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

Saturday, February 23, 2013

8 days 'til the Little Rock Half Marathon!

The Run

Today's run was the last long run before race day! Next Sunday I'll be running the Little Rock Half. Since everyone is asking, "The half? Why?" I'll go ahead and tell you that story is coming with the message that follows. :) First though, let's go through today's run.

A change of scenery today. Earlier in the week I saw a friend post in one of the Facebook running groups I'm a member of that he and a few others were planning to run the 2nd half of the Little Rock Marathon course today. Since I was planning on a long run today, and am going to be deprived of running on the back half of the course next weekend, I decided I'd join them.

We started at the Arkansas State Capitol, the halfway point for the LR Marathon and followed the course for a couple of miles. Our trek included the ominous-looking-on-the-elevation-profile Kavanaugh section of the course, a two mile climb that begins around mile 14. It was a climb, but nowhere near terrible starting at mile 2 of our run today. We didn't go all the way up because there was no traffic control. Taking the actual course all the way to the top would have put us on Lookout for the descent back to the river, a road with no shoulders, lots of curves, and a few sort of crazy drivers. So we detoured and took a safer way to the bottom.

Just after mile 3 on our run today, we popped out on what I consider the toughest part of the marathon course, the River Trail portion. It's the flattest part of the course, but still the hardest to endure. Not because of the terrain or even the strain on your muscles. It's more mental than anything. You hit this part of the course around mile 18 and don't leave it until mile 24. It's an out and back section with virtually NO crowd support, and it's a long and straight stretch. It seems like you're forever watching the other runners fly by you going the other way, but it takes forever to reach the turn back to the east when you become one of them. It's just a mentally draining part of the course. But we made it, and again, it wasn't nearly as bad for miles 3 - 9 of our run today as it is for miles 18 - 24 on race day.

When we left the River Trail we again diverged from the course to make our way back to our vehicles. The detour did take us up a pretty killer hill (that is NOT on the marathon course), but again, we made it. By the time we reached the Capitol and our cars, we had 10 miles in. I was feeling good enough that I thought about tacking on another 3. But instead, I stood around and talked to the others who joined us today. A nice bunch of folks I hope to get to run with again.

It was a nice, slow, and easy 10 miler, but I feel really good now. So we'l keep on doing what we do, training and racing and hoping to see you all on the course somewhere.

The Message

Now that we have that out of the way, it's time for today's message and, as promised, an explanation for why I'm running the half at Little Rock next weekend instead of the full. The short explanation is that I'm listening to God and following His will.

Last fall, my addiction to running was getting really, really bad. I'm talking like bad the way a crackhead needs drugs. By September, I was registered for a 5 marathon streak starting in December and ending in March. The first was to be St. Jude on December 1, and the last of those 5 was Wrightsville Beach on March 17. At that time, I had plans to run the Little Rock full this year too. I was just waiting a while to register for LR because I knew about when it would fill up. Worse yet, there were two Arkansas marathons in November and I had just begun to seriously contemplate running at least one of them. Then disaster struck!

Disaster in the form of an injury, an injury I couldn't explain. I didn't step in a hole, twist anything, pull anything,..., I didn't DO anything that I could point to and say this or that caused an injury. Still, only 5 weeks from my next major race, my knee felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer to it. I couldn't explain it at first, but as the days ticked by without being able to run, the scales fell from my eyes, and I began to see.
"because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." -- Hebrews 12:6

It dawned on me that my injury wasn't caused because of training. It wasn't caused by a misstep or over training, but caused by my own pride and arrogance that led me away from God's calling to pursue glory and praise for myself. I had grown fond of the comments by those amazed by the distances I ran and the races I described. It had become all about me and practically nothing about God. That wasn't the way this was supposed to work. When God called me to this ministry, it was clear that I was to give Him the glory and the credit for anything that was accomplished. I had become distracted, wandering, and lost sight of His will. So He found a way to get me back on track. I'm convinced now that my injury was God's form of discipline, discipline to turn me back from my will to His.

Jesus got my attention and reminded me that I'm running to glorify Him, to spread the message He put me on the road to spread. The reason I run can't be about pride or vanity or medals or travel or anything else. This journey has to be about serving Him! If I stray from that purpose, the Good Lord will do whatever it takes to get me back on the right path.
"He must become greater; I must become less." -- John 3:30

Jesus wants me working for Him. He wants all of us working for Him, spreading the Good News that eternal life awaits all those who place their faith in Him as their Savior and Lord. It's not possible to glorify Him through vanity and pride. "He must increase, but I must decrease," are the words from this verse in the King James version of the Bible. When I stopped running for Him and started running for me, it was me trying to become more while making Jesus so much less. That just won't work.

When I realized my injury was meant to tell me to back down and get things back where they're supposed to be, I knew I had to slow down some. I didn't have to run as many marathons as possible to do God's work. I was registering for all those marathons for my glory, not His. When I realized this, I knew that I had to become less so that He could become greater. So I signed up for the half instead of the full.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -- Jeremiah 29:11

Jesus doesn't want us to stray. He doesn't want us to wander. He wants us to do the right thing, to honor Him with all we have, in all we do, and wherever we go. He wants us to do His will, and He wants to bless us. His plans are to prosper us and give us a future, not to harm us and make us despair. But He will do what's necessary to bring us back into the fold when we separate ourselves from His flock.

I was forced to stop running for weeks, for weeks right before the St. Jude Marathon, forced to stop so that I might once again regain the focus I'm supposed to have. This blog and my running are supposed to be dedicated to God's work, not mine. I lost sight of that last year and God reminded me.

I can't promise I'll never lose sight of what I'm supposed to be doing here in the future. I'm human and I'm a sinner who fails God every single day. But I thank Jesus He doesn't give up on me when I do. I thank Him that He loves me enough, cares about me enough, to discipline me and guide me back to the right path. Who knows where I'd be if He didn't?

But now I'm healthy, feeling great. I feel blessed to run each and every time I step on that road. And I hope and pray that every single day God can find a way to use me to do His will. So next weekend I'm running the half at Little Rock, because that's what God told me to run. Last fall was enough to teach me that I don't want to wander aim. Whatever happens next weekend, whether I'm fast or slow, I hope and pray that in some way, my effort will glorify Jesus!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

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