Well it’s been a couple weeks since I ran in the Ogden Marathon. I am finally getting around to jotting down my reflections from the race. As most marathoners could probably attest to, one tends to be left with some insights into one thing or another after running 26.2 miles. And so is the case for me. I hope this is not a self-touting blog but rather one of spiritual insight into the matters of the race that we as Christians run in this world.
I think that the most enjoyable part of the marathon (particularly the Ogden) is before the race actually starts. In the Ogden, one has the privilege of rising and shining at 4am and being bused up the canyon by 5am. Once at the starting point, everyone (5,000 freaky, smiling humans) gets to stand around burning barrels out in a dark, cold field. Sound like fun yet? Actually it is in it’s own weird way. Most everyone is smiling, laughing and talking with anticipation. There is a certain amount of excitement in the air and an understanding amongst fellow runners of what we purposefully put ourselves through to get to the starting line, let alone the finish. Finish?
Well, I see this moment as the Sunday morning church service moment. We as believers get up early in the morning, cart our whole smiling, cheerful and willing family members off to church. Once there we are usually not greeted by burning barrels but nonetheless are lifted up with anticipation, excitement, hope and faith. Our faith is increased by the presence of the Holy Spirit, one another and the speaking of God’s truth. It’s our starting line for the week and our life here on planet earth. But it is not the actual race let alone the finish. It’s just the start where excitement and anticipation abound.
BANG! The gun goes off and that means I have to start running. How does one start running a marathon, or any other race for that matter? One foot in front of the other. If trouble surfaces, then deal with it and figure out a way to keep going. I am reminded of the time I participated in another psychotic event also known as the Ironman. It was the first time I had ever swam in open water with thousands of other people all around me. The gun went off and I managed to get in the water and start swimming with the masses. About a ¼ mile out or so, I got kicked in the face and I started to get that overwhelming panicky feeling. I actually started hyperventilating. So, I had to pop my head up and tread water for a minute or so. It seemed like forever but I was absolutely determined that I was going to make it to the finish that day. After a prayer I decided to just relax, make it fun and enjoy the swim. Not long after that it was actually a fun experience. Very exhilarating actually.
So often in our spiritual lives we like to hover around the starting line with all the smiling, friendly faces. We don’t want to actually go do the race. Whether it be plunging into the unknown or enduring something impossible or seemingly too hard. Obviously, we need to lace up our spiritual shoes at the starting line and allow Jesus to lead us through the hard paths ahead.
This year I got to run the marathon with Stacy’s cousin John. This worked out very well as we had similar finish time goals. I wanted to get under 3:15 to qualify for the Boston Marathon and John wanted to run a 3:15 as well. At the start all the way through about mile 13, I pushed him harder than what he would of set out to do. From about mile 13 to mile 20, he pushed me harder than what I would of done on my own. Point being is that we pushed each other to do better than what we would of done on our own and we actually had fun doing it. That is, until about mile 20. I could tell John was feeling much more spunky than me so I told him to go for it and off he went.
Of course the spiritual application with this is that we need each other along our race. I mean, we actually NEED EACH OTHER! I’m not talking about the Sunday morning start line gathering and smiling and patting each other on the back and calling it good for the week. Sometimes we need to get in the trenches with each other. It is amazing how we can push each other through hard times and the burden seems twice as light in the process. Who knows, blessings and smiles often seem to be the result rather than despair and hopelessness.
With that said, from mile 20 on I got left in the marathon dust. I hit the wall and knew that it was going to be a long hard 6 miles to the Pearly Gate Ogden finish. Two things kept me going though; hope and a dream. I had hope of actually getting a personal record because John and I had pushed each other up to this point. I also had a dream; I wanted to qualify for the Boston marathon. Those two things kept me going even though every mile got harder and harder.
We as Christians need hope. Our hope is in Christ and we need to keep our eyes fixed on him. We also need to be following that dream that God has uniquely planted into each and every one of our hearts. He wants us and knows that, if we are in his will, we can pursue and achieve those dream(s). Without these elements we can give up or not keep going like we could. no real dream = wimp out
Mile 23 and I began to wonder if I was capable of running another 3 miles. I began talking and yelling at myself to keep going (yes, the psychotic part). Then I began to hear positive yelling behind me. “You can do it. Keep this pace up and you’ll be there by 3:15. Just stick with me.” “Thank you Lord,” I must of thought in my hazy state. Umm.. well anyway, this wasn’t our Heavenly Father providentially speaking directly to me but it sure sounded like it. Then the voices and running (maybe floating) bodies passed me. It was a pacer trying to get someone in by 3:15. Most marathoners know that pacers do their job. They get runners in to the Boston. So I latched on and tried to hang with them. I also grabbed my last nutritions (Gatorade, water, water on head, banana jammed in mouth) and kept going.
Like the nutritional stops at about every mile to three miles in a marathon, we need to take our daily nutritional stops spiritually. We need our spiritual nourishment every day. It’s what keeps us going in our race. Without it, we collapse.
Things are getting pretty hazy now. The pacer group began to pull away. I began to fall into despair again. Everything was screaming to stop. Somewhere in the midst of it all though I caught back up with the glorious Boston pacer group. The pacer was still giving words of encouragement but the runner stopped as I ran by.. hmmm I thought, that was weird. Not long after that, they caught back up to me, so I sucked right into their pack. The pacer looked at me with a nod of approval and without saying a word we knew what we were after. So, despite all common sense, I stuck with them and then I began to puke my guts out and then I began to yell at myself but I stuck with them. Yes, life gets ugly sometimes. I am pretty sure that pacer has a great story to tell about me but the fact of the matter is is that we all made it to the finish before 3:15 (my watch said 3:14.59 to be exact but my official time came in at 3:14.47). So, when I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch, it seemed like a God moment. Wow, those angel pacers sure know what they are doing. Anyway, the dream was achieved and the race was finished.
So, the aha of it is the idea of getting into the race. Whatever race that might be and whatever pace that might be. It doesn’t matter quite frankly. I have friends that kick my butt now in races but I also have people tell me they couldn’t run a ½ mile if they tried. I also have two boys that don’t walk. Their goals are to crawl and roll. Bottom-line, I know what really matters is simply getting in where you are, both spiritually and physically and taking that first step or crawl or roll or whatever. It’s a different race for all and we are all at different levels but what is important is taking off with that first step across the start and setting our eyes on the finish. It is not pretty sometimes or glorious but will you run the race that God has for you? It’s an adventure that is never forgotten or with regret.
Ok.. I’m off the soapbox.