Every day we take between 17,000 and 30,000 breaths—usually without being aware of a single one of them.

It’s 4 o’clock in the morning when my alarm goes off. The black sky outside the window shivers with icy stars as 20-degree winds scatter autumn leaves in the light of the street lamps. This is crazy, a voice within me whispers. But another voice is louder and stronger: Training doesn’t lie. You are ready for this. And as I prepare to run, I pray. For the victims of the recent terror attacks in Israel. For my family. For myself. “Please G‑d,” I whisper, “carry me. Give me breath. Lift my feet. Show me the way.” But these first prayers, as the sky begins to show the first hints of light, are tentative. They are like wisps of shadows fading in the rising light.

However, as I continue, the first 12 miles of running turn those whispers into words. As I prepare to run, I prayI run beneath trees that are turning gold and red and crimson. And I watch the trees let go of yesterday. Free themselves from the limits of the past. “Please G‑d, teach me too how to let go when I need to,” I whisper. The waterfalls gleam in the morning light, and my footsteps echo across the bridge. “Thank You, G‑d, for the rising sun. For the warmth of its light. For the hope in its rays. For the way it turns the sky into a masterpiece dripping with incandescent pinks and ambers, like the passion of every artist in the world captured in one picture. Thank You for the water. The way it sparkles and flows and purifies. For the way it teaches me to keep going. One foot in front of the other. Like You teach me to do in every part of my life. Thank You for the oxygen in every breath. For guiding my feet. For holding my family. For holding the Jewish people. For bringing me to this moment. Right here. Right now. Running underneath the autumn sun with words of gratitude pouring from my heart.”

But then, at some point during the next 12 miles, my prayer moves beyond the calm gratitude that had been carrying me forward. At first I can’t tell the difference, but somewhere around mile 17 my prayer changes. It feels like one moment I am in gratitude mode, basking in the fresh air and sunshine, and suddenly my feet ache and my breathing begins to feel labored. And now my words are no longer whispers. They are not even sentences. No, they are cries. Not loud, sobbing cries. But they are cries. “G‑d, please don’t abandon Your children. Bring healing to your people. Bring redemption! Help us! We are lost. We are confused. We are in pain. G‑d, help!” I focus on my breath. How it brings me life with each step. “G‑d, help my community, help my family, help me! Show me how to be a better wife, a better mother, a better person. G‑d, help me!”

Am I crying? I don’t even know, because the aching in my legs is becoming stronger. And I am continuing only on the wings of my prayer. It sustains me, carries me, reminds me that G‑d is the One who decides how far we can go without stopping. And I am breaking through that wall that blocks me so often from connection. In this moment, G‑d is all I have, and I cling to Him with every word and every step. “Help me!”

But my prayer has one more step to go. Because somehow, after 24 miles, I have found a way to climb beyond my aching legs and the voice in my head that is telling me to stop moving. I am no longer a prisoner to my pain. It is there; it is trying to crush me. But the finish line is so close. Twenty-six point two miles almost completed. Without my even realizing it, I have moved into a state of pure awe. I know, with every exhalation of breath, that G‑d is all I ever had, have or will have. That the sky, the trees, the water and the ground beneath me are all one, brought into being every second by His word. That He renews, I am suddenly one with the windcreates and gives life to me every moment of my life. That He has brought me through miles of joy, of challenge, of beauty too numerous to count. That He hears my thank you. That He responds to my cries for help. And I am suddenly one with the wind, one with my heart, one with my soul, running faster than my thoughts. Until the core truth of it all bursts through at mile 26.2: It is all One. It is all You. The darkness and the light. The joy and the pain. The running and the stopping. The holding on and the letting go. And every mile, every step along our journey, becomes prayer.

“Thank You. Help me. I am in awe.”