So anyway, I get out there, Shuffle blaring, legs pumping. It was a beautiful morning and I had the whole trail to myself. I was making good time, and about a mile in, when I looked down the top of the little hill I was on, and I saw them: about 120 soldiers. Ummm, nope, I am not kidding. I thought I had waited long enough to avoid that, but they must have been doing extended PT. Now, perhaps that might not bother anyone else, but you have to get a full grasp of the scene. The trail I run on is slightly elevated above the ground- it isn't flush, and it is surrounded by natural grasses. It is only about 4 feet wide and the soldiers were running 3 across. And of course, they were coming straight at me. There was really no place to go!
I will not lie. I suffered a moment of panic. I felt like a little bit of a spectacle. In my purple running shorts (thankfully, mine are Bermuda length, so not too short) and tank top, bright green Shuffle attached to my shirt. I run at my own pace, which is not fast, but I am not leisurely jogging, either. And I am the only female. Heading straight towards 100+ men all wearing gray "Army" shirts and black shorts. Mostly all in really good shape. I seriously thought about turning around and heading the other way, but they had already seen me and I knew that they would overtake me in a few minutes anyway so I would still be caught up in the swarm.
So I bravely adjusted my ponytail (another thing, my hair is BARELY long enough for a ponytail now, supported by the addition of about three barrettes. It isn't pretty.) and tried to fan my beat red face. I mean, I am out exercising! It was bound to be a little flushed. And headed straight towards the wall of men. Some of them moved out of the way, and some of them allowed me the pleasure of running through the underbrush. In all it took me about 5 minutes, or an eternity, to get past all of them. They were running in groups of about 20, so I would havea few seconds to compose myself before facing the next group. It may not seem as weird to you as it was to me, maybe you just had to be there. They were truly all staring at me. A girl, in purple pants, with sunglasses, running the "wrong" way. They couldn't ignore me! I have never felt so conspicuous in MY. WHOLE. LIFE!
I have only been running since February. I am not proficient by any means, and I am definitely not at a point where I want to have spectators. I am self-conscious normally, when I am wearing street clothes and my hair doesn't look atrocious. And while I am certainly in the best shape of my life, I am by no means going to find work as a Nike model! Anyway, to wrap up my long tale, I managed to huff and puff my way past all these men, trying to keep a small part of my dignity intact. I had a distinct fish out of water experience, for certain!
I tried to ignore them and focus on the task at hand:
getting past them without passing out finishing my run. I really needed to be thinking about what I was doingm and not worrying about what they were doing. As I kept running and told myself that it was no big deal (and I'm sure it wouldn't be to a lot of people) I thought about why I felt so odd. I wasn't doing anything wrong, the trail is open access. I wasn't reprimanded, or scolded. All of the soldiers were just following what they had been told to do, too. If there was any reason for them to be jealous of me it would probably be that I had the choice to run. I do it because I want to, not because I am forced to, and it is certainly not part of my job description! I could run at my own pace, and in my own way. They had to do it because it was what they had been told they should do, and it was what everyone else was doing.
The more I thought on it, the more it seemed like life is sometimes to me. I am a believer, saved and sanctified. I should have complete and total security in Christ. I can be confident that when I am doing His will that I am in the right place. Yet, just as when I was headed towards all those guys I often have a horrible feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I allow what everyone else is doing to influence me-I am more concerned about "their" opinions than doing what I know is right. Sometimes I just want to turn around and run away, rather than face the crowd and appear "different". I need to not be afraid to do what I know is right. I am not perfect, but I don't have to be ashamed of being different.
I can set an example. Those soldiers were obeying orders-they have to exercise every morning, rain or shine. But in life, there are tons of people coming at me every day who are going the wrong way. They are mindlessly following the rest of the pack. They need to see that there is a better way. That through the freedom Christ gives, they can make their own choices, and move in the right direction. I must take advantage of that freedom myself, and not be afraid. I can put my shoulders back, hold my head up high and run straight towards my goal. Everyone I pass should be inspired by my determination, inspired by the freedom that I have from fear, from insecurity, from the desire to please the invisible "everyone". Thankfully, unlike my run that morning, I am not alone. There is Someone running this race with me, and He has already taken the crown. I am praying that the Lord will let me work through my insecurities. I should be thankful that I serve Someone who doesn't require a uniform and lets me go at my own pace! I am only responsible for my own actions, I should not be concerned about pleasing the world. I think the next time I run I will try to remember to be strong in who I am because of Whose I am, and I can be confident in knowing that it is okay that I seem to be swimming (or running) upstream!