How Running a Marathon Brought Me Closer to God
My entire body hurts today, from the depths of my calves to the arches of my feet – I’d just rather not move thank you very much. Last winter, I made a scary decision that 2014 would be the year of the marathon in my life. I’m 26, it’s 26.2 miles and I am a sucker for symbolism.
I never imagined this former fat kid could actually make it this far! I finished 20 miles this morning in 3 hours and 10 minutes! How is that even possible?! I have been training at least 4 days a week since March and it has been, as my friends the Boy Scouts would say, intense (in tents. Get it?) cricket, cricket, cricket. The results? Calf injuries, a rolled ankle and the incredible joy of pushing myself farther than I ever thought I could.
I (somewhat) know this inspiring man named Steve Weins. The first time I heard him speak, I hadn’t been to a church in many years and had somehow found my way into this amazing placed called Open Door where Steve was speaking. I can distinctly remember the desire to run screaming from the room until Steve got up to deliver his message. I have no clue what Steve spoke about that warm Saturday night, I just know I cried a lot, then came back the next week and the next week for over 3 years now.
Coincidentally (or God-cidentally), Steve created a Facebook group entitled, “Running a Marathon as a Spiritual Pilgrimage,” less than a month after I had decided to run. The group is this awesome support of people who are pushing their bodies and faith to the limit.
One amazing thing about Steve is his innate ability to ask probing questions that cut right to the core. Many months ago in our message board Steve posted a series of questions like this:
“What are you running from? What are you running towards?”
Ugh… Steve! I don’t want to think about that even a little bit. The truth was I didn’t have a clue and finding the answer became an obsession that I would research/obsess about during my hours and hours of running.
Was it my nonathletic childhood? Too easy. The people who called me crazy for even trying? Meh, haterz gonna hater.
Finally this morning, standing in front of the Minnesota State Capitol, surrounded by hundreds of other freezing and crazy runners, the question came back to mind. It was mile 9 of my 20 mile run when the answer finally clobbered me between my dried out contact lenses.
Of course. There it was. The answer – so easy yet so complex. So beautiful.
What am I running from?
I am tirelessly running away from this amazing Father. I sprint from Him in the heartache and disappointments of this broken world because I’m still hurting from my earthly dad who broke his promises, drank away his sorrows and abandoned me.
I choose to dash away from the healer, the friend, the unceasing love that my heart craves because deep down, I still think maybe it can’t be true. How can an all-powerful God see how messed up I am and love me anyway? In my experience, when you love people they either let you down or leave. But God doesn’t ever leave. So I try to leave Him. I run away, over and over again.
Well then, what am I running towards?
I don’t always leave the house running towards Him. Some days I begrudgingly dart out of the door with a heart that is bitter and a voice that doesn’t want to sing his praises. Sometimes this lasts a few miles. Some days it takes all the way until mile 15 or 16.
Yet as Laura Story belts out, “What a Savior” as Tobymac gets my heart pumping during, “Me Without U,” as Mandisa sings, “Overcomer” the promises sink in and my heart starts to turn, slowly then all at once until I lift up my hands, point to the sky and say, “oh hey, I love you God!”
(the beautiful view from my 15 mile run)
I probably didn’t need to run a marathon to find out that running towards God is the most important race anyone could suit up for. Yet, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that when I make time for God, when I get away by myself, He shows up. Every. Single. Time.
He loves me through the treacherous snow-filled miles and the sunny, shirtless ones. He cares about me even when I want nothing to do with him and whispers my name when I go sprinting in the opposite direction.
“[God] cares about me even when I want nothing to do with him and whispers my name when I go sprinting in the opposite direction.”
So today I challenge you to take a step towards God, especially if you don’t feel like it, even if you’ve spent years or a lifetime running away like I have. When you’re feeling down and out, do a crazy thing like open your bible and read through some of the Psalms, turn on some awesome Jesus music (here are a few of my favorite playlists) or read an inspiring story of faith (here’s my recommended book list).
As it says in 2 Timothy from the The Message translation:
This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. – 2 Timothy 4:7
Your run with God is truly the only race that matters, my friend. So lace up your Nike’s and get out there. Recklessly run towards Him because even a runner’s high can’t beat the amazing feeling of knowing and loving our incredible creator. You have no idea the joy and peace that awaits you on God’s trails. Run your race and I’ll see you at the finish line!
—- UPDATE (October 2015):
It has been 364 days since the fateful day of my first marathon.
I finished the race in 4 hours and 40 minutes. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. Two weeks before the race I rolled my ankle and could barely walk. The doctor cleared me to run through the pain three days before the race and I did it. Around mile 21, I could barely walk. A medic put her arm around me and asked if I wanted to give up. I walked/jogged most of the last 5 miles, hence my slower time.
When I finished, I looked at my friends and said “if I ever say the word marathon again, slap me in the face.” They have slapped me many times.
I will be running my second marathon in June 2016.
To read more about my fitness journey, check out my other posts:
For your own dose of Steve Weinspiration visit his crazy beautiful blog, http://www.stevewiens.com/ or his new church, “Genesis” that meets in St. Louis Park, MN. http://genesiscov.org/