Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Prize.....

It's Saturday night. No kids. TV all to myself....only I can't find the remote and it really stinks having to get up off the couch to change the channel. Amazing how dependant (and not to mention lazy!) I have become. With the remote I only have to move to shift around and get comfy. Without it, I have to actually get off my bum and do something. Whoa is me.

Anyway, I totally digress. The TV. To myself. That's what I was saying. Without the remote I found myself stuck on the documentary channel. The show I was forced to watch was "The Life of a Marathon."

Huh. I can watch this. Done two full marathons and two half marathons. I think I'll give this show a few minutes to see if it's worth getting up to see what else is on. Turns out, it was just the show I needed to watch. I have a feeling God even hid my remote. He has a crazy sense of humor.

It was following several people as they train for the 2005 (I think?) Chicago Marathon. Deena Kastor, Athens Olympic Bronze medalist, a Kenyon guy who is stinkin' good and several regular Joe's like you and me. It showed the 20 mile long runs where the trainer is giving a great speech to the group about how it's "just 20 miles" and all that hokey they fill you with before you take off (it works so I shouldn't call it hokey). At the end, it showed each as they went through the race. It showed their ups and downs, when they hit "the wall" and when they crossed the finish line exhausted and spent.

Then it hit me. Not a new revelation to many, I'm sure, but I've never really looked at running a marathon as a metaphor for life. But it is. A good one too. If you've never run a marathon, allow me to explain. If you have, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

You have the training. You start out unable to run even 1 mile. Not kidding. It hurts to even really just walk from the house to the trail. "Are we done yet?" is what you think in those first few minutes.

Eventually over time you work your way up to running 3 miles at a time, 5 miles at a time, 3-6 times a week. It feels GOOD. First mile for me always stinks....not until mile 3 do I get in my grove. But you realize finally that all your hard work is paying off and you are able to do more than you ever thought possible with just some practice and some dedication.

You get to your first "long run" day. A long run is when you run non-stop (seriously) for an extended mileage....10 miles, 15 miles, 20 miles, etc. Very important for training.

After several months of hard work, it's race day. You get to the start....your heart is pumping. In Honolulu I ran with 28,000 people. No kidding. That many people in ONE place. There is nothing more intense and exciting. You can feel the buzz in the air.

You start out fast....too fast probably, but it feels so good to finally get moving. Several months of training and this is the last 26.2 miles! You can do it! A steady, even pace settles in about mile 3. At mile 9 you are still going strong. Feel great and really have good wind and legs still.

I personally trained myself to run to the water stations which are on average situated along the course every 1.5 to 2.5 miles. I get to walk through the water station (I'm blond and running and drinking are not as easy as you think). Plus, I got to allow myself to say "I made it. Now to the next water station."

All along the course, you hear people cheering for you. Rooting you on. They don't know you and you don't know them but it doesn't matter. Many of them stand there for hours just to cheer the runners on. And you NEED them. Like you need water and electrolytes and air. You NEED them. They lift your spirits and give you encouraging words to keep you moving.

By mile 18 or so the "wall" starts to come on. Physically you are exhausted. Mentally your mind is telling your legs to quit....just sit down. Just stop for a few minutes. But your heart....ah, your heart. It's telling you NO. Keep moving. One foot in front of the other. You started this stupid, crazy thing so you WILL finish it.

What about the lady running next to you? For the last two miles or so you have really been struggling....feeling sorry for yourself cuz it stinkin' HURTS. Then all of the sudden she hits her wall and you see it. You shout to her "COME ON SISTA!!! You can do it! We are so almost there!" She smiles and you run by her with a renewed spring in your step. She needed you at that moment and you needed her.

Just a few short miles later, you see the finish line. It's off in the distance yet but you can SEE it. What a powerful motivator that is. You want it so bad. You want to get there and hear the crowd cheer you on. You want to just sit down. :)

As you cross the finish line your body now (for me at least) has a second wind! You feel so wonderful and can't even imagine what you've just accomplished. You are grinning ear to ear as the guy next to you throws up on a volunteer. NOTE: If you ever want to volunteer to help in a marathon, avoid the finish line. Throw up is common place around there.

How does all this relate to life, you ask? How doesn't it.

In life we "train". For grades, for jobs, for kids and marriage, FOR GOD.

In life we endure "long distances" of pain or strain.

In life we get to the place where we are at the "starting line"....first day of college, marriage, babies, jobs, our new (or re-newed) relationship with Jesus.

In life we hit "walls" when the tough times come. When we think we cannot go on for one more second, someone from "the crowd" cheers for us. Encourages us to keep moving.

In life we stumble and almost give up but the "runner" next to us says we are almost there....keep moving.

In life we get to "water stations" where we can walk and take a breather....get our minds reset for the next "water station".

In life we see the "finish line". We want it so bad we can taste it. We need to keep our eyes on that finish directs us where to go and how to get there. That finish line, in my life, is Jesus. He is the only true victory I have when I cross the finish line. If I keep my eyes on the Him, everything around me is just that. Around me.

As I cross the finish line, I will look up and smile for the camera for I just ran the race of my life. And I know that Jesus is in the crowd, at the water station, the runner next to me and one who will put the finisher's medal around my neck. After all, it's that medal and His glory that I am running for.

WHERE ARE MY RUNNING SHOES? I need to put one foot in front of the other and not stop until I cross that finish line.

JC is my BFF!!!

"Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets a prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in the training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with PURPOSE in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should." ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27


Anonymous said...

i loved your post and how you tied it all together with the Bible verse at the end. How true! I look forward to reading more of your thoughts...

Billy Coffey said...

Love. This. Post.