Running a marathon is on my mind lately because I’ll be doing just that: running one later this month, specifically the Baltimore Marathon on October 16.
Having a good, strong relationship with God is on my mind because that’s a main reason for going to church -- St. James’ or any other.
What’s the connection between these two things?
Lots of people, when they hear I have run 4 marathons (although the latest was in 2003), or that I’m going to be running another one soon, are impressed, but will say something to the effect of “wow -- you’re going to run 26 miles?! That’s got to be SO difficult!”
And no doubt about it, running 26.2 miles is a challenge. But what most people don’t realize is that running that distance on the day of the marathon is not the most difficult part of running a marathon. In fact for many people, and it’s been my experience as well, the day of the marathon itself is actually less difficult than many of the training runs that have come before.
You know what the most difficult the part of running the marathon on October 16 will be?
It already happened: it was a Saturday morning in late June, when it was hot and humid and I had to do a 9 mile run. I was just getting back into running shape. My legs and lungs hurt. I indulged too much at a dinner the night before, and had stayed up too late. I didn’t bring enough liquids with me on the run, and so felt stupid (and dehydrated) the whole second half of the run. The entire run, I wanted to quit, just turn back and forget about not only that run but the whole crazy idea of running a marathon.
I kept running, though, got through it, learned my lessons, made adjustments. My attitude improved, I started getting in better shape.
Then in late July, I got cocky: I went out on for a run but started way too fast. And I had not stretched beforehand. And sure enough, about thirty minutes into the run, I pulled a calf muscle. Then threw my hip out in overcompensating for it on my way back home. Limping home, again I thought, “What’s the point?” and thought about giving up. But a week of rest and adopting a slower pace for another week allowed me to get back on track. My last long training run is tomorrow morning. I’m feeling ready, and eager for the marathon.
Listen: Lots of people want to have a good, strong relationship with God. Especially in a time of crisis.
But let me say: having a good, strong relationship with God in a time of crisis is a lot like running 26.2 miles the day of a marathon: it’s relatively easy, IF you’ve put the time in beforehand.
A good, strong relationship with God is built up morning by morning in Bible reading and prayer, and Sunday by Sunday in attending church. Those are the training runs for our faith. Those are when we “put the miles in” -- sometimes whether we feel like it or not. We pray and we get fed in Word and Sacrament so we get stronger, incrementally, day by day and week by week.
Then, when big a challenge comes our way, we find that we can not only handle it, we can charge the hills of it.