I used to be an amateur marathon runner when I was younger. I ran those 42km runs once or twice every year. And eventually, I had to give up marathon running due to the injuries that I sustained over the years. But I did enjoy running marathon. And other than me enjoying the sensation upon crossing the finishing line, I find it spiritually fulfilling to complete a marathon.
There are three reasons why I find it so:
1. Running marathons helps me to appreciate the challenges of life
There are a few phases in a full marathon race of 42.125km that a runner will probably go through. The first 10-20km, as the beginning, is the phase where the runner will feels that he is invincible. This is the time when the runner is still energetic and has just taken up the challenge. He feels prepared and that he can complete the whole thing without sweat. At the 20-30km mark, the runner will start to feel tired. From 30km to 42km point, the runner is likely going to curse and swear his decision to run the race, depending on his level of preparedness. Most likely, he will be so tired that each 100m starts to seem longer. But once he crosses the finishing line, there will be a sense of exhilaration and achievement.
Life is similar in some sense. When we start off with an endeavour, we feel that we can last the race. Then things drag on a little, and we feel tired. There will be a point when we may start to regret our decision. But we will feel that it is all worth it after we finish the race.
Perhaps that is why the New Testament writers would liken their ministry and life like a race. Bearing in mind the races back then were probably not as similar, the struggles are still the same. Be it a 100m race or a marathon, we simply need to last the race. Paul, at the end of his life, mentioned to Timothy that he had run the good race and fought the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7, NIV). But he kept the faith and he had not given up on God, even when he faced with the challenges of life as a Christian.
2. Running marathons is equivalent to a prolonged devotion for me
Because I am a slow runner, I take about 6-7 hours to complete one marathon. And most of the time, I spent this time running alone. This means that I had 6-7 hours of time alone by myself, which I could use to either talk to myself, or talk to God. Imagine this, you are talking to God for 6-7 hours with the assurance that no one will interrupt you.
This therefore becomes an prolonged devotion time for me with God. And for the 12 marathons that I had run previously, I must say that God has spoken much to me. For example, during one of the marathons I ran, God spoke to me not to run alone anymore. After sharing this with the people and mentors around me, I realised that this was a call for me to stop depending on myself. But also more importantly, it is a confirmation from God to start looking for someone who will be able to support me in my ministry. That started the process of me looking for a life partner.
3. Being a marathon runner enhances my ministry
I am still in my mid-30s, and this is young compared to the people I minister to in my mission trips overseas. But I find that being a marathon runner has helped me to enhance my ministry. It helps me to be able to relate with those who have been through a lot in life. How so? As mentioned above, because running a marathon helps me to appreciate life more. I know what it feels like to be in a position where I am tempted to give up. And I understand the triumphant feeling of completing a major milestone in life. Such is the mirror that marathon provides me.
Moreover, having ran 12 marathons means that I have something that I can share with new people which will help me connect with the people as this is something that not many people have done before. It becomes a talking point for me to reach out and build bridges.
As the 2017 Singapore Marathon draws nearer, I can’t help but miss my marathon running days. I want to run another marathon with my wife but this is a project that I suspect I will have to wait till my legs recover from the injuries that I sustained. And moreover, I will need to build up my fitness once again.
So have you run a marathon before and what are your thoughts when you run the marathons? Share with me in the comments as I like to hear from you!