Yesterday was the day. I have been training to run a 10K since mid-December, from a non-runner, to a runner. Last week, I ran another 5K. Although I ran it completely, it was still a challenge and I started to doubt myself, knowing that the 10K was fast approaching. All week long I pondered whether I could really run a 10K. I considered giving myself “permission” to walk as needed on the second lap. But then, this passage from 1 Corinthians 9 kept invading my mind:
24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
In a 10K, there are a lot of people who get “the prize”. Of course, there are the overall winners in male and female categories, but there are also 1st through 3rd place winners in age categories. However, in this race, they were also giving participation medals to 10K runners. Now, if you know me at all, you know I am not a fan of participation medals.
I got up early, as I usually do on the day of a race, ate a simple breakfast then began to prepare what to wear. It mercifully wasn’t as cold as the last two 5Ks, but there was a threat of rain. I drove to the race site early so I could easily park and scope things out. When I got there, I saw a sweet friend, parent from my school and a former teacher, who greeted me and encouraged me that I could do it. She said she just focuses on “keep running, even if it is really slow”. That is what I tend to also focus on and it encouraged me. We laughed a little at the possibility that I may be the last runner, but she encouraged me to not worry about that, just keep running. My doubts from earlier in the week were being replaced with “you can do it if you don’t give up”.
A few minutes before the race started, it started pouring. I had time to grab my rain jacket and I lined up at the start line. And we were off! My first few paces of a race are so eager and strong, then suddenly I realize I won’t be able to keep up that pace, and I settle into a rhythm. As I ran, with rain running down my face, I kept hearing “run in such a way that you get the prize”. I always hope to place in my age category, because being older has it’s benefits. There aren’t many women who run at my age! So while I hoped to place, I knew the challenge of this, my first 10K, was simply running and completing the whole thing. It was farther than I had ever run before, even in my training. So that participation medal became, for me, the completion medal, the “you did it even though it was hard” medal.
I eagerly looked for my time on the first 5K lap and saw it was my best time yet. As I started the second lap, I was suddenly alone. A lot of people run the 5K, but much fewer run the 10K, and those who do, are typically the seasoned runners. I am still a rookie. I heard no one behind me and no one passed me. There were a few scattered ahead of me in the distance. I started to wonder if maybe I really was going to be the last one! As I rounded a turn, I finally saw there were a few behind me. I am not last. I kept running with my friend’s words reminding me to keep running even if it is slow (which came in handy on a very steep hill), and hearing “run in such a way that you get the prize” over and over. The whole second lap I ran alone, with no one passing me and passing no one. I had no idea how lonely the 10K could be – not in a bad way, just different.
I did run the whole race, without walking, ending with a time just under 1 hour and 17 minutes. Unfortunately, the timing company had some issues so, for many of us, their equipment didn’t capture our bib across the finish line and they didn’t have a record of our time! I think I would have placed 2nd or 3rd in my age category if it had. But that’s okay. I will keep running “for the prize” and I have my participation medal that signifies to me that I did it! I persevered and found that I could do something I didn’t think I could do! The giddy joy that comes from perseverance and completion, encourages us to do the next thing, to sign up for the next race!
I know for many of you, my running story is of no consequence; you are not interested in running. That’s okay. I share it because I am finding that running is, for me, a metaphor of so much of the perseverance we need in this life. The apostle Paul seems to agree with me, as he uses it often. As I am learning to persevere in my running, by improving how I am thinking and what I am focusing on, and continuing my training, it applies in so many other areas.
God often calls us to do things for which we feel so inadequate! The calling to live a Christ-centered life in this God-averse society is a challenge that can make us weary. We feel weak; we just want to slow down and walk. We may even feel like quitting. We often feel alone, like we are the only ones and we may be finishing last. But He calls us to “run with purpose in every step” and to go for the prize. And although we feel alone, He promises we are never alone!
Whatever you are going through, trust that God is with you through it, strengthening you at every step. Don’t allow your fears or your feelings to psych you out of the prize that is waiting for you at the finish!
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.