Back In The Running

May 16, 2011 | 41 comments

The last time I laced up my Asics for a run, the maples were undressing, dropping leafy garments on the ground.

I stepped out onto our country lane, and jogged past gilded fields where  combines would soon cut swaths through grain.

I felt the pain stab through my heel, intensifying with each foot-fall. I had to stop. I retraced my steps up the driveway and limped home.

As autumn stripped trees, my running season ended — almost as quickly as it began.


It was only ten months earlier, in January 2010, that I had agreed to do the completely illogical and marvelously ridiculous thing: begin training for a half-marathon.  Me,  the kid who was always picked last at recess, who never won a race, and who was the final kid to cross every finish line. Me, the mama who couldn’t have run to the mailbox and back without an ambulance on standby.

Yes, I would run 13.1 miles. I would do it for cancer victims. I would do it to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, to fight the cancer that took my husband’s farmer-father. 

And I did, it. Five months later, on a cool May morning in Lincoln, Nebraska, I plodded on the pavement for real people with real hurt. I had no hope of finishing first, or finishing pretty, but I ran for the joy of it.

And I had a ball. Can you tell?

And then, a few months later, I did it again. This time, I invited a few friends along.

But on mile 11 of the second half-marathon, I felt the first stabbing pains in my left heel. I finished the run, claimed my medal and after a week tried to run a few miles. The pain worsened.

During a writers retreat with friends from The High Calling, I had my last good run, as the Texas sun rose over the canyon at Laity Lodge. But it still hurt, and this time the pain didn’t subside.

I tried to run once more a few weeks after I returned home from the retreat, and that’s when I had to turn back, limping home in the autumn of my running season. 

A physical therapist told me I had plantar fasciitis. The doctors said it would take time. About a month ago, I was physically able to try again. 

But I didn’t. I had lost my motivation. 

I knew it would hurt.
I knew it would be hard.
And I knew that all the fitness I had gained last year would be gone.
I didn’t want to begin again, knowing that the old me would have been half a mile ahead, or more.
So I didn’t try.

And then, on Thursday, I read what my friend and High Calling colleague, L.L. Barkatwrote about exercise. She called exercise a miracle. A miracle!

And I don’t want to miss any miracles.

I Tweeted L.L.

“@llbarkat I’m about to partake in a miracle, and thought you’d like to know. I’m headed downstairs to the treadmill. :)” 

I stepped onto my very dusty treadmill, and began to run. Sloooooowly.

But even with the super-slow pace, I was dog-tired after a mere half mile. I was so discouraged, that I about started bawling.

I mean, eight month ago, I was running a half-marathon! And now, I couldn’t plod out a half mile without my lungs screaming at me.

Yes, there is great humility in starting over.
But I didn’t give up. Instead, I slowed the treadmill even more. 

Right then, I knew that if I was ever going to be serious about running again, I’d have to stop chasing after the shadow of who I wasand just run for me, for today.  

I ran.
I ran two miles.

And then the day after that, I ran two miles again.

And then the day after that, I ran two miles one more time.

And today, after I hit PUBLISH on this post, I’ll lace up the Ascis, and I will run again.

I want to be a part of a miracle. I won’t chase a shadow of who I was, but I will take another step forward in who I am today. 

Linking up with Michelle. She asks us: What are you hearing from God in your life lately?

by | May 16, 2011 | 41 comments


  1. Candy

    Oh, I have SO been there. When your feet hurt, everything hurts. Mine lasted for over a year. I was told it was “beyond healing” but after intense therapy it’s perfect. I consider that my miracle, and every step now is a prayer of gratitude. Of course, I use profuse ounces of prevention now and have been known to beg for a foot rub now & then. Live and learn. Embrace your miracle. If you could package exercise in a capsule, it would sell better than funnel cake.

    • dukeslee

      Did you have the same diagnosis, Candy? Plantar fasciitis? And are you a runner, too?

      I completely understand what you’re saying about each step being a prayer of gratitude. I’ll be thinking of these words when I run this morning. Thank you for this!

