It was somewhere around Mile 8 when it happened: i stopped all forward progress.
Doubled over, hands on my knees, i was panting. My body had stopped moving, but my mind was racing. My breathing and my heart rate, too.
The half-marathon course, aided by a somewhat humid Virginia morning, was winning. And i wondered if its triumph was, in fact, complete.
i had started out feeling pretty good. i was up for the race; energized by the event and the crowd; and looking forward to what has become for me a true pleasure: 13.1 miles along winding trails in the beautiful outdoors.
But unlike other half-marathons, on this day i was having trouble settling into a rhythm. Then, on yet another intimidating hill that forced me to slow from a power hike to a death-march shuffle, i succumbed to the unthinkable: i stopped. Nevermind that the clock was ticking. It’s always ticking in a race, but that didn’t matter anymore. i had known miles before that it would not be a day to set a Personal Record (PR).
The tough hills started a few miles before that moment when i moved from the slow lane to the parking lot. i was slightly encouraged by the fact that a couple other runners joined me, huffing and puffing on the side of a hill that clearly demanded respect.
In that moment i wondered: ‘can i make it to the finish?’ i was actually contemplating dropping out. On one hand that seemed reasonable. On the other, i couldn’t believe i was seriously considering it.
The consideration did not last long. As bedraggled runners filed past slowly, expressions ranging from anger to despair on some of their faces at the prospect of having to climb yet another hill, i finally had a moment of clarity.
i wanted to finish. It wasn’t that i couldn’t quit. Of course i could. But i wanted to finish. Sure, my feet were already sore. Sure, my quads were weak and getting weaker. Sure, there were many more miles to go.
But i wanted to finish. i knew that once it was all over i would want to have finished, no matter how long it took me. i knew there would be great satisfaction at having persevered.
So i resumed forward progress. Eventually i finished the race, which interestingly wound up being 14.3 miles due to a mismeasurement by the race organizers. And i finished the race by finishing each mile, which i was able to finish because i finished each half mile. i kept moving forward, sometimes running, at other times, walking — as needed.
The half-marathon that kicked my butt but did not triumph is a metaphor for walking a journey of freedom from addiction to porn and lust.
In my fight for purity and freedom in my own life, there are many times when i am weak or sore or wondering: ‘can i make it to the finish?’ The reality is i want to finish. i want to reach the goal of being clean in the midst of a dirty world. i want to have a pure life where porn and lust are not present. i want to be a certain kind of man.
In the extreme conditions of a demanding race, i awakened to a deep desire in me, a desire to be a finisher. A desire to make the sorts of choices that i would look back on throughout my life and celebrate because they were the healthy and right choices — the kinds of choices that bring strength and life and freedom, instead of regret.
All addicts dealing with the constant pull of lust and porn need resolve; they need focus and determination. They need to make daily decisions that they will, hour by hour — mile by mile — push on for the finish.
i want to finish.