Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
The 122nd Boston Marathon will likely go down in history as one of the more challenging race-weather conditions in the past 100 years. April is just one of those months in which the weather can be very unpredictable. Some years the “extreme” weather conditions is due to heat, other years cold. This year it was a triple-play by mother-nature: wind of up to 26 miles per hour, persistent rain from sun up 'til sun down and temps hovering in the 40s (which on a sunny day would be perfect but during a day of downpours body temps decrease quickly).
Nonetheless, it was Boston Marathon Monday and nothing was going to change that. Since it's inception in 1897, the race has never been canceled due to weather. Over 9,500 volunteers and thousands upon thousands of spectators lined the street despite the conditions, and we runners did what we do--ran from Hopkinton to Boston right into the wind and the rain.
For me, rain, cold and wind are a better recipe for a good race than heat and sun. But staying warm and dry sure is tricky when getting to the start line requires standing in line to wait for bus, waiting in the "staging area" and then walking nearly a mile to the start line.
Yet, this long, long race into the wind and rain has likely taught me more than I would have learned on the kind of clear blue day I was hoping for. Had the sun shone and winds not come, I may not have been gifted the following perspectives:
Re·sist·ance /rəˈzistəns/ (noun):
Resistance in a lot of ways is opposite of comfort. Resistance in athletic training typically implies working against some type of force that "resists" your movement. This type of training produces greater strength and endurance because it forces the muscles out of their comfort zone. In running, this strength isn’t built on the downhills or tailwinds, it is built when working against a force, like persistent rain and 26 mile/hour winds. Moreover it isn’t just your legs and arms that have to face these conditions, your mental tenacity is also put to the test: your ability to take thoughts captive and turn them over to truth, hope and courage will determine your ability to thwart the conditions and persist in running the race you trained for.
What I discovered on the 2018 Boston marathon course was that the defiance of nature to comply with 30,000 runners’ desires for sunny and 45-50 degree weather conditions, in a way became my greatest ally. The wind literally rocking my body from side-to-side at times and the rain slapping me in the face made it hard to look anywhere but forward. In this crazy way I can’t quite describe, the wind and rain gave me a sharper focus, allowing me to avoid diverting my attention anywhere else but to the finish line. The seemingly impeding weather conditions required me to put forth an effort I didn’t even know I was capable of--it demanded of me the ability not to be affected by something, especially adversely.
“No one wishes for conditions like that,’’ said McGillivray (marathon director). “But sometimes it’s a good feeling to have those kinds of challenges so that going forward you’re not afraid.’’ (The Boston Globe)
As a result, crossing the finish line (somewhat delusional and feeling like I had been running on a moving ship for three and a half hours) taught me this: some storms are meant to show you just how strong you are because without them you maybe wouldn’t have known the depths of your endurance. You guys, I had no idea I could run the Boston course in 3:36:50 even on a perfect day. (I ran a 3:47 in the sun in 2017.) It was like the wind and rain were my ally, motivating me to press in and push forward. Mile after mile I kept looking at my watch and being surprised at the pace I was keeping.
Until I hit mile 23. I slowed down significantly and purposed not to look at my watch out of fear that seeing my pace would deflate my confidence. It was then I had to deal with conquering my thoughts and determining that I couldn’t let the last three miles of the race defeat the success of the previous 23 miles. It was then that I had to choose to repel the these thoughts:
Both the storms and the pace of my race had finally gotten me worn down and in this dark place that I am pretty sure nearly every distance runner can relate to. It is almost like your body and your mind separate for a bit and you wonder if what your body is doing is really at all connected with your brain. And here, in this little dark place that lasts merely a few seconds, is where the battle is fought and conquered in a split second. Because it is right here when your training of your legs and your head are put to their ultimate test and you pray God meets you right there and gives you the strength to push back the lies with a Truth that is bigger than the wind, rain, and fatigue.
By God’s grace, favor and providence, in that moment of battle this phrase took over my mind, becoming a mantra for the last 36 minutes of my race - “Just let your legs carry you in. Let your legs carry you in. They know what to do. Let them carry you in.”
Truth. This was true. They did know what to do. They have done this for hundreds of miles of my life. I had trained them to and they knew what to do. I had to simply trust them and keep moving forward.
On and off over the next 5 kilometers I began to wonder how this physical test I was overcoming with the truth that I needed to “just let my legs carry me in” was also true of the races of life and faith that we run through daily. I didn’t get very far in that thought process because my mental capacity was limited to about one other thought in between repetitions of the above mantra.
However, as I have reflected on the soon-to-be infamous course conditions of the 122nd Boston marathon and on the success I had amidst running into the wind and the rain, my soul has grasped a truth that is worth more than a BQ (Boston Qualifier), a PR (Personal Record) or a finisher’s medal: when we think we have gotten to the point where we can’t run our race anymore, because the resistance and pressure are just too great for us to overcome and the fatigue that has set-in, He provides a strength and a truth that carries us through.
He becomes our legs and He says, “Trust me. You’ve got this. You’ve trained for this. Let my strength, the hope that I offer, the peace that I give, and the faith that you have worked so hard at believing carry you to the finish line. Trust me. Follow me. Don't quit moving your feet. Let the legs I gave you carry you in. "
Just a few hours after finishing my race I wrote this to my sister, “That was brutal but memorable...I think I am done with marathons!” To which she replied, “I’ll believe that when I see it. Rest up sis.” My sister is the best because she knows me better than I know myself in these kinds of moments. She knew that after I rested my perspective would shift from my current pain to what I had gained. And that I would most likely end up back on a marathon course again.
Not because it is fun. Not because it is easy. Not because it keeps me strong and healthy. But because in a lot of ways, running reminds me more and more about who I am, what I am capable of and most importantly, takes me to places in my faith, trust and understanding of God that I would most likely never get to experience otherwise.
Sometimes it takes running into the wind and rain for three hours to get my soul to a place where it can hear and connect with my Father-creator and be reminded that this race of the Christian faith is built on strength, endurance, perseverance and a relationship with a God who still speaks, performs miracles and provides a race marked out for us so that we can know in the deepest parts of who we are that we are seen, known, loved and stronger than we can ask or imagine.
I discovered in my soul something amazing on race day; The resistance provided by the elements can make one anxious and focused on getting to the finish line as quickly as possible. Our mind’s ability to push our legs forward hinges on the knowledge and hope that there is a finish line up ahead. I wonder if the same is also true in our Spiritual race toward eternity.
Is our purpose clarified, our motivation strengthened, and our hope solidified, in times of rain in the form of tears, and wind in the form of trials and heartache? Doesn’t it seem that it is in our darkest moments of soul and mind that we learn what it means to choose truth over lies, perseverance over giving in, and trust over control?
You see, I think running into the wind and the rain on a marathon course isn’t so much different than the battle you may be facing right now in life or faith. You may right now be at mile 23 of a race you're just not so sure you can keep running. The adversity and the setbacks may have you in an intense battle for truth, love and hope to win. I have been there on the race course and in life. And Boston 2018 let me experience again that Truth wins. Grace wins. I win through Christ’s strength that has overcome and provided for me more often and with more intensity than I ever deserve.
My dear sisters and brothers who are fighting the good fight and feeling like you are running endlessly into the wind and the rain, know and believe, In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I [Jesus] already won the race to overcome the world (John 16:33). Just let your faith carry you on. Let your belief carry you through. Keep moving forward. Let your legs carry you in. There is a finish line and a crown. Keep your soul focussed heavenward and keep on running.
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: