LESSONS FROM MY FIRST HALF MARATHON
I ran my first half marathon recently. In case you don’t know, that’s 13.1 miles. I ran that. Yay me! As I always do when I run, I spent that time thinking and talking to God, and listening for God to talk to me. I learned a few lessons along the way.
At about the 3 mile mark there was a group of 5 college age guys dressed in hula skirts, with a kiddie pool and beach balls and leis. They had a bull horn, and were shouting encouraging things at us as we passed by them. Things like, “You can do it!” and “You got this!”. I smiled as I ran past them. I thought about how much we need these people in our lives. Well, maybe not these exact people, but these type of people. We need people who will be there as we walk (or run) through some tough things shouting encouragement and reminding us that we can do it. We need these people in our families, when we face illness, or job loss or relationship struggles. We need these people in our jobs when we face the stress of whatever goes on there, or when we are serving in ministry, or volunteering at school, or wherever life happens. We need those people who will come along side us and remind us that WE CAN DO THIS! Yeah, those young guys made me smile with their crazy, fun encouragement.
Then, about a mile down the road there was another, smaller group of guys. These guys were a little older, they weren’t quite as enthusiastic. They were wearing shirts that said “running sucks”. No, really, they were. They had a row of empty lawn chairs at the side of the road. The chairs displayed signs that said, “Sit down and have a smoke” and “How about a beer?” 4 miles into the run these guys were there, encouraging everyone to quit, tempting us to give in to what our bodies felt like they wanted. Did I want to sit down and have a smoke? No way! Did I want to lounge around with an ice cold can of beer? Maybe (I hate beer, but it was hot and I was thirsty). A person who had not trained as much and was feeling a little more tired than I may have given in to the temptation. In the moment somehow I found the strength to push by them. As I left them in my dust I thought about the fact that these people exist in our life as well. Truthfully, we all have friends or family that tell us why we should just give up…give up trying to work out the issues with our spouse, give up trying to excel in our job, give up trying to serve God. It’s all just too hard and quite frankly a beer and a smoke just sound better sometimes.
As I continued on in my run I thought about the fact that not only do we have both of the above types of people in our lives, we are also these in the lives of others. It’s true, we have to choose which we are going to be. We can be the one who speaks words of life to those around us, we can remind them who they are in Christ, and all that can be done in and through them. OR – we can tell them that it is just too stinking hard. We can ask them why they are even trying. We can send them on their way feeling defeated and doubting all that God has for them.
We get to choose who we want to be in the lives of others.
When I was not quite to the half way mark on the run I began to see the faster runners come past me in the opposite direction. The first person I noticed was a younger woman than I. She was wearing a sports bra and these tiny little shorts. Every muscle in her body was as ripped as it could possibly be. She didn’t even look tired. I was red, sweaty, and slow. The scene reminded me of something I had seen on Facebook.
Yup, I had a choice to make. I could decide that I could never be like her and just give up, or I could decide that I don’t have to be like her, because I’m me. Her victory could be an encouragement to get me to my victory. If I allowed it to be. She was more than half way there! I was not that far behind her! Soon I’d be half way too! I chose the latter. As I continued to run I lost myself in watching the other runners coming opposite me. There were a lot of them now. They were all faster than I, but they were from all different walks of life. Some were obviously athletic and did not look tired out at all. Then there were the others. There were those who were pushing with everything they had, they were tired and worn out. There were fathers with their kids, there were women running all alone, there were people who had weathered obvious injuries but chose to stick them out. I wondered if they had any idea what an encouragement each one of them was to me. Every foot that hit the pavement pounded out a “you can do this too” in my direction. As I fixed my eyes on those who had gone before me I was able to steady myself and believe that I could run my race just like they did. I was reminded of a scripture in Hebrews 12:1
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,
Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes we would rather check out. Sometimes running the race is just too difficult. Sometimes we need someone to yell “you can do it” louder than those who yell “give it up”. Sometimes we need to remember the “great cloud of witnesses” and sometimes we need to be that witness for others.
There was yet one final lesson to be learned on this half marathon. In preparing for this race I had imagined what crossing the finish line would be like. Would I hold my arms up in the air like I’ve seen in movies? Would I cry? Would I puke like I did at my first 5K? I hoped not. As I approached the finish line I found myself doing one thing only. I scanned the faces of the people on either side, searching for the ones that were familiar to me. All I wanted to see at that finish line were the people that matter most to me, my husband and kids. I knew they were there somewhere waiting for me. They had believed in me, encouraged me, and came with me to see me accomplish this goal I had been diligently preparing for. They were all that mattered. I didn’t care about a medal, or food, or a victory cry, all I wanted was them.
However I run my race, whatever goals I may reach on the way, I need to always remember that what really matters most are people. Jesus thought so too.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever might believe in Him would not perish, but would have everlasting life.
I wonder what God will teach me when I run my first full marathon!