      • Duane Scott

        Candy & Jennifer,

        Maybe this is what I have! My left foot will hurt so bad during running that I have to stop, not because I’m tired, but because it hurts too bad to continue.

        It’s right in the arch where it hurts the worst, and only on my left foot.

        • dukeslee

          It may be worth checking out, Duane. See a good PT. PTs ar runners’ friends.

      • Candy

        Yes, I had it in both feet – running and tennis. They don’t bother me at all now, but there were times I thought I had an ice pick stuck in them. Ice, wrap, ice, good orthotics, massage, ice, stretching, foot wheel….did I say ice?

  2. David Rupert

    I had PF a few years ago and yes, I FEEL YOUR PAIN! Just getting out of bed is killer. But the orthodics eventually did the trick and now I’m back to where I was before the condition….not running then and not running now either!

    • dukeslee


      Exactly! Getting out of bed was a killer, almost worse than just walking around. Dr. Scholls is my friend.

      And, LOL! — your comment on running cracks me up. 🙂

  3. Simply Darlene

    Take another step toward who you are today… Love that!

    Ah, as a student athletic trainer in college, I remember providing therapy and specialized taping techniques for the x-country runners with PF.

    By the way, I run when chased, and then, I’d rather throw off the gloves and just fight bare-fisted. I’m happy for you runners. Really, I am.


    • dukeslee


      Who’s chasing you? 🙂

    • Simply Darlene

      I guess what I tried to say is something akin to Mr. Rupert’s stance on running. I don’t like it. The only reason I see for running is if I am being chased. And if I am being chased, I rather take the fight than run.

      Oh, and to answer your question, my shadow. She chases me all over the place.


      • dukeslee

        So, Darlene, I’m chasing my shadows, and your shadows are chasing you. What are we going to do in Heaven where there are no shadows? I know! Let’s sit in matching lounge chairs on the crystal sea, eating bon-bons. You in?

  4. Duane Scott

    Miss Lee,

    Find a race and a time. I’ll be there, and we’ll run.


    • dukeslee

      LifeLight. Labor Day Weekend. 10K. Performing this year: Hillsong, Tenth Avenue North, Sanctus Real, speaker Francis Chan.

  5. Megan Willome

    So happy you are getting back in the game!

    Never more than a 10k for me, though I do it consistently. I always get hurt or sick when I try to “train.”

    • dukeslee

      Hi Megan! Yeah, I saw over on the L.L. post at (I think) that you’re a swimmer, runner, etc. I only run … and only quite recently. I suspect that’s part of the reason I’ve got foot problems.

      I went from zero to 13.1 in five months. 🙂

  6. laura

    And you are wonderful! I’m working my way back after a running break too. Why does it have to be so hard? My husband is suffering with planter fasciitis right now. It is about to kill him. He is very dependent on his running. His ailment has gone on for months. He ices his foot every day and still only minimal relief. The poor thing. I’ll have to share your story with him. Maybe if he rested a spell he would do better. Perhaps that is the message our Good Lord is trying to send? We shall see. Bless you in the running, Jennifer! Maybe we’ll all get together and run at Laity this fall! Wouldn’t that be fun?

    • dukeslee

      Oh Laura … Your husband’s situation sounds familiar. I iced and iced and iced. Finally, I just had to take a break. The PT helped a lot, too.

      I’ve read some of your running posts, Laura, and want to share your most recent one here, in case others in the comment box are interested:

    • Candy

      I think the thing that helped the most was a figure 8 wrap that I wore NIGHT and day for months. Holds the arch up, keeps the foot from extending during sleep and making that first step out of bed feel like you’re ripping the ligament. I wore my shoes all the time – even going to the potty in the middle of the night I’d wear them. Lots of stretching (slant board) helps. But there’s something to be said for rest, too.

  7. Megan Willome

    Sorry to be back, but after reading L.L.’s post on writer’s block, I reread yours in those terms. Then I had to go journal it all out.

  8. Deidra

    My foot doesn’t want me to run, either. So proud of you for getting back on the treadmill. As my trainer told me at the beginning of my own racing saga: Distance first. Then speed.

  9. Missie

    That is awesome congrats!

