I started running in 2008 and eventually came to love it.
I love the way it makes me feel and how it’s given me a lot more confidence.
I love how it’s given me a great group of running friends whom I count as family.
I also love to watch the sport and follow all the American elites and their results. I read the magazines and memorize the marathon records.
Running has taught me about endurance and determination. I know I can always do more than I think I can because of running.
Running is a gift from God.
But running is not and cannot be an identity and God has been teaching me that as well.
As James says, every good a perfect gift comes from above. But if we seek to find our identity in the gifts he has given and not in him, our Creator, we will find that our lives have been built on sinking sand.
These gifts cannot bear the weight of our expectations. They are not designed for it.
I have always been a performance oriented person, finding joy and fulfillment in how well I accomplish something. If I have performed well musically I am in a good mood. If I messed up that solo, I would dwell on it for days and inevitably think less of myself.
That mindset came along when I started running. Doing races allows you to measure success. Using a GPS watch allows you to measure everything at all times. Did I PR? Did I hit my goal times in that workout?
I have always loved the training part of the marathon. Looking at a new 16 week training schedule always excites me. I love the challenge. The “teacher’s pet” in me loves to finish each day’s assigned workout and feels good about the accomplishment.
Unfortunately, my performances on race day have rarely measured up to what I’ve done in training. I’ve finished 6 marathons and only one has been what I’ve considered successful. Over time I have learned more about training and have struggled through injury and illness.
But finally I thought I had the puzzle solved. I figured out that I had an iron deficiency and over the past year I’ve been diligently working on it. I also worked hard to get in the best shape of my life and set a new 10K PR in July.
I was ready to tackle this next marathon and embarked on a new and more challenging training plan that would get me to a never before thought of goal – qualifying for Boston.
I had never run faster in my workouts. It was amazing and built my confidence week after week. I took care to sleep more and cross train and didn’t even get sick like I usually did in past marathon training cycles. My husband, who had run Boston only months prior, constantly told me how well he thought I was going to do.
Then one day as I was running I started praying about the race and noticed a hesitancy. I was afraid to pray about the race.
I would have told you that I believed unswervingly in the sovereignty and goodness of God. I had studied it. I loved talking about it and was currently teaching on it. But did I really believe it?
Faith is an interesting journey. God has a way of consistently prodding and poking you in those uncomfortable places. Those places of unbelief. Did I really believe, in my heart, that I could trust that God was good no matter the result of this marathon? I did not.
For the next week or so I wrestled with that and what it really meant. I still believed that running and the race results I got had the ability to satisfy me in the deepest places of my being.
I was expecting too much of the gift and it could not bear that weight.
The rest of the training cycle leading up to the race God graciously pruned away this unbelief and enlightened the eyes of my heart (Ephesians 1) to his inexhaustible goodness and grace.
God is sovereign. All things happen according to the counsel of his will. He is also good. If his children ask for bread he will not give them a stone.
Running is a gift and every breath comes from him. By the end of training I had really come to rejoice in that and was able to thank him for each workout.
And so yesterday I toed the line knowing that I couldn’t be more prepared, physically and spiritually. I was going to go for my goal and was excited to see what God would give me.
God gave me a DNF. I Did Not Finish.
I ran as hard as I could for as long as I could but by mile 20 my body was giving me the same familiar signals of iron deficiency. I was weak and could barely jog. I knew walking the rest of the way would be really tough and possibly detrimental to my health so I made the call to quit.
But I was OK with that. God had been preparing me for it. The day before the race he reminded me that my performance does not determine my identity. Christ has already performed on my behalf and made me righteous in God’s sight and his child forever. That inheritance will never fade away. It is kept safely in heaven for me. (1 Peter 1)
I will probably keep trying to solve this marathon puzzle. But I won’t let it define me anymore.
Running is a gift and as with all gifts, God uses them to purify us and teach us about himself if we let him.