Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
By Guest Contributor: Brett Larson
For today's post, you get to hear from my good friend and avid runner, Brett Larson. Brett's running journey began in 2010. The miles have not been without hardship or injury, yet he presses on toward the awesome goal of running a marathon in all 50 sates. You can read all about his goals, thoughts on life and running, and places he has run so far at White Line Running.
Sometimes in life, you get what you deserve.
In running, this is usually true as well. I have often thought about this while I was suffering through a training run in the cold winter freeze or the hot summer sun; reminding myself of the payoff. Reminding myself that if it was easy, everyone would do it. Reminding myself that if I put in the work now, I would earn that personal best or deserve that medal at the finish line. I would get out of it what I put into it.
This has always been one of the things I loved about running. Usually, barring crazy, unforeseen race day circumstances, you can predict with relative certainty, how you will end up finishing your race, because you know what you put in to the weeks and months leading up to that day. This is another simple, yet profound, way that running parallels life itself, and one I think about often and even draw motivation from, while I am training.
One day in March of 2018, as I was suffering an early marathon bonk on the unrelenting hills of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, that metaphor shattered. Not because I wasn’t getting exactly what I deserved in that run; I was. But, because I realized in that moment, that’s where the similarities to “in life and running, you get what you deserve” came to a crashing halt, due to grace.
Way back in the summer of 2017, I signed up for a March marathon in North Carolina, anticipating that it would be our families escape to somewhere warmer for a winter vacation, as we so often do. Plans changed, and the family vacation never materialized. The marathon training over the winter months never materialized either. I toed the starting line in Asheville, officially the most under-trained I had ever been for a marathon. In the weeks building up to the race, I knew I was in trouble. I had long thrown out all time goals, and the revised goal was simply to finish. Finish line, not finish time, I told myself again and again. Still, the lack of training had me questioning how real even that modest goal was going to be. I started to calculate “worst case scenarios” and compare that to the course closure cut-offs. Something I had never even remotely considered in previous races. It was the voice in my head reminding me, I was about to get what I had coming. Penance for my total disregard to putting in the work in training.
By mile 3, reality had sunk in. I was huffing up hills. I felt slow and heavy. My legs were like concrete. My breathing was off. My cadence was off. This feeling I had known before, but it usually sets in around mile 20. Not mile 3. With 23 miles to go, and knowing I had a long several hours of suffering ahead, I found myself praying for the strength to endure it. Not to get a second wind and feel great, but just to endure it. To get comfortable being uncomfortable.
In the miles that followed, I came to the big “Ah Ha!” moment. Thoughts flooded my mind about how I had always compared running to life in this way of “you get what you deserve” or “you get out of it what you put into it”. But here, in that moment of desperation, I remembered something that almost seemed long forgotten. My mind started to dwell on the fact that the stories of life and running, for all their uncanny similarities, have this one, drastic difference. That, in life, there’s another chapter. One where you don’t get at all that you deserve. One where you don’t have to work harder, try harder, train harder or be better. One where that’s already been done for you, and all you have to do is trust the One who did it. The One who offers the gift of grace for all to accept.
In the strangest way, I am happy I suffered early in that run, as it gave me more time to be introspective. More time for me to reflect on these Truths that I too easily forget. My tendency is to always want to control things. To know that if I do X, then I can expect Y. It’s in the times of brokenness, where we’ve lost control, that we’re able to learn and grow the most. Where we are reminded that we were never meant to do it all on our own. I’ve found this to be true in running and in life.
I can honestly say I never felt anxious again the rest of that run. Even in my physical suffering, I had a calmness, and a joy. I was able to embrace the beautiful mountain scenery and enjoy the heavy breathing that reminded me I was alive.
As finish times go, it was one of my worst ever. Truly, I got what I deserved. But I also walked away with a new appreciation for the fact that I don’t have to be better or work harder to earn the perfect love and eternal life that is promised through the finished work of Jesus on the cross. I can rest assured that what I “earn” in this life is not at all a reflection of the work that I’ve done; that, in life, we don’t always get what we deserve. Instead, we get grace.
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: