Six years ago, my husband and I became runners. Despite the fact that I really hated running, I suddenly found myself going on regular runs – five days a week. It still boggles my mind, really. If you had told my 14-year-old self that someday, I would be running for fun, I wouldn’t have believed you. Every year I dreaded the mile runs we were required to do for gym class. In fact, I think I walked most of every mile, because when I tried to run, I inevitably got a side-ache. And yet, here I am, a runner. I’ll be honest, I still hate it. But I do it anyway.

Running has become a form of therapy for me. Sometimes it gives me a clear mind as I think about life, and other times it allows me to check out from life’s pressures, and release my stresses or frustrations. Over the past few years, I have used running to get me through the ups and downs of adoption. On long runs, I often find myself creating metaphors centered on the difficulties of running in relation to the difficulties of adoption.

Here are a few lessons running has taught me.

1. It is easier when I focus on the goal.

Some runs are hard. My lungs are burning, my breathing is choppy, and my legs feel like led. My body is begging me to quit. However, my mind knows that I’m going to be okay. There is an end to the discomfort. If I can take a moment to think through my route, and picture the end, I realize it’s not so bad. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually I will get there.

In adoption, we have moments of discomfort. Our hearts, especially our hearts, want us to give up. We feel as if we have been going for miles, and we don’t know if we can take one more step. But, that is when we need to focus on the goal. You will make it. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Once you cross that finish line, every mile will have been worth it.

2. Look up.

Of course running requires me to pay attention to the road. There are rocks, cracks, ice, and uneven pavement that can trip me up at anytime. But if I spend my run starring at the road and focusing on the cracks, even a short run feels like an eternity. Many times I have to remind myself to look up. In that moment, I am able to see the amazing mountains that surround the valley I live in.

Since I run in the early morning, those mountains are typically framed by the warm glow of the rising sun. Its beams bounce off the clouds, and spray beautiful colors into the dawn. If all I focused on was the road at my feet, I would totally miss the beauty taking place around me. When I focus on the beauty, I regain my motivation and am able to finish stronger.

Bumps in the road are par for the course in adoption. There are obstacles that can cause us to stumble and slow our progress. That’s the reality of the road we are travelling. But please take the time to look around and see the beauty. You are learning so many lessons about life and love, strength and sacrifice, that you would not have learned otherwise. Appreciate the good people who love you and cheer you on. Recognize the little whispers which come along at just the right time to help you regain your motivation. Don’t lose hope. Each dawn brings a new day and new opportunities. Embrace them.

3. I can’t get stronger without a challenge.

My husband likes to run hills, and he’s good at them. He seems to increase in speed when he is climbing one. On the other hand, I hate hills. In the beginning, I would get angry when he would suggest we add a hill into our route. Hills hurt. Even though I realized that running hills would help with my strength and endurance, I had no desire to push myself like that. I mean, I was already running, which was something I didn’t really want to do to begin with. Why make it harder- for fun? We weren’t even training for an event; we were just running because we were crazy people.

Then one day we did run in a real race and it had a hill. As I approached the hill, I was dreading it, but with the climb, all the runners around me began to fall back. I still felt strong, and was able to gain a lot of ground on that hill.It was a lesson learned. All the hills that I hated during training made me strong when it counted.

I understand that you feel like you are climbing adoption hills on the daily. It’s hard. Why does it have to be so dang hard? But, I promise you, those hills are making you stronger. No matter how this journey ends, you will come out a better, stronger, more compassionate person. When the going gets tough, you will be able to push through it and you will have today’s hills to thank for it.

4. Don’t wait for the “right” conditions.

There will always be an excuse to keep me home. It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s raining, it’s snowing, it’s windy, I didn’t sleep last night, I’m sore, or like my run the other morning, there were swarms of gnats all over. They kept getting stuck in my chap stick. I almost quit two steps in. But, I knew I needed that run. A swarm of bugs wasn’t going to chase me away. If I wait for conditions to be “perfect,” I will never go. Instead, I will sit inside my house dreaming of the day when everything will be right. There will never be a perfect time. It’s just something I have to commit to doing, and then go do.

If you are waiting for the right time to start the adoption process, you will be waiting for a long time. There is never going to be a “perfect” time. For most of us, money will always be a worry. Jobs, health, car problems, mortgages, and even dream vacations, can keep us from jumping in. If adoption is something you are considering, take the leap. It’s a leap of faith, for sure. Don’t be afraid. Life has a way of working things out.

5. I can do hard things.

I ran my first half marathon in 2011. I was terrified. It wasn’t something I had planned on doing, and I wasn’t sure I was ready. In fact, upon registering for the race, my Facebook status said, “I guess I am signed up to run the Timpanogos Half Marathon on July 30th. Watch for my obituary in the paper on July 31st.” Dramatic, I know, but I wasn’t sure I could run a full thirteen miles. I’d never done it before. But race day came, and I did it! I even beat my goal time. It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

Running is most definitely a mental game. Of course it’s a lot of physical work too, but nobody in their right mind pushes their lungs to feel like they are going to explode and makes their legs feel like led just because it is fun. Most days I do it just to prove that I can. When it’s over I feel like I have accomplished something worthwhile. I have pushed myself to do something hard, and I like the feeling of knowing, “I can do hard things.”

You can do hard things too. Someday, you will look back at the uneven pavement, the physical and mental strains, the rain, the snow, the wind, and even the swarms of bugs that got stuck in your chapstick, and the thing you’ll remember most was how glorious the sunset looked up ahead as you crossed the finish line.