By David Faust
For years I’ve had a hard time understanding people who run marathons. Why do presumably sane individuals subject themselves to such torture? Why endure the sore muscles, chafed skin, and stressed joints created by running 26.2 miles, some of it uphill? Plus you won’t win the race—unless you happen to be one of those elite runners blessed with antelope legs who glide along the streets as if they were strolling leisurely at the mall.
A friend who ran a marathon told me that it took him several days to recover afterward, and he mentioned matter-of-factly that in the process the toenail fell off his big toe. I was surprised to learn that this is a fairly common occurrence for long-distance runners. Who are these crazy people hobbling around without toenails while they dream about running their next race?
I’m afraid I might become one of them.
I ran my first marathon this year—the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. To be clear, I didn’t actually run the whole race. I ran 6.55 miles anchoring a relay team with three college students who joined me to raise money for Cincinnati Christian University. I ran at the beginning of my segment; I ran again while passing a crowd of spectators (I was too proud not to run); then I sprinted the last quarter mile to cross the finish line in style. The rest of the time, I walked as fast as I could!
When I initially told my doctor what I planned to do, he wryly asked, “Do you remember what happened to the first person who ever ran a marathon?” (According to a popular yet likely untrue myth, in 490 BC a messenger named Pheidippides ran around 25 miles to tell the people of Athens that the Persians had been defeated at Marathon. After announcing the news, he supposedly dropped dead.) I asked my doctor, “Are you saying I will die if I run in the marathon?” His reply was something like, “No, but you’ll feel so bad you’ll wish you could.”
Run with Perseverance
Amazingly I enjoyed the experience—a lot. The morning air was cool and crisp as I arrived at the relay station and waited for my teammate to show up with the baton (a plastic tube with a computer chip inside) gripped tightly in her hand. I learned several lessons from running the race that day:
• Encouragement makes a big difference. Spectators along the route sang and played music on guitars, mandolins, and keyboards. Well-wishers clapped their hands and clanged cowbells. Others offered cups of water and Gatorade®, cheering us on with shouts: “You can do it! Great job! Don’t stop now!”
• It helps to be part of a team. I didn’t want to let down my relay partners.
• It’s thrilling to cross the finish line. My team took five and a half hours to cover the full distance—more than twice what it took the swiftest runners—but we wore our medals proudly at the end.
Now that I have participated in my first fourth of a marathon, I would gladly do it again, even if it cost me a toenail. The experience gave me a new appreciation for the Scripture that says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1, 2).
1. How does your life resemble a long-distance race? a relay race?
2. What threatens to keep you from finishing the race?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for September 28, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Isaiah 54, 55
Isaiah 65, 66