Learn to enjoy the slow

I have a love/hate relationship with this shirt. In fact the other day I had decided that it was time for the shirt to go. My logic was that I can now consistently run faster than a herd of turtles. But then I remembered that I continue to struggle with running a slow pace.
I have a love/hate relationship with this shirt. In fact the other day I had decided that it was time for the shirt to go. My logic was that I can now consistently run faster than a herd of turtles. But then I remembered that I continue to struggle with running a slow pace.

Want to run faster? Then learn to run slower!

As a pastor I often counsel people to slow down and learn to enjoy each day that comes. Part of that enjoyment is found in learning love the journey and to not be in such a hurry to get to the destination. When it comes to running, its taken me awhile to apply this bit of wisdom.

Here’s a little back story:
I have been running for almost four years. When I started I was doing intervals of walking and running. Even this was a bit hard but each month the running portion got longer and longer. My first 5k was completed in 36:16 on July 4, 2012. I can still remember how hard it was to run this race!

Since then I’ve improved and my last two half marathons were completed at an average pace of 10:45. Not a bad improvement! Now theoretically (with adequate training) I should have been able to complete a marathon about 5 hours. So last year I tried my first marathon with a goal of finishing (and not dead last). I met my goal but my time was closer to 6 hours than 5. (5:50:54, avg pace of 13:20, all due to collapsing the second half). While happy that I finished, I thought I could have done better.

This year I signed up for the same race, the Ventura Marathon, September 13. More importantly, I signed up for a training program that started May 3rd. Not having ever trained with anyone and only using training plans from the internet I was pretty excited…and a bit nervous.

Surprisingly for me was the first bit of training advice/instruction was to “run slow”. We were told to look at a long run pace calculator (I didn’t even know these existed!) Much to my surprise my train pace was 12:16, which is very close to the pace of my very first 5k. A tip for determining if you are running slow enough while training is the conversation test. Can you comfortable talk to someone? In complete sentences? If the answer is “no” then you need to slow down. Running alone? I once read a suggestion to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I do this periodically (while wondering what others think!). I don’t advise trying to sing along to whatever music you may be listening to as that I’ve discovered is a bit difficult.

My initial reaction to this instruction to run SLOW was a whiny in my mind, “No! I want to get faster, not go backward.” But, having paid the money for the expertise of the coach I decided to try it. It was very hard at first. (Who am I kidding a slow pace is still hard for me!) But I discovered that my legs were much happier; I could indeed run longer; and recovery was easier.

Thankfully the training program also includes some fast running: tempo and threshold workouts some of which were a series of 5k races over the summer. I’ve been enjoying these, especially as I’ve been able to get a bit faster each week.

One week I sent an email to the coach expressing my happiness with these faster runs and his response was something like, “you need to learn to enjoy the slow.”

He’s right! And not just in regards to running. Let’s all try and slow down a bit… take some time to enjoy our families, our friends, the scenery around us, even the little things that we do each day. In doing so the rest of what we do might just get to be a bit easier.

Happy Running!

Why GirlRevRunning?

There is mIMG_0258uch history behind this name!

First the GirlRev part:
It starts with the fact that I am a second career female pastor. My first career was in marketing communications and lasted until  my mid 30s. Why a career change?

Let’s back up a few years. I cannot remember a time when I did not believe in God. I can however, remember that when I was in my teens and early 20s I didn’t much like Christians, or want to be around them. I did not belong to a church or have any real desire to belong to a church.

But interestingly enough, when my children were old enough to begin school I chose to place them in a Lutheran (or Christian) school. It sounds odd in retrospect but I had a very small connection with a Lutheran church, the school had a good reputation for good academics, and the child care options were better than what was then available in a public school.

Through this I became much better acquainted with Christians of the Lutheran persuasion and discovered that by and large they were very nice people and didn’t at all fit within my stereotype of Christians as judgmental and mean. One thing led to another and I began participating in worship, bible study, and other activities in the church. I eventually quit my regular job and started working for Trinity Lutheran Church in Simi Vally part time.

As one who is always trying to learn, I also decided to take some classes at Fuller Seminary… so that I could learn more about faith. As I continued on this educational journey (combined with part time church work) I began to experience the call towards pastoral ministry. This was a very difficult time for me because I was, at the time, the Lutherans that I hung out with didn’t (and still don’t) believe that women can serve a pastors.

After much discernment I realized that my call to pastoral ministry was valid and because of this I had to leave my church. I eventually joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and now serve as a pastor at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and Preschool in Oxnard, CA.

About that license plate: a few years ago, my husband and I bought a convertible Mini Cooper. It’s a great car for the beach cities of Oxnard and Ventura! After buying this car I decided to get a personalized license plate. Of course then I had to decide what it would say, and after much thought I settled on “grl rev”. Or translated: girl pastor! One person commented to me that it should say woman rather than girl, but I say that we women can say “you go girl!” to one another with great enthusiasm.

And the “Running” Part?
I’ve always tried to stay active…and I’ve always struggled with my weight. These topics will be covered in future posts. When I began working as a pastor I clearly wasn’t doing what I needed for self care and my weight ballooned. Then about three years ago my son and I went on a hike at La Jolla Canyon (Santa Monica Mountains). This hike had me huffing and puffing up a hill and wondering if I’d even make it to the top. Then, two women passed by us at a nice easy run, chatting the whole time.
I decided right then that I had to get back into shape. We completed our hike and a few days later (had to recover!) I started run/walking. Since then I’ve completed a few 5ks, one 10k, 4 half marathons, and one marathon. My next marathon with be in a bit less than three weeks (Ventura Marathon, September 13).

