The First Mile is the Hardest (and other Life Lessons Learned from Running)

I waver with running, vacillating between being a jogger who plods along painfully for three miles of flat terrain and being a runner in half-marathon shape.  Right now, I'm somewhere in between, but closer to the first option.

Running often teaches me valuable lessons.  I've always thought that the first mile is the hardest.  (Granted, the last mile can be rather hard, too, which makes it unfortunate if you're out for a two-mile run.)  The process of getting started -- of overcoming lethargy long enough to lace up my shoes -- echoes so many other life hurdles of beginning.

Again and again, whether with running or with life, I'm ultimately reminded that it's better to start.  Don't put it off.  Don't procrastinate.  Don't let the situation pile up around you. 

Just start.  At least you'll be one step farther.

Recently I took a four-mile jog that was ugly in every sense of the word.  I was slow.  The air was hot and humid.  I swallowed a bug around mile three and stood on the curb at the edge of a busy intersection, hands on my knees, hacking and spitting into the grass, oblivious that two workers from the power company were watching my regurgitation from their station at a telephone pole a few feet away.

After pulling myself together and working back into a jog, I debated whether I'd even finish.  My throat hurt.  (It was no small bug, my friends.)  I thought about the final hill ahead, unsure whether I'd have enough strength in my legs, enough breath in my lungs, enough fortitude in my mind.

In that moment, I felt God gently nudge me.  Do you have enough strength and breath and fortitude right now?

I did.

Then don't worry about whether you'll have enough during the next mile.

How often do I think ahead, making mental maps of might-be scenarios?  How often do I invest emotional energy by plotting my path and rehearsing potential outcomes of situations that haven't yet come to pass?  How often have I burdened today with hypothetical troubles that may or may not arrive tomorrow?

God is nudging me.  Am I with you right now?  In this very moment, can you call on Me and trust me?

He is.  And I can.

God goes before us.  He's already there in the future, and he'll be just as available and close then as he is right now. 

Life is more easily lived one step at a time, whether that step is slow and painful or strong and swift.  We can save ourselves unnecessary trouble if we stop projecting into the unknown future, that long uncharted mile ahead, and instead trust that God is with us, giving us enough strength and breath right now, this very moment, this very step.

Image compliments of Derek Lyons (


  1. I am not a runner, but I like this philosophy - living life one step at a time. I need to remember that and a slow down a lot. As a planner and list maker, I am always looking ahead and, sometimes, I miss the "right now."

    1. This lesson has been driven home for me lately, as well. I'm learning to rest secure now rather than worry about what's ahead. It makes all the difference when you trust and know, in those deepest places and sometimes in those darkest times, that God is ALWAYS there.

  2. Dear friend this hits home for me! I am restarting running and it is so hard since I am so out of shape (although Jonathan was sooo worth the limp noodle feeling). I am learning about persevering and one step in front of the next. :)

    1. Keep going, Naomibell! That one-step-at-a-time mentality will take you far! (And give yourself grace, too. You're a wonder mom!)

  3. All I can say is, WOW! I totally needed this post (and I share your running plight). Sharing on FB and Twitter ...

    1. So glad that this hit home and encouraged you today, Susan!


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