Training for the half marathon was one of the harder things that I’ve done in the post skinny years of my life. I’ve said it before but it was the equivalent of strapping a couple of 20lb bags of potatoes on to the back of a skinny guy and running for miles. I ran in the snow, in the rain, in the cold, and mostly at night so as not to be embarrassed by letting my neighbors know that the “big’un” next door was taking on this task.
I was working like crazy. I was super committed. I felt like I was doing something that was so hard, so unique. I vividly remember my first long run. It was 8 miles and it was brutal. My legs were seizing up, my back hurt, my stomach hurt, and I thought I was going to throw up.
I remember when I was doing the long runs the first time I had a cramp. My initial thought, my go to response was to stop, sit down till it went away and then go home. It was then that I had this epiphany that real athletes take for granted as common knowledge: I could keep going. Push through the pain. It’s embarrassing to admit this, but that had never occurred to me before.
I had given myself this mental picture of how hard it was to pursue this, how difficult it would be. I had given myself this subjective amount of pain that I could take. The bad news was that I was wrong. It was way harder. I could take more. And here’s the worst part, I still wasn’t working hard enough. For me to get to the state that professional, heck even semi amateur athletes playing softball for the church league achieve I would have to dig deeper. And so I dug deep. (unfortunately I only had a little shovel)
I felt such a sense of accomplishment. I felt like I had accomplished something that few others would ever do. I found my inner stud and would soon see the pounds shedding, the six pack emerging, and would be walking around with my freshly shaved shirtless chest at the pool over the summer.
That was until the day I wandered into get my race number.
It was sometime around then that I realized 32,000 other people were unique just like me. As I was standing there waiting, I started doing the math that if there are hundreds of marathons around the nation, that there are literally hundreds of thousands of folks who went through exactly what I did and arguably with better results.
Initially my realization of how utterly not unique my experience was brought me down a few notches on the ego ladder. But then, after rethinking it, it brought me encouragement that if so many others could survive what I had deemed to be sheer torture. That If I just realized that this was “normal” training, that I could suck it up and make it through.
Paul used the analogy of an athlete. Even the judgment that believers will face some day in front of Jesus he referred to as the Bema Seat judgment in 2 Corinthians. The Bema Seat was the place on the finish line where the winners were declared as they competed in ancient Rome. If the finish line is standing before our Lord one day not in judgment for our sins, but rewards for our works then this side of Heaven is the race. Paul drew from Olympic competitions to paint a wonderful picture of life.
My friend Ryan Werner kicked butt in the Nashville marathon. I remember that he was kind of beating himself up a little bit for walking for a short distance. He still turned in an amazing time though. I guess I learned that it’s OK to walk for a little bit, maybe it’s even OK to sit down and take a break, but this is a race. I might hit the wall, but I’ve got to press on. I hope you will too.
There statistics are shocking… 10 out of 10 parents surveyed all admitted to dying some day. This is not the first time someone has gone through this, not the last time someone will go through it. It’s not the first time someone has watched a loved one die. This is another part of the race. It’s the part where the cramps start, the pain intensifies, and I could sit down and go home, or I could push through.
Today I’m choosing to push through this phase of the race, this state of suspended animation of hoping for a miracle and preparing for death. Sometimes in the marathon you’re running by yourself and sometimes along side someone. My mom and I are both running our own races, but for now we’re running side by side.
And should I start feeling alone in this again, it brings solace knowing that God Himself watched his own Son die a slow, painful death. He truly does know. And for my mom, this is her final stretch of her own race. I pray she finishes well.