PARTNER IN CRIME: by jodi stilp

I want to introduce you to my training partner.

Ladies, meet Carissa – wife to Tass, mother to Lukas, Toby, and Markus, daughter, sister, friend to many, and runner.  In her pre-kid life she worked as a tax accountant which translates to her being really smart and paying attention to detail.  In her post-kid life she added “teacher” to her list of accomplishments and is successfully home-schooling her sons. I think she’s pretty amazing.

We met almost three years ago at house church.  We were both new to the area and new to Solid Rock.  Occasionally we’d pray together in small group catching glimpses of each other’s lives in five-minute snippets.  I often thought to myself, “I need to get to know Carissa better.”  But we left to start a house church in Newberg and my interactions with Carissa over the next two years dwindled to sporadic interactions on Facebook and random sightings at church.

In that time Carissa got pregnant, had a baby, lost all her baby weight in a matter of months, and ran a half-marathon at a pace I’d worked for three years to attain. Are you as impressed as I am?

As for me, I injured my knee, had surgery and spent six months in physical therapy rebuilding my strength.  I ran my first post-surgery race right after a family reunion where my step-brothers (who are very fit and fast runners) shanghaied me into a verbal commitment to run the Portland marathon with them.  I walked away thinking, “What did I just get myself into?”

Within weeks Carissa emailed and asked, “Are you by any chance running the Portland marathon?  I’d love a partner for the long runs at the end of the training program.  Would you be interested?”  With that email we became partners in crime.

Our partnership is mostly electronic.  We message each other when we run, lamenting when it’s super tough and celebrating when we fly through a run.  We check in with each other for accountability and encouragement and once a month try to run together.

Our first training run was eighteen miles in the foothills surrounding Newberg. We used our three hours of running to pepper each other with questions, tell how we met our husbands, and share our parenting struggles.  By the time we huffed our way back to my driveway we were fast friends.

Carissa is thoughtful, calm and collected.  Her running reflects her personality.  She tackles a run in a calm, calculated manner, regulates her breathing to keep it even at all times, and never appears to be struggling.  I am impulsive, excitable, and emotional.  My running reflects my personality.   My pace changes drastically based on the terrain.  I sprint down hills, sound like an asthmatic woman in labor when I climb, and sigh, moan, hoop and holler as my emotions dictate.  Carissa rolls her eyes at my crazy antics and laughs at my lame jokes.  I appreciate her take-charge, no-nonsense approach to life.  She takes care of all the planning and details and I just show up at the appointed time (or maybe a few minutes late). We make a good team.

Over time our partnership has grown from running accountability to life accountability.  We check in with each other, lamenting when life is super tough and celebrating when we’re in a season of victory.  We pray for each other, our husbands and our kids.

I invited myself over for dinner and a sleepover at Carissa’s house the night before the Portland marathon because she lives closer to the start of the race and I abhor getting up early.  We ran the marathon together in the pouring rain and had a “we’re really doing this” emotional moment at mile 13.

Sharing that grueling race with a comrade made me realize I never want to run a long race alone again.

A few weeks ago we ran the Eugene half marathon together.  We used the race as a chance to escape for 24 hours of girls only time.  It was life-giving for both of us.

Last weekend we previewed the Helevetia half marathon course.  Carissa brought a friend and we all met at West Union Elementary School.  I was a few minutes late, slightly discombobulated, and prepared to run a ten-mile loop and not a step further.  Carissa was on time, stretched out, and hoping to add three miles to our loop to make a full half marathon.  None of this surprised either one of us.  After all, we’re partners.

We ran up, down and around country roads through breath-taking farmland.  Cows mooed.  Dogs barked.  Birds sang.  We passed the quaintest country church (just wait until you see it) and ran past clover fields in full bloom hemmed in by the coastal mountain range.  The beauty of the route took the edge off the pain of climbing so many hills. You ladies will love this course.

I asked Carissa if I could share the story of how our friendship evolved.  She said,  “Go for it.  God’s fingerprints are all over our running partnership and friendship.  I pray writing about it will bless others too.”

We all need a friend who embraces our differences, celebrates our victories, and challenges us to grow.  King David had a friend like this in Jonathan who “loved David as he loved himself.” (I Samuel 20:17)  When David was literally running for his life and hiding in caves, Jonathan found David’s hiding place and “helped him find strength in God.” (I Samuel 23:16)

Do you have a partner in crime like Carissa who helps you find strength in God?  Once you have a comrade that sticks by your side through the grueling race called life you will never want to run alone again.

Persevering with you,


PS: Check back next week for more details about race day!