It’s Not A Lonely Race

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, ESV)

Four months. More than 75 hours. Nearly 300 miles. Wind. Rain. Heat. Humidity. One event.

Standing in the driveway, I felt at peace with setting aside my goaland choosing the better prize of community over standing alone.When my friend Katy asked if I would like to run the Chicago Half-Marathon, it took all of 10 seconds for me to respond yes. Several hours later I was registered and already setting a goal: my prizewould be to break my first half-marathon time. I could feel all of the competitive qualities I developed as an elite golfer activated to high alert: self-discipline, perseverance, push through the pain, focus, sacrifice. I was kind enough to commit to running the first few miles of the race with Katy, but then, it would be all about me so that I could achieve my goal. Surely Katy would understand if we finished at different times.

As I was the more experienced runner, Katy asked if I would help her train. I immediately created our four-month training plan that provided weekly mileage goals, weekend long runs together, periodic encouragement, and race day essentials. For four months we diligently worked our plan and I was determined on running a personal best.

Three days before the race, something shifted inside of me. I was out for my last middle distance run and started questioning my race goal. A little surprised, I allowed the thoughts to dance to the rhythm of my stride. As each minute clicked off the watch, my desire to run alongside Katy began to drown out my internal dialogue telling me that I need to perform and push my body to its limits.

As a single woman and individual sport athlete, feeling and being alone is an everyday reality. It is also a theme that runs deep into my childhood story of trauma. As I finished my run that day, I realized I wanted to live a different story for this half-marathon. I didn’t want either one of us to cross the finish line alone. We started this together and I wanted to finish it together. Standing in the driveway, I felt at peace with setting aside my goal and choosing the better prize of community over standing alone.

When I read today’s passage, I most often take it out of context as a stand-alone edict to pursue. It’s easy to twist Paul’s encouragement into a competition against each other, comparing who is running a better race. I no longer believe this was Paul’s intention, after recently reading verse 23 as a lead-in to Paul’s running metaphor, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

While we run this race called life toward the imperishable prize of eternal life with Jesus, I don’t believe Paul was exhorting us to run it alone. Jesus traveled with his disciples. They ate together. They walked together. They shared reciprocal relationship. They did life together.

When the gun went off and we set off on our 13.1-mile run, I made sure Katy knew I was committed to running it together. Although we just missed our goal to finish in under 2 hours, we celebrated our four-month long journey by crossing the finish line side-by-side… together.

Tracy Hanson
September 29, 2016
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