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.
— Heb. 12:1
I had every intention of running in the inaugural Route 66 Marathon this year, but for a variety of reasons, I was not able to make time in my schedule to train properly. I’ve run before on very little training, but I just haven’t been able to get into the right frame of mind this season … and as every marathoner knows, distance running is about the mind, not the body.
I personally believe that everything is about the mind, not the body (that’s pretty much the upshot of my faith as a Christian Scientist), but running makes that fact particularly clear.
I was having a hard time deciding what to do. I don’t believe in limitations, but at the same time, there’s a big difference between overcoming limitation and hurling yourself off a building. Increasingly, a marathon attempt this fall was feeling more and more like the latter.
I thought it over and prayed it over and waited for my answer.
It came this week, when my friend Lynda e-mailed me the other day to say that she had just completed a nine-mile training run. She wanted to know whether I thought she had enough training under her belt to finish a half-marathon in a couple of weeks. I assured her that she could certainly do it, and I told her I was thinking about scrapping the full marathon in favor of the half; if I did, I would certainly be happy to run with her to help keep her spirits up when she got out into uncharted waters.
A few hours later, I got an e-mail from another friend, who told me that Dan, a real sweetheart of a guy who ran with the Fleet Feet crew a couple of times last fall, is planning to run the Mother Road 100, a 100-mile ultramarathon down Route 66 commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Mother Road, and he needs pacers to run with him for an hour or two and keep his spirits up as he gets into the later miles.
My coach would have kittens if I told him I planned to do the Tulsa Run (a 15K) in the morning, run four to eight miles in the evening, and then attempt a marathon a week later. It’s just not considered wise to do so much in such a short frame of time, especially when you haven’t been running well all season.
But I got to thinking.
I thought about Dan. I thought about Lynda. I thought about why I run. I thought about why I wanted to run this particular race. And I realized something important:
When I run, my goal is to express good spiritual qualities, such as grace, strength, joy, and power. Hobbling across a finish line in tears or quitting in the middle won’t express any of that.
Up to this point, I’d thought that giving up and settling for a half-marathon instead of finishing a full wouldn’t express any of that, either … but I was mistaken.
This really is about my quality of thought. I know that if I really wanted to, I could complete all 26.2 miles through sheer stubbornness. After all, my pedigree includes Scottish, Irish, and German bloodlines … which makes me the human equivalent of a pit bull-rat terrier-English bulldog mix. Being hard-headed is my birthright.
But I already know how to be stubborn and willful. As a matter of fact, I have spent the past year or so trying to unlearn those traits.
Every marathon teaches a lesson, and this time around, I am supposed to be learning humility and selflessness. If I cast off pride and self-will and choose instead to let go of my own foolish goal, humble myself, and drop down from the full marathon to the half, I can help two dear people (both of whom have been very kind to me in the past) achieve their goals in the process.
And in doing that, I will have expressed grace, strength, joy, and power — which is why I run in the first place.
I don’t know what the next two weeks hold, but I know I am making the right decision, and there’s a blessing for me somewhere between here and the finish line. Probably lots of them.