This past Saturday I ran my first half-marathon. It was a cold but beautiful day and it was a course that was a gradual down-hill the whole way. It was a great race to be my first half-marathon. I ran well and was pretty prepared. I ran at under 10 minutes per mile which was faster than I was getting in practice.
For 3 days since the race my legs are still hurting as if to say, “Don’t you ever do that to us again!” I decided at about mile 12 that I will never do a full marathon. I could not imagine having only gone half way. It is just too much of a time commitment for me right now. I do think I want to run more half-marathons though.
I remember when I started running in my last year of seminary. I could not run a mile without nearly dying. Running has been a great way for me to get healthy and burn off some stress. But I realized after running this half-marathon that I had gotten a lot more out of running than just physical health. Running has taught me a lot about life.
Life is not a sprint. It is a marathon. It is a long distance with a lot of hills and a lot of turns. If you are going to get through, you have to learn to pace yourself. You can’t burn out to early. You have to have a long term perspective. When I run I take quick walking breaks. This allows my lungs and my legs to recover. Ultimately this helps you go faster on a run. Many of the people who passed me on my first couple of walking breaks ended up finishing well after me in the end.
When you get tired, when you hit a wall, or when you are in pain, you have to just keep going. You have to walk for a few second, catch your break, and keep marching. I have found in running that eventually the soreness goes away and the miles just start to pile up.
I have learned the value of goals. I don’t run very regularly when I am just relying on my own discipline, but when I have a race coming and when I pay for that race I get much more disciplined. We need goals. We need deadlines. We need something on the line sometimes to push us to be better.
You have to train for a half-marathon. You can’t wake up the day before the race and decide to buy shoes and go for a jog. You have to run and build up the muscles and the endurance before you need them. I can’t tell you how many people I have seen that don’t build up the muscles of their faith or their family and then find themselves in a difficult part of the trail of life. They don’t come to church and they don’t develop their faith and then, when someone dies or some tragedy strikes they don’t have the training to make it through. You have to prepare for the difficulties.
There is also something strengthening for your soul when you are pushed to the brink of failure and you survive. When I saw that finish line I just kept repeating to myself, “I did it. I did it.” And the encouragement of people cheering helped me in that last stretch to give it all I had.
 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)