I have never run a marathon, only two half-marathons. From those two halves I know, deep in my soul, that running an actual marathon would be the worst. I can't imagine finishing either of my half-marathons and turning around to run it again. Even thinking about it now makes me cringe...
I remember training for my half marathons. I prefer to run at night because I am not one of those people who can get up at 5am and run. I can barely walk at 5am so running is out of the question. I am a night runner and when I was training for the half I did most of that training at night. It made me feel a lot more hardcore than I actually was because in the cover of night everything seems more hardcore than it actually is.
There were training sessions where I would run and from the first step to the last step I felt awesome. I was super-duper-running-boy! Happy, jamming out to some sweet tunes and feeling good about everything. I would think that I might even run an extra mile because I felt so good.
....And then there were the training runs were I felt like each step was worse than the last. These were sessions where I was convinced that my bones were going to fall out of my body and someone would have to come and scrape me off the concrete. During these sessions all I wanted to do was quit, give up, throw in the towel and vow to never run again!
Training is hard because you are doing it without any of the glory of competition. No one was watching me train. No one was cheering me on. Somedays it felt good, somedays it felt terrible and most days it just felt like a chore. But without training, without discipline, I couldn't have run the actual race well. I had to make time for training if I ever expected to finish the race. I couldn't just show up and run without those hours spent training at night. I would have failed without my training.
Even with all the training I did I still felt like I wanted to quit during the actual race. People were cheering, holding up signs and handing me little gatorade cups of water and at times, I wanted to stop. I didn't think I could make it.
And, man oh man, that is life. Even with all the training and discipline we practice in life we still just want to quit at times. We just don't think we are going to make it. Sometimes it is just the absolute worst, like running a marathon, or in my case a half-marathon.
The first time I ran my half marathon I remember realizing how different the start and the finish were. When the giant group of runners started we were peppy, excited and motivated. Everyone looked fresh and ready. I remember the first mile just going by like it was nothing. Not only did it fly by but I was flying while running it. I was almost two minutes faster than the average I wanted to maintain during the race and I still felt really good.
It's so much fun to start something! Whether we are starting a weight loss program, house project or new business. Starting is awesome. We have our new outfit or fresh idea and we think we are going to just dominate everything! We have lots of fans at the beginning and I remember thinking at the marathon, "look at all these people, this is so cool! I am going to CRUSH this race!!!"
Then the middle of the race came....and my feet started to hurt, my joints started to ache and I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. The mass of runners had spread out and the fans were gone. My pace had slowed....
Middles are the hardest and sometimes they are longer than we will ever imagine. We think that starts will last forever and we will just keep riding the high that comes with a start! But that high won't last and when we realize that we are in the middle of it all, it becomes more difficult. The cheering fans are a little more spread out, the wins don't seem as exciting and we feel like the end will never come. The middle of the race is the most important part though! The middle shows how much you trained, how dedicated you are and how much you want it.
If you are in "the middle" of your marriage this is when it really counts! This is when you have to grind it out, keep it exciting and do the things you promised you'd do at the beginning.
If you are in "the middle" of your business this is when you have to turn it up a notch. This is when you have to seek new opportunities and ideas. This is when you might have to sacrifice a little more of your time. This is when your business will either succeed or fail.
The middle matters and I remember as I was running just thinking, "okay, one more mile..."
Just one more mile...
Just one more mile....
Sometimes life isn't exciting, we don't have fans and we just have to push through. We have to live with the idea that we just need to make it one more mile, one more step or one more second.
And just that is a win. Just the one more mile is a win, even if it doesn't come with any glory.
The middle of the half-marathon was long! Oh my word, it was long! I remember saying one more mile from mile 3 until mile 11, thinking that the end would never come. At mile 11 of 13 I remember thinking my hips were going to explode out of my skin and I was going to collapse. The first two miles and the last two miles of the course were basically the same in reverse and what a difference.
When I started I was fresh and excited and when I ended I was delirious and exhausted. At the beginning I thought I could go on forever and at the end I thought I couldn't take another step.
The lady pushing a stroller past me....
The 85 year old man with no legs past me....Well, he had legs but was still very old..
But guess what? That lady or old man being more successful than I was didn't mean I was failing. I was still at mile 11 with my goal in sight. I think we can believe if someone is better than we are at whatever we are doing - we are failing. That's not the case and when we play that game we will always lose. Comparison is the thief of joy and when you are at mile 11 you need all the joy you can muster.
I remember when I saw the finish line. I sort of forgot about all the pain I was in and I realized that I had done it. It didn't look like I had planned. I started too fast, slowed in the middle and finished a lot slower than I wanted to, but I was finishing. I remember seeing Brooke in the crowd and feeling even better. Finishing something is always better than not finishing, even if you didn't do it exactly how you wanted or even how you said you would. If I had quit in the middle when no one was around I wouldn't have felt the feelings I had as I moved toward the finish line.
If life is a marathon, which I believe it is, you can count on a few things happening.
1. Starts are always exciting.
2. Middles are grueling.
3. Finishing is awesome!
Sometimes marathons are the worst, but they don't last forever. You will get through them. You will conquer if you trained well, prepared and stay focused on the goal. Sometimes you will have a PR (personal record) and sometimes you will finish slower than you even thought possible. Sometimes the old guy with no legs and the lady pushing the stroller will fly past you. But don't quit. Finish and finish well.
And here is the coolest part of the marathon of life. You don't have to run it on your own. I had to train, run and finish my half-marathon all on my own. I couldn't have anyone run it for me. But in life I can! I can take the marathon of life and trust Jesus to help me run it. I can take all the burdens, bumps and bruises and give them to Him. He will take both you and I to the best finish we could ever hope for. When we run with Jesus we realize how important and amazing the middle is. It's the time we get to cheer every other runner on. We get to take their hands and try to help them, motivate them and bring them into the arms of Jesus. The middle is magical when we stop running on our own and run with the King of Kings! So, let's run this race of life and run it really well. Let's run it hand in hand with the giver of life and actually bring life, love and light to this world. We may be sore at times and there will definitely be some doubt, but let us constantly look to Jesus so our burden can be light as we run and we can do all things with Him in front!
I don't want to run for myself anymore. I don't want to run so I can tell people how good I am at running. I want to run so I can bring glory to Jesus! I want to love my wife so I can bring glory to Jesus! I want to love my daughter so I can bring glory to Jesus! I want to run my business so I can bring glory to Jesus! I want to eat well and live healthy so I can bring glory to Jesus! I want to do it all for Him! Running on my own is exhausting and I am ready to run with Him. Who is with me?
"But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace." - Acts 20:24