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Running Again to Win

Yesterday, I ran a race. I hope I captured the story in a humorous way and I hope that you enjoy reading about it. But more than that, I believe there is something at the end that will benefit you in life’s spiritual race.

I always run in dress clothes… uh huh.

Last year, I competed in an almost-famous 15k (9.3 miles) that takes place every year in my hometown. 

Prior to the race last year, I trained. But not nearly hard enough and not nearly long enough. The battle on the racecourse didn’t fall in my favor.

During the race (last year), fatigue overtook an inexperienced, undertrained, and overconfident me and slashed at my throat. I escaped narrowly, reaching the finish line with only my life—my pride wasn’t as fortunate. (I wrote a post about it–the link is at the bottom)

The pain, soreness, and humiliation of the race fueled my bloodthirsty vendetta. I wanted to kill the next one. So, with the race only around the corner of the season, I took to the roads again.

After a couple months, the competition was fast approaching. One week out, I tapered off my running schedule and waited for the race to come. I was, at first, nervous, but as the time drew closer, I began to feel more confident and even excited for the race.

To my bewilderment, so that I wouldn’t have to drive alone, Elijah, Bella, and Ava offered to take me to the race, which started just as the bald orange sun crested the horizon. I don’t know why they were willing to sacrifice a Saturday morning to escort me to my race—but I do know that it’s not because I deserved it. Thanks guys, you’re the best!

Before I knew it, I was standing in the packed corral among a thousand antsy athletes—some there to win, some to have fun. And some, like me, out to prove myself and beat this beast which had beaten me only a short year ago.

The airhorn went off, and we did too.

The beginning of the race was easy. I was running with the pacers and enjoying the quiet morning and a small amount of discussion (most of my jokes were not understood), but most importantly, conserving energy for the kick (which is putting on the extra speed in the last mile and a half or so).

Think of a race like holding your breath. At first, you feel good. Then slowly, the air starts to stale in your lungs and, before you know it, you’re fighting to hold on.

At mile six, things began to heat up.

“You hanging in there?” Pacer Dawn, whom I had been with from the beginning, inquired.

I smiled the best I could and promised, “I’m hanging.”

And I sure felt like I was hanging. My gut began to throb with every step (always happens to me for some reason) and I was just reassuring myself that I had only three miles left. At the same time, I established a new goal—I (half) kidded with myself that I wasn’t running for the medal at the end, I was running for the toilet at the end—and that I had better hurry. Sounds glorious, doesn’t it?

Closing in on the last two miles and just when I thought there was nothing left in me for a kick, I began to climb an exceptionally large hill with another runner. He had chosen to take the hill hard and pull away from our pacers, so that he could “coast” at the end. I liked running with him (he’d gotten me up a big hill and away from my pacers) so I asked him what time he was going for, hoping maybe that I could stick with him.

                         “I’m just taking it easy.” He told me, sweat glistening on his long gray hair. “I can’t keep up with you.”

                         All I wanted to do was keep up with him. But he believed I could run faster than he.

                         A huge mental barrier did an impression of the Berlin Wall, and it was made official; My kick had begun.

                         I pulled ahead and away—finding reserves of energy in my mind rather than my body.

At the base of yet another hill, I found a surprising group of people and more mental motivation. My already overachieving three teenage siblings had posters that read GO INDY (actually, it was different name). I hooped and hollered, their motivational tactics beyond incredible. “THIS IS FOR YOU GUYS!” I bellowed and ramped my speed up to a sprint. Ava yelled back “You can be COURAGEOUS!” (Nothing like an inside joke to pump it up.)

 This pushed me through that last mile and a half. Reaching speeds that I, frankly, hadn’t anticipated, I powered forward. But there was still a good mile between me and the restroom—erh, I mean the medal.

The win wasn’t guaranteed yet and fatigue was besieging my body. I wanted to run faster. But my body was telling me it was time to slow down.

But I had been reading a book about running (The Competitive Runner’s Handbook, by Shelly-Lynn and Bob Glover. Amazing book!) and I was equipped with steps to fight fatigue.

IDENTIFY. If you can’t recognize the enemy when it comes, you can’t fight against it. All fatigue wants is a subtle movement toward his side. “Just compromise a bit.” It says.

CONSIDER. Fatigue says, “I offer you ease.” But remember, that ease costs a lot. We can’t escape the fact that the harder we push, the better the reward.

DETERMINE. What are you going to do? Persevere, of course. The reward is totally worth it. With the end in sight, the race can be reworked for the better.

Going over these steps, I started picking off runners, finding aggressive, exponential energy by being the faster one. Before I knew it, the ground had leveled out and I could see the finish line far ahead. I was in the last dash. Making a sprint I had passed the line and received a medal.

I had combated fatigue when it tried to drag me down, managing to prune about 2:20s from my expected end time. That put my entire time at 1:32:43s. Having a lot of room for improvement, I placed last in my age group, but I think that next year I can change that.

I was met by my spectacular support siblings at the end (I am told that they had been loitering around in the ice cream section of the store while waiting.) A couple fist bumps and we were caught up. Then I told them to stay put while I made an emergency errand and took off.

“The race is over, sir,” a sweet lady told me as I darted through the crowd. “You can stop running.”

       Who didn’t tell her that my race was finished when I reached the nearest unoccupied porta-potty?

In the end, I ran hard today, sawing off a complete five minutes from last years’ time and two minutes from what I hoped for. I’m exuberant and encouraged with the results and more determined than EVER to come back strong as a runner next year.

About running, I think that most of us, fond of running or not, are familiar with the Bible verse that compares life with a race.

Heb_12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Races aren’t easy. They aren’t supposed to be easy. Races are agony. And in our lives, our greatest race, we can become fatigued just like in a 15k. Sometimes, it can be hard to throw off the sin ‘which clings so closely’ and to ‘walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory (1Th 2:12)’ But we HAVE to. We CANNOT let that fatigue take us down.

Let’s look at the method for fighting fatigue again.

IDENTIFY. If you can’t recognize the enemy when it comes, you can’t fight against it. All fatigue wants is a subtle movement toward his side. “Just compromise a bit.” It says. (Sin is fatigue. Sin is subtle, but it can drag us to hell on the double)

CONSIDER. Fatigue says, “I offer you ease.” But remember, that ease costs a lot. We can’t escape the fact that the harder we push, the better the reward. (God will reward us according to our deeds, aka, our ability to fight fatigue. Jer 32:19)

DETERMINE. What are you going to do? Persevere, of course. The reward is totally worth it. With the end in sight, the race can be reworked for the better.  (We can’t lose. This is a matter of (eternal) life and death.

                Are you walking in a manner worthy of God? Or have you fallen down due to fatigue?

                         Special thanks to my parents, my siblings and  Shelly-Lynn and Bob Glover and his book! But the most thanks be to God! He is my strength (Psalms 18)! And all goodness comes from HIM!

                         God bless.

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