The announcer for the Miguel Reyes 5k race introduced the elite athletes. I watched in awe as the elite group lined up first. Each man and woman were unique – some tall, some shorter, some with shaved heads, some with long hair, but all with that similar lean frame and chiseled muscles. The rest of us fell into place behind them.
The whistle sounded, and we took off. This 5k course winds through the undulating dirt hills and green spaces of Woodward Park in Fresno, California. This is the same course that high schoolers run for the State Cross Country Meet. As a coach and runner, I’ve traversed this course for many races, but I still felt out of place that morning.
I didn’t have much get-up-and-go to tackle those hills or sprint it out at the finish. I slogged along and battled with my thoughts: You’re not in shape for this. You are getting too old. You’re carrying too much weight these days.
I’ve been a runner most of my life. I ran my first 5k when I was eight with my daddy in our Chicago neighborhood. In high school, I was a track and field athlete. I took up distance running and trail running as an adult, completing dozens of races over the last few decades.
These last several years, I’ve had the huge realization that my running glory days are probably over. I’m not standing on podiums or hitting personal records much anymore. My pace is getting slower the older I get.
My forty-two-year-old body has birthed three baby girls and navigated a tough grief journey these past five years since my husband soared to heaven. I’m mushier around the middle. I look in the mirror and see these laugh lines dancing around the corners of my eyes.
My goals and focus have shifted. Now, I run to clear my head. I run for therapy. I run to feel God’s presence.
A few weeks ago, I found my first gray hair. That wild thing sprung out from the side of my temple with much gusto as if to announce a new season. I plucked it and laughed. I raised it up in the car like a trophy for everyone to see and joked that my three active daughters might be responsible.
Perhaps you might say I’ve arrived. I’ve reached what we call this middle season of life. My friend, Lisa-Jo Baker, describes this so well in her new book, The Middle Matters: “The middle is the place where we have grown into the shapes of our souls even as we might have outgrown the shapes of our jeans. The middle is the marrow. The glorious ordinary of your life that utterly exhausts you but that you might have finally started to understand in ways you didn’t at the beginning.”
That day in the 5k race, God reminded me of something important: Showing up matters. My goals may shift and my pace may wane, but I’m still running. My race isn’t over until it’s over. Being older and slower doesn’t discount me from the race. In fact, maybe this is just the beginning. Maybe He’s leading me down a new path to a new purpose in this season.
When I was in my twenties nursing babies and running a non-profit, I dreamed of days like today when I could send my kids off to school and spend my time writing. I whispered little seed prayers to God about book ideas and creative projects. Now I have the space to cultivate and grow these seeds.
Today, I’m clinging to these words from the Apostle Paul:
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.
2 Corinthians 4:16 (MSG)
A few years ago, a younger mama came up to me and asked if I would mentor her. I paused at first because I didn’t feel “old enough” to be a mentor. What wisdom did I have to offer? The more we chatted, the more I realized what she really wanted was someone to run alongside her in this race called life.
Now, we set our eyes on the finish line together. Some days we run; other days we kneel. Finishing well and leading our people to God’s glory is the goal.
Friend, whether you are still raising babies or launching them out into the world, whether you are hoisting your broken body out of bed or speed walking on a nearby trail, it still matters. Someone is watching you run your race, and you moving forward today could make all the difference.
After the Miguel Reyes 5k race, I savored tacos, agua de jamaica, and paletas with my daughters. I was sweaty and out of breath, stretching there on our red picnic blanket near the finish line. My seven-year-old looked up at me with her dark chocolate eyes and said, “Good job, mama!”
Another unexpected reminder that showing up still matters: we are teaching our baby birds how to fly.
Dorina is writing a devotional called Walk, Run, Soar for runners and enthusiastic walkers (Bethany House, Fall 2020). Subscribe to her Glorygram newsletter to get all the inside details on the book along with a weekly word of encouragement.
Someone is watching you run your race, and you moving forward today could make all the difference. -@DorinaGilmore: Click To Tweet