I Choose Hard

By Carissa

It struck me the other day when I ran down the mental list of my next three runs that they were all going to be hard.  First in the queue was hill repeats.  Eight sets of running up a quarter mile hard and then jogging back to the start only to begin the torture all over again.  The second workout was a pace run.  Pace runs are a chance to practice running a pace that one plans (or in my case hopes) to race at.  Thanks to McMillan Running Calculator and my most recent race I’m training at a half marathon race pace that defies common sense.  The third scheduled workout was a long run.  The first hour and twenty minutes would be relaxing but the last twenty five minutes would again be at race pace.  Shifting into a faster gear at the end of a long run is always a struggle for me.  
The work out may be hard but the peace of the early morning and the view of the moon is beautiful

There is a certain amount of anxiety with which I approach each of these runs.  This is hard work.  Considering that I have a long track record of hitting or exceeding my expectations for these training runs, my anxiety must be connected to what I know the run will contain.  This is guaranteed:

There will be pain.  
There will be struggle.  
There will be the desire to stop.  
I will keep going.  
I will shut out those voices in my head that ask why I am doing this.  
The ones that plead with me to stop.  
The fact of the matter is I can do this 
and so I do.

This kid chooses hard too.  A pic from the day he ran 7 miles at the track.

Jodi is also training to run the Girlfriends Half in October.  She told me the other day that the training program we are following is stressing her out.  She doesn’t like doing speed work so often.  Her plan is to revise the program so that she will both be ready for the race and can once again experience the joy of running.   I understand how she is feeling.  It’s certainly tempting to take the pressure out of training and the “hard” out of it.  Not that Jodi’s training won’t be hard.  She loves to run fast but she also loves to run fast all the time and at her own choosing not at the dictation of “the schedule.”  With this schedule, there are days that one is supposed to run slow alternated with days of fast running.  I knew there was Following-The-Schedule trouble when Jodi kept reporting in to me that she was running fast on her slow days.  Ah, I sure do love her and our different approaches to running!
I bought Jodi this shirt because it made us laugh but it's kind of true too.
Choosing hard has been my approach to running for some time.  What qualifies as hard has been the variable.  After childbirth, the hard was just getting out the door or onto the treadmill.  My next hard was distance.  Within the first year of my third son being born I trained for a half and a full marathon.  The challenge of the longer distance fueled me in a different way than a 5k or a 10k.  I liked that it was hard.  With distance under my belt, I chose to start attempting some of those speed workouts I had formally ignored.  And guess what?  It's hard.  The fact that I am now dreaming of a challenge with the word “ultra” in it should really be no surprise.

I love this quote so much its now on the wall of my son's room.

Why do I choose hard?  I can’t help it.  I can’t sit in the comfort of what I’ve already done and not aspire for more.  As scary as it is, the hard has allowed me to accomplish things that I never thought possible.  I’m willing and motivated to keep embracing hard in order to see where it takes me.  

I also believe that this mental and physical training that I devote to running makes me spiritually stronger for all aspects of my life.  After all, I am in training to persevere as I follow Jesus.  Life is hard.  Unlike my workouts, I don't have a lot of choice in the matter.  Running allows me to practice persevering both physically and mentally.  When life is hard, I draw from the strength to persevere that I've practiced while running.  I make my runs a time to commune with Jesus.  As with all aspects of my life, He is with me through the hard and He is my song through the victories.

Here are a few verses about persevering from the Scriptures that encourage me through the hard:

James 1:2, 3 
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

James 1:12
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised those who love him.

1 Corinthians 13:17
[About love] It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Revelation 2:3
You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

How about you sole sisters?  Do you choose hard?  Does running help you persevere in other aspects of your life?


  1. This post is FANTASTIC. I am so much like you. I choose hard because I am the personality that can't just stay where I'm at.

    Ok, we definitely need to train together. I've used Runner's World's Smart Coach for my training plan, but I'd love to know where you get yours from. Is it the McMillan thing?

