On 5 May 2008 I surpassed my own sporting expectations by completing the Belfast Marathon in 4 hours and 49 minutes. After a couple of days sleep, and recovering from sun stroke and aching limbs, I thought I might share some of the lessons I learnt from the experience.
No pain, no gain
Believe it or not, I didn’t just turn up on the Monday of the race and run 26.2 miles – I had to train for it. In fact I trained for near enough eight months in preparation for the race day. Everything led up to that moment.
Each day when I got home from work and thought about my evening, the one non-negotiable thing was the need to go running. If I didn’t train I wouldn’t be prepared to do battle with the road.
I ask myself a question. How often do I get up in the morning and argue that I’m too tired to spend time in the Bible and in prayer with my Lord? Am I prepared and trained for the battles with the evil one that I will experience today?
Look at the spiritual armour in Ephesians 6:10-20 and ask yourself how much of it comes directly from the ‘quiet time’ we spend with the Lord daily? This may challenge you as it has challenged me.
Keep running in winter
I ran the marathon at a temperature of 23C but I never once trained in temperatures that high. In fact my training was mostly in freezing weather and rain. It would have been so easy to stay inside, yet regardless of the conditions I had to push myself out of the door and just keep on the road.
We are encouraged in the Bible to press on towards the goal (Philippians 3:12-15). Pressing on means forgetting the external factors that make it so difficult, and keeping on the road through the bleakest midwinter.
I am not accustomed to junk food these days, because after eating healthy stuff for eight months during training, I have developed a real taste for the latter. To fuel my body properly for training I needed to eat the right stuff and take time over my food to let my body really take it in.
In the same way, our attitude to the Scriptures should be one of serious study and proper digestion. Studying and meditating on Scripture, employing study aids as appropriate, will enhance the realisation that we are handling the word of God, which is able to make us wise unto salvation and give us light by which to live our lives (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
Support and be supported
One of the lessons I learnt was that to run a marathon you really need family members to station themselves around the route to hand you food and other things needed during the race. I didn’t have that support and suffered, in a way.
But I didn’t suffer as badly as I might have done because those around me supported me in many ways – runners sharing drinks and food among themselves along the route.
Runners are a select group of individuals and respect one another incredibly, especially caring for those who are struggling. The same applies in the church, where there is the added benefit of love as well – real undying love! Throw yourself whole-heartedly into your local church, because without that support you may not make it to the finishing line.
Now that it’s over the marathon was worth it – painful and traumatic, but worth every minute! And the achievement would not have been possible had it not been for the splendid advice and support of other runners, via the internet and person to person.
Let me end, then, by recommending you take advice from older believers who have been ‘on the road’ a long time and can share their experiences and defeats with you – you can learn even from their mistakes.
Also, do use some helpful Bible reading notes. I highly recommend the
You may not run any marathons, but in the race of faith, we all need to keep on running. My final lesson can also be applied to the spiritual life – it’s all worth it in the end.