I hope I don’t have to stop an tie my shoes.
I hope I don’t get a cramp.
More importantly, I hope I don’t have to go to the bathroom.
This is certainly going to suck.
Stepping up to the starting line in a sea of thousands of runners, my stomach fluttering and heart pounding over the roar of the crowd, breath hovering in front of my face, I couldn’t help but doubt why in the world I had signed up to take on half a marathon.
While it had been a goal of mine I had set for myself ever since I completed my first 5K race the previous fall (and LOVED and kinda dominated it), I couldn’t help but let anxiety start to creep in and chisel away at my enthusiasm and excitement.
Yet as the minutes counted down until our start time, I was amazed and comforted by the thousands of people surrounding me- my 10,000 fellow runners, the bands playing, the signs and banners of local businesses.
I knew I wasn’t in this alone. And, therefore, I knew I could find the strength to get through the 13.1 miles.
Life, y’all, is much like my half-marathon experience. It can be painful. It can be loaded with obstacles that make us want to sit down in the bushes and cry. But when we surround ourselves with enthusiastic cheerleaders and realize plenty of others gave already paved the road ahead of us, it doesn’t seem so daunting.
It’s so much easier to take it all on knowing Jesus has already run and won the race before us.
Lace up those sneaks, y’all, cause we’ve got a race ahead of us.
I’m not a runner. I’d never run track (unless you count the brief participation on my elementary school’s team…I was probably picked because my P.E. coach knew I wouldn’t pass out or vomit after running in a relay) and certainly never run cross-country. My sport of choice had always been dance, which is quite a different athletic experience than running.
Sure, I’d trained for the half marathon for a few months. I’d successfully ran 12 miles without stopping prior to this race. And, luckily, the training I completed in my college town of Greenville, SC is similar to the hilly terrain and climate of Knoxville, TN.
But it’s hard not to doubt yourself just a little when you know all of your hard work, hours of running, and pride are on the line, literally.
When that gunshot rang through the chilly April morning air, I joined my tens of thousands of comrades and hit the pavement.
The next hour and twentyish minutes of my life were indescribable. There was pain. There was aching. There was discomfort. But there was so much goodness, too.
I knew I wasn’t alone. I was surrounded by over ten thousand other runners in a variety of levels of fitness. I had my killer running playlist (loads of The Killers, Jimmy Eat World, My Chemical Romance…don’t judge me, it got the job done). And, I had the support of cheering family and friends at mile markers along the way. But the BEST part of the whole experience is the ending.
The finish line of the Knoxville Marathon (or Half-Marathon for those of us who only wanted to put their knees through 13.1 miles of fun) just so happens to be in the middle of Neyland Stadium, aka home of the Tennessee Volunteers. To you Texans, that may not seem like a big deal, but to this bleeding orange (NOT BURNT ORANGE) Volunteer, that experience alone of running onto that sacred ground with a stadium of cheering people was one I will never forget. To add to my euphoria, I had finished the race faster than I had anticipated without having to stop to go to the bathroom or vomit or cry. In fact, I placed second in my age group. Not too shabby.
Would I recommend doing a half marathon to others? Sure! It was a wonderful physical and mental conditioning experience. I would not, however, recommend making it apart of your routine physical activity. At 21 years old, my knees were feeling a little cranky by the end of the race; putting the body through that much stress on a regular basis is not going to bode well for anyone. But, heck, if it brings you joy, go for it!
Wait, Michelle, I thought you were talking about Jesus, not trying to persuade us to sign up for a half marathon….true, friends, true true.
Whether you’ve run a 5K or marathon, we’re all in this hectic endurance race we call life. And as we run through it, there are certainly some crucial training tips we Christians need in order to make it to that finish line, as Hebrews 12:1-2 so helpfully outlines for us.
First of all, just like I felt motivated by the throngs of cheering people as I wearily entered that stadium in my half-marathon, we ought to seek out fellow Christians that will support us, encourage us, and spur us on when we feel like giving up. We are not alone in this struggle. On top of that, thousands of years of Christians have come before us, have blazed the way, have already endured so much to make our current experiences as Christians all the better and easier. Our teammates, past and present, encourage us that the finish line is worth it, a life with Jesus really is better.
I like how Eugene H. Peterson puts it in The Message, stating, “we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running- and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.”
As someone who knows what it feels like to try running with a little extra weight, I can totally understand this metaphor. My running pace has SIGNIFICANTLY slowed down these past few months, to the point that these days it’s just straight up uncomfortable (as it should be when you’re nearly 8 months pregnant).
Likewise, we all carry spiritual fat, dead weight, around with us that is slowing us down. From unforgiveness to anger to unnecessary burdens in our lives, something is taking up space in our minds, slowing our faith, and ruining our race. Whatever that weight is- social media or constant comparisons to others or a poisonous relationship- it is keeping you from your relationship with Jesus. And it’s time to drop that weight.
Like wearing a weighted vest or running parachute or literal extra few pounds, it’s so uncomfortable and strenuous to run with those extra burdens. But we need to lay those things aside. Personally, mine is wrapped up in the anxiety I have about leaving my students for such a long period of time, especially during standardized testing. Preoccupying over this, letting what-ifs creep in, worrying about what will be is neither productive nor constructive; in fact, it’s keeping my mind from Jesus.
So I need to let it go.
And I need to look to Him.
He’s already taken all of my anxieties, my guilt, my shame to the Cross. He’s already done the work. And I can run free because He’s taken the sacrifice and strife and pain on my behalf, on our behalf y’all.
With that extra spiritual fat melted off, we can keep running the race and get those beautiful endorphins to flood our souls; when our complete peace and trust is in Him, the joy, the spiritual runner’s high, is enough to carry you victorious through your day, your week, your race ahead.
Today’s Challenge: Ask yourself if you’re really surrounding yourself with the encouraging cheerleaders you need in order to run and finish this race. If not, who are people you can start reaching out to and surrounding yourself with? In addition, what kind of spiritual fat do you need to lose? What is an area of your life that is taking your thoughts and energy and time from Christ? It’s time to burn that fat off. Give it over to Him.
Today’s Prayer: Sweet Jesus, I praise You that You have already come before me, You have run the race before me, and You have finished it victoriously. Empower me today to run this race and run it freely and joyfully, no longer enslaved by the extra weight of this life. Thank You for Your word and for surrounding me with a crowd to cheer me on when I feel like throwing in the towel. I run to You in freedom. Fill me with Your endorphins today so I may be a source of encouragement to others in their race, too. I am Yours, Lord. Amen.
Healthy Happy Texan
I'm a Foodie, Fitness Instructor, and Follower of Christ. Add a passion for teaching others, dark chocolate, bacon, and dogs -- and that's me in a box.
Come on, let's live a little!