“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. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”Hebrews 12:1-3
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…
One thing God had told me leading up to this race was that this was the last race I would run with, just Him. I’m not sure exactly if that means that my next race I will be dating, or if I will have a running buddy, or if I will focus more on talking with the other runners, or I could have misheard Him, but whatever the case He encouraged me to really focus on running WITH Him during this race, and so that’s what I did.
Just as in training, I invited Jesus to run with me and we had a blast. As crazy as it may sound, there were even a couple times as we conversed when He said something which literally made me laugh out loud. He was directing me through mud puddles of which one time I actually stopped to figure out how to dodge the slop that stretched out further than the trail on both sides. I felt Him nudge me. “Just go through the center.” And you know what? There were sticks or roots spaced just far enough apart that I could keep my feet dry for just a little longer. With my body not doing well in the cold, especially when I am wet, my goal was to keep my feet as dry as possible until I had only a few miles left.
One thing I really enjoyed was looking around at my surroundings when I could. The scenery was beautiful; the lake was gorgeous, and the air was crisp and clean smelling. As a family, we used to go hiking as often as we could, but never had I noticed so many details. I guess when you have so much baggage in your life, it really hinders your vision. I’ve been noticing so much more recently that I never had seen before.
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.
I always used to wonder what caused the joy in Jesus to endure such cruel hardships. One day, God opened my eyes to realize that it was me! Jesus wanted us to have access to the Father again. They wanted an intimate relationship with us! Jesus knew what He was bringing to fruition. He knew what the future held if He obeyed His Father, and He wanted it just as bad as God did.
Before the race, my only goal was to finish. I did not have a specific time frame in which I wanted to be done, but I knew I would finish because that was one promise God gave me before the race–“You’ll finish and have fun.” In all honesty, I don’t know what kept me going during those last three miles, other than death knocking at the door. I don’t think I was on brinks edge, but it sure felt like I could be, especially when I heard an ambulance in the distance–it crossed my mind that it was coming for me.
But I know that God answered the cry of my heart for strength to finish! He was so sweet; I would ask Him for strength and Nehemiah 8:10 kept popping up in my head, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” It made me smile every time, which, according to studies, smiling releases endorphins so that could have also really helped.
For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
I love this verse for many reasons, but no previous life lesson compares to the experience I had in the last four miles of this race! God gave me a small glimpse into the suffering that Christ took on for me. After being mocked, ridiculed, and beaten for hours, they forced Jesus to carry his cross on open, gashing wounds. He was dehydrated, exhausted, and I’m sure His body was mentally tired as well, not just physically.
As I passed the last aid station with four miles to go, the path got almost completely flat for about a half mile. My legs did not like this one bit, so they stiffened with the repetitive motion. I opened up an orange squeezy of fuel and as soon as it touched my tongue I craved another one, which to my disappointment I had only brought one. However, looking back, I realized I had been dehydrated for an hour or so before this point, but I didn’t notice. I have found that when I am behind on my water intake, I crave anything that tastes like oranges. That is why with all my hydration supplements and food, I try to stick with something orange flavored, because it is very satisfying to me.
All the marathoners kept passing me head-on during the last few miles and kept encouraging me to keep going because I was almost there. I was thinking almost there meant a mile, but 20 minutes later I was not yet to the finish line. Still, I kept hearing it from the runners, “Keep going, you are almost there.” “Okay, only one more mile,” or so I thought. Finally, after about 40 minutes of this, I looked at my watch and to my horror found out I was only on mile 11!
My dehydration seemed to affect my body pretty badly now and all I could think about was getting a drink of water. I felt faint, nauseated, and crampy. I knew if I stopped moving the cold would get to me because the wind had now picked up and I was covered in sweat, and my limbs threatened to cramp up, so I knew my only hope was to keep moving as fast as I could. I considered asking passing runners for some water, seeing what snow tasted like, or trying water uphill in one of the creeks we crossed. I have never been so thirsty in my life. But remember how I mentioned before that I had invited God to run with me during this race? Well, up to this point, He had run beside me the entire time and I really enjoyed conversing with Him.
Yet it was during this difficult moment that Jesus stopped running beside me, and in a split second, I realized He was now dragging His cross instead. The verse popped into my head about how Jesus cried out “I thirst” while He hung on the cross and for the next several seconds I thought about what Jesus did for me, never having been able to relate with His agony in such a way. I had prayed for years that I could understand what Jesus actually went through around His crucifixion and it was in this moment that I got another glimpse of the love Christ has for me.
Right after this episode, God reminded me of His promise from the night before, telling me I would have fun and I’d finish, so it gave me hope to keep trudging along, one step at a time. Not even 5 minutes later, I noticed a guy not far in front of me and soon I was caught up. Having this physical company was a huge help during the last mile or so. We both agreed that this trail was super difficult, which affirmed yet again that I had not done very good research on what level of expertise you needed to run this. As we neared the top of the last hill, we ran to the finish. He took off and left me in the dust, but my sister was then at my side to push me to the finish line, so I was super grateful for that.
After the Finish Line
Now that the race was over, my first thought was, “I need my molasses water, where is it???” I grabbed two cups of Ginger Ale and that was amazingly satisfying!! I grabbed a bowl of chips and my finisher’s medal, then headed inside where it was warm. After removing my shoes and replacing my wet socks with fresh dry ones, I realized I needed to change as soon as possible because I was. I ended up wearing two fleece coats and still wasn’t warming up. The hot coffee hadn’t really helped much either, so I was glad to have made it back safely. I guess I had been so thirsty I did not realize how cold I was. I was, however, able to finally warm up after playing a good game of ping-pong with my siblings.
When my head finally seemed to return to earth, out of the clouds and I drank a whey protein drink to get to kick start recovery, I headed back outside to see what kind of food there was. Within an hour after the finish I had stuffed into my stomach an entire bowl of chips, a grilled cheese which had never tasted so good, a frozen pickle, an oreo, 16 oz of molasses water with a splash of magnesium and a couple pinches of salt (which you should definitely try for an after workout hydration drink!), 8oz of a whey protein drink with some maca (an herb that helps with stress) and turmeric (for inflammation), 10 more ounces of water, and a small coffee! And I still drank and ate more on the way home! Wow, am I glad I had done some fasted training runs, otherwise I’m not sure I would have had the energy to finish. I had definitely used my reserves and need to remember next time to take more in during the race.
Would I torture myself like this again? Of course! I seriously doubt I’ll ever get awards in my running because I am so slow, but I don’t run to win. I run because I feel called to run. I run because of the amazing things God has done for me and taught me through this sport. I run to feel the presence of God. I run for fitness, the fact that there are so many life lessons to be learned, and the inspiration it gives me in proving that I can do more through Christ than I think I can. Looking back, I think God tried to get me into running so many times when I was a child and teenager, but I hated it. When I played tag in gym class, I twisted and turned to avoid being tagged. I rarely ever ran away. I would walk from one side of the gym to the other in order to stay away from the person who was “it”. Even now, if I’m brutally honest, most days it is still a love/hate relationship, but I am falling in love with the struggles more and more because it’s when I am weak that Christ’s strength is made perfect.
“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” -2 Corinthians 12:9
I guess you’ll just have to wait and see!!
I love you and pray you have a blessed week, Happy Running!