“…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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1b-3 NIV)
Five Lessons from the Race
1. This is my race. Don’t compete with the others.
2. Race in progress. Keep going, it’s not over yet.
3. The agony of victory keeps you racing.
4. This race was designed for you to finish.
5. You’ve been training all your life for this race.
Yesterday, three of us piled into my friend’s car with our bikes securely attached to the bike rack and headed to Milstadt Parks Biathlon. Our first ever attempt at a combo bike/run. We each went through various moments of nervous doubts to “we can do this” affirmations.
When we pulled into the parking lot, our enthusiasm deflated. Next to every car we passed, a very athletic looking man lifted his bike effortlessly off the car rack. Are we at the right race? What did we get ourselves into now? Eventually we did see some women and met some first timers as we checked in, put our bikes in the staging area and walked over to the start. By the time we did all this plus took our obligatory bathroom break, we were standing at the back of the pack.
This is my race. Don’t compete with the others.
Before the race, I told my friend to just take off and I would run my own race. I knew I couldn’t keep up with her or her other friend because they have more experience. Once we were off, it was hard not to run really fast to keep up with the main group. About a few hundred yards into the race, I decided again this was my race. So I throttled back to my own pace.
I had two goals for this race…participate and hopefully finish. The race included a five mile run and a 22 mile bike route. The description for the race seemed a bit overblown, since we knew that the highways around the town were fairly flat. Here’s how their website described the race:
TAKE THE CHALLENGE!! Be a part of one of the largest and most challenging races in the central states region! This event not only tests your fitness level, but also your cycling skills. The high speed turns, rolling hills, and scenic farmlands make this event the largest in the metro east area.
Since I didn’t really believe this description, I just plunged in, thinking how hard can this really be? About halfway through the run, I knew how hard it could be. My goal of participating had already been met, but I also really wanted to finish. I kept my pace. I figured I was in last place, but I didn’t look back to check, I kept my focus on the race ahead.
When I was about two miles in, the other runners were doubling back from the half way point. Some would shout “Good job!” Their encouragements kept me in the race. I even told one of them “Good job!” I made it to the halfway water station, took a cup of water, drank it as I walked, threw the empty cup in the trash and resumed running. I gave myself permission to run/walk the last half.
Race in progress. Keep going, it’s not over yet.
Running around the turn, heading back to the bike staging area, a volunteer gave me my time: 1 hour 3 minutes. That announcement pleased me, because before the race my husband told me, if I ran the five miles in an hour, I would be able to finish the race.
I climbed on my bike, adrenaline pumping through my body while my legs pumped the pedals. The route out of town was flat. I was fantasizing about catching the rest of the racers, when I met one of the speed demons returning up the hill that I was flying down. Hills are definitely a rush going down, but there’s always one to climb straight ahead. I never caught up with the pack. I went back to my original mantra: “This is my race.” I found my biking pace, blindly hoping that I could keep a 10 mile per hour rate to finish the race under 3 hours. After several rolling hills and steep inclines, I made it to the 10 mile point. At the water station, I declined a drink and asked what time it was. The volunteers replied “10:05am.”
The agony of victory keeps you racing.
I had fifty-five minutes and about 12 miles to go to beat the mandatory sag wagon pick-up. They have a strict policy of racers being off the route by 11:00am. I drank some water from my water bottle, zoomed down a hill and hit a steep one on the other side. I shifted into low gear to march the bike up the hill, my legs were screaming and I heard a car behind me. I decided to get off the bike and walk the hill, so the car could pass. They didn’t pass. I looked back. It was the red pick-up truck assigned as the sag wagon. Uggh! I kept walking, they stayed back. I got to the top of the hill and climbed back on determining to at least make it to the 15 mile marker.
This race was designed for you to finish.
I sensed that the sag wagon was back there, and was surprised that its presence actually motivated me to keep going. I ate an orange flavored power bar, drank water and kept pedaling up and down the rolling hills of Milstadt. I had no idea of the time. I climbed yet another hill and saw the town ahead. My last burst of energy kicked in and I headed towards the finish line.
I rode across the line and the clock read: 2:56:46. I made it. I finished with a few minutes to spare and no sag wagon in sight.
You’ve been training all your life for this race.
While out on the course, the last principle entered my mind. My whole life I had been training for this race. As a young girl, I often spent my afternoons riding my bike over hilly country roads, my husband and I have biked with our boys across the Midwest and I have been training to run these past few months.
These race lessons parallel my spiritual journey. My relationship with God is mine. And when I compare it to others, I get discouraged. The little signs posted along the race route that read “Race in progress” reminded me that my growth as a Christ-follower is in progress. God’s not finished with me.
I often struggle with the agony of defeat, and the repeatable sin patterns in my life, but I was reminded during the race that Jesus suffered the agony of victory. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross. The joy was to be reunited to each one of us through His own sacrifice.
The last two principles really offered me hope as I continue to walk with God. He designed us to finish. He’s not making our journey harder than it needs to be. Life is only as difficult as it needs to be. He has provided everything that we need in order to finish, including our past experiences and the current progress our of lives.