Running the Race & Finishing Well {Lessons from the Half Marathon}

After successfully completing an 8 km run earlier that year, my wonderful ambitious running partner had a brilliant idea of us signing up for a half marathon, 21.1 km.

It was a bit of a stretch but we had been diligently and faithfully trained on a daily basis for the 8 km and felt as though we had ample time to prepare. At the end of June, we signed ourselves up for the Canmore Rocky Mountain Half Marathon with every intention of being prepared. It wasn't long before the good intention quickly became classified as seemed like a good idea at the time.

Good intentions didn't get me too far. Disciplined training didn't end up being the priority I hoped it would be as the summer came to a close.

As September 13th approached we questioned each other. Why did we think this was a good idea? What were we thinking? Were we even thinking?

The faint bit of anticipation I felt was solely for the moment I hoped to cross the finish line and be done with it. We determined that no matter what happened, we would finish together, even if it meant a mutual dragging of our bodies across the finish line.

On the morning we waited with anticipation with the hundreds of other runners for the starting gun. We started off nice and slow. There were 1 km markers throughout the race so we knew how we were doing and what was still ahead. The first 10 km felt great. I was thinking to myself, "This isn't so bad. I can do this." Then I realized I was only halfway done.

The back half of the race was conveniently the hilly half. My legs seemed to get heavier and slower with each step. All I could think about was when it was going to be over? Around the 13 km mark, I began to notice the familiar surroundings on the path we were on.

Ironically enough, I realized that I was running on the very same path that my family had walked together right after my dad's diagnosis the previous year.

The memories of that day played through my mind like a film reel. I remembered he had said his legs felt great that day. The disease hadn't yet taken over his lower body and he walked over 10 km without experiencing any weakness. At the time, we felt optimistic about combating the disease and the time we hoped to have left.

I thought about my dad. I thought about his last three weeks on earth. I pondered what it would feel like to be so constantly fatigued that you cannot keep your eyes open for more than a few minutes and are unable to hold yourself up.

I thought about what it would be like to be in a race and not know how close you are to finishing. First he thought the last leg of his race was 2-3 years. Then it was 3-6 months. Then it was at most "a few days" for several days. There was no way of really knowing.

Cement legs all of a sudden didn't seem so bad.

My friend kept encouraging me to push for the last little bit but my legs refused to move any faster than the painfully slow pace I was barely maintaining. She kept saying, "Let your adrenaline kick in!" to which I responded, "I don't have any!" It felt like there was nothing left in the tank.

When we rounded the final corner I felt relief when I saw the good news...FINISH LINE. We crossed and finished one minute under our goal.

Aside from never doing another half marathon without being ready, there were a few things I was reminded of that day as I pondered my dad and was made extremely aware of my many physical limitations.

Finishing well isn't easy. It's no wonder that the person who crosses the starting line first doesn't get anything. Everyone starts fairly well. That's not the hard part. It's not until you've endured the distance that you are rewarded.

Finishing well requires being ready. Results are not produced by well-intending osmosis. 1 Timothy 4:7 says, “Train yourself to be godly."The training from months earlier expired. The only way I could have been prepared for that race was by continuing to train daily. The only was I can be prepared for what life brings is by daily training myself in godliness. How do you train spiritually? Same was as physically: eat right and exercise. I need a steady and meaty diet of God’s word, a continual filling of the Spirit and to regularly exercise my faith by putting it to work.

Finishing well requires people. If I'm being honest, I probably would been a no-show at the race if I weren't running it with someone. No one else would have missed me. And if I had shown up, it wouldn't have really mattered how I did. Because I had someone to go the distance with, I still went.

My dad did a 10 km run in Vancouver in the late 70's with his brother and niece. The way he told the story was something like this: "I finished second...[very long pause]... to last!" The guy who finished behind him was in a wheelchair.  Thankfully, he did finish his race of this life much stronger than his 10 km's.

I am so thankful for the great example I have of finishing life well. I know that it was hard for him. Scratch that. Hard doesn't quite do the situation justice.

He was trained and ready. I watched him feed his soul regularly and put his faith to work my whole life. I watched friends surround and encourage him not only in the last leg of the race but during other legs where I'm sure he felt tired and discouraged.

He wasn't able to cheer me on at the finish line of that race but as I think about finishing this life well, I think of Hebrews 12:1: 

"Since we are surrounded my such a great cloud of witnesses, 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." 

When I get to the end, I hope he's standing there in the great cloud of those who have already finished cheering me in the same way he did at our first Betty's Run saying, "Go Steph, go!" I hope to be able to say, like I'm sure he did: 

"I have fought the fight. I have kept the faith. I have finished the race."

*This post originally appear in my blog Jesse's Journey in 2009. Thank you Facebook Memories for reminding me of this day!