I’m finishing up my tour here on Camp Lejeune and I’m headed to the blue-side, Naval Station Mayport. I thought it would be fitting to wrap up this green side tour by running the Marine Corps Marathon this fall. Injury prevented me from running last year, so I’m doubly motivated to train this year. North Carolina weather makes training in the rain an inevitable reality. My recent five mile run was such a case.
The first two miles were clear and beautiful – not too hot, not too cold – just right. Then, the wind picked up and the thunder started to crackle. The birds, frogs and cicada all went silent. I was well away from the house on my loop, so I just kept going. At mile two, the sky let loose and the rain pounded. I don’t run with earbuds and I don’t wear a hat — so at one point all I could hear was the pounding of the rain on my head.
Even though I was running alongside traffic on Wilson Boulevard, the noise of the passing cars was only a faint din.
When running, I spend most of my mental energy processing things past or things to come. However, due to the stormy conditions my thoughts turned from memories of the past and concerns for the future to the very present reality of my condition. I was embracing the hardship. My clothes were quickly becoming saturated and my shoes and were filling with water from the runoff and large puddles quickly forming on my path. Then, it hit me…my first epiphany. I can’t control how hard or how long the rain might fall. I only knew that eventually it would pass.
I lifted up prayers that I might not get struck by lightning and then I centered my focus on my breathing. By this point, the rain was falling so hard that visual acuity was a challenge. If I lifted my head, my eyebrows could no longer shield my line of sight from the downpour. So with my head down, I began to count as I steadied my breathing. I went along with in – two, three, four, out – two, three, four and so on. I was now running into 15-20 miles per hour gusts of head-wind while climbing in elevation.
All the conditions were working against me. However, the more I focused on my breathing, the less the rain, wind and uphill climb affected me. Instead, I focused on that which I could control – my breathing. A second epiphany came to me in that moment.
I realized I also had control of another key component within this struggle – my attitude. I began reflecting on how thankful I was that at my age, I was still able to put in a good run – even in the rain. I was thankful that the rain was a warm rain and that the run I was on was really a “Fun Run.” I wasn’t fleeing for my life, nor running to save another’s. For two miles the rain pounded, the puddles amassed, my body became saturated from head to toe and my mind and heart celebrated the moment.
If you’ve lived in N.C. for any length of time, you already know how this story ends. The rain abated as fast as it had started. My last mile was as peaceful and calm as my first two. But my mind and my heart were far better for having run through the storm. Maybe you presently find yourself in a storm. If so, let me encourage you to follow my example. Lift up a prayer, focus on your breathing and make a concerted effort to remember all that you have to be thankful for. Whatever your storm, this too shall pass.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Amen