I love to run. I fell in love with running in the 4th grade, at a time when my self esteem had shattered.

I was “slow” in school.  I was slow to read and comprehension was a challenge.  New math concepts perplexed me.  I had to go to summer school and was frustrated when everyone else “got it” and I didn’t.  But I was the apple of my daddy’s eye, and having a strong family compensated for my “slowness”.  Dad had a way of making me feel strong and smart.

Things changed the day mom told me she and dad were getting a divorce.

Divorce inflicts far more damage than most realize. It’s not only a separation of a man and woman, but the heart and identity of the children as well, maybe even more so.  My value as a worthwhile part of a bigger whole vanished.

When my self-esteem shrank, so did my handwriting. It was so small my teacher couldn’t read my work.  Dad wasn’t there to help me with school work, and I gave up trying.

I remember my teacher, Mr. Cusson, trying to convince me that I would be better off if I would “apply” myself. For what? For who?  And HOW?!

Mr. Cusson eventually resorted to restricting me from recess every day. For months, after lunch when all the other kids darted out the door to play, I was left to sit and stare at the chalkboard, pretending to be invisible.  I hated it when the other kids came back to see me still at my desk. I wanted to hide.

When Mr. Cusson had enough eye strain from my feeble attempts at schoolwork, he gave me a new seat assignment; a desk, wedged between a piano and the blackboard at the front of the class. Isolated and exposed as a failure, I wished I could disappear entirely.

Then, one spring day we had “Field Day”. There were potato sack races, egg tosses, and tug of war. The event that I remember best was the race around our little gravel field. I was outside and I was free!  I put all my loneliness and frustration into that race.

Mr. Cusson finally had something to praise me for. I can still hear him yell, “Go Shelly! Go!”.  Suddenly I felt alive. I pumped my awkward, skinny legs just as fast as I could.

Those simple words from Mr. Cusson changed my life.  I fumbled thru school work so I could go to recess and RUN. I worked hard to I could play kick ball just to RUN. I looked for reasons to run, because it made me feel alive!

I didn’t come to know Jesus personally until years later. When I embraced Him, it was with the same sense of freedom and life that I first got a taste for with running.

I know what it is to train long and hard (mentally and physically!). There’s a thrill that rushes thru your limbs when you cross a finish line.

But really, it’s not about speed or distance or even the finish line. It’s about the path you’re on and people you encounter. When I run, I feel Christ’s presence.  It’s life pumping through me, knowing I’m IN THE RACE.

And really, life is a marathon!