    Thank you for this amazing post!!

    1. Thanks Devon. I've noticed the same thing about you when I've read some of your posts. :) My experience with training programs has been with the Hal Higdon programs but I also have Advanced Marathoning by Pfitzinger and I'm intrigued by the programs in there. We'll have to find a time to run together soon.

  2. Hi, first time commenter here- I've just been trying to motivate myself into getting back into running (we're just coming in to Spring here in New Zealand so it's a good time)and this post has really inspired me! I especially love the James 1:12 verse- it speaks to me both in a spiritual as well as the physical/mental sense :)


    1. Hi Emma,
      Thanks for your comment. I'm so blessed that this post is an inspiration to you. I'm praying right now that you will find the motivation that it takes to get out the door.
      Happy running,

  3. This is my FAVORITE post you've written thus far. So proud to call you my running partner. I'm with you for as long as you'll run with me.

    1. Thank you Jodi! I'll be running with you til we're old and gray! XOXO

  4. I love that you are blogging even though you didn't consider yourself a writer. Again, you chose hard. I'm so proud of your diligence, determination, and discipline! You rock, girl. The sky's the limit! Run with Jesus!

    1. Thanks Niki. I'm looking forward to when we can run together again. I miss our weekly dates already.

  5. I love the verses you shared and how encouraging they are to all different scenarios of "choosing the hard road".

    As you know I'm NOT a runner...knee surgeries and all, though I can fast-walk a pretty good pace. :)

    I could relate to that aspect of trusting Him for the strength to push through and hold on and keep striving in the "strength that He supplies" (1 Peter 4:11).

    With the goal that "in everything God may be glorified" (same verse.)

    1. Thank you for mentioning 1 Peter 4:11. Such a great verse also. You definitely have walked the hard road Kara. None of my "hards" compare to loosing a child and the Lord bless you for sharing with others an example of clinging to the Lord and glorifying Him through that loss. As for walking, you are the FASTEST walker I've ever met. Talk about a good workout! :)

  6. So glad I read this. You are a talented writer, my friend. You inspire me in so many ways!! I am not someone who usually chooses hard, but the the times that I do the rewards are much sweeter than when I choose easy. Right now my hard is just getting on my elliptical. I did an hour tonight and it was hard, but I feel so much better mentally. I did 1 mile at the track a couple weeks ago and it was pathetic, but my first postpartum run/jog. One day at a time! :)

    1. You are so right about the rewards being sweeter Jessica. That has been my experience too and it's definitely a motivator for choosing the hard route. I'm so proud of you and excited to hear that you are finding time and energy to exercise. The fog of new mommy sleep deprivation is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. Also, don't worry ALL first postpartum runs are pathetic. ;) It will be a great benchmark to look back on a year from now. Go Jessica!

  7. what a great post! This is an inspiration to me because I don't choose hard often enough. Too often I let what I am capable of elude me because I don't want to choose hard. In running, in my walk with God, in relationships......
    I want to choose the tough stuff- I know it's worth it!

    1. Thank you Elizabeth! I admit, hard is scary. I often have to talk myself into it but you are right: it is worth it. Praying for you right now that the next time you're given the choice of hard you will choose it. God bless you!

  8. I found myself reading several of those verses a few times this week. In relation to friends and their trials, and my own. I love that chapter of James. It is SO direct. We cannot deny that we have reason to rejoice even in our worst circumstances. We are HIS!
    I can relate to your running passion and choosing hard- I like hard too, because the reward is sweeter.
    I love how you and Jodi complement each other as friends. I love that you are different- but yet can laugh about it!

    Best wishes registering for Boston tomorrow.

    Finally got you added to my blog roll so I (and readers) can find your posts easier. :) Not sure what took so long, but glad it's there now.

    1. I could have guessed that you are a "choose hard" runner. I see that in you and love seeing how that plays out thanks to your blog. I was just commenting on your last post that the way you analyze your training fascinates me. You are a wealth of knowledge and encouragement Raina!