marathon trainingPainful Lessons

Two things happened after I finished a half-marathon two weeks ago. First of all, I realized the importance of trimming one’s toenails adequately BEFORE a race. I don’t do the mani-pedi thing, so I rarely consider my toenails and their needs. Thus, I started my race with the toenail on my right big toe just a wee bit long.

When I finished the race, I realized that my toe hurt a little. Imagine my surprise when I removed my shoe and saw that I’d turned my toenail black and blue with an impact injury. It took a week’s time, an urgent care visit, and soaking my foot in hot water with Epsom salts and then plunging it into icy water to make my toe feel normal again.

Lesson learned: take care of those small, seemingly inconsequential things before they cause a load of pain. Ok, lesson mostly learned. Last week I forgot to trim one of my other toenails and it caused a blood blister on the end of my toe—not half as painful as the impact injury.

The second thing I realized after I finished the half-marathon didn’t require a visit to urgent care. Back in November I found a Craigslist deal on a treadmill. I love my treadmill because I can run no matter how cold or dark the morning appears at 5 a.m. The treadmill has shocks under the running deck, so my old knees don’t protest too much as I pound away mile after mile training for a marathon.

The treadmill also has an incline feature. I know exactly how to change the grade from 0 to 15 percent. Unfortunately, I haven’t used it. I kept putting it off. After all, who likes running uphill?

Pitfalls of Treadmill Training

The downside of always running on a treadmill and never using the incline made itself apparent about two-thirds of the way through the half-marathon as I slogged up a tiny hill in a cold

For some reason, I assumed that Phoenix had no hills. I figured that since I train at high elevation (over 5000 feet), hills at low elevation wouldn’t bother me. Not true—those hills bothered me just fine.

The worst part of the entire racecourse came at the very end, within a half a mile of the finish line. Runners had to race up an on-ramp and cross a bridge over the freeway. At the end of the race, we had a heartbreak hill.

I’ve driven under this overpass multiple times and never noticed it before. It looked like the steeply pitched roof of an alpine cottage to my tired brain. Runners I had passed in the last mile zoomed past me as I ducked my chin and lifted one foot in front of the other.

For the past two weeks I’ve used the incline feature every single time I walk or run on the treadmill. Now I know why I should use it—if I don’t train on hills, I won’t run as well the next time I race.

A friend advised me that I should probably run outside on the road, too. And I will—just as soon as the weather gets better. After all, I wouldn’t want to end up with horrible shin splints after running my marathon in June.

The Most Important Lesson

As I slogged my way through my long run this morning (14 miles), I thought about the importance of noticing the small stuff and tackling the hard stuff.

As a Christian, I tend to let myself fall into habits about the way I speak, the way I dress, or eat, or treat people. Those habits aren’t necessarily bad (longer toenails aren’t bad—they’re just bad if you plan on hiking or running a long distance). I need to take time to reflect and ask myself why I do the things I do. Perhaps I can save myself some grief if I spend time checking my motives.

Jesus reminds us in Luke 16:10 just how important the small stuff is: “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”

And wouldn’t we all love it if we never had to run up hill. If trails never came our way and no one ever annoyed us. The problem with a life of ease is that it doesn’t prepare us to live life. John 16:33b “..Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The problem with a life of ease is that it doesn't prepare us to live life. #BGBG2 Click To Tweet

We need to accept our training, even if we don’t feel like it. God allows little annoyances and trials to act as our training hills in the marathon of life. The next time I face a molehill or speed bump in life, I’ll remember how I felt when I trained on the treadmill without using the incline. Maybe I’ll even smile as I face my trial, knowing that God will work in me to make me stronger and more useful in my pursuit of him.

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  1. Good morning Anita! Toenails and treadmills, God can use ANYTHING to instruct us if our hearts are open, can’t He? I really enjoy your lessons that keep it real. Blessings for a day with painless toes and a little uphill running.

  2. Your words (and those desert-like pictures!) remind me of Israel in the wilderness. Their trials and tribulations following the Red Sea crossing were intended to “show them what was in their hearts,” but also to toughen them up for conquest of the Promised Land, which was certainly more than just moving in and picking out light fixtures and linoleum. God does use our uphill climb to strengthen us for the big mountains and the deeper valleys.
    Of course, I’m not a runner, but am learning that when I walk, I want hills because they make my heart beat faster.
    Michele Morin recently posted…One Weekend in History – For Ruby MagazineMy Profile

  3. I missed that you are training for a half marathon. Good for you! That is awesome and inspiring! I am working at just getting outside again and getting back to running. This is an important lesson and reminder… take care of the small things before they cause a lot of pain! Thanks for the encouragement and reminder! Have an awesome day!

  4. This is such a needed reminder. I so often chafe against the trials of life, both large and small, instead of remembering that God means to use them to transform me.

  5. Ah, treadmills …I always run too close the top edge. I once hit it and flew right a crowded student center working out with my team in college! Embarrassing! I love the analogy of paying attention to our behaviors. It can be extremely hard to live in the world without being of it. We are called to love all people, but the Bible is very clear in some places about people and behaviors to avoid. It can be confusing in the battlefield of friendship, and I believe it’s essential to prayerfully check motives frequently.
    Great thoughts!
    Happy Monday!
    Megs recently posted…The Links (#jammed daily devo, dayMy Profile

  6. That’s one of the best explanations I’ve ever read about how God uses difficulties to strengthen us. I shall be pondering this all week, wondering about those little things I need to deal with and accepting the challenges. I love the reminder that Jesus didn’t just tell us that the world is full of trials and sorrow but that he has overcome the world!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Nicola, and for your kind words. My challenge today is to not let wigged-out students (vacation starts tomorrow) get on my nerves ;). God is calling me to give my impatience to him.

    1. 😉 and then there’s the class of runners that do ULTRA marathons (as if 26.2 miles weren’t enough!). Thanks for stopping by, Jerralea. I’m glad I’m not the only one who seeks the easy way.

  7. Amen! God loves to teach us even in ways that are a little painful. What I love the most about your story is how we can learn so much even in the most ordinary things if we keep our eyes open to what God has in store for us.
    Mary Geisen recently posted…God’s Kingdom WorkMy Profile

    1. This all proves that God has a sense of humor, doesn’t it?! He can teach us spiritual lessons from toenails, of all things!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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