Monday, April 30, 2012

My Weakness. His Strength.

Post-Race Summary – Eugene Marathon – April 29, 2012

Running is strange.  Some days you have it.  Some days you don’t.  The Have It Days make you think nothing – pace or distance - can stand in the way of your dreams. The Don’t Have It Days make you question why you run and the fact that you ever thought it was fun.  April 29, 2012, - the day of the Eugene Marathon - was a Don’t Have it Day for me.  My mind showed up, but my body didn’t.

In the past four months, Carissa and I have logged twenty double-digit training runs in preparation for April 29, 2012.  We watched in awe as our bodies adjusted to the intense schedule and got faster with each run, in spite of increased mileage.  We set race goals based on our training that seemed feasible and entered the three weeks of tapering with great excitement.

At the Expo
But as we began to taper, Carissa’s leg started bothering her.  There was a point last week where she questioned whether she would even be able to race.  The night before the race we stretched and prayed.  Prayed and stretched.

We woke on race morning at 4:45 a.m. and headed to the kitchen for breakfast.  My brain doesn’t function early in the morning, but I felt compelled - to the point of urgency - to make sure I read my Bible while we ate breakfast.  The assigned reading was from Second Corinthians chapter 12.  The brain fogginess fled as I read the passage where Paul talks about battling a nagging illness.  Convinced God had given me this passage for Carissa, I read it out loud.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  

I had just enough time to write this in my journal before we headed to the start:  “Race morning!!!  Four months of intense training for this moment.  It’s crazy.  Really crazy!  I read II Corinthians 12 again this morning.  Verse 10 says, ‘For when I am weak, then I am strong.  I delight in weakness, in hardship, in difficulties…’  Today won’t be easy, but God will you allow me to boast in my weaknesses and in your power be made strong?  Not to us – but to YOUR name oh LORD goes the glory and praise.  Amen!”

I had no idea how prophetic those words would be or that the compulsion to read my Bible was because God had a message for me that I would desperately need as I raced.

Before the race - with our incredible friend and fellow Sole Sister, Tanya
Our friend Tanya drove us to the start of race where Carissa and I hooked up with my “non-biological” brother, Jon.  We lined up at the start, ready to run our third marathon (Jon’s fourth) and huddled for one last quick prayer. Our race strategy was to find that tricky balance of a pace that was fast, but comfortable enough to maintain for the entire distance.  Jon, who normally runs six-minute-miles, was acting as our pacer and encourager. 
waiting for the gun to go off
The first ten miles came fast and furious.  We were running about ten seconds per mile faster than we planned, but it felt good and steady.  We were setting ourselves up to run a REALLY fast race. 

At mile eleven, I started feeling off.  My breathing was regulated, my pace quick, my legs strong, my mind engaged.  But my body just felt weak.  I told Jon, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m struggling a bit right now.”  We slowed our pace by about 5 seconds per mile, but nothing changed.   I felt progressively worse and worse.  Nausea – something I have seldom experienced when running – made nutrition challenging.  I knew I needed to eat and keep my body hydrated but the only thing I could tolerate was water. 

Shortly after the 15 mile marker, I watched Carissa and the 3:25 pace group gradually pull away and there was nothing I could do about it.  I knew in that moment that I needed to reorient my goals for the race if I wanted to finish.  I mentally let go of my goal to finish in the 3:20 range.  In spite of feeling terrible I was running fast enough that if I didn’t get any sicker, I still had a shot at 3:30 finish time.
that smile is really forced
I didn’t get better.  I couldn’t get on top of the nausea.  The longer I ran, the more quickly and intense it came.  I downshifted my goal to just wanting to finish and marveled that in the moment, I didn’t care about my time.  “Jesus – just get me across the finish line.  PUHLEEZE!!

By the grace of God, I stayed in it mentally.  The more my body shut down, the sharper my mind became.  Jesus kept bringing me back to the passage I studied that morning. “Jodi - if you boast, boast in your weakness.  It’s in your weakness that my power gives you strength.  That passage wasn’t for Carissa.  It was for you.  I love you so much.”  I prayed.  And prayed.  Laid my weakness at the foot of the cross and begged Jesus to replace it with His strength.  And He did.  Jesus carried me.

When I wanted to quit, I thought of what I wrote just two days earlier in anticipation of this race.  “If you’re really lucky, you get emails, phone calls, and text messages offering encouragement and prayer from family and friends who joined you on the crazy journey of training.  When you toe the line on race morning, you are not alone.  You run with an army of loved ones pushing you toward the finish – some of them even out on the racecourse screaming your name.”  I knew I couldn’t quit.  YOU were praying for me.

Curt and the kids, Sarah, Tanya, and Kelly were the faces out on the racecourse screaming my name. God knew I would need their encouragement to keep going.  Tanya acted as our chauffer on race morning.  The rest of my Lovelies got up at the crack of dawn and drove the hour-and-a-half down to Eugene.

Jon and I saw Kelly and Sarah somewhere around mile 16 and then again at mile 23.  They held signs that said, “Not to us O LORD, not to us – but to Your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.” 

Sarah and Kelly
We found Curt and my precious kiddos at the 17-mile-mark.  Their hugs, kisses, and “GO MOMMY” couldn’t have been more beautifully timed.  I blubbered like a baby for the next half-mile, running off their love.
Worst family picture ever - but the best of the bunch
Tanya chased Carissa and I around the racecourse, wearing a hand-made T-shirt declaring our partnership as friends, runners and sisters in Christ.  She found Jon and I at mile 25.5 and rode her bike alongside me yelling encouragement and quoting out-loud the verses she knew I was meditating on – claiming them as truth over me when I could barely lift my head.

Each time I saw one of my loved ones it gave me the mental fuel to keep going.  Through their love, Jesus gently encouraged, “My grace is sufficient for you.  Jodi, my power is made perfect in weakness!”   

