This past weekend, I ran my first 5K. I had been doing high intensity workouts for several months, but running was a whole new ballgame. The first time I ran, I felt like I had been going forever and looked down to see that I had gone 0.2 miles. All I could think was You’ve got to be kidding me.
For a month straight, I ran every afternoon that I could. I was awkward. I was slow. I was gasping for every breath. The first time I ran a mile straight, I had to jump and down internally, because my legs could barely hold me up. There were a few days that I walked outside ready to run, but most days I walked outside thinking What am I doing? I’m not a runner. The only thing that kept me going every day was focusing on my goal: to run the whole 5K without stopping. Hebrews 12 calls us to run with perseverance the race marked out for us. I made this my theme verse, repeating it in my head every day as I stretched before my runs.
I took a break from blogging while I was training for the 5K, but I always jotted down the things God was teaching me during and after those difficult, humbling afternoons. Here are my 4 biggest takeaways:
What you put in is what you put out.
This one is fairly self-evident. What you put in is what you are going to put out, whether that’s the food you’re putting into your body or the thoughts in your mind. There were days that I ate a healthy lunch before running, and there were days that I ate fast food for lunch. I bet you can guess which days I had a better run.
How often do we pacify our spiritual hunger with the world’s junk food? We convince ourselves we are craving TV shows, or food, or alcohol, when what we really are craving is Jesus. When we take the time to breathe in God’s grace, we are going to breathe out His grace as well.
It’s not only about what we are putting in our mouths, but also into our minds and hearts. Our thoughts can wreak havoc on our performance. When I constantly tell myself I’m not a runner, of course I’m not going to get better. We have to capture our thoughts and speak truth – not our own truth, but God’s truth.
Focus on the finish line.
When you take your eyes off of the finish line, you start looking at yourself. You start to hear how hard you’re breathing and how much you’re struggling. When I first started running, I was always thinking about what I needed to give up, or deprive myself of. I started to question if it was something I could do. I forgot what I was running for.
That’s exactly what happens when we take our eyes off Jesus. Our focus should be on Him, not on what we can’t have or can’t do. Going back to Hebrews 12, look at the rest of the verse:
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
It’s so easy to grow weary. It’s so easy to lose heart. Only by fixing our eyes on Jesus, and remembering His sacrifice, can we find our endurance.
Toward the end of my second mile the morning of the 5K, I got a cramp in my side and started to realize how hard my feet were hitting the ground with each stride. I forced myself to repeat the same mantra: Run with endurance; not in my strength, but in His. That last mile was my fastest one! Not only was it the fastest mile in my race; it was the fastest mile I had ever run.
Name your rocks.
Results motivate us and build our faith. In Joshua, rocks are used as a reminder to the Lord’s people that He is faithful.
“These rocks will be a sign for you. In the future, your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ You will tell them that the Lord stopped the water from flowing in the Jordan River… These rocks will help the Israelites remember this forever.”
Don’t ever forget to name your rocks. The first time you run a mile. The first time you beat your previous record. The first time you think you can’t possibly take another step, but then you do. Let those moments encourage you and push you to go faster, or longer.
The same is true in our spiritual race. Remember what God has done for you. Claim those rocks, reflect on them, and allow them to build your faith. Sometimes the rocks are stepping stones that are leading you to a pivotal moment in your life, where you really have to choose whether or not you believe God is who He says He is.
It’s okay to walk.
My goal for the actual race was to run without stopping, but during the training it was just about going the distance. Several people advised me to focus on doing the full distance each time to build endurance, without worrying about my speed. Run when I could; walk when I had to – but just keep moving forward. Most times I was able to do that. Run a mile, walk two miles. Run two miles, walk one mile. But there were also times that I had to take a break. And the beauty of it is that when I picked back up, I didn’t have to start back at zero. If I left off at 1.5 miles, I started back at 1.5 miles. I think sometimes we view sin as something that sends us back to the starting point. If I had to start back at the beginning every time I took a break in running, I would be too exhausted to ever finish my race. We don’t have to start over when we sin; we just have to turn around and start running again.