Saturday, October 29, 2011

26.2

‎”26.2 club ....checked it off the bucket list.” This was my daughter’s Facebook post just a couple Sundays ago after she completed her first marathon. It’s always interesting to me what people put on their bucket list (the list of things they want to do before they die). Bucket list entries usually fall into one of three categories: places to travel (“I want to spend two weeks on a Hawaiian beach”), something adventurous (“I want to skydive”), or a significant accomplishment (“I want to complete a marathon”). I don’t know what else is on Kari’s bucket list, but I know that she just knocked off a huge accomplishment as an athlete. Less than 1% of the population has completed a marathon—which is interesting because most marathon experts believe that just about anyone can do it . . . if they submit and stay committed to a tested training regimen. . . if they stay injury free. . .and they adapt their nutritional habits to build muscles and stamina. The simple reason why 99% of us have never run 26.2 miles is because we are just unwilling to endure the training.

Our whole family gathered near the finish line to cheer Kari on at the end. We all hoped to see her healthy and strong after four hours of running. But as she approached, I found her in my camera lens. As I zoomed in, I could tell immediately that she was struggling. Her face was an eerie gray color, her shoulders were drooped, and her legs, though carrying her forward, were struggling with every step. As she passed by, we called her name, cheering her to the finish. She didn’t seem to acknowledge us as she passed with a very glassy look in her eyes. Later, she told us that she heard us but didn’t have an ounce of energy to turn her head. We caught up to her after she crossed the finish line. I yelled again to her, “Way to go, Kari!” I was hoping for a big smile, a thumbs up, or a victor’s hand raise; but instead, she just shook her head with a look that I interpreted as disappointment. I thought, “She looks like she’s regretting this whole thing.”

Once she got warmer clothes and some nutrition in her system, she started to talk about the race. She talked about hitting “the wall” at mile 18 and how “the wall” lasted for over 5 miles. Her pace had slowed dramatically as fatigue was doing a number on her physically and emotionally. At mile 23, she broke down in tears as she was completely spent. But in the final three miles, she was able to push through and pick up her pace at the end. I waited a few minutes to ask her about her time. I knew she had some time goals and was curious if she had met them. I said, “So, through all of this, are you happy with your time?” She looked down at her watch and with the first smile I had seen she said, “Dad, I killed it!” She had beaten her goal by over 15 minutes. A few days later, her aunt asked her on Facebook, “So would you do it again?” Her reply, “Initially, I say no… but the idea is slowly growing.”

Perseverance is a virtue that God loves to see displayed in us when life gets long and hard. As a matter of fact, Jesus commended the church in Philadelphia for obeying his commandment to persevere. Did you know that God commands us to patiently endure? The church in Philadelphia had gone through some incredible trials: their city had been devastated numerous times with earthquakes, and their people had been persecuted over and over because of their commitment to God. Jesus says, “You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and didn’t deny me.” You stayed on course. You kept your feet moving. “Hold on to what you have, so no one can take away your crown.” Hold on! Run with hope for something good at the end. It will be worth it all.

When Kari left the starting line for her marathon, she knew with certainty how long the race was and how her training had prepared her for this endeavor. Unfortunately, life’s marathons (relationship, financial, health and depression marathons) don’t always come with clear training logs or a finish time. We’re just asked to patiently endure with hope. Those who finish a marathon of any sort, finish because of hope. They are able to look past the pain and strive toward the day when they will find rest, encouragement, nourishment, relief, and joy again. People with hope have a conviction that when they patiently endure, somehow it is worth it all and there is something good to be found at the end.

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