Monday, November 14, 2011

Half Marathon: More than Running

Running is something I’ve enjoyed for years. It is therapeutic and relaxing and an opportunity to really think without distractions. Running a half marathon is something I’ve wanted to do for years. After going through the discouragement and confusion and fiery health trials of the last six years, I now felt strong and healthy and ready to run with endurance the Pensacola Half Marathon. In the weeks leading up to the run I began to see this as a marker of sorts in my life, a date on a timeline to mark the overcoming and putting behind of the past and the beginning of something new.

I awoke unexpectedly at 2:00 a.m., fully awake I decided to get up and prepare physically, mentally and spiritually for the task of running 13.1 miles. I asked the Lord to strengthen every bone, joint, tendon, ligament, organ, nerve, tissue and cell of my body; to give me a mind staid on Him so that I would not become discouraged by mountainous hills (yes, as I found out yesterday, Pensacola has some hills that appear as mountains or walls when you are on foot); and to let this day be a reminder of the healing and restoration He has given me.

The blessing of friends was a great way to start the race. At 6:30 myself and three friends along with about 1,400 other runners set out to accomplish goals, prove something to ourselves or others, qualify for greater challenges (some ran a full marathon in hopes of qualifying for the Boston marathon), or mark time with a reminder of overcoming illness or achieving a personal fitness goal. During the run, my eyes were opened to or shown afresh some interesting and important lessons that I found applicable to more than just running and beneficial for life.

Lesson 1: Encourage others to do their best.
About 2 miles into the run, my friends encouraged me to do my best and said they’d see me at the finish. At that point, I began to run a little faster falling into a challenging yet manageable pace to persevere until the end.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Lesson 2: Find your natural pace.
Once I settled into my natural pace, I did not become concerned with who or how many people sped passed me or stayed behind me. In order to accomplish the distance set before me, I couldn’t be concerned with or let anyone else’s pace cause me to become anxious and speed up or complacent and slow down or defeated and give up. I joyfully continued on.

Let us run with endurance the race set before us. – Hebrews 12:1

Lesson 3: Speak God’s Word.
I had an arsenal of scriptures memorized to encourage me throughout the run. No hills, wind, physical ache or mental discouragement could contend with the Word of God.

So will my word be which goes forth from my mouth, it will not return to me empty, without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it, without accomplishing that which I desire. – Isaiah 55:11

Lesson 4: Hills can look like mountains and walls, but you just have to take it one step at a time and you’ll reach the top.
There were three main hills that seemed like mountains upon first look. The first one, I thought I had surely reached the top, but quickly realized that it had just leveled a little and was still inclining. The second one looked like a wall. It was so steep and seemed almost impossible as I approached from a distance. The third one was steep and long and I wondered how many miles of straight uphill I would have run by the time I finished it. I chose to praise the Lord for each hill, taking each one a step at the time.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, His holy mountain. – Psalm 48:1

Lesson 5: Surround others with love, support and encouragement…even if you don’t have a close personal relationship, speak life-giving words when given the opportunity.
I was greatly encouraged by the neighbors who rose early and came out of their homes to cheer on all of the runners. Shouting: “Good Job!”, “Way to go!”, “You can do it!”

I was even more encouraged when someone I didn’t know was cheering and as I ran passed they called me by name (our names were printed on our bibs).

The best feeling was when someone I knew, a familiar face, called me by name and cheered me on. Oh the importance of speaking words of encouragement and support to those we know…our friends and family…the relationships we should cherish, yet so often take for granted. Cheer them on….whatever the race they are running…speak words that build up. Life is too short to not speak kind words, encouraging words, life-giving words. Just a few words to let someone know you see them, you think of them, they are important in your life can mean so very much…they can halt fears, promote faith, restore confidence. It is not enough to assume our friends and loved ones know how we feel, we should speak those words to them and let them know they have a cheering section in their lives.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders… - Hebrews 12:1

As I entered the final mile of the run, I could hear the roar of the crowd at the finish line as each person ahead of me finished their race. A little further and I could see the letters forming the word: FINISH. Then, I was down to the last tenth of a mile and I was able to sprint through it. I had been encouraged all along the way by speaking out the word of God and by others speaking out words of affirmation and encouragement to me. I finished the race in 2 hours, 5 minutes, and 44 seconds, not exhausted and worn out, but exhilarated and excited and with a sense of a job well done.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7

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