I love to run.

In fact, my latest pair of pink Brooks running shoes have a hole in them from all the months I spent training for the Lincoln Half Marathon in May. I haven’t thrown them away because that race taught me something.

It taught me to run toward the things that scare me to death instead of running away. I had been running my entire life from the things I need most in my life. Maybe you have, too?

In high school, when school got hard, I skipped class and ran off with friends. When relationships grew rocky, I ran away from them. When my parents divorced, I ran away from home.

One morning I knew I couldn’t run from my problems anymore.

Staring at a positive pregnancy test at 17, I knew I couldn’t run. Nauseated, I realized something in that moment — there was another life depending on me. I had to face my biggest fear — myself. It didn’t matter whether I thought I was good enough as a person or as a mom; I had to try.

Knees quaking, I put one step in front of the other and walked into my future. It led my high school sweetheart and me to Kearney, Nebraska. Here, surrounded by row upon row of cornfields with a pink-and-purple sunset backdrop, I learned to run toward the answers, no matter how rough the terrain.

In this little town, God set the course where I discovered myself as I put one foot in front of the other.

I became a mother, a wife, a college student, employee and a home owner and eventually, the first person in five generations to graduate from high school and college.

Here, I became more than a runner, and it didn’t become clear to me until I ran my first half marathon.

I only entered the race to support my best friend and to get in shape. After all, I despised running then. But the more I trained, the more I lived for the high of hitting each goal.

The day of the race, I found myself alone. My friend was injured and would be cheering for me from the stadium. I was surrounded by 10,000 strangers in runners’ gear and costumes, but I felt deserted as I thought about the 13.1 miles ahead of me. Running 13.1 miles just to do it sounds insane!

But then the crowd of runners started to move and thin out as they rounded the corner from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Miles of road stretched as far as I could see. The sides were lined with people cheering and holding up signs of encouragement, such as, “Run like you stole something” or “You trained too hard to walk, MOVE IT.”

It’s fun for awhile, and the excitement, the music, the people help to shake off the jittery fear of not finishing. It takes your mind off how many miles are left. But by mile nine, I wondered if I could really do it.

Feet throbbing, hip hurting, I thought, “I could just stop running now,” but I couldn’t because I realized I wasn’t just a runner, I was a finisher.

As I rounded the corner at mile 11, Memorial Stadium came into view — pushing past the pain, I picked up the pace and began sprinting towards the finish line. The crowd’s cheers become a deafening roar as my shoes connected with the Astroturf and I sailed across the 50-yard line after running 2 hours and 32 minutes.

Anyone can run. That part is easy, but facing the problems, working through mile and after mile — that’s what makes you strong.

The moments after were a blur of hugs with my husband, oldest daughter and friends. We celebrated with margaritas and tacos before limping home.

Will I do it again? Yes. Would I encourage someone else to do it? Absolutely.

Running a marathon isn’t about the miles — it’s about digging down to the core of who you are and drawing on the strength God gives you to put one foot in front of the other, no matter struggle nor the terrain.

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