Last week it felt like we had moved above the Arctic Circle. I was expecting a polar bear to jump out at me any moment on my early morning run last Monday. But today, we were back to an Arkansas winter. Even so, it's only days now to my next marathon, so I didn't push too hard. We finished the distance in just under 59 minutes, averaging a little better than a 10 minute per mile pace.
This weekend, I'm going to start with a 4:30 goal marathon time and try to stick with that pace from beginning to end. You might remember my last attempt fell almost 5 minutes short of that goal because I started out way too fast. Hopefully that won't be the case this time. All I have to do is stay disciplined from the first step to the last step. But that is always harder than it sounds.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:27 (ESV)
In a marathon, discipline is important so you don't wear yourself out. Lack of discipline, starting out too fast or getting ahead of pace a little way into the race, can result in that dreaded "hitting the wall." In my last marathon, at mile 23, my hamstring just locked up on me. I couldn't run. I couldn't walk. All I could do was stand there, rubbing the back of my leg and trying to stretch it out.
After a couple minutes stretching, I was able to manage a very slow walk. That lasted about a half mile. Then I could finally manage a little shuffling "run." Usually, that's what "hitting the wall" feels like. It's not enough to stop you, to shut you down, just to make you feel bad, slow you down, and destroy your hopes of making your time goal. But there are cases where it does stop you, where you feel so bad you just have to drop out, or DNF in racing speak.
That's what happened to me at last year's Full mOOn 50K. At ~23 miles (are you sensing a pattern here?), I came to the last aid station with 8 more miles to go to the finish line. 8 more miles. I had just walked up a hill that felt like I was climbing Everest, but when I reached the top, there just wasn't anything left. The wall had stopped me that time, again because I'd started out too fast, running hills I should have been walking. Again, my lack of self discipline, wrecked my race.
While that may sound bad, it's nowhere near as bad as failing to discipline ourselves in our Christian life. As Christians, we're constantly watched, under the eye of many just hoping we'll fall and fail. Though our falls don't change the fact we're saved, don't keep us from getting to Heaven, they can have far-reaching, even eternal consequences.
Once we're saved, we have a duty to lead others to Christ, or at least allow God to work through us to draw others to Him. We have a duty to become a lamp through which His light shines. If we lack self discipline and fall, our Christian witness, our lamp, is dimmed. Through our lack of discipline, we turn people away from Christ rather than lead them to Him.
So we must discipline ourselves, physically in the marathon, and spiritually in the most important race, life. Grab your Bible and seek God's word. Read it. Follow it. And live it. It's God's instruction manual for us. We must be disciplined and discipline ourselves if we're to seek, find, and submit to God's will.
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.