Sept. 15, 2013
1 Corinthians 9:24-25
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. 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.
On Sun., Sept. 8, Madison hosted the Ironman Wisconsin. This is a physically daunting event where participants swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a full marathon (26.2 miles) in one day. I volunteered at a bike pit stop station in Mt Horeb, 20 minutes from our home. I was humbled to hear people had driven three hours from Chicago that morning to volunteer at the pit stop.
As the swim began at 7 AM, we set up the pit stop. We handed out water, a power drink, GU packets (a carbohydrate gel packet), bananas and small energy bars. We were instructed how to properly hand out items, not get in the way, slow participants down or cause accidents.
The bike route was two loops of the same route. Our pit stop was mile 30 and mile 70. Just before 9 AM, the first professional participants came whizzing by. Despite the pit stop being on a slight incline, these uber athletes were not fazed. We noted the first woman. After the professionals, athletes arrived in groups. Most athletes had drinks and food strapped to their bike. Some simply refreshed their water or power drink supply. Others depended upon what we were handing out.
I was a banana hander-outer. We told the athletes what we had. In a few hours, I yelled “Banana!” hundreds of times. It was helpful when the athletes told us what they wanted. Some hand-offs weren’t clean. There was another banana person after me, so they had another opportunity to snag one.
One way to enter an Ironman is to volunteer. Several folks at the pit stop planned on being in line the following morning with their blue “volunteer” t-shirt to sign-up for the 2014 event. While it sounded intriguing, I should try a mini-triathlon before signing up for the granddaddy. I also need to get into better shape and see if my aging body can handle the physical stress of a full-blown Ironman.
What these athletes do is amazing. I have biked over 100 miles on a ride and run a full marathon. Just not in the same day. The winner crossed the finish line at 8:40:15. He ran a 3:06:09 marathon. While not Olympic marathon speed, he completed a 4:34:58 bike ride before switching bike clips for running shoes. The first-place woman crossed at 9:47:07. She averaged 20.52/miles/hour on her bike and 7:28 minutes/mile running. Impressive.
When the New Testament was written, Olympic events happened in Greece. Winners were crowned with a natural wreath of olive branches and leaves which lasted just a while. They soon died. As Paul wrote about running for a crown, people knew he was talking about this. The crown we should be running for should be an eternal crown. It doesn’t come from completing the Wisconsin Ironman. It comes as we complete the task Jesus gave us of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Watching the Ironman Wisconsin was impressive and inspiring. Every clapped loudly as two brothers came by. One has Cerebral Palsy. His brother road a three-wheeled bike with his brother strapped to the front. Another man pedaled up the hill with a disabled woman strapped to a tag-along behind his bike. As impressive as the professional athletes are, true Ironman heroes are the Joe-average athletes who train thousands of hours with time away from families, friends and jobs. As the day continues, it is less physical and more of a mental and emotional challenge.
The most important race I shall ever run is testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Some days, it’s easier to do than others! At times, it is emotionally and mentally draining, as well as physically and spiritually. My goal is not to be the best Christian: it’s to represent God’s grace in my daily living, attitudes and choices. When we do this, I believe there is an eternal crown waiting for us.
It was truly inspiring and amazing to witness athletes complete an Ironman. May it renew within me a passion to complete the greatest race of my life: to witness to Your grace daily. Give me the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual maturity to complete this great race for your kingdom. Amen.
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