Running for Justice

I jogged/walked/finished/survived my first ever 10K race today. I’ve never been much of a runner. I remember in 6th grade struggling to finish the 1 mile run in gym class so that I could get the red patch instead of the white one, because the white one more or less said “thanks for participating but you suck anyways.” But I’ve been trying to get in the habit of running regularly, or at least sort of regularly.

The Cedarville chapter of International  Justice Mission hosted it’s second annual 10K, Possible Impossibilities, here this morning. Last year I was still in the midst of jaw surgeries and recovery so much so that I couldn’t really participate in running, but I still got up early and helped out where I could.

This year, much like last year, the proceeds of the race are going to support a cause seeking to free individuals trapped in the sex trade both domestically and internationally. This year the money is going to support Daughters of Cambodia, a group seeking to empower girls trapped in the exploitative sex industry in Cambodia. If you are interested in contributing, I believe you can still donate through the IJM website or directly to the ministry through their website.

I definitely wasn’t trained up or ready for running a 10k. At my best, I’ve been able to jog 1.25 miles steady, so the idea of a 6.2 mile trek seemed a bit ridiculous. But that’s part of the point. Just as I think it seems impossible to finish a 10k, much less finish it in a good time, so those trapped in the sex trade often see no way out. It’s about making things that seem impossible, possible. I never thought I could finish a 10k. And when I made the last turn and could see the final gate, I thought I was going to collapse or puke or something, but at the same time I felt very alive and very good. Runner’s high I guess they call it.

I could have given the $20 for the cause and the impact probably would have been the same. The money would still go to the cause. But something about doing something, about getting out of my tendency to give ten bucks to a cause because they have a sweet t-shirt without ever considering the reality of the need, felt good. Like even though the girls in Cambodia will never be impacted by the fact that I pushed my lazy self to get up early on a cold morning and jog further and longer than I ever have before made a difference in the world, more so than just handing over $20, because for as much as the money went to free girls trapped in cycles of violence and exploitation, it freed me from my laziness, my apathy, my easy-believism and lip service to the realities of the kingdom on earth.

A few thoughts/observations/reflections:

Running in the cold sucks. Despite the 70 degree weather we had earlier this week, it was 27 degrees this morning as the race started. Dress in layers next time. And never underestimate the value of a bandana around your face so you aren’t sucking down cold air gasping for breath on mile 4.

Get a running buddy. I knew I wasn’t going to run/jog the whole thing, and at the starting gate as all the “real runners” in their short shorts and leggings and track suits take off at a pace I could only dream of ever running at, it’s important to know that you don’t suck as bad as you are telling yourself and that it’s ok to go your own pace. Me and Nick decided we’d stick together, and we’d get ahead or behind of each other, but we kept each other on pace and could celebrate together with each mile.

Don’t lose sight of the big picture. 3 miles out in the middle of cornfields, getting whipped in the face by wind in every direction, having lost sight of the water tower in town and wondering if you’re ever going to make it back, it’s easy to get discouraged. Remember that this is hard but that in the long run, it’s nothing compared to the suffering of those trapped in cycles of violence and injustice every day.

Set big goals. Me and Nick decided we wanted to finish the whole thing in under 1:30. That’s one hour and thirty minutes. With this in mind, we were able to keep on pace, decide how much more we needed to jog, and if we could stop for water. And in the middle of nondescript corn fields with little sense of distance, keeping that time in mind kept us on track.

Set little goals. The next stop sign to the bend in the road. The water station to the red barn. Looking ahead and finding a tangible distance and focusing on just that little bit of the race, pushing yourself for that distance was really effective when you’re dead and wanting to be done but also wanting to finish in your overall time. And in some cases, like the first bend, your eyes play tricks on you and the bend is actually 1/2 a mile away, but you’ve got to keep on running to get there.

It’s all in your head. This is something I’ve been coming to realize as I was somewhat training to run this whole thing. I used to focus on the end time or distance in mind, pushing myself to run 5 minutes, or 1/4 mile, and at the end of that time slowing down to catch my breath. Each time, though, I’d come away tired out and convinced I couldn’t do anymore. Then I just started running until I didn’t think I could anymore. No time limit or distance limit. Not looking at the readout on the treadmill. And when I felt like I was done, I’d go further. And on the last mile and a half, which I was planning on running straight through, its so easy to think about stopping, just catching your breath, that you can’t go on anymore. But consciously choosing to not listen to those voices, to push yourself, is the hardest part of running so far for me and I’m coming to realize the most important.

So, I finished my first 10k today. In 1:20:59. And yeah, by the time I turned the corner for the final gate, most of the runners were already gone, and they weren’t taking down numbers anymore, and yeah I almost puked at the very end, but it felt good. And I feel accomplished. And I’m going to do it again.

Donate to Daughters of Cambodia. Seek justice for the oppressed.

“Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:23-24

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