On April 16th I’m running the Boston Marathon. This is a lifetime dream come true for me! How I did it is a great lesson to help you in your life.
As a young man I dreamed about running the world’s elite 26.2 mile race. I ran a marathon as fast as I could, but I fell short of qualifying. I tried harder and ran as much as 90 miles a week but my subsequent marathons were even slower than my first! In each race I hit “the wall” and struggled to the finish line. I gave up on my dream.
Recently my dream was revived. It had been over twenty-five years since I’d run a marathon, but a young friend at church prodded me into running the Surf City Marathon with him. It was just two months away and I was only jogging once or twice a week, but I was inspired to go for it! Of course, I hit the wall hard in the race, but nonetheless, I surprised myself that despite relatively little preparation I was able to finish in three hours and fifty minutes.
Afterwards I decided to run another marathon, but to apply the principle that I teach people in therapy and spiritual mentoring: “Don’t just try. Train.”
Of course, you can’t run for 26.2 miles without training, but I learned some more intelligent approaches to my training. Instead of just running lots of miles I implemented a tried and true approach recommended by marathon coaches. Basically, this included doing a speed workout and long run each week, slow “recovery runs” after these key workouts, and not overdoing (that’s the hardest part for me!). Also I ran with a GPS watch so I knew exactly how fast I was running and could set a realistic pace for my marathon.
Most importantly, I ran with Jesus, using my hours in solitude to meditate and pray on long passages from the Bible that I memorized. (A big part of running a marathon is mental, but the point I’m making is that my spiritual training is what really mattered.)
It worked! At 48 years old I qualified for Boston! Despite running about half as many miles I beat my best time from when I was 19-years old, finishing in three hours and twenty-two minutes (a pace of seven minutes, forty-three seconds per mile). It was my sixth marathon and for the first time I didn’t hit the wall! I felt strong and enjoyed the whole race.
It’ll be fun for me to run the Boston Marathon with Jesus. Like Eric Liddle said in Chariots of Fire, “When I run I feel God’s pleasure!” I think you realize I’m not just talking about marathons — I’m talking about life. When I run I practice drawing my strength from God’s Word, not my circumstances, which in this case means being physically tired or sore. This has helped me to have a better attitude and to be more loving in difficult situations.
You Can Get Unstuck
Trying harder doesn’t work. Getting help and trying smarter works! David’s victory song can become ours: “With God’s help I can run through a wall!” (Psalm 18:29, paraphrase).
If with Jesus you “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7) then in time you can get unstuck. You can break break free from depression, worry, or compulsive behavior. You can experience a healing and renewal in your relationship that’s flat or tense. You can become more like Jesus.
I have grown in God’s grace and so have many people I have talked with.
World class musicians perform their concerts with playful delight. Star athletes make their sport look easy. And mature followers of Christ remain at peace in stressful situations, joyfully worship God even in suffering, and routinely bless those that curse them — they run right through the wall that stops other people because they have trained with Jesus.
If you’re not experiencing the “easy yoke” of Jesus in the midst of your stress then find a coach or mentor to be “Christ’s ambassador” to you and look to minister his easy yoke to others too (Matthew 11:25-30 and 2 Corinthians 5:20). Set up some “training runs”, each one going a little longer to push your wall out farther and farther.