Lessons in Friendship:The Race

Yo! I've been wanting to write this post for almost two months now but life's been crazy and I keep prolonging finishing the dang thing. Aaaaaanyhow. I ran a half-marathon in Malibu with a group of friends from church about two months ago.


As is in my nature to do, I picked up some deeper truths about this wild life from the process of training, preparing for and actually running this race. Two years ago I ran my first half and I felt like I couldn't carry all the lessons I learned in those 13 miles if I wanted to! There were lessons of perseverance, the poison of competition, the journey or personhood, and of course linking up my personal experience to all those Bible verses on "running the race".

This year's race brought a whole new set of lovely truths. Most of them were more difficult to learn because this race was REALLY, really hard. If you want to run your first half-marathon I don't suggest this course. It's all on the Pacific Coast Highway and you get to behold the ocean for almost the entire race which, is wonderful. However, the last 7 miles are hills. LONG, DRAWN OUT hills. That's the majority of the race, by the way. It was very, very difficult por moi.

This race was really special to me because I got to learn about friendship in a really humbling way. My friend Tiffany is an incredible athlete with a heart of solid gold. She's one of the most badass athletes I know and she is constantly challenging herself to go harder, to be faster and stronger and she is NO joke when it comes to tri-athelons and running.

This is Tiffany:

Yeah, no big deal.

Anyhow, in a moment of honesty I told her that I was pretty nervous about the half because I knew I'd be the slowest in our group by far. I'm not in as good of shape as I used to be, and even in peak condition, my natural pace is way slower than the group of friends I was running with that day. I had this haunting image in my head, of everyone at the finish line way way ahead of me, getting impatient with and feeling kind of sorry for me, thinking what a fat loser I was ( This is my blog and I'll be disgustingly honest if I want to). This has been a hard year for me and my relationship with myself and the weeks leading up to this race magnified that whole problem quite a bit.

Tiffany listened patiently while I rattled off my laundry list of insecurities the day before the race. She gave me two options ( I hope she doesn't mind me saying this. I think its funny) She said " Ok, I can either smoke everyone else and leave them in the dust, or run alongside you the whole way- whatever will make you feel better".

I thought about it and at first, all I could think was that I didn't want to hold her back, I know she's a rockstar and she'd be really slowing herself down to stay by my side. Before I could utter a response she nailed it and said "BUT, you have to trust that I don't mind staying with you AT ALL. And you have to PROMISE that you won't get all weird half way through and demand that I go ahead without you."

Well, that took care of THAT. She definitely NEEDED to ask me to promise her that, I found out.

I wrestled with the decision because I really didn't want to hold her back, but she PROMISED she wouldn't feel held back.... So the night before the race I told her I decided I'd like to run with her.

I was nervous about how this would turn out. I could just see myself stopping half way and dramatically forcing her to go on without me like I was a wounded soldier in the Vietnam war. Or this guy:


But alas, there we were at 4 AM driving out to Malibu, and I just had to trust that she's the kind of person who doesn't B.S. her friends when she promises them things. We'd run together and I'd have to just keep on keepin on no matter how bad I wanted to shut down and go it alone.

( You see where this is going, right?)

The first 6 miles or so was great. I felt like I was doing alright, we were just chuggin along and then ( GASP!) they changed the course on me and all that remained were 7 miles of hills.

You must know by now of my neuroses, which means that I charted the course like I would be gone at sea for a month and needed to know everything that could go wrong. I had it DOWN. Then... they changed it UNEXPECTEDLY and it made me so anxious that I had a full blown asthma attack. I kid you not.

I wheezed for almost a full mile while I tried to find a breathing rhythm and tried to squeeze every drop of medication out of my inhaler which was about empty to begin with.

Needless to say, I was NOT feeling good about the whole thing. We ended up finishing in about 2:20, which is not bad considering the hill and asthma situation.

Tiff and I talked the following week. She filled me in that it was a joy for her to run alongside me and that she prayed for me the entire race. The more I think about it, the more her example of friendship has taught me.

Here's what she showed me about friendship that day...

1) Sometimes good friendship is simply with-ness.

What I mean is, the last thing I wanted as I felt pathetic and like quitting was Tiffany turning toward me and barking "LET'S GO! COME ON! PUSH IT!". During THIS race, all I needed was for her to be there next to me. I think there's room in life to coach one another but... Sometimes we just need to be loved and for someone to keep in step with where we're at. We think we need to say all the right things, but there's nothing we can say that's louder than just being there.

2) Sometimes, friendship means losing sight of who's winning.

I think that there's this aspect of friendship that says that in order to love one another, we're going to have to stop competing. We're going to have to throw off our need to be ahead of everyone else in order to stay alongside those that need us. Sometimes this shows itself in races, sometimes it shows itself in sacrificing personal glory... But as soon as we stop wondering who's better all the time, our walls come down and our hearts open up. We can love one another without any creepy edge that secretly wants the other to get fat or fail.

We can cheer others on simply out of love... even if we're not ahead of them...Without playing "the game" as Shauna Neiquist put it in "Cold Tangerines"

She says " You know the game--you think of the thing you have that they don't to make yourself feel better."

We all play the game, right? Our inner monologue goes something like " Yeah she's pretty, but she's not very intelligent." or " Yeah she's got her master's but, I have an amazing husband". Girls do B.S. like this all of the time. Its pretty sick and it's not love. Love can compliment simply because its the truth about that person, no matter what we feel the truth about us is.

Anyhow, all that's to say that, loving your friends sometimes means that you have to keep your competitive edge at bay for the sake of building them up. Its hard, but its good.

Tiffany showed me so much love in that way. She could have finished in like, an hour less than we finished. She sacrificed proving her (beyond) capability to stick with me.

3) There's nothing like finishing the race together.

We aren't meant to do this thing, this life, alone. I couldn't have run that race by myself. Without Tiffany by my side I would have given up and cried myself to pieces feeling inadequate and like a big sorry loser. Her presence and, now I know, her prayers kept me moving. We crossed the finish line together and I'm so grateful. I know that there may be things in her life where my presence and prayers help her cross a finish line of another sort, and that's the good stuff. That's friendship. Truth be told, I'd much rather cross a finish line with a good friend than by myself. As we push ourselves toward whatever glorious end we're looking forward to... Whether its a race or a hard month or a year or... whatever it may be, its important to recognize that we can't do it all on our own. That's not just OK, its beautiful and good. Embrace it. Its all of us. You aren't alone. Needing help isn't just normal, its human.

4) Accepting the love in your life is imperative to moving forward.

Tiffany made me promise not to shut down and push her away. She asked me to TRUST that she WANTED to run with me. What she was really asking me to do was to accept her love.

In order to fulfill those promises I made, I had to resist every ounce of shame and embarrassment that welled up within me. I had to trust that she loved me. I just had to trust it. I had to accept it, even if it wasn't easy to. If I had resisted and had freaked out and told her to go on without me, it'd be like telling her she was lying to me. Her love wasn't real. She didn't mean what she said...

But the latter kept me moving. I have a really good friend in Tiff and just accepting that, though it made me feel guilty at times and undeserving, is a gift that humbles and amazes me.

Anyhow, I barely did it, but I couldn't have done it without the gift of a friend humbly running beside me and cheering me on. Thanks, Tiff. You're a gem. Thanks for loving me like Jesus, laying down yourself to build me up. I won't forget it.

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Carly Calmes the First