Well Wishers and the Race of Life

I’m going to be running 13.1 miles on Saturday, November 24.

That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write, yet it’s true.

I’ve spent since August preparing my body to run what’s known as a half-marathon; the first ever in my neck of the woods. I’ve probably never been more ‘fit’ or ‘athletic’ than I am right now (and those of you who know me know that’s not saying much).

This will be the longest run I have ever completed, and I have to say, I’m pretty excited to run it. Training for the past number of weeks has been a kind of sacred ritual for me; spending Saturday mornings with a few other guys on a ‘long run’ has been a welcome respite from the work week…even though here lately it’s hard to sacrifice the time it takes to cover 10, 11, and 12 mile runs on a precious day off.

You can imagine, going out for a long run like that, gives you plenty of time to think.

Actually, it gives you an agonizingly long time to think (especially when your running partners are sick or injured so there’s no chance at conversation or joke-making).

The nuggets I’ve found most interesting lately, as my training runs have grown into double digits in terms of miles, have to do with things like how running, and training for a race relates to our faith in ways you just don’t understand until you’ve run 9 consecutive miles.

For me, that’s when my body starts to deteriorate to the point of needing water to replenish the fluid lost through sweat.

Starting at about 9 miles, I’d get home after my long run and I’d be completely destroyed for the rest of the day.
I’d sit at the table and I would barely be able to hold a utensil to eat some food. I’d be quivery, weak, and I’d drink water until I was sick. Then I’d lay around a good bit of the rest of the day, recovering my strength. I figured it was just my body “getting in shape”.

But this week (mile 12)…I discovered the enormous benefit of hydrating as you go. I took a water bottle with me for the first time ever. I’d stop for a few seconds every 20 or 30 minutes, and I’d schlepp a gulp or two.

I couldn’t believe the difference it made.

I got home and I was still tired from the effort of running 12 miles…but I felt good tired (not destroyed like I was in previous weeks). I recovered faster and I felt better throughout the run. Also, my hands didn’t swell up like volleyballs like they had in previous weeks.

In short, it was so much more enjoyable that I’m wondering why it took me this long to think of it.

This all has me understanding Paul a little bit differently, when he talks about running in a way to get the prize, or finishing the race, or beating your body. It’s easy to be satisfied with an interpretation that just says Paul means run without being hindered…run as fast as you can…run with your eyes on the goal…and all that is somewhat true.

But when you run distance, your whole mindset changes. The race IS knowing my body. It’s being prepared to go the distance…taking your water with you, knowing when you need to stop and take a drink. Distance running isn’t about getting somewhere fast…it’s about getting there period. The most important part of running 13.1 miles for me isn’t how quickly I can do it…it’s knowing I can do it, and when the race is over, knowing I’ve done it. It takes hard work and determination to finish the race.

It takes learning some unpleasant lessons, just to get to the starting line with a body that’s healthy enough to compete.

See, each runner has their own race. Some mean to place in first, second, or third place. Others (like me) just want to not walk. Maybe still others just want to cross the finish line no matter what it takes.

Can we understand Paul a little more broadly? Can we see that running in such a way as to get the prize looks different from one individual to the next?

We all might be running the same course…but there are as many races as there are people running.

And our job is to run our race. What’s yours?

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