It’s an annual tradition now.  Every year when I begin my RunFAR training, I go through the same internal struggle.  Though I’m “only” running in a 5K this time, my first few training runs this year prompted precisely the same self-questioning as in the past: Are you crazy?  Is it really necessary to put yourself through this?  Whose brilliant idea was this, anyway? 

When I am assaulted by these types of questions, my mind usually wanders back to the year my marathon training was reaching its peak just as I took off for a three-week trip to Africa.  This meant I needed to go on some LONG training runs in areas of the world where a white man running around in shorts is not a common sight.

Without question, my runs in rural Uganda evoked the most smiles, laughter, and head scratching from people I passed along the way.  It wasn’t simply the blinding whiteness of my legs that struck them as so unusual.  It was the fact that I was running for the sake of… running!  In rural Uganda, life itself is exercise.  So much energy is expended simply carrying out the tasks of daily subsistence, the thought of going out of one’s way for exercise is a novel thought indeed.  Daily chores such as fetching water, collecting firewood, working in the garden, and walking/bicycling wherever you need to go… these provide more than enough exercise.  

The memory of those puzzled stares has helped me through some difficult training runs, when I’ve questioned my own sanity and even pondered quitting. Running for the sake of running seemed strange to rural Ugandan onlookers because of the routine hardship of their lives, yet it’s something I do because of the relative ease of mine.  Might it therefore be good, right, and appropriate for me to endure some hardship -- even though I don’t need to -- so that they might benefit?  In the context of my comfortable life, can I challenge myself to intentionally embrace a bit of discomfort, in order to bring help and hope to those for whom it’s an everyday reality?

In this year’s RunFAR video (below), one of the boys in our Ethiopia program speaks of how he wants to be a Heart Specialist someday. 

RunFAR - The Amazing Race (Ethiopia) from Covenant Mercies on Vimeo.

Thanks to the funds we’re able to raise through RunFAR, our Orphan Sponsorship Program, and other means, kids like Abraham can dream of going to medical school and becoming a doctor.  No, I don’t think I’m crazy after all.  It is an absolute joy to stand in solidarity with them, embracing some small level of discomfort so that they might have opportunities to become everything God created them to be.