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

Monday, February 4, 2013

Run to get the prize!

The Run

It's marathon week! On Saturday I'll run the Mississippi River Marathon in Greenville, MS, so this week is a take-it-kind-of-easy week with running.

Since the beginning of the new year, I've been running 40 - 45 miles each week. My goal this week is to keep in that range, even with the 26.2 miles I'll run on Saturday. That means I've got to cut way back on my Monday through Friday miles. I need 14 - 18 miles in before I leave on Friday.

Today I got 6 of those in and tomorrow I plan to get another 6. Then I'll really be cutting back, doing no more than 2 each day Wednesday through Friday. Most all of those runs will be at a nice easy pace, just staying loose for the big race on Saturday. Today I averaged an 11 minute pace, which would give me a good PR if I could average that through the whole 26.2 miles.

Tomorrow's run will likely be the hardest of all this week. I'll be joining my old Tuesday/Thursday group for 6 miles on a course with some pretty good climbs for around here. These are the folks that really made me faster when I joined them last year about this time. Now, when people ask me for tips to get faster, I tell them to run with faster people. It certainly helped me pick up speed.

I'm still not certain how I'll approach the marathon this weekend. Like last Saturday's 15K, I'll probably make the call at the last minute. Though I'd like to PR, there are going to be a lot of friends running this race. A marathon (or any long run for that matter) is so much easier when running with friends. So I may opt to join one or a group of folks I know and just stick with them. It will depend on whom I join as to whether that will make me go faster or slower, but it really doesn't matter. Just crossing the finish line is the main goal.

The Message

In most shorter races--5Ks, 10Ks, 15Ks, or other distances less than 10 miles--only the top 3 finishers in certain categories receive a trophy, or a prize. I don't know if that's because distance runners figure just about anyone can make it through those distances, or what the reason is, but longer races are different. In most races longer than a 15K, every finisher receives a medal or some comparable prize, or "bling," as they are commonly known in the running community.
"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." -- 1 Corinthians 9:24

Some folks will flat out tell you that's why they run, to accumulate as much "bling" as humanly possible. But I think even these folks really run for deeper reasons. You all know why I run, but lots of runners have lots of different reasons for pushing themselves to run distances most non-runners consider either impossible, insane, or both. People run in memory or honor of others. Some run to raise money for worthwhile charities. Others run to prove to themselves and others they can achieve a seemingly impossible goal. If you really get down to details, there are probably as many reasons for running as there are runners.

I can't find it right now, but I remember watching a marathon training video where the presenter suggested running for a reason (and they weren't talking about medals or material prizes.) This is something I suggest to everyone who asks me for advice on how to get started so they can run a marathon...find something important to run for.

The months of training for your first marathon aren't easy. They're long, filled with ebbs and flows of success and failure in training. You'll have good runs and bad runs, days when you feel like you could run forever and days when just getting through a 5K seems a struggle. You're likely to suffer injury at some point or another in training, sometimes serious, sometimes minor. It's a long, hard road to get to that first marathon. Then, you have to get through the 26.2 miles!

Those bad days, those tough runs, are what can really turn folks off. When you struggle through 3 miles and you're 3 months into your marathon training program, you begin to wonder how in the world you'd ever make it through almost 9 times that distance! The injuries, the bad days, and the tough runs make it easy to quit. But if you've got a reason to run, a reason bigger than yourself, that's sometimes just enough of a catalyst to keep you going when all good sense tells you to just give up.

There are lots of great charities out there with programs for distance runners to support them. Many offer incentives for race entries and even hotel rooms. Raise enough money and you might even get airfare paid to your event. Maybe you could race to honor a loved one. There are many, many ways to find an important cause to keep you on the road when you'd rather be somewhere else.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." -- 2 Corinthians 5:10

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked if I'm going to win a race I'm entered in. When I tell them I'll never cross the finish line first, they ask me, "Why do you run then?" And that's the beauty of marathoning. I don't run to get the prize they're talking about, but I do run to get THE prize that's waiting for me in Heaven. So I'm going to keep running, not for the earthly prize the first place finisher gets, but the prize that all those who trust in the Lord, Jesus Christ, as their Savior will receive when they cross through Heaven's gate.

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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