About 6 years ago, my life changed. I was on a destructive path and becoming a person I never intended to be. So I turned to God and surrendered my life. I rededicated my life to Christ. About that same time, I chose a positive way to deal with stress by becoming a consistent runner. I remember my very first 5k race was in February 2008, and it was an hour drive, cold and raining. But after I finished that race, I was hooked. I wanted to start training for a marathon (call me crazy) and I did. Over the years I have learned that my beliefs run parallel to a runners life.
Here’s the similarities:
1. Runners don’t give up and neither do Christians.
I’m not saying people who are not runners give up, I’m just saying years of running teach you to persevere. We understand not every run will be great but we continue to run the good, bad, and the ugly runs. A runner friend of mine, Jimmy Dean Freeman is an ultra marathon runner and he literally ran into a deadly rattlesnake on a 22 mile training run in the San Gabriel mountains. You think that stopped him from running in the mountains? Nope. He persevered that day and also overcame a fear of his. Veteran runners all have race stories with a challenge along the way that could either discourage us or take us out such as an injury, cramp, etc. The true runners will not stop just because of a bad experience that may cause them to question why they run. We torture our bodies, experience pain, and failures that make the journey hard. But as Tom Hanks says in one of my favorite movies,” I know it’s hard, but the hard is what makes it good”. When it gets the hardest is when you have to fight the hardest.
Just like runners, one of the most endearing qualities of a Christian is perseverance. In the book of James he writes “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith produces perseverance”. When you meet Christians who have been walking with The Lord for a long time you will know that they have been through a lot and they have persevered because of their faith. They have ‘scars’. A true Christian would not give up on God because they lost someone or had a really bad experience that caused them to question God’s sovereign power. We continue the journey.
2. Most people do not like pain or suffering but runners and Christians understand it’s NECESSARY for spiritual or physical growth.
Some of my most painful races have made me not only a better runner but a better person. I know there’s always another race when I can redeem myself. I think the most exhausted and pain I ever felt was after the marathon. But it was sooo worth it. The days after a hard run where I am in physical pain do not stop me but I have learned to have a balance. That physical and mental exhaustion of a marathon has better prepared me to be a mom. The joke here is that being a mom is a marathon. You can’t sprint this race, especially when you have young children. You must push through the exhaustion to get to the finish line where you get your “medal of honor”.
Christians also face many painful and exhausting trials. The most faithful ones are the ones who have experienced the worst kind of pain on earth, losing a loved one young-a miscarriage, a baby, someone who left too soon, experiencing illness such as cancer, blood illnesses, a life changing injury from war, near death experiences and torture, I could go on all day. I have had my faith tested when my cousin Kayla passed at the age of 26, and it only brought me closer to God. Trials are what test your faith. Pain and suffering is part of the learning curve in all aspects of life.
3. We make it a priority above a lot of things.
It’s sort of like a natural medicine in which I cannot live without. Some call it a “runners high”. Whether it be running or faith, we make time for it and we don’t make excuses. Do we fall off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Do I not run for a week once in a while, yes. Do I forget to read my Bible for a few days, yes. But most of the time, I make it more important than other things. Because I know that if I am away from running for too long I don’t feel like me. It keeps me grounded. Also, as a Christian, if I am not hearing Gods voice, not praying, studying God’s word, worshiping and hearing the message at church for too long I fall into old habits and depression creeps back. I become someone I am not. Someone I don’t even like. Without Jesus, I am not me. There’s something missing.
4. We love nature and understand it’s healing powers.
Runners get to experience nature; the golden sun on your face, the smell of fresh-cut grass, the wind blowing, the sights and sounds of birds singing. It’s like a free ride and all we have to do is go outside and experience it. Did anyone hear me? I said FREE. I think most runners will concur that nature takes the “suck” out of sucking wind. You can easily be distracted from your pain or huffing and puffing if you see a cute little jack rabbit run right in front of you. It just makes you smile.
