Eleven thousand people surrounded me. Clothing sizes ranged from XXS to XXL; perhaps an even a greater spectrum existed. Some bounced softly side to side and loosely shook out their arms. Others made small talk with the stranger next to them. The Black Eyed Peas told me tonight’s going to be a good night, even though it was only 7 am. Energy was high, the source somewhere on the spectrum of nervousness, excitement, trepidation, and surely a few panicked thoughts of “what have I gotten myself into?”
Thus began the start of my Route 66 Half Marathon. Make sure you read the HALF part. I’m not fully crazy, just half crazy.
My emotions sat somewhere between panic of not training as much as I intended, peace of knowing this would be a different experience, and excitement to cross the finish line (twice – one by myself, then again with my friend after looping around to meet her).
Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds are NOT my thing. Nothing drains me more than shuffling through a multitude people I don’t know (or do, sometimes). Plop me in the middle of the State Fair and I’ll show you life visibly leaving my body. The exception to this is running races. I seem to convert to a totally different personality and soak up every bit of the environment. You can read more about it here.
The gun went off. I shuffled through the corral, across the start line, and began running. Too fast, of course, since my energy had been bottled up for 20 minutes. Imagine a herd of cattle trying to get through the gates. Slowly and impatiently they wait to get into the clearing, then they pick up speed once freedom is found.
After getting the first couple miles under my belt, I settled into a nice rhythm and enjoyed the playlist I’d quickly thrown together the night before. Spotify offered me a nice mix of upbeat Christian songs and I fell into my zone.
I snapped out of my trance when I heard the band The Sidewalk Prophets mid-song, welcoming a motley crew of misfits. Proclaiming no one was unwelcome here and to come to the table.
Come to the Table is a song of redemption, of welcoming all, regardless of their past. We are all welcome to sit with our Savior and be freed from whatever is holding us back.
And it struck me:
That’s running. That’s fitness. That’s health.
All are welcome
Coming to the health table isn’t really any different. I’m willing to bet some who ran beside me had a past. Like a capital P-A-S-T. A rough one, perhaps with addiction or abuse or extreme loss or crime. Maybe they struggle daily to make healthier choices or accept their non-traditional sized running body. I bet someone out there had lost over 100 pounds, and perhaps another had gained a significant amount for whatever reason.
Google “inspiring running stories” and you will easily lose thirty minutes of productivity. Trust me on that one. Everyone seems to have a story, a journey, of past, present, and future goals.
Of course, this applies to all aspects of the health spectrum. Just a small sampling of my fellow Skirt Sports Ambassadors offers inspiration:
- A woman’s journey through a double mastectomy, life after, and figuring out the new normal. Read why she loves running here.
- A triathlete, who also happens to be an amputee, shares motivation, humor, resources, and stories.
- Overcoming trauma to become a survivor rather than victim, and finding solace in running through the journey.
- After losing 170 pounds, Mary runs the NYC Marathon (her second 26.2 race – scroll down halfway to hear the audio).
- Shannon loses 80 pounds and has now run five marathons, twenty half marathons as well as numerous 10k’s and 5k’s.
- A 40-something mom of three runs despite her incurable rare blood cancer.
- A middle-aged woman strives for balance and sustainable health and releases the pursuit of perfection in eating and body. (I’d include the link, but you’re already there.)
The Sidewalk Prophets invited doubters, cowards, prisoners, young, old, hungry, and thirsty. Those who have been lost, let down, or labeled right or wrong.
You’re invited to Jesus’ table, of course. I hear He can make an amazing meal with just a few fish and loaves of bread. And with heaping sides of peace, grace, mercy, and love, you really can’t beat it.
The health table is waiting for you
But you’re also welcome to the health table. It doesn’t really matter what you look like, or what your past is.
Perhaps you haven’t exercised in, well, ever. Pull up a chair.
Maybe you’re the picture of health on the outside but inwardly you struggle with bondage to food and exercise rules. There’s a place card with your name on it.
Or you’re just trying to find balance in it all, honoring your body by moving and fueling it but don’t want to be enslaved to all the rules. I’m patting the seat next to me, sister. We have so much to share.
Just come. Sit down. Find your place. You are welcome. No matter what the past looks like, you can make small steps to becoming healthier. I can’t promise miraculously multiplying fish and bread, and unfortunately can’t turn water into wine. This Graced Health table offers encouragement to keep trying, and satisfaction in knowing we are taking care of our God-created bodies so we can do what we are called to do.
Author Bio: Amy Connell is a recovering calorie and step counter. She’s an imperfect eater living in God’s perfect grace. Amy founded Graced Health in 2016 to minister to women seeking a faith-based healthy lifestyle but don’t always have the time or energy for a perfect process (or body). Amy encourages women to strive for balanced, sustainable health and to care for and appreciate their God-given bodies, no matter what that looks like. She writes, speaks and coaches this same mission. Amy has been a certified group fitness instructor for over 12 years.