Jon was incredible.  He knew I was hurting, but didn’t let me give up.  He consistently offered up, “You’re doing great.  You’re going to do this.  You’re going to hold a pace and qualify for Boston.  I’m so proud of you.”  Toward the end of the race, I think we both knew he was lying.  I was NOT doing great.  
Jon shielded me and encouraged me the entire race.  What a kind man.
At the twenty-mile marker, we figured out that I could still hit a 3:30 finish if I maintained a low 8-minute-mile, and all of a sudden I cared about my time again.  Jon asked me if I had it in me and I said, “Let’s go for it.”  I mentally traced my 10k training route in my mind and gave myself a pep talk.  “I can do this.  I run this body.  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  But my body would not cooperate.

My pace slowed every mile for the remaining six miles.  The last two miles were the worst.  I was light-headed and had to keep stopping to take sips of water to avoid vomiting.  The 3:35 pace group – one I had been more than ten minutes ahead of for most of the race - passed me with seven-tenths of a mile left in the race.  I would have cried, but I didn’t have the energy. 
tears flowed freely at the finish
It was as if time stood still.  My watch kept adding seconds and minutes to my time, but my feet felt glued to the pavement.  Jon and I were within sight of the stadium where the race finished and I had to stop to take a drink and ride out another wave of nausea.  He saw my dream of qualifying for Boston slipping through my fingers and desperately encouraged me.  “You can’t stop now.  We can see the finish.  C’mon!  Finish strong.  I know you have it in you.” 

We entered the stadium together at the 200-meter mark.  It was filled with spectators cheering on their loved ones and our images appeared on the jumbo TV in the center of the field.  Jon was shouting encouragement and literally pushing me toward the finish.  I heard my family scream my name and could barely turn my head to acknowledge them.  When we were steps from the finish Jon pointed to the clock and hollered, “You did it!  Jodi, you qualified for Boston!”  I watched the clock ticking toward 3 hours and 37 minutes and could not believe it.  A surge of energy filled me and I pumped my fist in victory before stumbling across the finish.

The next few minutes were a bit of a blur.  I remember two volunteers in red shirts grabbing my arms and half carrying/half guiding me to the medical tent.  They helped me onto a make-shift bed and someone elevated my legs.  My legs were involuntarily shaking and someone wiped down my face with cold water. I was really out of it, but I remember being overcome with gratitude that I was no longer running and so grateful that I was able to finish the race.

When I sat up, I realized just how lucky I was.  Very fit athletes were sobbing, shaking, and one woman was wheeled into the tent clearly drifting in and out of consciousness.  It was sobering.  I realized just how much you have to respect the marathon.  The distance can defeat even the most well-prepared athletes.
completely wrecked from this race
When I felt well enough to walk again, I reconnected with Carissa, Jon, and my family in the reunion area.  We were all pretty emotional.  What a crazy day! 
Across the finish.  Thank you Jesus!
God totally answered our prayers for healing for Carissa’s leg.  She ran strong the entire distance, without pain, and finished in a blazing 3:27:05!  Jon and I had an official finish time of 3:36:34.  Not the sub 3:30 I wanted, but still a Boston-qualifying and personal best time for me.  Christ’s power in my weakness.
What a great friend!
I would never choose to have a run go the way my race did.  But I know it was the race God wanted me to have.  If I would have been able to run the full 26.2 miles at the pace we trained at without much difficulty, it would be tempting to take credit.  But instead, I was humbled.  Brought back again to the beautiful fact that without Jesus, I am nothing.  My weakness.  His strength.  Now that’s something to boast about.  Thank you Jesus! 

…and for those of us who like statistics, here are my stats.  The splits tell the story.

Mile 1: 7:25
Mile 7: 7:39
Mile 13:8:04
Mile 19: 8:43
Mile 25: 10:17
Mile 2: 7:34
Mile 8: 7:39
Mile 14: 7:51
Mile 20: 8:46
Mile 26: 10:03
Mile 3: 7:35
Mile 9: 7:51
Mile 15: 8:08
Mile 21: 8:19

Mile 4: 7:39
Mile 10: 7:54
Mile 16: 8:07
Mile 22: 8:35

Mile 5: 7:37
Mile 11: 8:00
Mile 17: 8:17
Mile 23: 9:16

Mile 6: 7:35
Mile 12: 7:44
Mile 18: 8:17
Mile 24: 8:44


  1. A very motivational story indeed. Congratulations on your victory. Praise God for carrying you through!

  2. The picture of you and John running is great. Fun to see some of the pics I hadn't seen yet.

  3. Beautiful Jodi - I am crying right now - I am so encouraged and blessed to hear your story of God's faithfulness to you in this. And I am so excited that through Him you qualified for Boston. I really hope you get to go :) Thank you for sharing :)

  4. I truly cried while reading this. You are so beautiful and God is so perfectly portrayed through you. Thank you for posting about your run (it reminds me of my birth story and the days to follow :)). Isn't it so crazy how He is greatest when we just fall? I still can't believe you ran another one!!! And Boston here you come!!!!!!!
    Love you, Anna (and Ruthie)

  5. Jodi, I am so glad you found me. This was a race report i needed to read- glad to meet another running blogger who loves the Lord. Your words paint such a testimony to his love and grace. It reminds me of the race of faith we run, for an imperishable crown.
    This brought tears to my eyes. To His glory and not our own, we surrender ourselves.
    I am really glad you BQ'd too! Not the race you wanted, but still an enormous gift that is!

    Please tell your friends I saw them at mile 23 and their signs kept me going as well. I believe I mumbled something to them as I passed. :)
    God Bless!

  6. Had some good tears reading this Jodi. So encouraging.