If anyone were designed not to run a marathon that would be me. With exercise asthma, bunions, and a dirth of natural running ability I was an unlikely candidate. What I lacked in talent, though, I made up for in persistence.
Hebrews 12:1-2: “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”
My marathon journey began in 1998. My 11 year old, Chris, was on treatment for leukemia and I had learned about charity running. I had already run many 5k’s, 10k’s and the occasional 15k, all with dazzling mediocrity. Despite this I was hooked on running. The endorphins, my increased energy, and the excellent fit of my size 8 jeans had all motivated me up until this point. But opportunity to use my running to make a difference in honor of my son raised my desire to a whole new level.
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
“You’re going to do what, where?” My husband, Rob, had gaped at me when I told him.
“I’m going to run a marathon in Ireland.” I had declared.
“You barely have time to clean the house.” Rob, thinking of my job and our 3 kids, was skeptical.
I went on to do 5 more distance events and we raised approximately $40,000 for cancer research. The fundraising gave us the opportunity to share our journey with others and to connect with other families struggling with cancer. We had also become part of the solution by contributing valuable research money.
One of the most important lessons I learned from marathoning was perseverance. The thought of propelling my middle-aged body forward for 26.2 miles was daunting, but when broken down into smaller training runs, each beginning with a single step, it was doable.
Romans 5:3-4 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
I have learned to apply this lesson to other life ‘marathons’ such as an unpleasant work situation, a long wait hoping to get a piece of writing published, or a season of teenage angst with one of my children. These were all character building experiences.
Another valuable marathon lesson I learned was the relationship between pain and growth. As one trains the muscle fibers experience tiny tears. A day or two after a long training run often found me limping a bit. This was temporary, however, because my torn muscle fibers eventually repaired themselves and became stronger than ever. Each week, I would add one more mile onto my long run and my endurance steadily grew. In a few months I was logging 18 and 20 mile runs, something I would have never imagined in the beginning.
In my teaching career I learned to deal effectively with difficult students by logging those painful miles. By establishing a respectful relationship early, and praising their talents I went the distance with my troubled students. Just as I sometimes drove a long training course ahead of time, stashing water bottles in the bushes or noting bathroom locations, I prepared my problematic kids ahead of time what to expect on a field trip or a long test. Often, painful trial and error produced amazing results.
I remember one student in particular. The previous year’s teacher warned me about “Alex". Yet, when allowed to work standing up at his desk, softly talking to himself "Alex" managed to achieve straight A's!I discovered that his temper was often quickly diffused through humor or an appeal to his intelligence. “Alex, you can’t get in trouble, you’re my multiplication champ and I need you to judge the flash card game this afternoon!” He eventually became a class leader and a brilliant math student, finding ways to solve problems that neither I nor my teacher’s manual had thought of. “Alex” still had his days when I sought administrative assistance, but his progress from September to June was nothing short of a marathon!
Isn’t that how God guides us along our sometimes painful course as well? He stays with us even when we require his administrative assistance.
The final lesson I learned form marathoning was hope. As long as I kept putting one foot in front of the other I knew that the finish line was eventually waiting for me.
Titus 3:7 “so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
When my fourteen year old Chris was on his deathbed he said, “Mom, don’t worry. I’m going to be fine. Jesus is going to call me and I’m gonna go.” Chris had attained a peace that surpassed all understanding. God had given him the hope of eternity. Chris was ready to raise his arms and cross that finish line.
2 Timothy 4:7“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”
With God’s grace I will try to keep running the good race, for my earthly marathon isn’t over yet.