As I began taking notes as to all the things I wanted to share about this awesome race, God took me to Hebrews 12:1-3, and as I began looking at these verses in light of this half marathon, a whole new understanding and appreciation for the passage entered my heart! My goal today is to share as much of my experience during this race as I can in a way that you too will never see these verses the same!
“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 besest 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. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”Hebrews 12:1-3
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…
Before ever signing up for this race, I knew people were watching me. As believers, we are ambassadors for Christ, and what we do in any moment is drawing others to Christ or turning them away. Knowing this brings me to my knees every day, surrendering my life to God and begging Him to live through me because even on my best day I cannot live the Christian life I should without Christ doing it in me. This is why we are to present ourselves as a vessel unto honor, meet for the Masters’ use.
“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”2 Timothy 2:21
Just before everyone headed outside to stand at the start line, I asked my dad to pray for me and one thing that stood out was when he asked God to help me be a witness for Christ. Whether or not we like it, people are watching us – both believers and unbelievers. The question is, when people look at us, do they see us or Christ?
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us…
The course was an out and back type, so runners were not only passing from behind, they were also passing head-on. A few minutes after the halfway point, a lady and I passed each other, both going the opposite direction, and I had to control myself so as not to turn around to watch her run. She was carrying a full-size backpack filled with who knows what, and she had looped her jacket through the handle on top. My mouth dropped open when I saw her and what crossed my mind was, “What in the world is she thinking? The trails are hard enough carrying nothing!” I couldn’t for the life of me think what exactly she could have thought she needed an entire backpack for.
Later, God brought to mind this section of Hebrews 12, “…lay aside every weight…” and after months of trying to understand it, this scenario with the backpack lady really solidified its meaning in my heart. Laying aside every weight was what I had been doing while preparing for the race. Every long run I experimented to see what was the least amount of things I could take with me on race day. What clothes were the lightest but would keep me warm? Should I take my hydration vest or just the handheld water bottle? What is the minimum amount of fuel I could take with me? Should I take a hat or just ear warmers? Full gloves or half gloves? Two pairs of leggings or just one? Should I take my phone? If so, did I need to bring a pack to carry it or should I sew a pocket into my skirt?
So many things had gone through my mind because I wanted the least amount of bulk and weight to carry for 13 miles, especially since there would be a lot of elevation gain. I had been so focused on minimizing everything that I actually didn’t even bring enough water or fuel.
God prompted my heart with, “How much weight do you carry daily in your spiritual life that could be eliminated to make you a better Christian?” This brought to mind several questions: What sin habits need to go? What character qualities need to be eliminated and replaced with fruits of the Spirit? What vain good things in my life are keeping me from putting more effort and time into the calling God has given me? What friends pulled me down or away from Christ? What activities diminished my effectiveness for advancing God’s Kingdom?
And let us run with patience the race that is set before us…
When it was time to line up at the start line, I waited around so I could get pretty close to the back. I’m never directly in the back of the pack, but I’m certainly not even close to average run times. I guess you could categorize me as the leader for the back of the packers! Having never run trails, I also knew I would not be running even close to my normal, easy pace. On training days, it was averaging around 13 minutes a mile with stops and walking. During the race, it averaged to around 18 minutes a mile.
Anyway, when the gunshot went off, it was like car traffic on the highway that was backed up. It took awhile for those of us in the back to actually be able to run–thankful for chip times! I kept repeating, “Take it slow and save energy.” We ran about a quarter of a mile on the road and a gravel drive before having to single file onto the trail. Again, it was backed up, and we had to stop and wait for our turn to enter. Yet the traffic was still at a pace where we were barely moving because now the runners down the trail were crossing a creek. “It’s okay,” I told myself. “Take it slow, save your energy.”
Finally, over the next mile, we spread out and got into our own rhythm, which was great because in the back of our minds some of us were worried about going too slow for the cold temperature. We needed to keep moving. All throughout the trail, for at least half of it, I took it as slow as possible. As time went on, I allowed myself to give a little more until dehydration took over, but even then I really wanted to finish, so I continued to take it slow because I knew each step would eventually lead me to the finish line.
Patience is a virtue worth getting, because each step will eventually lead us to our desired results if we repeatedly keep taking one step forward. In the last four miles, I saw a set of stairs ahead that I was going to have to climb. My first thought in seeing a runner half way up was something like “O great.” By the time I got to the stairs and looked up, I realized there were even more than I had originally thought. I began, one step at a time, and then stopped. I needed to know how many stairs this was, so I counted five behind me and kept going. I held tight to the railing and leaned forward because I felt like passing out. Half way up I stopped and the lady who I had been running with for the last mile or two yelled down, “Keep going, don’t stop.”
I knew if I stopped too long it would be over, so I was very grateful for her encouragement to keep going. There was in total 182 steps. I got to the top and someone pointed to a large boulder and said, “You’ll have to climb over that to get back on the trail. Be careful.” I was like, “You have got to be kidding me. I just climbed up all those stairs and you want me to climb over a rock now?” Of course I didn’t say that out loud, but I wanted to.
To be continued next Monday, March 28th!
Have a fantastic week, Happy Running!