A few years ago, Kelley and I flew to Los Angeles to see our oldest daughter Anna, who was a sophomore at Westmont College in nearby Santa Barbara. And since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to run in the Los Angeles Marathon. This was Kelley’s second marathon and my first.
Obviously, this wasn’t a last minute decision. We had dedicated ourselves to training the four months leading up to the race.
Running a marathon is probably the third hardest thing I’ve ever done—after writing a book (16 and counting) and being married. Here are a few thoughts that hit me during the run:
Every Person Runs A Different Race
Despite running the same 26.2 mile route, all 26,000 people ran the Los Angeles Marathon with different concerns in mind. I was concerned about re-injuring my calf (which I tore two weeks earlier). Kelley was concerned about aggravating the plantar fasciitis in her heel. Everyone was concerned about finishing. Ironically, my calf never bothered me while Kelley’s heel refused to cooperate. Nevertheless, I sustained a painful foot injury on mile 13 and hobbled the rest of the way to the end. During a marathon, weird injuries can materialize out of nowhere.
Whatever race you’re running, avoid the temptation to compare yourself to others–because they’re running a different race than you.
Days before the race, I explained my concerns about my calf injury to a veteran marathoner. She told me, “Everybody who runs a marathon is dealing with some kind of an injury.”
Most of us begin our lives injury-free, only to sustain bumps and bruises along the way. We all get knocked around in the course of our lives. How we respond to those injuries determines how we finish the race. So don’t be surprised when pain hits. It goes with the territory.
Everyone Who Finishes Wins
While training, veterans advised me, “Don’t try to break any records on your first race—just make it your goal to finish.” When my foot injury materialized out of nowhere, I asked myself, How can I run another 13 miles with this kind of pain? Everything within me wanted to quit. I actually considered spending the $20 in my pocket to pay for a cab that would transport me to the finish line.
In the middle of my pain, I ran past a café, where a man sat at an outdoor table enjoying his breakfast. When he saw the grimace on my face, he looked at me, pointed at an empty chair next to him. His gesture was an apparent invitation to join him for breakfast. I shook my head, fixed my eyes on the road in front of me, and kept running.
I couldn’t think about mile 15 or mile 21—all I could think about was finishing. But in order to reach my goal, I would need to run one mile at a time. When I completed mile 13, my next goal became mile 14, then mile 15.
Although my time wasn’t as fast as I had hoped, I was relieved once I crossed the finish line. At that point, my time didn’t matter. I finished. Sometimes life is painful…but you just keep going on.
We’re all running in a race, but the goal isn’t to beat everybody else, the goal is to finish. Sometimes you just have to bear down and grind through the pain. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). Sometimes the most courageous thing you can do is stand. You don’t have to look victorious–all you must do is not give up.
We all run in a race. We all sustain injuries along the way and we all can come up with excuses to quit.
So what will you do?
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He tried running a second marathon a year ago, which didn’t go nearly as well as the first. After a 15 month hiatus, he’s getting back into shape and focusing on running 10k’s.
One note: The Daily Bible Conversation blog is shuttering its doors at the end of August…at least for now. The blog has run its course, so Michael, Eugene, and Brendan will direct their energies in other areas. Beginning September 7, Michael will begin a new blog entitled “God Meets Culture” at michaeljklassen.com.