I’ve got a tag attached to the laces of my running shoes that says, “Bless this Run.”

by Ann Clinton

I always trace my finger over it as I double knot the strings of my trainers in advance of a workout. It’s my prayerful ritual that sets me up for whatever is ahead. Some days it takes an act of God to get me running. Other days, I practically trip over myself to get out the door and down the road. Either way, I like to be reminded that the very act of running is a blessing.

I consider myself a newbie to the running scene. In fact, by the time I turned 40, I had never really run before. (Not since 8th grade, at least, and never for more than 800 meters at a time.) But I’m a spiritual person, and if my heart hears a “calling,” I usually check it out.

For whatever reason, there was an urge within me to start running. More accurately, I remember thinking I had to start moving forward because it felt like my life was at a standstill. This feeling was likely overly dramatic and probably perceived as nonsensical to those around me, but I really hate standing still. I hate feeling immobile. Maybe I’ve just got a restless soul, but the timing felt right to chase down the next big goal.

But running? Eh. Seemed like a big ask from the universe. More than once, I tried to reason with the Higher Power and asked specifically for an alternative outlet for my apparent insanity. However, the tug at my heart was as real as anything I’ve ever felt before. After fighting the good fight, I relented and decided to meet the universe halfway.

That’s when I started walking … walking with intention. I was walking to hit a step goal and walking to get more steps than someone else. I was walking to beat my record from the day before.

I was moving forward, but I soon tired of moving slowly. Ironic because it took everything I had to start moving in the first place. So what does one do when you want to get somewhere faster? You start moving faster.

Dude, I started to run. Well, I began to run, walk.

I downloaded the Couch to 5K app on my phone, and my life has never been the same. I am convinced it’s more of a psychological program than a physiological one. Your mind is the hardest to train. Heck, your body can do anything. So by starting slow, I began to train my mind.

I began by running two minutes at a time, thinking I might die before I got to walk for two minutes. I started researching running shoes and average paces. I learned about speed days and the scientific elements of a long run. I had a deep desire to learn more about a sport I’d never even considered in my younger days.

I remember finally starting to defeat my mind by sheer determination.

After I could run three miles at a time, all limits were off the table. I started runner further. And faster. Running became an essential part of my identity. Running became so second nature that all the insecurities of being new at something no longer plagued me.

The first year I ran, I set a goal to officially complete a 5k, 10k, 20k, and a half marathon. That was a transformational year for me. As it turns out, the universe obviously thought there were lessons I needed to learn in life that only running could teach me.

That year I learned I do well with a goal. I learned that holding myself accountable is incredibly important to me. I realized I love sucking at something new and then becoming better. I learned that if I didn’t like where I was in life, I could just put one foot in front of the other and move on down the road. I’ve also learned that I’m the kind of person who likes a finisher’s medal. All these pieces of knowledge have proved useful to me.

I’ve since run countless races, and I’ve even made myself pretty proud with my times. I’ve found that I’m at my best when I’m training for a specific event or if I’ve got a running nemesis whom I’m trying to beat. That person may or may not even know who I am. It could just be someone who happens to “look” fast at the starting line. I readily admit, what started as a “calling” has taken a dark turn.

I am incredibly grateful to be named a 2021 IMT Des Moines Marathon Advocate because it allows me the opportunity to learn about your story. I sincerely hope we can get to know each other. I want to listen to your “why” and learn from your experiences. I want to pour your knowledge into the collective database of running wisdom and tap into it when the well seems dry.

We are all running different races, so to speak, but we all step up to the same starting line. And eventually, we’ll all cross the finish line. While it’s true I may be trying to beat you, I’ll be cheering for you, as well. I want you to succeed. If success looks like simply surviving to you, I’m here to champion your beating heart. If you are an accomplished athlete, I will admire and honor your gift. If you’re somewhere in the middle, know that I’m right there beside you. Honestly, I’ll probably be the one saying you look strong when you actually want to die.

My goal as an advocate is interaction. Let’s get the conversation going. Join my running journey on Instagram @akclinton or check out my personal blog at annclintonphotography.com.

In the meantime, I hope you’re paying attention to the gentle wishes of your heart. You’ll never know what goodness might be awaiting you if you don’t have the courage to answer the call.

May your run be blessed, my friends.

  • Ann is a professional editor, writer, and visual storyteller. She is the mother of four girls, including a set of identical twins. Much of Ann’s training miles for her half marathons are done on gravel roads in southwest Iowa and neighborhood streets in Waukee. Her husband hates running with her because he says she’s too much of a happy runner, and it pisses him off.

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