Last Saturday, I ran in the Illinois Marathon in Champaign/Urbana. With such a nasty winter, it was tough to be ready for a Spring marathon this year. There were some significant bumps in the road in my training season (weather, sickness). I toed the starting line less trained than I hoped to be, but ready to go even still. It ended up being a challenging race and I finished slower than anticipated. The weather was the major culprit. It was a warm sunny day. While the temperature wasn’t outrageously warm, it was significantly warmer than I’ve been running in. Coming off of a very cold winter/spring, my body has not yet acclimated to running in the warmer weather. In addition to that, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so the sun was on us the whole way. The sun/heat speed up exhaustion and dehydration – 2 enemies of distance runners. I should have adjusted my plan to account for the weather…failure to do so, lead to some serious challenges. As I suffered through the later miles of race, I was reminded of some valuable spiritual lessons.
Pay attention to the warning signs. I run with a heart rate monitor. It gives me an objective measure of the effort I’m putting out. From the very beginning of the race, my heart rate was slightly higher than I knew it should be…translation: I was running too fast. I felt good though, so rather than slowing down to bring my heart rate down, I just ignored the warning sign and kept running at the faster pace. I paid for it big time and had to walk sections toward the end of the race. This is so true in our spiritual lives. There are plenty of ways to gauge our spiritual health. When we ignore these things, we’re bound to fizzle out and regret it down the road. Checking myself against the fruit of the Spirit is one of the ways I like to gauge how I’m doing – Galatians 5:22-23
Perseverance builds character. I suffered a lot at the end of the race, but I kept moving forward. I started telling myself, it doesn’t have to look pretty, I just need to keep moving. Every step moved me closer to my goal (and to the post race food!). Character is built in the tough stuff of life. Difficult times have a way of refining our faith. James 1:3-4