This five-part series of posts is unapologetically Christian. But whether you are Christian, atheist, or don’t know what you believe about God, I think you will find in them food for thought and principles for personal growth. There are so many parallels between running an ultramarathon and the daily struggles and joys of our lives.
Not long after I my 100-mile race at Black Hills, South Dakota, I was co-director for our church’s Vacation Church School (VCS). Our VCS is a week-long program for kids ages three through high school. We met Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. til noon for classes, games, crafts, music and refreshments. It’s always a time of fun and learning!
Our VCS theme this year was Fit for the Kingdom (Spiritual Olympics). One of my jobs was to plan the daily morning worship lessons with all the young people before they went to their classes. I prayed over how these lessons could be vibrant and hold the interest of the kids ages three to seventeen. I kept feeling led to present parables based on my recent experience running Black Hills 100. It amazed me how parts of my race experience lined up with each daily theme.
I want to share with you the week’s devotions one day at a time. They were written for kids, but so applicable for us grownups!
Monday’s theme was Spiritual Knowledge and Obedience (Knowing the rules of the game and obeying them). Just like sports such as baseball, soccer, and even ultramarathon races have rules that must be followed to successfully participate and win, so life has rules for successful completion, too. We need to know the rules of life and follow them. “[Jesus said] And whoso treasureth up my words, shall not be deceived” (Matthew 24:39). “…if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).
After I signed up for Black Hills 100, and even before, I did everything I could to get ready. Of course, I trained my body to cover long distances, but I also searched for information about this specific race. I studied the course. (There were going to be a lot of big hills to climb!) I found out where the course started and that it is an out-and-back course. We would run to the halfway point and then run back the same route to end up where we started. I found out where the aid stations would be located. I read every blog I could find written by other runners who had completed the race. I watched YouTube videos of the course. Black Hills 100 was going to be beautiful—and it was going to be tough.
Next, I read all the rules for the race. Then I read them again. I discussed the rules with my crew and pacer. Here are a few specific rules I learned: “All runners MUST check-in before the race starts. A runner’s bib (with his race number) must be worn on the front and outside of whatever clothing you are wearing. It is the runner’s responsibility to be sure he or she has been checked in and out of each aid station.”
Of course, these rules are for the runner’s safety! The directors need to keep track of the runners on the course.
Let’s look at one more rule: “Absolutely no littering! A runner will be disqualified if he, his crew, or his pacer are caught littering.” There was a purpose for this rule, too. We ran through a national forest and needed to be good stewards. If all the runners dropped their wrappers, it would be a big mess and hard to clean up. I made sure my crew was aware of this rule. If they got careless and left trash on the ground, I could be disqualified from the race! All my hard work training would be wasted!
It has been impressed upon me many times how much this life is like running a race. There is a specific course in life–a straight and narrow path. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life” (Matthew 7:23). Just like in a race, if we stray from the course in life and get lost, it can cause pain and trouble. This is why God has given us much information about our course in life. He has also given us stories about people who have traveled the course before us and finished their “race” successfully. We find this information in the Scriptures!
Just as I studied diligently about Black Hills 100 and learned all I could from runners who had already completed the race, so we need to study the Scriptures diligently to know the right course in life and to learn from those who have gone before us.
God has given us the rules of the race of life in the Scriptures, too. We call them God’s commandments. Sometimes we feel like God makes up random rules just to make us obey Him. But He doesn’t! Just like the race directors made rules to give the runners the best chance of completing the race safely and successfully, so God gives us rules or commandments for our safety—to protect and bless us—and to give us the best chance possible to complete our race of life successfully and cross the finish line in joy to receive the prize of eternal life.
Reading God’s Word for even a few minutes daily can change your life. If you do not already own a Bible, I challenge you to buy or borrow one and begin reading in the New Testament.
“Know ye not that they which run in a race all run, but only one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Next time—Spiritual Unity and Teamwork (Using our individual talents to work together for God’s Kingdom)