My heart was racing and my legs were aching, but my eyes were set on the finish line.
Saturday, April 6th, I finished my second half marathon. For those of you who don’t know me, I have never been a runner. As a matter of fact, my parents laughed when I told them I signed up for my first half marathon. I don’t have a competitive bone in my body. Most of my cardio used to come from shopping and cheerleading. As a matter of fact, I used to hate running so much that I failed the mile run in high school. It wasn’t until I roomed with a girl in college who loved to run and convinced me to do a 5K with her. That first race was 5 years ago, and back then I would have laughed if you would have told me that I’d eventually be able to run 13.1 miles…in a row.
In college, running was a way I could find alone time with the Lord. The moment I began to hit the road and move my legs, I realized that running is much more than exercise. It affects me spiritually, physically and emotionally. Running has taught me to rely on Jesus in ways I never could have imagined.
Each time my legs hit the pavement, my mind told me I should just walk. But seeing the crowds and the people cheering kept my feet moving toward the prize ahead of me.
In Scripture, the life of a believer is described as a race. God created our bodies to move. Paul understood that when we are disciplined and “in training”, we work harder and are able to endure more. He compares physical training as having some profit, but godly discipline as having great, eternal profit in 1 Timothy 4:8. Below are even more Scriptures comparing running a race to fulfilling the task God has for us:
- “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)
- “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
- “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
- “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Everything within me wanted to give up at mile 8 when I saw the hill ahead of me. As I pushed myself up, step by step, I set my eyes on level pavement up at the top.
As believers, we learn discipline, obedience and endurance when we “run”. Not all people can physically run, but everyone can live in such a way that we are striving toward Jesus everyday in whatever He has called them to do. Running has taught me that things I fear I can’t overcome are possibly with the help of Christ. Anything worth while requires hard work, nourishement and the strength of God in and through us. Without my eyes being firmly fixed on Jesus, I would never finish the race.
Running represents freedom. My precious friend, Mary Margaret, is training for her first half marathon at the end of this month. I was talking to her recently about how the discipline of running has affected her life. She said that as she has run, she has literally felt the “chains falling off.” It was in that moment that she understood that God was using running to set her free. (Read her running story here and support her race!)
My mind was set on resting when I crossed the finish line. As I kept moving, I looked forward to the moment I could just sit.
Running opens my eyes to my need for rest. I sleep better and have more energy when I run. Setting aside time to run also makes me take a break from activities and things I need to do. It is always a sweet time I spend with the Lord listening to worship music, memorizing Scripture or listening to a podcast. Having a race I am training for requires me to rest so that I will finish. The Lord uses it for His glory.
Close to the end of the race, I looked at the man next to me and he yelled at me to sprint with him to the finish line. I mustered up the last bit of energy I had and ran next to him to reach the end.
As I ran on Saturday, I realized, firsthand, how life is like a race. In the beginning, I was energized by the people and the task ahead. I was well-rested, well-nourished and physically full of energy. But once I got halfway and realized I had to do everything I just did all over again, discouragement started to creep in. A huge part of running is the mind. Physically our bodies grow weary, but with a strong mental state, we can keep going. The same is true in our walk with Christ. The race Saturday taught me a few lessons that are carrying into my daily walk with Jesus.
- Don’t look to other runners. Comparison only leads to discouragement and weariness. As other runners passed me, I had to listen to my body and stay on track. The same happens in my walk with Christ. I can’t look at what God is doing in the life of others. I need to keep my eyes on loving Jesus and listening to what He is teaching me.
- Receive refreshment along the way. When we get weary in our journey, we need to stop and receive nourishment. As I ran, I took advantage of every water stop. Sometimes we get so focused on finishing at a certain time that we don’t receive nourishment from Jesus and others. When exhaustion starts to kick in, take a step back, slow down and be refreshed in the Word.
- Run at your own speed. We are all created differently with different tasks to fulfill for the glory of God. With that being said, we must run at our own pace, not trying to keep up with those ahead or falling behind by being lazy. Knowing your “pace” in life will help you accomplish more for Jesus.
- Keep your eyes on the finish line. Everytime I wanted to quit when I was running, I remembered that with each step I took, I drew closer to the finish line. Having a “future” mentality provides the strength we need for today.
Whether you are a runner or a walker, we are all in the race together. Let’s live our lives in such a way as to win the prize. Jesus is our motivation, our strength and our prize. It is He who will help us cross the finish line.