I’m not sure how you could experience this beautiful earth and not know there was a creator, an artist who made all things work together. But Christians give the glory to God and understand that God has made his beautiful creation to literally SOS-soothe our souls. I love the beach and there have been several times where I have fought a spiritual battle or going through a very tough time with depression and needed SOS. I went for a run on the beach and felt healed by the soothing ocean waves. Just 30 minutes and I was like a completely different person. (Ask my husband.) God created this earth and nature as a way for us to connect with Him. A way for Him to reach us, we may not see Him but we feel His presence.
5. We have good running seasons and bad ones, just like good spiritual or bad spiritual life seasons.
Sometimes if you are a runner and a Christian your tough life season may coincide with a really good running season or vice versa. Sometimes it’s all bad (that’s where perseverance kicks in, yet again) or all good seasons and that’s just awesome! I can tell you that 2013 was a pretty good running year for me. I upped my mileage and sped up my runs. I did not do a lot of races but all in all I feel like I have improved as a runner. Spiritually, I have had a lot of battles this year and my family lost Kayla who was very dear to me. But I ran harder because I was facing this battle and I refused to let Satan stop me from running and “give up” just because I was devastated by her death. I often think of Kayla when I run and do it in her honor. I will never forget the time she came to support me in my first (and only) triathlon. She got up at 5:30am with me and my sister and they supported me. Now that’s love.
6. We have a brotherhood with each other.
There is something so amazing about thousands of athletes running a race together. You really feel the energy and camaraderie of running. Runners just get each other. I think everyone saw how the 2013 Boston Marathon brought not only runners, but people together. I have never seen the running community stand together for one cause like I did in the weeks after the Marathon.
It is just the same when you are in a church with many believers in corporate worship. You all know the truths, feel Gods presence and have an indescribable bond that only a true Christ follower can understand. You are brothers and sisters in unity worshiping an amazing God. If you have never been around this kind of worship-believer or not, you should try it once and you will literally feel this energy, power and faith. Warning: it may take your breath away or worse make you feel on a deeper level.
7. Runners have a set of principles and respect they stand by as do Christians.
Runners have rules which you learn and respect. Runners know when to move to let someone pass, and let others know when you are left of them. We sometimes stay with someone who is at our pace for most of the race. There is a certain race etiquette that is universally known by runners.
Christians have biblical principles. They are straight out of the Bible so it makes them easy to find. Christians do Bible studies, mission trips, and serve others at church. We sign up for all these things to enrich our walk and share Jesus’ love with others but it also keeps us focused on the task at hand, sharing the gospel, instead of hiding out at home. I never understood serving others as much as I do now. That’s what God calls us to do. Serve, love, share your life.
8. We encourage each other.
Newbie runners and new believers are celebrated and encouraged by veteran runners and Christians who have been walking with Christ for a long time. We try to inspire when they need a little positive energy. My friend Erin had been running for years and she is the reason I even thought of doing a marathon. She taught me all the tricks with shoes, wicking clothes, sunglasses, hydrating properly, using gel and running beans. I shared my trainer knowledge about foam rolling your muscles and nutrition. I willingly share all this knowledge with anyone I know who is a newbie runner. It’s just what you do.
On the Christian side, believers encourage newer believers with their stories of what God has done. I cannot count how many times I have been in a tough season and a fellow believer picks me up just by a little encouragement and the right words. I know God is speaking to me through them. The most amazing part is it sustains me until He answers my prayers.
9. We train to WIN the race.
I’m sorry but I am very competitive. I don’t want to just show up. I want to win! If I sign up for a race it is not just for fun, I want to beat my last time and PR (personal record). I can’t speak for all runners here but hopefully most runners are like me.
In 1Cor 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.
Now the race for Christians is life. We need to hold to our faith and share the amazing story of redemption and love. If we wander aimlessly, what are we even doing?
Once you make the decision to become a runner or Christian your life changes radically. Once you cross that line you may never want to go back. People will call you crazy and won’t understand your commitment and dedication. But despite the condescending comments, most people want to know WHY we do what we do.
As either entity when you fully commit to this kind of life you will learn to sacrifice, train hard, and endure. For each has a great purpose in your life, and the life of others who watch you. I am hoping that you will join me because it is worth the pain, the obstacles, and disbelief of onlookers. I have seen miracles and breakthroughs. Because when you truly believe in something, you don’t need to prove it’s worth it, you just need to live in victory.