Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1
I have wanted to run a 5K race for a few years now. The races I have considered look very inviting with the different themes and charities connected with them. I have always assumed this would help make it seem worth pushing myself to run continuously for 3.2 miles. To those of you who think in terms of metric instead of English, I know how very American-centric I sound. Five is a nice, straightforward number, but 3.2 has a much less daunting sound to it.
So, why haven’t I signed up for a 5K race before now? I could give you a paragraph of excuses right here, but I won’t. The truth is, I don’t have a good reason. Each year I consider signing up for one of the more fun sounding or beneficial races, but I put the idea back on my “bucket list” instead.
Our eldest son was asked to run in a 5K race taking place this summer, and he accepted the invitation. He asked me to practice running with him, and I felt like it was a good time to see if I could actually finish a 5K. We live in northern Minnesota – northern Minnesota in April is one day warm and spring like and the next day bitter with snow we can measure by the foot. Our practices have been confined to laps around the gym at our church.
Our son measured out the gym and figured out how many laps it would take to complete the equivalent of a 5K. However, through a series of misunderstandings and mistakes, he and I have yet to actually run continuously all 5 kilometers in the gym. A couple of times I have celebrated victorious only to find out that the number of laps I needed to complete was more than the number I had actually run.
I was laughing off these blunders with my husband this morning before he went to work, but I eventually lamented with the question: Why can’t I just finish this race? He answered, “I keep wondering why you are hung up on running 5 kilometers when you walk more than twice as far each day and faster than some people run a 5K.”
A little later, I was walking with a friend of mine, and she echoed my husband’s response when I told her about our conversation. She’s actually run a 5K race, and she admitted that it isn’t all that glorious an accomplishment. She also pointed out at the end of our walk that we had trekked nearly a 10K’s worth of miles in just an hour and twenty minutes. I kept thinking about this after I got home. Eventually, I decided I had to get rid of the thoughts getting in my way so I could run the 5 kilometers and be done with it. So, I mapped out my route and chose my soundtrack – Toby Mac’s “Eye On It” album. I was so psyched up, I put my shoes back on to run despite just having walked 7 miles.
My eldest son joined me, but he dropped out at the one-mile mark. He knew how determined I was to complete this; so, he waved me on. I’d completely lost him by the two-mile mark. I was still running, but I was headed toward home by the three-mile mark. I’d been running 10-minute miles, and I could feel every minute of it, and as I looked ahead to the 0.2 miles still ahead of me, I saw all of it was going to be uphill.
Suddenly, three things became abundantly clear to me: 1) I can run 5 kilometers no problem, but I really don’t enjoy running as much as I do power walking. 2) Each one of us has been given our own unique pace and race to run, and mine doesn’t have to be about 10-minute miles. 3) There is a race more important than the one I was running. So, I chose to slow my pace down to my normal 13-minute mile walk and finished the last 0.2 miles. I didn’t feel like a quitter at all as I walked another mile and a half to meet up with my son.
I’m sure I could run each day and build up a tolerance for running, and maybe even put in more distance eventually, but I’m really not that interested. See, I also realized that sometimes we put unnecessary burdens on ourselves to do things the LORD doesn’t ask us to do. This wasn’t really my race to run. While I was running, I didn’t feel as connected to my community because I was focused on controlling my body’s reaction to running. After I ran, my knees swelled up and began screaming at me, which is something I don’t usually experience after I walk – even on those occasions I put in 10 miles.
I have friends who thrive through running, however, and I respect the races they run. I can respect myself as well. In fact, anyone who is challenging themselves to keep running the race set before them at the pace and level the LORD has given them has my utmost respect. Keep in mind that success is uncertain. As the writer of Ecclesiastes puts it in chapter 9 verse 11: I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. We have no control over events, but we can have hope in the LORD, and He will renew our strength to soar, run without growing weary, and walk without being faint. (Isaiah 40:31) Our LORD gives us purpose, and He gives us what we need to hope and continue in the race laid before each one of us should we accept it.
LORD, I thank you for your very present hope and for the strength you have given me. We are not all called to run foot races, but we are all called to run a spiritual race. Train me, LORD, build my endurance. I thrive as I gather knowledge and strength from your Word, and I pray all who read this draw nearer to You through reading your Scriptures, through prayer and listening, and through exercising your teachings. Our hope is in You LORD. Romans 15:4 assures us that everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. I pray this endurance becomes a part of us in a deep and binding way so we may echo Paul in his letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7) Amen.