I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I love starting a new year. The first few weeks of the year are filled with anticipation for getting a fresh start in life. It’s like a brand-new notebook with blank pages to fill. I love getting a new calendar and getting all my colored gel pens out and planning out my dreams for the year. Things left unaccomplished the year before can be revisited; a new year always holds such promise for good things to come.
Last summer, I had made plans to run a half marathon in the fall. The MO Cowbell Race is the first half marathon I ever ran, and it’s held close to home. For me training in the summer is a challenge because Missouri summers are hot and humid. I started training in June, a few weeks before our summer vacation, and disappointingly, did not continue once we got back. I was filled with good intentions and equally reasonable excuses—it was hot, I was too busy, I was lonely running by myself on long runs—crowned by my favorite, this year was just not my year for running. My long runs on Sundays had been replaced with attending worship service with Mom in the nursing home with my dad. I could not rise to the challenge of training because I convinced myself the timing was all wrong.
Fall came and went, and I put running aside. A friend of mine texted me in early November asking if I had planned to do any spring half marathons. She had just signed up to do the full marathon and hoped we could encourage and hold one another accountable. I wanted to say yes, but I couldn’t bring myself to commit to it. The holidays were on the horizon and I didn’t want to agree to something I couldn’t keep up with again. The fear of failure stymied me. What if the timing wasn’t right in 2019 either?
Fast forward to the fresh page of January on the 2019 calendar. After eating (and drinking) way too many calories over Christmas and New Year’s, the notes and pages of dreams and promises I was making for myself glared at me almost as harshly as the bathroom scale. I missed my Saturday morning run that I’d planned because the bed felt much better than lacing up my shoes and hitting the pavement. It turned out to be a beautiful day, a rare 60-degree January day, and I spent it lazing around the house curled up with my thoughts and my notebook. But instead of finding joy in my journaling and planning, the realization hit me that life happens whether you plan for it or not. I can doodle my ideas in one hundred different colors, but that is all they are, ideas. I was full of ideas, but unless I took action, they remained there on the pages on a notebook. If I stumbled on this notebook in two years, would I be proud of what I did with those dreams? Or would they serve as a reminder of when I thought the time was just not right? What if there was no perfect time, and I just needed to suck it up and start doing instead of dreaming? If I waited until I was ready I would never get started.
Determination brewed out of disappointment in myself, and Saturday night I laid out my running clothes, set my alarm and selected my “Getting Started Again” one-off workout on my running app. My plan was to keep it simple—take my tried and true running route I always run when I’m trying to just get in the miles and not think too much. But I couldn’t let it be too routine. I didn’t want to fall too much into a routine I abandoned before. My answer was a brand-new running playlist.
There are songs I always put on my running playlists, but I wanted to have some new ones to freshen it up a little. In addition to my tried and true song additions, I added a few just because I liked the title, and hey, if Spotify thought it was a song I’d like, they were probably right. This was a new season of training and I wanted to shake it up a bit. My taste in music tends to run the gamut, so I never know if I’m going to hear cheesy pop, inspirational, classic rock or alt metal next during my run. I went to sleep pleased with my plan and my newly-found motivation.
When I got up Sunday morning, I followed through with my plan and got myself out the door. It was another gorgeous day for a run, and I started my slow trek up the street thinking that this would be the start to many weekend runs over the next few months. My workout plan guidance barked out the walk/run intervals I’d set up the night before. They weren’t overly ambitious, but I needed to feel like I could start at this place near the bottom and feel encouraged when I improved. The first running interval, my lungs burned, and my knee wanted to protest, but I kept it up until the walk interval kicked in and saved me.
My playlist was spot-on, too. I was rounding the corner, starting on the third running interval, when one of the songs came on that I picked based on the title without ever hearing it before. If I hadn’t been trying to keep up my pace, I probably would have stopped dead in my tracks, but I plodded on, listening in awe to the lyrics. On a playlist with songs one would be more likely to find on Hair Nation or Ozzy’s Boneyard than Joy FM Christian radio, one of a handful of inspirational songs came on. It was called “Get Your Hopes Up” by Josh Baldwin. I’d never heard the song or the artist before, and had added it on a whim. The song lyrics began:
Get Your Hopes Up*
I see the sun waking up in the morning
I feel the wind on my back with promise
There’s a garment of praise for heaviness
There’s a new song burning inside my chest
I’m living in the goodness that He brings.
Those words were exactly what I needed to hear. I wanted to know that I wasn’t in it alone and that it was okay to aspire to things within times of uncertainty in my abilities and circumstances. I wasn’t too old for new beginnings, and I wasn’t out of line to dream outside the box. I wanted validation, and a simple, randomly shuffled song on my playlist during a run was where I found it that day. It went deeper than just the running, it was a rare moment that filled me with peace about where I was in my life in that very moment. It’s only when doodles and thoughts on notebook pages become action that life happens, in spite of loved ones on Hospice, kids leaving home and getting older.
I have twelve weeks to get ready for this half marathon. This time I signed up to train with a running group on Saturday mornings so I can’t talk myself out of those long runs on the weekend. Because I’m terrified of getting left behind somewhere unfamiliar on a group run, I know I’ll be working on keeping my pace up, too. Nothing like a little peer pressure for motivation to not slack off.
Oh, and a good playlist. I have an awesome, eclectic playlist to keep me going that seems to have been divinely shuffled. Everyone needs one of those.
*written by Josh Baldwin, Bobby Strand, Nate Moore, Tony Brown
© 2016 Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP) / Bethel Worship Publishing (BMI) / Mouth of the River Music (BMI) (admin by Bethel Worship Publishing) / Tony Brown Music Designee (BMI) (admin by Bethel Worship Publishing).