Have you ever been tempted to run a marathon? Let me briefly give you three rational reasons to NEVER run a marathon, followed by four things I learned from it that have helped my life and ministry so that you won’t have to even try.
1. Marathons are painful
I succumbed to a vulnerable midlife moment last summer and signed up for a full marathon. Although I had four 20-mile practice runs under my gym shorts (I refused to wear running shorts), these runs were not fun and almost made me question my salvation. It stands to reason that running more than 26 miles would be painful, but reason is not a factor to marathoners.
Case-in-point: The original marathoner was Greek soldier Pheidippides, who ran from a battlefield in the town of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. The purpose of his run was to bring good news of a Greek victory over the Persians. Legend has it that Pheidippides delivered the momentous message “Niki!” (victory), then collapsed and died. I’m all for delivering good news, but there are much less painful ways of doing it. Obviously our bodies were not created to run 4-5 hours at a time, so why even try?
2. Marathons are time consuming
My training partners have estimated that we ran about 700 miles in seven months of training for this one race. That took a lot of my free time, which negatively affected my deer and duck hunting this year. Not cool! To make it worse, most marathons are on Sunday mornings, which makes me feel even better about snubbing them on this blog.
3. Marathons are expensive
Good shoes matter, and undoubtedly you usually get what you pay for. Anything less than $100 has the effect of running in your house shoes. Add the registration fee, hotel, travel, and meals—it adds up quickly. All for a t-shirt I don’t need and a medal I will only wear for a few minutes then hang on the tie rack in my closet.
All satire and sarcasm aside, the marathon experience really was fulfilling and I have learned several things that will help me in life and ministry.
I learned about ENDURANCE
Christians are stronger than they often think. My mind would often have to do an override on egregious messages that were being sent from regions of my body during a long run. Fear of failure often keeps people from even attempting anything new or daring. Faith is not an absence of fear; it is an override to fear.
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us” (Heb 12:1).
I learned about PACING
My wife and I were stopped by a State Police Trooper on the way to the race. I was apparently having pacing issues before the race even started! The race environment is exciting and the adrenaline tempts runners to exceed their “race pace.” Those who do so often pay for it on the back end of their race. I often had to slow down and save some energy for later in the race.
When I allow my life and ministry to become a series of hurried sprints, I lose my rhythm and become prematurely exhausted. Sabbath is a gift and command from God that keeps my pace sustainable for the long run. The Sabbath is not just for the laity!
I learned about TEAMWORK
My “great cloud of witnesses” was my training partners. My favorite running partner is my wife Janet, who ran her first half marathon that same day – without stopping! Another partner ran his first full marathon with me that day, and was a significant source of inspiration. He would often quote Scriptures and Ziggler-esque sayings to keep me moving forward when I was tempted to give up.
Running the race of life alone is a losing strategy. Who is cheering you on these days? Who are you cheering on?
I learned about the importance of FINISHING STRONG
Several people told me to “finish strong.” That statement resonates with me. I had no idea how much I would have left for the final 6.2 miles since my longest distance prior to the race had been twenty. I did indeed finish strong and am very glad that I was able to join the elite group of maniacs who have done the same.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).