2 Timothy 2:22 – Run as fast as you can from all the ambitions and lusts of youth; and chase after all that is pure. Whatever builds up your faith and deepens your love must become your holy pursuit. And live in peace with all those who worship our Lord Jesus with pure hearts.
It was three days before the race … and I knew that I was in trouble.
Earlier this summer, my friend Barb asked if I would run a half-marathon with her. She had never run one. I have but it has been over a decade since the last time I ran 13.1 miles at one time. Wanting to support my friend, I agreed to do so.
I bought new running shoes. I put together a training schedule. Barb and I signed up for a 5K and then a 10K; good training races for the half-marathon.
With each passing week, I felt a little stronger running. My body has changed in the last 10 years from when I last did this much running. I’m older and not as strong and flexible. My joints are well-used tires; tired and sometimes cranky. Recovery days, aka – no run days – became my friend. Fueling and hydrating my body has changed. Basically, I’m an older and rustier version of myself and I need a lot more TLC this time around.
My training was bare bones but hopefully just enough. One day last week as I drove the racecourse, I realized that I was in trouble. The route was hillier than I anticipated. Driving all 13.1 miles made me realize again just how far a half-marathon really is. Not a quitter, I convinced myself that I would walk the last couple miles if necessary. I could do this.
In casual passing, I mentioned to my sister Debbie that I was in way over my head with this half-marathon. What was I thinking?
Have you ever experienced a time when someone else knew what you needed more than you did? My sister realized exactly what I needed and delivered. Did God poke her to encourage me? This is a very good possibility. And it worked.
The race was last Sunday. Hubby Rick and I arrived home late Saturday night after a long day. These were waiting on our front porch. FYI – Fresh flowers are one of my love languages.
With this beautiful message.
There it was. Right in front of me. Important words coming back to the pastor.
So often in life, we focus on the wrong thing rather than the most important thing. Was a particular finish time the most important part of running this half marathon? Nope. If not, what was?
Well, I had 13.1 miles on Sunday morning to figure this out.
Before I left home for the race, I told Hubby Rick there was a good chance that I would be the last person to finish the half marathon. His reply, “And what is wrong with this?”
Good point, I concurred.
Barb also had extra encouragement for her first half-marathon. Her sister Janet decided to run as her Sherpa; a pace runner to get Barb across the finish line. Buoyed with our sister’s support and a quick prayer before we started running, we were off.
Quickly, I was the back of the pack. Well, me and a 70ish-year-old man who pulled away by mile 7. Then, it was me and the bike medics who circled back every once in awhile to make sure I was doing OK. I overheard the medics tell people on their radios that “the woman in the pink shorts” is the end of runners. Yep, that was me.
Early on, things didn’t go quite as planned. My running watch which helps me know my running pace did not work. Then, the running app on my phone quit working. Fortunately, I had a local Christian radio station app and turned to this. Yes, the course was as hilly as I anticipated.
By mile two, I decided that I could enjoy this time out on the road … or I could make it miserable. I chose to make it as pleasant as running a half-marathon in 80 degree weather could be.
I could thank every volunteer along the route for handing out water and snacks. I would appreciate the police officers who managed traffic at busy intersections. I told the bike medics that I was glad they were out on the course.
As the back-of-the pack medic bikers and I came towards the end of the race, they radioed in every time I completed another mile. “She’s just past mile 11,” I heard them say. And again, at mile 12 and mile 13. At that point, I thanked them for keeping this Clydesdale company as I clomped down the road and apologized for being so slow. One medic slowed down and said to me, “No need to apologize, mam. I want you to know that you finished ahead of all the people who didn’t even try to run today.”
He almost made me cry.
What was the most important thing for me to accomplish while out on this course? Was it to finish? Was it to try and smile even when my body was tired and ready to be done? Was it to see if my mind is stronger than my body? Was it to celebrate my friend Barb completing her first half-marathon?
Was it to know that I can do hard things even as my age approaches the normal speed limit? Was it so I would have a long time to pray and pray and pray? Was it so I would spend most of the time listening to Christian radio rather than calculating my pace? Was it so I would depend upon God to help me cross that finish line rather than relying purely upon myself?
Maybe, it’s a little bit of each of these things and more. Maybe, it is a metaphor to make sure that I am chasing the most important things in my life, on and off of a racecourse. Maybe it is a about sisters and family supporting loved ones. Maybe it is stretching ourselves beyond what is comfortable and discovering something new in the process.
As the finish line approached, I saw Hubby Rick, Barb, Janet and Barb’s husband and daughter cheering for me as I crossed the rubber finish mat. Honestly, I do not know what my final running time was. It does not matter. It never really was about the time. It was about faith in a holy pursuit that has taught me to look beyond myself and have peace with who I am as a child of God. I can connect my faith to the happy and the challenging moments in my life. As I do this, I accomplish one of my most important things. Peace becomes a part of my life. Faith becomes part of the simple (and difficult) things that happen. Every. Single. Day. And this my friends, feels like an important accomplishment for my life and faith journey.
Friends, what are your most important things?
For the race that taught me so much more than just running, I am grateful.
Holy God – We can spend our whole lives chasing things that seem important in the moment but in the end, really are not. We can convince ourselves that we have what we need and do not always need You by our sides. We get caught up in achieving benchmarks that we think are so important but to You are purely distractions. Lord God – may I see You in the simple and difficult things I will experience today. Tomorrow. This week, month and year. And every day I am blessed with. Amen.