The three worst letters in the alphabet for a runner are: DNF, which mean, "did not finish." There are a variety of reasons why runners don't finish races but, if you train to finish and enter to finish, DNF is not what you want to read on the final result list. You also don't want these three letters on your spiritual epitaph, but I'll get to that in a moment.
This past Saturday, I entered the 20-mile length of what Tim Neckar calls, The Toughest n' Texas trail run. I completed the first two 50K runs Tim hosted on this course, and I thought I'd take on a shorter distance in the sixth running of the event.
I love the run because it winds through Cameron Park in Waco. I believe these trails are the best kept secret in Texas. Multiple elevations, terrain, and different stands of trees (and bamboo) make it a trail runners delight. It is, however, a butt-kicking combination of rocks, roots, climbs, and washes.
the matrix of trails that make up the first 10+ mile loop. Runners stay mostly on the perimeter trails like Highlander and Powder Monkey and end on the rugged California 56, which empties out onto the pavement that leads to the bottom of the historic Jacob's Ladder, not what you want to see after the climbing and descending you have already done. You loop back to the Pavilion through Anniversary Park and begin all over again.
I was not prepared for the distance I entered. I was nursing a strained calf muscle going in, and had trained mostly on machines prior to my run. No machine can duplicate the pull and grind of true terrain. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Machine training, cycling, and shorter distances did not prepare me for the double-loop beating of the trails. My experience told me this, but rather than dropping down to the shorter distance, I stayed with my original plans. I finished the first loop with negative splits the last three or four miles, but when I started up the first ascent on the second loop, I knew I did not have it. DNF
Finishing the race is a spiritual metaphor of faithfulness. Ask Paul, the Apostle. He rested in the fact that he had finished "the race" at the end of his life's run. I agree with Neil Cole who writes that Jesus values "finishing well" as crucial to the success of his followers. (See book below) John's revelation to the church in Smyrna included a call to be faithful even to the point of death, and this would win them a victor's crown. DNF is not in the vocabulary of the faithful. No matter life's terrain or injuries, which may slow you down and even incapacitate you for a season, you remain faithful to God's call on your life in Christ Jesus. You finish the race marked out for you.
Finishing well, not a big, fat DNF, is my life goal. Staying spiritually fit, choosing the distance to match my abilities, and faithfulness to God's call are the keys to reaching that goal. It may not be pretty, but it will be complete. How about you?