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I eased the car to a stop, engaged the parking break and shut off the ignition. My head flopped back onto the headrest. Why am I doing this? I could be at home, under my Snuggie, with another cup of coffee. 

I’m the first one here. I’m always the first one. The sun is up, but only just. The chill bumps on my arms evidence of the frigid morning, amplified by the slight layer of fog and mist still hanging in the air. One by one, the others begin to arrive. All more experienced, all fitter, all of them “real” runners. After a few minutes we set out.

I settle into my stride and find my breathing. Inhale two steps, exhale two steps, inhale two steps, exhale two steps. The gentle pom, pom, pom, pom of footfalls on the pavement put me into a trance, not unlike a hypnotist’s watch swinging back and forth, back and forth.

The first mile marker passes and an energy buzzes through me like electricity in a pool of water. Conversations are taking place all around me; I chat away to the three ladies surrounding me. This energy comes not from the adrenaline of a run, or the buzz from a good workout. No, its from the camaraderie of these dear friends of mine, working together, supporting and encouraging each other.

The last mile is a killer. My lungs are burning, stomach churning. This part of the course is nothing but undulating hills. Sure, the last 100 yards are down hill, but that matters little when I’m fighting to keep my breakfast down with every step.

“Can’t. Stop. Now!” a breathless voice floats on the air in front of me.

“Cross. Road. Downhill!” calls another.

“Well done, Jen. You’ve got it now. You own this. Keep going.” Our group leader has joined me side by side, matching me stride for stride. These words, and company, bolster me and strengthen me when I want to give up the most. Had I not been surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses these dear friends, all on the same path, struggling with the same things, I know I would’ve quit long ago.

Today, I defeated the defeatist in me. And I was carried by a group of regular-ol’ people, plodding along, all wanting to give up, throw in the towel. But because we were there together, moving alongside one another, we all had a strength beyond our own individual capabilities.

If only God had something to say about that….