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Lessons From the Long Run

Posted by Hope Murphy on

Lessons from the long run
I have been training to run a marathon this semester. Race day for me is this Saturday, my 30th birthday. I know that if the Lord allows me to finish this race I will frame my race bib with the phrase “By the grace of God I can do hard things.” I know where I’ll put that in my home to hang as a symbol that reminds me of what the Lord allows us to do. To prompt me to do more hard things for His glory.
I’ve used a plan I found online to map out my runs, strategically building the long run days so that now I’ve run 20 miles twice. All in between are mostly short runs. The longer these ‘long runs’ got, the more prepared I needed to be. As I’ve trained for this race, there are several life lessons from the long run I’ve collected. These are specific to the life of a follower of Christ. Here are my top 10:
1.     Run your race – At the park or in a neighborhood while on a run I’d often pass someone or be passed by someone. A competitive spirit might not sit well with being passed. But then again, are those passing you running 20 miles? Or are they training for a 1-mile sprint? Maybe they’re actually 10 years younger or maybe somehow running is what they do for a living. No matter what, I know that I’m called to stay in my lane and not allow comparison to be a thief of my joy. As Hebrews 12:1b says “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
2.     Fix your eyes - If you didn’t know, there are actually classes on how to run. Your form when expending this type of energy for hours matters greatly. Your body can accomplish far more if you conserve energy and spend it well. One simple fix is to keep your eyes straight ahead, not down or elsewhere. I remind myself of this often by quoting Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector 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.”
3.     Hydrate – Hydration means not just during a race, but for the days ahead always focusing on what you’re consuming, ensuring your body has plenty of water stored up. On certain hot days I would hide small bottles of water in friends’ driveways so I could also be sure to rehydrate as I went. That’s my problem, my water always runs out (literally through sweat). I’m thankful that Jesus already told us this in John 4:13 “. . . Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
4.     The right bread matters – One day I foolishly thought that what I needed for good energy before a 14-mile run was to eat 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches immediately before I started. That’s probably the worst I’ve felt during all the training. I know now to give my body time to digest and to carefully guard what it is I eat before a long run. I’m so glad that Jesus told us He is the bread of life.
5.     Dwell on these things – Philippians 4:8 has been an encouraging verse to remember as I run. Anytime we endure pain we can choose to focus on the pain or to focus on what the endurance is producing in us. I want to choose to think on the latter.
6.     Be alert – When I attempt to chart a course that is 20 miles in our town that stays somewhat circular and near my vehicle, I usually end up for a few miles on a larger road. Even what you think is small when driving is pretty big when on foot. Cars, debris, holes, and other people pop up so quickly that you have no choice but to be alert! It reminds me of the caution in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and sober of mind. Your enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
7.     Soundtracks matter – I recently finished a great book called Soundtracks by Jon Acuff. Essentially, he expounds on how important what we dwell on is to what we believe. As I run, I know this in two ways – what I literally listen to (music, sermons, books, etc.) effects the way I run and that what I repeat in my self-talk greatly effects my effectiveness. I try to say things like “Wow, I’ve gone a long way already!” instead of “Oh my word there is too far left to go.”
8.     Surround yourself wisely – I am an extroverted runner. I need to run in a public park, downtown, or with a friend. If I were to attempt a long run in a remote field I would quickly be discouraged by my isolation. I know this, so I surround myself. Hebrews 12:1a says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. . .”
9.     Freedom comes through discipline – Choosing to use free time to endure physical strain isn’t popular or natural at first, but by repetitively making the choice, I know I can now do more than I could 6 months ago. I have the freedom to lace up and go because I chose to discipline my mind and body along the way. Hebrews 12:10-11 speak to this! Verse 11 says “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Think of the freedom to sprinkle your conversations with salt that you earn by the discipline of memorizing scripture!
10. Integrity matters on race day – There will be a day – Saturday for me – that our training will be tested. If I cut corners all along the way in training, then race day could go poorly: physical injury, quitting, or simply more ailments along the way would be a sure thing. Likewise for the Believer, we will have a day on which we stand before the Lord Jesus. Revelation 20:12 says “Then I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”
Man, on race day I sure hope your name is in the book of life. But I also hope that we will be able to celebrate a life lived full of purpose and with few idle words or deeds. And this Saturday, I’m not trying to accomplish any records or win anything. . . I just want to finish well.
Hope Murphy
Acts 20:24

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