Last Saturday, I participated in my first-ever 5K running event (that’s 5 kilometres for my US friends, which translates to roughly 3.11 miles). This proves that God has a sense of humour, because I have never been athletic.
The Hillside2Haiti run is sponsored by a local church that regularly sends mission teams to Haiti to teach life skills. I’d wondered for a while about attempting a challenge like this, and when I saw the promotional material at another event, I recognized that the time was right.
I’d been running in the gym with my music, and now I started running on the streets around my home. Alone and content that way.
From the early stages of the Hillside2Haiti event, I ran with my friend Kim. I kept telling her not to slow herself down for me, but we found a pace that suited us both and by running as partners, encouraged one another to reach our dream goal of running the entire distance without taking walk breaks. (Yes, I know you can go faster if you take walk breaks. If you have enough stamina to go faster.)
Crossing the finish line was as surreal as signing my first novel contract. Despite my hopes, clearly some deep part of me never thought it would happen. Along the way, I observed a few parallels between running and the Christian life:
- The participants came in all shapes, ages, sizes, fitness levels; some walked, some run/walked, some ran: we were all heading for the same finish line.
- We swarmed out onto the road, stopping traffic: there’s strength in numbers, and together we can overcome certain obstacles.
- A runner put on extra speed to catch us and return Kim’s headband, which we hadn’t known had fallen: help one another out, even when it’s hard work.
- One runner stopped to fix a shoe: it doesn’t matter if something stops us, what matters is that we start again.
- Those who ran in bursts and walked for brief recovery times finished with a better time than those who ran all the way; different people had different goals: pace yourself, set and know your strategy.
- Some wanted speed time, some to run the full way, some had other goals: don’t judge someone for being on a different strategy; but do alert someone who has veered off the route.
- Stopping to walk before you’re gasping means a shorter recovery before you can restart: be realistic about your abilities, while leaving room for God to stretch you a little farther than you think is comfortable.
- It was a twisty, unfamiliar route, with no distance markers: not seeing how far we still had to go, or what hills lay ahead, kept discouragement away.
- Previous running experience teaches you to slow down on the hills and to know you’ll recover on the flats: remember where God has already met us, choose to trust Him to do it again.
- After slowing for hills, speed back up when you can: pace yourself, but beware the danger of starting to coast longer than necessary.
- I thought we’d reached the end, but it was the start of a long, hard final stint; discouragement would have stopped me there, to walk the rest of the way, but my partner was still running: in disappointment, we need help to carry on.
- There were water stations: take your own sustenance for the journey, but expect God’s provision en route.
- We cheered for the children crossing the finish line on their race before ours started, and cheered on other runners as they passed us or came across the line after we did: we need to be encouragers, and it does something positive in us when we are.
- Training for a race helps us run it better: remember the Christian life is a race, be diligent with spiritual training. Also, we train better with a goal, so don’t slack off because we don’t see trouble yet.
- Good equipment helps: what spiritual equipment do we need?
- Keep your sense of humour because there’s no dignity in the final stages of a race: don’t worry about appearances.
- The sense of unity: isn’t that’s what it’s all about – the body of Christ, united in relationship with Him?
- There was a big red start/finish arch: finally seeing the end in sight gives fresh energy.
- The celebration at the finish line: “when we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be,” and yes, it may feel a little surreal.
Still with me? Give yourself a medal, and here are the biggest benefits I discovered about running with a partner:
- we encouraged one another to keep going
- we bonded through the experience and through sharing conversation
- we distracted one another from the hardest parts
- knowing that stopping would let the other down kept us each pushing on
- under 38 minutes from the start, we crossed the line together