photo (2)I ran my first marathon in April 2013 in Dearborn, Michigan.  It was called the Martian Marathon. (The name comes from our nearest planetary competitor around the sun, Mars. The marathon is run on the weekend when Earth passes Mars on its journey around the sun.)

I’ll be honest it was harder than I expected, but not as bad as I feared.  My goal was to finish & I did. My official time was 5 hours 54 minutes (although I actually ran 3/4 miles longer due to the zig zag path).

Hebrews 12:1-2 compares the Christian life to running a race.  “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

As I reflect on my experience, I thought of a few spiritual principles I want to share with you. If you think of others, leave a comment.

1. It’s a long race, so pace yourself.

I started at the end of the pack and my pace was a 12 minute mile for the first 14-15 miles. I felt great so wanted to run faster, but 26 miles is a long way and I didn’t want to run out of ‘gas’.  God’s expectation of our ‘race of life’ is to be good and faithful.  Speed is not necessary… just finish well!

2. It’s a lonely race, so you’ll need a partner. 

I didn’t know anyone. For the first 2-3 miles I was running in a small pack of people, then I started a conversation with a guy from Westland named ‘Steve.’  It was his 3rd marathon and he was a little hurt, so he decided to run my slower pace.  We talked for the next 13 miles, then he stopped with a bad foot. However, he got his second wind and caught up to me with 2 miles to go and we crossed the finish line together.  He helped me understand the race, my surroundings, and even helped me with some pointers.  Our conversation made the time go by faster.  We need to make sure we keep close Christians as our partners in our ‘race of life.’  Don’t go the journey alone!

3. It hurts.

I really felt good for the first 1/2 marathon – no pain or fatigue. I texted Judy to tell her how I was doing.  Then when I hit the 17 mile mark my right knee started to hurt. My chiropractor has told me that my knee sometimes gets a little out of joint and I’m afraid that was what was happening.  So I had to trade off running and walking to get it back.  Then about mile 22 my thighs started to be so fatigued I thought they would cramp.  Then my feet and ankles started to hurt, my elbows hurt from holding my arms up, my hips started to strain… I was a mess!  When I got back in the motel my first thing was to sit in ice cold water to get the swelling down so my legs would work. For the next 3 days I had a hard time walking. Running that far hurts.  Huh – Life hurts. Running our race of life is going to give us pain so get over it and quit complaining. My son, Josh, has a Marine poster that says, “Pain is weakness leaving your body.”

4. Don’t get too cocky about yourself, you may be passed by people you would have never expected.

After I left Steve limping behind me, i felt pretty good. As a matter of fact I felt a little too confident and began passing people. I didn’t over due it, but it really felt good to catch up to people and pass them, especially those who were younger than me.  Then…. I hit the wall about 20 miles. My knee started giving me sharp pains and my thighs began to feel wobbly and I had to run/walk for the rest of the way. As hard as I tried to stay ahead, some of those ‘slow’ runners passed me up.  The last guy to pass me up was a 65+ year old man who weighed about 250 lbs.  We are not called to judge somebody else’s race, just ours.  Keep your eyes on yourself – that’s enough to keep you busy for the rest of your race.

5. It’s worth it all when you’re finished.

After nearly 6 hours I crossed the finish line and received my “Martian” medal.  Was it worth it?  You bet!  I’ll do it again. It felt good to set a BIG goal and make it.  I’m already trying to figure how to get my time below 5 hours.  The race of life we are on can be crazy. But if you are following Jesus, no matter what it costs you, it will be worth it.  Run your race. Look to Jesus as your example and your coach!  Hang in there… the finish line may be closer than you think.