Reminders in the Storm, Part 2
Nothing went as expected for Kaylin Carlson during a half-marathon last fall.
Kaylin Carlson
January 23, 2024

Editor’s note: On the morning of Oct. 14, 2023, Kaylin Carlson ran the Country Sole Half Marathon along Chicago’s lakefront. What should have been a gorgeous fall morning was instead something like an inland hurricane. In this, the second of two parts, Kaylin recounts her race experience—and how it helped her see some much-deeper truths.

Facing reality

Come on Kaylin, goodness. Why can’t you be happy about SOMETHING? 

Why can’t you find the good? 

Why can’t you be better? 

You are such a downer. Snap out of it.

I spent a LOT of time and energy shaming myself for not being happy and joyful about this run. I’m always searching for the good. Which is, well, good … until it’s not. I can do this to a fault. 

Because some things just aren’t good. And we can’t be happy all the time. I think it’s counterproductive to expect to find good everywhere. Toxic positivity, as the kids say.

I think sometimes Christians feel like we have to focus on or find the good in EVERYTHING, and we can’t just leave something categorized as awful, horrible, devastating. Because that feels much more uncomfortable. This can cause great damage to someone who has suffered incredible loss, abuse, trauma or other terrible events. Pouring out your deepest pain, only to hear, “But aren’t you thankful for it now and how it taught you and made you stronger?” or “But look on the bright side …” is a wound some have spent too long working to heal.

No, I’m not thankful for abuse and neglect and pain and damage that is frustratingly still affecting me in my mid 30s. 

Trauma does not make us strong. It breaks us in catastrophic ways. 

And you don’t have to be thankful for horrible things that have happened in your life, either. That makes no sense.

Sometimes we need to face reality. 

The HEALING WORK of the Lord, and the work with counselors, are what gives the strength. We don’t have to be thankful for bad things while also being thankful for whatever good the Lord has brought OUT of it.

Something my counselor has been having me work on for a long while now is the both/and idea. Instead of only allowing myself to be happy OR sad, or whatever, it’s AND. 

This sucks SO BAD, and, I’m really thankful to be healthy enough to run.

I hate this right now, AND, I know it won’t last forever.

I am miserable, AND, I love to run. 

What happened back then was terrible and unfair, AND, I’m thankful for the ways the Lord has brought healing. 

Both can co-exist, and we don’t have to dismiss the bad 

the pain 

the hurt 

with a “but” and an “[insert good thing]”. 

In counseling, every time I’d recall a traumatic event, I’d end with a “but” and something positive. When my counselor stopped me and said, “What would it feel like to give yourself permission to say that sentence without the “but _________”? To truly let yourself acknowledge the awful?” 

I sat there and wept for minutes on end. 

 What would it be like for you to fully acknowledge and feel that awful thing without the “but___________”? 

So, I decided to stop wasting my energy trying to make myself be happy, and just sit in the suck. A weight lifted off me. 

In this broken world, things stink, period. AND, in the same breath, I know that my life is good—there are much worse things going on in the world. AND, I am proud that I’m giving the best that I have today. Life can be sucky AND wonderful. 

Reminder 3: We don’t have to be thankful for the storms, AND, we can be thankful for the fruit they produce in us

Life can bring terrible things our way, 

“AND, we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Slogging toward the finish line

Miles felt like 5ks. 

I was seeing my split times and they looked OK, but obviously nothing earth-shattering was happening today. My sole focus was just getting to the finish line. 

Really, my goal was getting back to the hotel room to a scorching hot shower.

I didn’t even look at my overall elapsed time until mile 11. I must have read the numbers wrong, or maybe doing simple math in this situation was too much to ask, but I calculated my finish time to be 1:30:00 to 1:31:00. No chance of a PR (personal record). 

The rain started pouring even harder. The wind would whip and swirl and jerk me around a bit. I’d have to run leaning to the side when we had a cross wind. Some of the race was on gravel paths. They were muddy and slushy and riddled with potholes, puddles and little rivers of flash floods. It was often a dance to dodge the super-big and deep-looking ones. I’m sure we all looked like football players doing footwork through tires. 

I may have mumbled some words I’m not proud of.

Oh STOP— don’t act like all you fellow Jesus freaks have never done that. I’ve heard it from the mouth of a pastor during a volleyball game. I’ve heard my father, a man who wouldn’t even say “darn,” shout a choice one aloud when our dog saw an open door and headed for the hills for the 80th time.

So anyway, there I was, soaking wet, angry, bitter, running for my ever-loving life in a hurricane in Chicago, one mile from the finish line, mumbling. This was nothing like I dreamed this day would be. I prayed for and so clearly envisioned a delightful fall day, crisp dry air, an ever-so-slight gentle breeze, beautiful blue skies, brilliant colored trees illuminated by sunshine, whilst I floated along the course with a smile on my face to a shiny new personal best, all while enjoying the lovely scenery. If I wasn’t so mad and uncomfortable, I’d have probably laughed at how polar opposite this entire experience was.  

With less than half a mile to go, I was barreling down a hill to go under a bridge. A volunteer smiled and told me good job. I’m not proud to say that I kinda wanted to punch them in the face. 

I came up on the other side of the bridge and there were three different paths to choose from, and cones everywhere that had been blown around by the wind. I became super disoriented and came to a complete stop. I yelled out loud, to nobody, “WHERE DO I GO?!?!” 

And then I saw it through the rain— the finish line. Straight. I go straight. 

I waded through the biggest puddle (small lake) for what felt like an eternity and then sprinted the last 30 or 50 meters to the finish line.

I looked at the clock.

An hour and 28 minutes?


I ran a PR? I ran a lifetime half marathon PR?!

And placed first female?!

in THIS?? 

Reminder 4: Reaching our dreams never goes the way we imagine.

Those people with the amazing marriage? Ask them how much hard work it takes. That person with the paycheck you dream of? Ask them the sacrifices they had to make and work they had to put in to get there. That person who seems so strong and wise and inspiring? Ask them what they had to walk through and heal from to need strength and wisdom like that.

The best things in life also seem to come with a requirement of the hardest challenges. Don’t be surprised when you are led through a storm that you think is going to ruin you, that feels the opposite of where you need to be, but that God actually uses to give you EXACTLY what you’ve been wanting for so long. 

Kaylin’s half-marathon time of 1 hour, 28 minutes, 51.8 seconds topped the field of 246 women and was seventh-best among all 518 runners that day. She finished ahead of the second-place woman by more than 4 minutes.

Kaylin Carlson
I am passionate about Jesus, family, running, music, nature, and bread. I love searching for and journaling about ways the Lord speaks to and teaches me through my life experiences, both big and small.


  1. Avatar

    Wow! Kaylin great story. God bless you. Good reminder of God’s grace in our lives. I need that reminder at this time. Life on planet earth is not all a thankful thing and I need to call it what it is,

  2. Avatar

    Thank you Kaylin for your words of wisdom that can be used in my life. And congrats on the great run.

  3. Avatar

    Hi, Kaylin! Me again! I ran a half up in Whitewater some years ago (Did I mention that last week?), and it was somewhere around 2 hrs. I eventually ended up doing 3 marathons, with the absolute worst time being Grandma’s in Duluth. The bus brought us from the finish line to the starting line via a long drive, and it was so cold there on Lake Superior that they gave us garbage bags to put on, since most of us were nowhere near prepared for the weather. My time ended up being 5:11:54. The only thing that gave me something to be proud of was that I finished.


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