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Running: A Metaphor for Life

This weekend I will run my tenth marathon since 2000. The Grasslands Trail Run will be my first trail marathon but not my first trail run. Trail running is my preferred environment and community for running. Running on dirt in forests, fields, and mountains is how running has always been done. I have run as many 25M and 50K trail runs as I have marathons during this same time period, and I have finished a 50M run, DNF'd one other, and attempted one 100-miler, which ended me at mile 73.

Why the partial running resume? I like to run. I haven't been to a psychologist yet to dig into why my obsession is so deep or why I started running ultras until I was 45. But, more important than why I like to run, running--distance running--has become a metaphor for life for me.

I reminded my listeners this past Sunday as Legacy Church that long-distance running is a metaphor for life because somewhere in a long run  you come to the point you want to give up.

It's usually mile 18 to 20 in a marathon. Under normal conditions, you ask yourself, "Why am I out here? What's the point of this pain? No one is chasing me. I'm not getting paid to do this. I want to go home." That's when your training and mental strength come into play. If you are not injured or have not mismanaged your fuel or hydration, finishing is up to you; your faith, your values, who you really are. At the crisis point of pain, you can quit and go home or push through the pain and finish what you set out to finish.

Life is a series of long runs. Marriage, parenting, and calling are all life-long runs that somewhere along the way you want to give up. And many do. Injury or mismanagement of supplies and support can sideline you, which adds another dimension to the run, but finishing the race is the goal of living.

My favorite passage of Scripture that describes this metaphor is Hebrews 12:1-3. Here it is:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (italics and bold, mine)
The writer of this letter had to be a runner; or, at minimum, knew one. He knew the importance of those who encourage you (a cloud of witnesses). He knew lighter is better. (throw off everything) He knew running with perseverance (endurance) was the key to finishing the race (marked out for you). He knew keeping your eyes on another runner in front of you was important to finishing the run. He knew trusting a runner who had completed a more difficult race (Jesus) would inspire you not to quit (lose heart).

The key to running the race of life and the way you will never grow weary or lose heart is to keep your eyes on Jesus during the run. No ultramarathon, even Hard Rock in CO, matches what Jesus did for you on the cross. His endurance run of suffering, shame, and opposition is an example matched by no one; and, he endured it all so we can finish the race of life, be victorious, and rest in eternity with our hero, rescuer, and leader.

I love running, and endurance running is my metaphor for life--and I put my trust in the one who has completed the most difficult and most significant race of all, Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of my trust.

What's your metaphor for life?

I'm a member of North Texas Trail Runners. Check them out on the web and on facebook. Or, come out to the run this weekend and meet some of the runners and volunteers.