This is where it gets hard

About five years ago something very scary happened to me.

I had just moved to my village in Niger and was trying to settle into this very new life. I was the only American in a 30-kilometer radius. I did not speak the language. I couldn’t figure out how to hang my mosquito net to avoid malaria. I did not have a reliable way to charge my phone and there was no connection in my house, meaning I couldn’t reach my family or friends whenever I wanted.

On that first day, I started to unpack my belongings, including a suitcase I hadn’t opened since I arrived in country. I didn’t really need it during our Peace Corps pre-service training, so it sat in storage at our training center. But, when I opened it in my village, I realized that a bottle of precious American shampoo had exploded and covered almost everything in the suitcase, including ruining a few things.

I panicked. There was no faucet or hose with an endless supply of water. I actually didn’t have any water in my new hut, and when I realized that my throat tightened up a bit in the Sub-Saharan sun. I didn’t have water and I didn’t know how to get it. Even though I didn’t get all the material things I wanted as kid, this was the first time I ever even questioned where my water would come from. It was terrifying.

My host family eventually brought me some water and, although it took a solid week, I finally figured out how to get water, which meant paying some village boys to stop by my house with a large yellow bideon and then emptying it into a clay pot that I kept under a thatched hut, halfway buried into the sand to keep the water cool.

The water was sometimes slightly brown and my heart skipped a beat when I noticed the pot getting low, but I learned to live off small amounts of water. Even in Lesotho, where the water is cleaner than in Niger, yet not always in endless supply, I could take a bath, mop my floor and make my breakfast with one pot of hot water. Showering and washing clothes were second priority compared to drinking. Each drop was precious.

I’ve always been thankful for the experience of fearing where my water would come from and how clean it would be. It was such a small and nearly insignificant experience compared to what people in Niger, Lesotho and other African countries face daily, but it’s not a perspective middle-class Americans like myself usually get. Every time I take a shower or down a bottle of water, I think about how lucky I am and it’s the type of gratitude that can only come from a stressful experience.

A few weeks ago, Josh, a team leader for World Vision, said that many people have been emailing him about injuries and pains. You are hurting,” he said. “That’s a good thing.” It wasn’t until this week that I truly understood what he meant.

Training is taking a toll on me, physically and emotionally. I am exhausted, always hungry, and in a fixed panic about the next long run. The late summer heat this week is not helping and my head and inner dialogue often fail me. This weekend is 18 miles and then it’s two more long and hard weeks before the taper. The mountain seems to be getting steeper.

Fundraising has also not been easy. It seems like I am starting to annoy people with my asks and while the donations continue to come in, it’s only at a trickle. I feel like I am not doing enough and doing too much at the same time.

Every day is hard.

But it’s meant to be. Running marathons is not an easy endeavor and what’s harder is asking people to give to a cause that you really care about, which in a way is sort of selfish.

This week’s runs have been extra yucky with the heat and I’ve been nervous about tomorrow’s 18. Our running group doesn’t start until 7, meaning it be well into the morning and the heat by the time we finish. I thought about starting earlier and running only a portion of the run with the group, but something about that seemed like cheating. I decided to post something about being nervous for the heat on the Facebook group and one person responded saying that that we never know what race day will be like and sometimes God gives us experiences to prepare us.

All of sudden, I was eager to run those 18 miles, whether in 80-degrees or 65.

My teammate’s comment reminded me that God has never brought me to an experience that I couldn’t overcome. An 18-mile run in the heat is nothing compared to being in a place where I knew no one, couldn’t speak the language, and had no idea where my next cup of water would come from.

But that experience was absolutely necessary in order to fully experience living in Africa for nearly three years. Not having an endless supply of clean water is part of life in Niger and Lesotho and I had gone there to experience life in those countries. It was hard because it is supposed to be.

Running a marathon and raising money is a different kind of hard, but it’s still hard. God called me to run this marathon and raise money for World Vision and that means enduring, and embracing, all the hard stuff. The hard makes it worth it.

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