Courage, Dear Heart: Fear and Running Anyway

It started with sixty seconds of running followed by ninety seconds of walking, back in the spring and summer with my first series of runs. Having no idea what I was doing and with the courage of a snail, I stepped into my running shoes that very first evening to go and join my running group, anxious about so many things, and scared of failing and falling and finding out that I couldn’t do it. Fearful thoughts almost stopped me many times, but for the friends who were waiting for me like clockwork by the side door of the Talbot Street Church: would I live through it (a very real worry I had); would I be able to breathe while running; if I could not breathe, would I have to stop while the whole group waited for me and maybe even have to stop the run? And even if I could breathe, would my side cramp up, would I trip and fall, would I have to talk to my fellow runners when I barely had enough breath to keep my lungs going? Would my feet hurt, would my legs ache, would I have enough energy? Would I know how to be a runner? At the core of all my fear was this gigantic question: could I do it?

Here I am five months later, having now run in three seasons: summer, fall, and winter. I am still putting on those running shoes. Not winning races, not running 5 km straight, but improving steadily, joining 5 km races, and running 3-4 times a week in the fresh, now cold and snowy and wintry air. Sixty seconds turned into ninety seconds, which turned into two minutes, which turned into the length of a song on my playlist, which turned into two songs, which turned into five minutes, which turned into longer and longer runs.


Everything is a process, and we all have to start somewhere. Tying up our laces is a good place to begin. There are days where the last thing I want is to get out there, and there are days where my body is biting at the bit. Taking that first step was the only way I could do every run for months, and even today, I am doubting myself–right now eating Roasted Red Pepper Soup, drinking a warm English Breakfast tea, looking outside at the snowed-in sidewalks and grey skies and there is more snow in the forecast, and thinking ‘do I have the courage to face those roads again?” I know once I get out there, adrenaline and wonder and lungs full of fresh air and pine trees covered in snow and white flakes falling in front of streetlamps and other runners and people walking their dogs will all encourage me (got huge hugs from a massive dog named Brutus the other day), and the spirit of running and euphoric energy will take over my heart. But for now, all I can think is: how am I ever going to do this?

Courage, dear heart. It will happen the way it always happens. One step will turn into sixty seconds which will turn into ninety seconds which will turn into two minutes, and then three songs and four songs and a whole playlist and before I know it, I will be wondering how I ever got through the day without being out there, and feeling like the luckiest and happiest and most blessed person in the world. The rush of wind and nature and wonder will overtake me, and I will do it.

Until then, I will remember what has gotten me here: never giving up, taking one running step after another, and always trusting that my steps in snow so deep I can’t see where I’m going will get me home again.

Courage, dear heart: you can do it.



(Header Photo wth thanks to Dominik Martin)

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Some stories from home, some from travel adventures (usually in autumn), some happening in community, friendship and faith, and some about the vulnerable, lonely and excluded. To honour them because they have changed me for the better and taught me how to love more fully and be loved more fully. Some days are great, some good, some not always good. But overall, it's been a beautiful journey so far, and I feel more like myself every day. -- Debra, writer / photographer / blogger / traveller

15 thoughts on “Courage, Dear Heart: Fear and Running Anyway

  1. Pure encouragement Debra– not just for runners, but for all of looking at big projects ahead. Thanks for summoning up your “courage of a snail” (love that!) and putting this all in words for us. It reminds me of a favorite book –Bird by Bird– by Anne Lamott. Have you read it?? It’s the same theme, but for writers. She told the story of when her brother waited til the last minute to do a school report on birds and her father told him, just start– bird by bird. Thanks for your honesty, clarity and encouragement. hugs hugs!

    1. Hi Rhonda,well this comment from you just made my day. Truly, thank you. I love what you are saying about the symbolic looking at courage around all the big projects ahead and I am so glad you liked the ‘courage of a snail’ phrase. We really have to take that first step in many areas of our lives, don’t we! You are speaking my language–I happen to love Anne Lamott. I do own Bird by Bird, but it’s been a long time since I’ve looked at it, and I don’t recall the story you are sharing here, so I am going to take a look shortly. Thanks for sharing, and I appreciate so much that you stop by, read along, and share your kindnesses. You have a big heart. Thank you!

      1. Hi again Debra– just went over to your blog and read your two latest posts– so moved and wanted to comment but when I clicked in the comment box, it wouldn’t take my comment. hmmm. Love your perspective, your writing, the vivid images that come. I’ll try again later. xox

      2. Hi thanks so much Rhonda, for letting me know. Thank you for your lovely comments here. I have changed to a new template, and since I did that, I have been having some trouble with comments. I wondered if I was mistaken, so thanks for your confirmation. I am going to chat with WP now. xo

      3. Hi Rhonda, I think I have it fixed now. Can you see if things look ok for commenting? Thanks again for your help and for stopping by.

  2. Lovely post about your running! I can relate as I only started running just over five years ago. I’d never run before, so I had the same thoughts and worries, can I really do this? I’m too slow for the group … Well done for keeping going! You will get further and further without stopping. I did eventually. I ran, slowly, two half marathons last year 🙂 Never ever thought I could. Keep going! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging and kind words! That means a lot. Do you run in Scotland? That would be amazing. Well done for doing two half marathons last year–that is amazing. That encourages me that I will get there. I did my longest run today–7 km. I am working on distance. I am hoping to do a 10 km race near the end of April. Running is wonderful. Hard work and discipline, but so worth the joy and how good I feel. Thanks for stopping by. Happy to see another runner here. Best of luck to you.

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