Janet Oberholtzer: Pushing Through a Bad Run


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Our series of guest posts continue with this one from my friend Janet Oberholtzer. Janet is a true inspiration to me. A mother of three and former conservative Mennonite, Janet nearly lost her leg…and her life…in severe motor-home accident several years ago. Despite sustained injuries, Janet continues to run and to inspire others with her story. I had the privilege of hanging out with Janet during a trip to Pennsylvania last spring. She’s what we Southerners like to call “good people.”

Janet is the author of Because I Can, a beautiful memoir of survival and faith. (Check out my endorsement!)  You can subscribe to Janet’s blog here or follow her on Twitter here

Transient

Running is hard work and today’s long run is no exception, but it’s easier than some of my recent runs have been. My legs and lungs are cooperating and I move through this half-marathon training run easier than I thought I would. On this run, I plan to alternate running five minutes and walking thirty seconds until I reach my goal of nine miles. 

I’m running alone because I need time to think, and my brain works best when my body is in motion. But as I planned the run, I was worried that I might not finish it because my recent runs have sucked. 

A few days earlier I ran four miles with friends and I was ready to swear off running forever. I was tired, I hurt and I know my friends were ready to kill me because all I did was complain about my body, the weather and anything to do with running.

But this run ... this run is different. I feel stronger.

I listen to the birds and watch the squirrels scamper up the trees. I enjoy hearing the leaves crunch under my feet. I easily step, even jump, over a few branches that blew down during a recent storm. 

My timer beeps which means it’s time to walk. As I walk I take a few deep breaths to energize myself. Before long there’s another beep (thanks, Jeff Galloway, for your no-hassle timer) Before I begin running, I glance down at my feet to make sure they are both pointing straight forward, then I lean forward slightly and run, (tips I learned at a Chi Running seminar). 

As I run, I think about what other tips I’ve read in running books and on blogs. I focus on relaxing my body, starting with my neck, shoulders and finishing with my toes. 

A few miles later, my legs begin to tire, so I play with my running stride. I force muscles that have been slacking into active duty. Every minute or so I alternate between short and long strides, between slow and fast turnover and between landing on the balls of my feet and landing nearer to my heel. 

All this focus on my stride and running style is as good for mind as for my body, which causes a few more miles to pass almost unnoticed. 

Then I’m struck with a thought ... 

How do the ups and downs of my recent runs compare with the spiritual roller coaster I’ve been on over the past few years? My beliefs have been in transition, which at times has been exhilarating and other times exhausting. 

I can be feeling spiritually strong one day, then completely undone the next. 

In the past, there have been days of solid belief in the power of God, love, and people. Reading about the good things done in the name of Jesus has convinced me that people following his way will truly change the world. Leaning on other Christians and on prayer helped bring healing to my body, mind and spirit after a traumatic event.

But recently ... not as much. 

I’ve been having a bad run. A bad run of faith and beliefs. I’m tired, I’m hurt and I know my friends are ready to kill me because all I do is complain about Christianity, churches and anything to do with religion.

My spirit is not hearing any birds sing and anything that crunches is pissing me off, instead of helping me learn and grow. While I still love people and am willing to help others, I find it hard to read the Bible, listen to a sermon, or pray. 

Transient

I’ve lost my desire to go to spiritual seminars or conferences. And I’m definitely not into anything equivalent to a spiritual half-marathon. Actually at times, I ready to swear off this belief/faith thing forever. 

I think about my spiritual funk as I run ... and realize that if I had quit running on my bad-run day, I would have missed this run. This empowering run that makes me feel like I could tackle the world. 

As I take a few deep breaths on my next walking break, I allow it to come out as a prayer. I realize that to give up on faith during this funk would not be wise. Though I still have bad running days, my running has been on a gradual incline over the past few years, which came about through practice and by educating myself through running books, blogs and seminars. Shouldn’t I give my spirit the same treatment? 

Maybe I need to practice different spiritual techniques to find one that works best for me. Maybe finding new ways to use my slacking spiritual muscles would help me. Is there some type of beep that could signal between times to challenge and times to energize my spirit?

Readers of Rachel’s blog, you are wise, kind and encouraging... just like my running thrives with the expertise of others, for my faith to not only survive, but also thrive, will you please share some advice on how to get through a bad spiritual run?

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