Several times last week, as I was packing and unpacking my car for Tabor's Annual Banquet, I told people I didn't need help because whatever I was carrying was not heavy, it was just big. Of course by the time I neared the 3rd floor after a few loads of big, but not heavy, things, I was really feeling it. Sure, it wasn't too heavy for me, but it definitely left me with some really sore arms. Apparently, to me, "big" means that I can handle it, whereas "heavy" would have meant that I can't.
But I'm thankful to know that heavy and big are different. When things are big, it can seem overwhelming, but there's hope because you can just do one thing at a time and take one step at a time. My friends Brittany and Allie got me through my freshman season of cross country with their encouragement that I need to focus on just one point ahead--the next mile marker, the next stop sign, the next lap--instead of focusing on the 3 more miles I have left to run. Running long distance can be heavy, or it can be big, depending on how you choose to look at it. A race is 6k, 3.7 miles, 30 minutes heavy. But I can't look at it that way, or I'll just not do it. I'll get out of it somehow, by contracting a hysterical injury or, worse, a real injury--whatever it takes, really. Or a race can be taken 8 minute average mile by mile, which makes it seem a lot more doable.
The best part of a long race is, hands down, the sprint to the finish line for the last few hundred yards. There are always a few runners who are a steady few steps behind or ahead of you for the entire race, but at the end, it's a footrace to the finish line, and it's anyone's game. But usually, it's mine. I am a kick ass runner, for the last few hundred yards anyway. It's easier to give up your last few shreds of energy when the finish line is in plain view. The problem for me is that for most of the race, it's not. For me, it just feels heavy, and my body feels weak, and my legs feel weighted down, and my chest feels constricted. But what if it doesn't have to feel like that? What if running a long race well has more to do with how I look at it than how in shape I am? What if I could focus on just getting to the next mile marker? One step at a time. 8 minute average mile by mile.
The truth is, in the end, whether you choose to view the race as something heavy or as something big, your body will probably hurt the same amount, your legs will shake like jello squares, and you will be 97% sure that you are about to throw up all that you carb overloaded on the night before. That's why it seems to me that the only sane way to run a race is to view it as something that is "not heavy, just big." 8 minute average mile by mile, you can focus your energy on getting to that point, and once you get there, you can focus on the next marker. And you know what's so great about looking at it mile by mile? You get to have more than one kick ass last few hundred yards!
I'm not a great runner, but I never minded that. I always thought God had me on those courses to encourage others because when you're in the tail end of the race, there are fewer runners there to keep your adrenaline going, and when you run past the spectators, they are less enthusiastic than they are with the top runners. But I like to be there to encourage the other runners around me that this doesn't have to feel so heavy; it can just be "big," and you can handle it--mile by mile, step by step--trusting that because God has gotten you through the last mile and the mile before that, He will get you through this one, too.