My race training schedule today called for “4 miles easy” today. About a year ago, I would not have used “4 miles” and “easy” in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence. But when you keep showing up, keep training, you get stronger. It gets easier. Even on days that don’t feel “easy” in any way.

The weather app on my phone offers alternating icons depicting raining clouds and blustering winds. It’s 45, which is normal for Chicago in November, but the windchill is 34. I don’t really want to run. I sit on the couch and drink coffee, watching dry fallen leaves sail past the window on a grey wind.

I dress for the weather (which means looking fairly ridiculous in a bright orange windbreaker over a blue fleece with a neon green beanie on my head–that’s not me in the photo) and head out. At least it’s not raining at the moment.

Young woman running outdoors in a city park on a cold fall/winte

I’ve run, sporadically, since high school. Only recently I started getting a bit more dedicated to it, and will run my first 15 K this weekend. A few years ago, a milestone birthday reminded me that my habit of giving up running for, oh, a year at a time, was not sustainable. If I was that wildly inconsistent, eventually, I would not be able to run. I realized that I needed to run while I still could, so that I could keep running as I got, ahem, older. If I wanted to be running in my 70s, I couldn’t start then.

I jogged at an easy pace for the first mile, realizing that I’d actually end up running against the wind in about the third mile of the course I had planned. I asked myself, why am I doing this? Again, the answer: because I can. Also: because God gave me a healthy body and physical strength, and that’s a blessing only truly appreciated in the test of going for a run. Which is true not only in running, of course. When we actually use the gifts God gave us, we understand and appreciate them.

At approximately the point furthest from home on my run, the beginning of the third mile, where I turned into the wind, the occasional drizzle that had been threatening turned into actual precipitation. Falling sideways, due to the wind. Which of course meant that I was getting rain in my face. I pressed on, thankful for the waterproof jacket and that fact that I was getting quite warm by that point.

Why do I run? Today, it was sheer discipline. I ran so that when I show up for the race on Sunday, I’m able to finish. It is a preparation for things to come. But more than that, running reminds me that life’s difficulties need not define me. Facing challenges builds strength, not just in running but in life.

In my life right now, I’m facing some challenges that feel like rain falling sideways into my face.  A long-time friend who let me down. A work situation that’s super messy. Some losses that I’m grieving. I have to just keep running through my life, pushing against the wind, not letting the rain deter me.

When I finish my “easy” run, I am mostly just glad to be done. But I have reminded myself that I am capable of meeting challenges, one step at a time, and that those challenges will strengthen me.

What challenges are you facing right now? What’s the one thing you need to do next to meet those challenges?