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 drizzle.
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.