Pages

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The First Mile


I lumber up the hill, my legs screaming, my heart threatening to beat out of my chest. Every muscle in me protests as I continue—mind over matter—one dogged step after another. I am no longer running as I did when I left my house with the fresh start of a new challenge. I am much slower, less confident, and even less committed than I was as I sprinted down my driveway. “I could turn around now,” I tell myself. “And just stop this nonsense.”

And then a phrase enters my mind, something a friend of mine said to me days earlier. “The first mile is the hardest.” She used to run marathons so she should know. Just get through the first mile, she coached me, and you can make it the rest of the way. With her words in mind, I keep going, determined to go the distance.

Later that day I talk to my friend, the former marathon runner. She is now a mother of four little boys ages 6 and under, running a different kind of marathon. Her days are filled, as mine once were, with demands and needs that seem to never end. Bottles and diapers and tantrums and sleep deprivation define her routine.

She listens to me describe my day—the flexibility to leave the house and go for a run uninhibited, the freedom to run some errands while my older children stay at home with the younger ones, regular date nights with my husband, the reduced workload that comes from having children who are all pretty self-sufficient. She sighs. “Your life sounds so nice,” she says wistfully.

“The first mile is the hardest,” I say, repeating her words back to her, surprising us both. I realize even as I say it that what I am saying is true: difficult first miles aren’t exclusive to marathon runners. They are part of motherhood as well.

“It will get easier,” I tell my friend. Just as she coached me in running I can coach her in motherhood. I have run along the same path she is now on. I know the exhaustion and stress coupled with exhilaration she feels each day. I know what it means to come to the end of yourself over and over again. I know how endlessly the days stretch out ahead of her—just like the endless road that stretched out ahead of me as I ran.

“It doesn’t seem like it,” she responds, a little ironic laugh escaping her lips.

“I know,” I say. Because I do. “But I promise, this too shall pass. And one day you will realize that it was all worth it. The hard work, the long hours, the bodily fluids, the noise. You will look at these people—whole, wonderful people—you produced. You will see their talents, hear their humor, delight in their completeness and you will know that the first mile was the hardest. But the run did get easier. And as you near the finish line, you will think—I promise you, you will—that the run wasn’t that bad. And you will almost wish you could do it again. By then you won’t be the same as when you started but, amazingly, you will be better.”

Her baby starts to cry as he wakes from his nap. Her boys are fighting, their screams making it hard for us to talk over the din. “I better go,” she says reluctantly.

Hang in there, I tell her before we go. She promises that she will. I promise her that I am glad I did. As the dial tone buzzes in my ear, I know that she believes me. I smile as I think of her bravely running one more mile.
Pin It!

10 comments:

dawn said...

what an awesome word of encouragement this morning,my friend!
thanks for this post, it hit me just where i needed it. i feel honored not only to receive your encouragement through your writing but in person! i am thankful for our friendship!! i am praying for you during this busy time as you are running your first mile in your new season of life! blessings to you!!!!

Bonita said...

Wonderful post, Marybeth! So encouraging to young mothers and any of us who are just starting out at something.

Lori said...

Beautiful description!

Holly said...

LOVED this! :) Great words...

Michaela said...

Thank you for your message. I found it so encouraging. I am a new mom and a fairly new wife and I am still learning how to balance everything and still honor God in the process. I allow myself to get overwhelmed at time, even though I shouldn't. I'm not complaining because I know both my daughter and husband are huge blessings, just sharing that even though I get worn out or feel overwhelmed as I adjust, it is for great purposes. Thank you for the encouragement of going another mile when I feel overwhelmed!

Michaela said...

Thank you for your message. I found it so encouraging. I am a new mom and a fairly new wife and I am still learning how to balance everything and still honor God in the process. I allow myself to get overwhelmed at time, even though I shouldn't. I'm not complaining because I know both my daughter and husband are huge blessings, just sharing that even though I get worn out or feel overwhelmed as I adjust, it is for great purposes. Thank you for the encouragement of going another mile when I feel overwhelmed!

debbie g. said...

I love this! I am a mom to five kids, from 3 to 22, so I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. But when the 3 and the 6 are making me nuts it is so easy to forget how fast it goes.

I am sending this link to our M.O.M. Time ladies, a mentoring group for moms at my church. Thanks for this post!

Christine said...

AWE-some post!! So true. Made me teary today as I'm having one of those exhausting-beyond-belief marathon days.

Melissa said...

Wow! You have no idea how much I needed to read this today. Words straight from God to me through you. Thank you!

in a world surrounded by men said...

There is such truth in comparing parenting to a marathon.

I loved this post and especially the passage, "I know what it means to come to the end of yourself over and over again."

It is so true. That is what I feel many nights when I get the last child into bed.

But then I wake up the next morning.