For the first 25 years of my life, I absolutely despised running. I despised it from my earliest years when we had to do the dreaded “mile run” in gym class.
When I was in my mid-20’s, the very first Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon launched. The marketing agency with which I was working at the time did all of the design work for the race, and I also had some friends who were training for that inaugural race. Aside from thinking, “That’s nice. Good for them!”, I gave no additional thought to the race or (cringe) running.
As race day in Cincinnati approached, my roommate and I learned that the Flying Pig route was going right by our house. The morning of the race was warm and sunny, so we grabbed our coffee and chairs and headed to the sidelines to cheer on our friends who were participating.
Little did I know that the next two hours on the sidelines would present turning point in my life.
This was the first experience I ever had watching a marathon. It was exhilarating! Runners of all shapes and sizes were trotting by, and most actually looked like they were having a blast (ha – thankfully we were at mile 8 and not 20!) In between searching for and cheering on our friends, we cheered on everyone else who ran by. I started becoming more and more intrigued, taking notice of each runner who passed by. How did she get to this point? How is he running for so long? And how can they possibly be enjoying this?
That’s when I heard a little whisper, “You will be running this next year.” Come again? I hate running. No way could I run ONE mile much less 26.2. “You will be running this next year.” It echoed over and over again. It continued as we made our way home.
At this point in my life I was at my peak weight. I could not even run one full mile, so this whisper made no sense to me. God clearly had a plan for me.
I’ve read that Discipline is what Christ followers need most and want least. Well I can tell you that I desperately wanted it at this point. I knew that if I was truly going to start running, I was going to need some major divine intervention!
Little did I know, I was embarking on some of the biggest spiritual lessons God would ever teach me. Making the decision became the easy part. Hanging in there for nearly a year of training was not going to be easy. I quickly knew where I had to keep my eyes fixed if I was going to run this race.
“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, 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12: 1-3
It required equipping myself. I learned that I needed the right gear — shoes, clothing, nutrition, etc. I also learned I needed the right frame of mind. Each day, I had to invite God in. I needed His strength, patience, and self-control if I was going to journey this path.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” Acts 1:8.
It required sticking to the plan. I knew if I stuck with the specific running schedule and training plan that my guide book spelled out, I would succeed, barring any injury. I had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 11:12
It required intentionality. It required saying no to some things when I wanted to say yes, and yes when I wanted to say no. I had to invite God into those decisions each day.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 1 Timothy 1:7
“Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2 Cor 7:1
It required grace. I knew I would fumble at some point. I knew some days would be hard. But I also had hope in God’s promise that each day is a new day. God expected nothing other than for me to start from here.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
It required patience. And I knew that if I sped up, I would poop out. It took months to work up to 5K and 10K mileage. I had to remain slow and steady in my training.
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” – Ecclesiastes 7:8
It required community. I needed supporters who would cheer me on, and be God’s light. That came in many forms — an awesome running group with whom I could train alongside, close friends on the sidelines of every race cheering me on (as they smirked and ate their Crispy Cremes — you know who you are!), and friends jumping in to run with me just to keep me going.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25
Exactly one year after that little whisper, I found myself confidently at the starting line of 26.2 miles. And with each mile I ran that day, came an overwhelming sense of accomplishment in achieving what God had clearly charted out for me. How do I know it was God? There was no way in my own right mind I would have EVER considered running a marathon. Remember? This was the girl who couldn’t even run a mile the year before. Further punctuating that, with God, all things truly are possible! (Matthew 19:26)
Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, I don’t know what ‘marathon’ you will present next in my life, but I pray that you will uniquely equip me, as you always have. Remind me that I am not alone and help me to keep my eyes fixed on you. Lord I pray not only for the physical self-discipline I might need, but more importantly for the spiritual discipline that will carry me to the finish line. I praise you that you never leave our side, that you are our consummate running partner. In Jesus’ name. Amen.