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Run the Race (Hebrews 12:1)

December 10, 2007
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Well, I did it. I ran in my first 5K on December 1, in the Marathon of the Palm Beaches’ pre-events. I started running this summer, very short distances at first, eventually upping my mileage. Of late I run between 4.5 and 5 miles a day; two weeks before this race I had completed my longest run–7 miles in 65 minutes. I’d long before marked out this race as my first public event, and I couldn’t believe how quickly it snuck up on me.Because 3 miles ended up being such a short distance compared to my daily mileage, I really wanted to run a good race–I wanted to do it in under thirty minutes. However, I knew lots of factors would go against me. I’d never ever run in a race before, or even with a partner, so I didn’t know how I’d react to other people being around. I’m also not used to running outside since I train on a treadmill; though I usually am faster on my street runs, I just didn’t know for sure how variables like wind, sun, and humidity would affect me. I also typically start my runs by six, and this race wouldn’t be til eight. Would I be hungry? Antsy? Hot? I just didn’t know.

Of course, it was a hot day in West Palm despite it being December. I didn’t run before the gun b/c I wanted to save my energy, though I did lots of fast walking. When the gun went off I started, and it was a very weird experience to be surrounded by other joggers and the sound of their footfalls, voices, and the their music (I don’t run with an ipod but our race did not restrict them, which I did not mind, though some people do listen to their music very loud!). The timing chip did not bother me at all, which I thought it might; the heat did. I tried to hydrate some that day but had to visit the porta-potties twice. Good thing I worked on hydration all that week and especially the day before. I walked some on the first half of the course, especially to encourage a young boy whose father had run on without him. At the turn, I was surprised to hear my time (12 min 15 secs), and was challenged into salvaging what was turning out to be a better race than I had previously thought. I picked out a runner just ahead of me and visualized a bungee cord between us. Slow and steady . . . I finally fell into my rhythm around mile 2, 2-and-a-half (of course the race was only 3.1 miles!) and finished the race in 26mins, 20 secs.

A couple of things learned: (1) before a 5K, I probably could have run some. I felt terrible that first mile because I just wasn’t in my rhythm. It probably just takes me a mile or two to feel really good. I ran with one of my marathoning friends last week and she opened my eyes (thanks to her GARMIN) to the reality that we actually got faster, not slower, during our 5.5-mile run. Who’da guessed?

(2) You may run the race surrounded by other people, but you really run it by yourself. You’re challenging yourself, you’re talking to yourself, and to God, and you’re the only one who knows her goals. Do you want to just finish the race? Do you want to have a specific finishing time? At the same time, it makes a huge difference that other people are there, and I am thankful for the hundreds of people who volunteered to hand out water, slice bananas, and just stand around yelling encouragement. Even the police officers who I know were just there to provide security and didn’t have to encourage me, but did: “Hey, you can do it!” It meant the world to me–I didn’t know if I could.

This brought to mind Hebrews 12:2: “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.” The previous chapter is the great Hall of Fame of Faith. Paul is telling us that all these great saints are watching us and cheering us as we run our spiritual race. And he’s telling us that this is a great reason for us to run a good race, to be consistent in our pursuit of Christ, even if we have to walk every once in a while–as long as we dont’ let that bungee cord snap–it’s okay if we let it get taut once in a while–just as long as we keep Him in our sights–He is the author and the finisher of our faith, and He is the goal! We are pursuing Christlikeness! I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and they are not silent, but cheering me on as I race! So I refuse to be tangled down by stupid must-watch TV, or smutty novels, or smarmy politicians that doublespeak. I will run with perseverance; there is too much at stake. The goal is in sight, and I am going to make GREAT TIME!

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