I’ve discovered that running has been helpful in more ways than health and fitness. For me it is a way of prayer and meditation. I discovered it is great sermon prep time as I have miles and miles to think about everything! And… it is hard, and I love it!

And that’s a bit about me… 

A Beautiful Place to Live… and to Run!

IMG_2703IMG_2679

IMG_2683Here are some photos of where I run most days, along the beautiful Ventura Coast. The cloudy summer mornings are an added bonus.

Last April my husband and I vacationed in Boston, New York, and other east coast cities. Now that I’m a runner I was able to run and enjoy the scenery in a new way. The most memorable runs were along the Charles River (Boston and Cambridge) and around the Boston Common, and Central Park in New York. One discovery by the way was that there is no flat land in Central Park!

While running along these beautiful routes I remember thinking, “these places are beautiful” and I am so lucky to live in a place that also has wonderfully scenic runs.

Last week our county was named the most beautiful in the United States. Of course it is! See the story here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/08/17/every-county-in-america-ranked-by-natural-beauty/

What about you? Where is your favorite scenic run?  

Some lessons in outreach and hospitality from my local running club

This post is mostly for my church friends, but maybe everyone can find something interesting.

For the past four Wednesdays I’ve been working out with members of the Vendurance Running Club in Ventura. Here are a few observations and how they might relate to the way we welcome (or think about visitors) in our churches.

  1. When you are a new or not so fast (ok…slow) runner, the thought of joining a running club can be intimidating.It is a bit scary to go to a new place and try to participate in an activity with a group of people you don’t know. I remember back when I did not participate in a church and having similar thoughts. I wanted to participate in a church but wasn’t too sure about what to expect or even what to do. Sometimes we might want to participate in something but we never take that step for fear of not fitting in.
  2. Sometimes it takes another activity and an invitation.
    Back in May I joined a training program to prepare for my second running of the Ventura Marathon (more on this later). Joining this was much easier than the running club because it was short term and it was assumed that other less experienced runners would participate (or why have a training program?). This has been great! A few weeks ago the coach, Josh Spiker, mentioned that I’d probably get a lot out of the running club’s track workouts and that I should give it a try. I did and he was correct…I have gotten a lot out of it!What about in our churches? What activities do we have that provide an opportunity outside the church to get to know someone?  To try out the group? And can those activities lead to building relationships… and invitations to maybe…a worship service or other activity in the church? An important caveat is that an invitation is only welcome if it is really for something that would be helpful.
  3. It takes much more than an invitation…it takes an experience in hospitality.
    My first two track workouts were pretty fun. And not too intimidating. This was because there were some other newbies there as well. Women who I had become acquainted with during our Sunday long training runs. an added bonus was that I was able to run faster than some of them! (My strong desire to not be last is something that I need to work on.) None of these women came to the track workouts on weeks three and four. That left me and my daughter (who I’d dragged along) as the two slowest runners on the track.It was a strange feeling, that as I was experiencing great improvement in my own ability to run faster, I was so much slower than everyone else! This could have led me to decide that I didn’t fit with this group of much better runners. It could have, but didn’t because of those very same runners.Why? Their own form of hospitality. So as people passed me (over and over again) they’d say things like: “good job”, “keep it up”, “you’ve got this”, “almost there”, and more. One guy while passing me held out his hand for a low five…I barely made contact and commented “well that was weak!” He another another runner responded with, “no, you’re doing great.” Later a couple of women who were doing their cool down clapped, and with all this encouragement I was able to keep up a pace that a couple months ago I would have never thought was possible. It was very hard and worth every second.

    With all this I am wondering how we are doing in our churches at giving encouragement to those who are new. Do we say hello? Do we offer help when someone looks confused? Do we help people to navigate the sometimes strange world of a worship service? Do we seek to make our guest feel comfortable? Do we let them know that sometimes life is hard but that we are all there to encourage one another? Do we challenge one another? I hope so!

    How have you experienced hospitality?

Filling our minds… or finding a mantra

Here’s a favorite quote: “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:15)

I was recently reminded of these words a few weeks ago when I attended a workshop on marathon racing strategy. Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about two related concepts. The first: running a marathon will be painful (duh!). The second: you need to have a mantra (or positive thoughts) to get you through the tough times.

At this point I have to confess that when I think back to some of my most difficult runs, my self-talk was pretty horrendous. I usually was focused on berating myself for not being fit enough or not eating correctly. I can still remember that as I chugged my way up a very long hill at mile 11 of a half marathon a couple years ago the words “you should eaten better” kept repeating themselves in my mind. The unspoken message was that if I had been eating better I would have weighed less and thus the hill would have been easy.

In retrospect, every time a run became hard I told myself that it was because I was not fit enough! Filling my mind with this negative self talk was not getting me anywhere!

To discover that “it’s supposed to be hard” (duh again!) was tremendously freeing. It’s hard work to run long distances. It’s hard work to run up a long hill after 11 miles of running up and down smaller hills. It’s not just hard for me but its hard for everyone. The same goes for other challenges we face in life as well.

And this is where the second concept comes in… the mantra. The truth is that in all of life we are affected by our self talk. If we continually put ourselves down we will have difficulty succeeding. If we tell ourselves that we are not capable of whatever task is set before us then most likely we will not be capable.

But if we think about what is good and worthy and helpful we’ll be able to approach whatever task is before us with a better mental attitude.

As for me, my new running mantra is “I’m fit, I’m strong, I can breathe!” What’s  yours?