Going the Distance

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
— “If”, by Rudyard Kipling
Most of you are well aware of my newly discovered passion for running. I have never (and let me emphasize NEVER) been the athletic type. But this past year has brought about some drastic changes and a new running regimen is certainly one of them. Let me make clear from the outset that I understand that this is my particular passion and not one that the reader necessarily shares. So, I’m not trying to be obnoxious and cram my exercise routine down your throat. However, running has given me many things to consider as it really is a great metaphor for life. It is no wonder then that the Apostle Paul would adapt the imagery of sports, particularly running and boxing (cf. 1 Cor 9:34-26), to the Christian life. With that in mind, I share with you a few things that running has taught me…
1. The ability to fight through pain is crucial if you desire to go the distance. In his book Endure, Alex Hutchinson defines endurance as “the struggle to continue against a mounting desire to stop.” As you run, every mile is filled with an increasing desire to stop, to pull the rip-cord, to call it quits. The mental struggle is often much tougher than the physical struggle. As I think about my home and ministry, endurance is essential if we wish to accomplish anything. Running has taught me that we endure what we want to endure if we value the prize. This has convicted me as I think about how quickly I get irritable with my children or frustrated at home. My home is so much more valuable than a finisher’s medal.
2. Pacing helps us to avoid burn out and injury. Going out too fast is sure to kill the distance. Too much, too fast is dangerous and can cause injury. It’s been said that life is a marathon, not a sprint. However, training for a marathon actually puts this quaint little saying into perspective. We often barrel into things head first without regard to sustainability or the risk of injury to ourselves or others! Slow down, pace yourself, consider the cost and maintain a pace that will carry you for miles.
3. Sometimes, we need to just put one foot in front of the other. I overthink everything. I’m often caught in a cycle of reliving the past and worrying about the future. The thing that I love about running is that ultimately you just need to put one foot in front of the other. I don’t think about how far I’ve gone nor do I worry about how much further I need to go. I simply enjoy the run. I enjoy being in the moment. We don’t need to have everything figured out. Just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
4. You are capable of more than you think. In 2017 I couldn’t run a single mile without stopping. Now, I’m running on average 5-6 miles per day with 2.5 hour long runs (roughly 13-14 miles). After having back surgery in 2011 I never thought that I’d be able to log this kind of mileage. Yet, here I am. Losing almost 100 lbs and running has shown me that I am capable of more than what I often think. Don’t sell yourself short.
5. Some things are out of your control. It was Friday and I was ready for my “long run.” I had ate well the day before, I was rested, and I was ready to go. I got up at 4am, laced up my shoes, and stepped outside only to see a lightning show like I’ve never seen before. As much as I love to run, I also like living. So, I decided to postpone the highly anticipated run. Some things are out of our control. In fact, most things are out of our control.
6. You have to start somewhere. I started out slow- very, very slow. Sometimes the hardest part of change is simply getting started. Now, running is such a part of my routine that it feels odd not running. We are created with the capacity to form habits, which is both a good and a bad thing. So, if you’re just getting started on some change in your life, let me encourage you by reiterating that the hardest part is getting going. If you just stick with it, it will eventually become a habit that you can put on auto-pilot.
7. You’ll never regret the run. Some days I wake up ready to run, other days I wake up tired. Regardless, I run. To date, I have not regretted it once. Even if I’m tired, at the end of my run I’m always grateful that I got it done. Life can be hard and filled with challenges that seem daunting. But, we will never regret living to the glory of King Jesus.
Forgive the labored analogy, but these are the things that I’ve been meditating on as I log my miles. I hope they encourage you in some way this week.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Matthew

2 Comments on “Going the Distance

  1. Thanks for the good words of encouragement and perspective. I get the analogies and appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m curious if you have a system or tool to help you capture and retain the thoughts you develop while running.

    Congratulations on your perseverance and awesome achievements. Good to see a preacher who is walking the walk. Actually, I know many who live out their faith in very admirable ways. Well done!

  2. I love your last point and was thinking about that very same thought the other day! I was thinking there are definitely two things that I never regret: Spending time with God whether it’s reading/praying/listening to worship music and running! Obviously there are more things to list but these two have been constant since I’ve started running over a decade ago. Thanks for sharing brother!

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