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Missie! I can’t tell you how excited I am to run again. It has been discouraging to be so, so slow … but I am just grateful that I can run. This is part of the “miracle” that L.L. wrote about over at The High Calling. I want to be a part of that miracle.

  10. Dawn @ Dawnings

    You are not a has-been. You are a can-do. You can look to the past for that, then let the runner in you go forward.

    This post brings tears. You started running because of cancer. I quit running because of cancer – Lymphoma, no less. And I, too, have just started back — after 8 years.

    Wanna train for the next half marathon together? (she asks, with fear and trembling.) You can run “in memory of” and I’ll run “in honor of” my hubby, who, by the mercy of God, survived.

    • dukeslee

      Oh Dawn … I want to hug you. I want to RUN with you! You dear soul. So glad you have a survival story… Tears here. xoxo

  11. Tay

    Awesome you go girl! I will be cheering you on from this side of the screen! 🙂

  12. Elizabeth

    Way to go! I pretty much ran twice all winter after we finished that half-marathon. So I’m just getting back on board myself…except I did’t have an injury. Just lazy. Sticking to 5k’s this summer.

    • dukeslee

      Hey E … I thought of you yesterday as I was running. Thought of our LifeLight run last year. Miss you… 🙂

  13. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    I’m not a runner but a speed-walker. Two months ago, I started back on the treadmill (after a 2 year hiatus)–between the twins needing me always during the day and my working nights, I had used the excuse that “I’m too tired” and didn’t want to make it worse. But, it’s been great, making me more energetic! My kids have even learned a new word: “exercise”. Keep it up, sister!

  14. Bina

    “Right then, I knew that if I was ever going to be serious about running again, I’d have to stop chasing after the shadow of who I was, and just run for me, for today.”

    …this was a powerful, yet ever so loving, slap from God…

    Thank you for posting…for getting back on that tredmill…and for being a voice that helped Him get ahold of my attention tonight. I love you, girlfriend!!

  15. Becki Ramsey

    I LOVE THE LEUKEMIA & LYMPHOMA SOCIETY! I have done two full marathons for them (Honolulu 2005, Nashville 2007) and fully fundraised for the third (San Diego 2010) but couldn’t run due to plantar fasciitis.:( BUT….I’m healed and back in the running shoes again, training for the Nike Womens Marathon on October 16th in San Francisco. So….get back in there, Jen. One foot in front of the other and you will be just fine!

    GO TEAM!

    P.S. Is that a photo of your FIL on your treadmill? Funny how even the smallest reminder of what “real” pain and endurance is can make you continue when you didn’t think you could….

    • dukeslee

      Becki, This is such an encouragement to me. I really have felt at times like there’s no way I would ever be able to run long distances again. Your comment here gives me such hope.

      Yes, that is my FIL’s photo on the treadmill. And that is EXACTLY what the picture does for me. It’s the best kind of motivation. … We miss him dearly.

  16. Charity Singleton

    Jennifer — I love that you are running again, even if a bit gingerly. Starting over is hard, isn’t it? I have not been running as much the past few months, but not for any specific reason. I just let things get away from me. I am starting again, too. Slowly. It hurts, but it’s worth it.

    • dukeslee

      Maybe we could take a little jog at Laity this fall? 🙂

  17. Michelle DeRusha

    One step at a time, Jennifer. And I know before long you’ll be pounding down those country roads, raising your hands in praise!

  18. Sundi Jo

    Great post! I share your frustrations in the pain. The last time I ran was in November, and I miss it terribly. Patiently waiting for God to get me back to the place where I can do it again.

    • dukeslee

      Sundi Jo ~ Are you struggling with the same kind of foot pain? I pray that you’ll be up and running again soon!

  19. Susan (Runnermom)

    Hey sweet friend! I too feel that pain. Been there done that one–not fun! I did the rest thing, and it worked. But for someone who runs all the time, it was very humbling to have to cross-train. Sometimes we have roadblocks in our lives to slow us down and check those priorites–is God at the top of the list?

    So glad you’re a FB friend now!!

    • dukeslee

      Thank you for your continued encouragement in my runner journey, Susan. xoxo


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