In April I participated in the New Jersey Marathon: a 26.2-mile trek up and down part of the Atlantic Coast. It was exhilarating, empowering, and - dare I suggest - a ton of fun. If you had asked me just a little more than a year ago if I thought I’d ever complete a marathon, I would have answered with a fair amount of uncertainty, unwilling to concede that the challenge was beyond me, but doubtful I had the natural ability, genetics, and self-discipline to actually see it through. Over 1,200 training miles later, I’ve had a change of heart, and I’ve learned three important things, all of which now help to inform how I see the world around me.
Running a marathon will require far more work than you expect, careful planning will make it more accessible than you imagine, and you are far more capable of running this race than you realize.
It was early March, and because of an injury, I hadn’t run in over a year. In that time, I read about running. I learned about programming training. I discovered volumes of journals and research about running form. I devoured memoirs of ultra-endurance runners: men and women who run races between thirty and several hundred miles long. I interviewed friends with successful running experience. It seemed that many of the opinions of some of the best runners and trainers and doctors in the business agreed on two things: 1) Unfortunately, many recreational runners will eventually injure themselves because they’re uninformed, and 2) most healthy human beings can learn to run and race both short and long distances while remaining injury-free. For me, this was revelatory; and my response was elation. I determined that I would run again; only this time I would establish goals, create a plan, and avoid injury.
Love True’s Trek Against Trafficking - an annual 5k/10k race in Central New Jersey that raises funds to battle domestic sex-trafficking - was in September, and I determined that I would train to complete it in under twenty minutes. I have my goal. I put pen to paper and mapped out my training protocol. I have my plan. My first training runs after a year of injury were only a half mile long, and I was militant about developing better form. I will avoid injury. Spring progressed, my form improved, my weekly mileage increased, I got faster, and I didn’t hurt. By early summer I felt so good about my rapid improvements that I decided to register for a twelve-mile obstacle mud run in early November - and two weeks later, a half-marathon.
Autumn fell, and the Trek was upon me: I ran hard, tried to pace properly, and missed a turn - and I finished in 20:45. Pretty close to my goal. I was surprised when I finished my mud run feeling unphased. My half-marathon was grueling but left me feeling hooked. I love races. In fact, I was so hooked, that I couldn’t stop thinking about and planning my next; and soon I learned about the New Jersey Marathon in late April. Could I go from a half-marathon to a full in five months?
The training was hard, but I can honestly say that often the greatest challenge wasn’t the time on my feet; it was honoring the commitments I had made - both to the plan and to the race. There were some days in which I learned the real work was just showing up. It may have been bitter and cold at 4:30 in the morning, but this commitment deserved my follow-through. Every hour spent and mile logged was worth not only the elation of crossing the finish line but the realization that we can accomplish incredible things with careful planning and hard work.
In support of Love True, I had decided to use my experience with the New Jersey Marathon as a vehicle to raise money to assist in the non-profit’s cause: to end domestic sex-trafficking through parallel efforts in prevention education and restoration. Friends and family generously gave over $700 in support of my race and of Love True. I remember feeling ambivalence toward my final number: Love True set out to do something world-changing, and $700 is only a drop in the bucket of vast resources required to accomplish its purpose. Drops in the bucket, however, are a lot like miles on the road, and it’s sometimes difficult to recognize their significance. But our efforts, no matter how small, focused through planning and multiplied through prayer, add up. The sum can be world-changing.
I have a theory that, in many ways, ending sex-trafficking is a lot like running a marathon. Sometimes we’ll make a mistake or experience setbacks, and rather than conceding, it becomes our duty to learn from it. When we’re informed and we have a plan, we know where we can most effectively focus our efforts. Hard work pays off, but consistency is key. The journey to seeing a slave-free world is well over 1,200 miles, but every one of those miles counts. I am confident in this:
Ending sex-trafficking will require far more work than we expect, careful planning will make it more accessible than we can imagine, and we are far more capable of completing this task than we realize.
Written by Tommy Rutt