When a colleague recently talked me into signing up for a 10K race, I had nothing good to say about this kind of exercise. Any previous attempts had ended in exhaustion and demotivation – not to mention the boredom throughout.
But as crazy as it seems, I appear to have caught the running bug, and all thanks to having that one goal on the horizon. Over the past few months, training has filled in the loose gaps in my already busy schedule, and I could never have imagined the journey this experience would take me on. As I proudly ticked off each difficult workout, I was amazed at the lessons I was learning through something that I had once thought to be so mundane. So, here they are; 10 things running taught me about my faith:
- Set a goal/ target
If we don’t have a goal, how do we know which way to steer the boat? God has good works for us, but we need to define them and then work towards completing them.
- Make a plan
Defining the destination is half the battle. The next step is thinking about how to go about it. If you have need to develop patience, what are you going to do about it? What steps are you going to take if you want to become kinder?
The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
~ Proverbs 21:5
- Eating has as much to do with running as working out
Training isn’t everything. As I ran more, I became hungrier and craved healthier foods. As we step onto the road of faith, we should expect to become hungry for more wholesome things. What we feed ourselves has as much an effect on our performance as the training itself. What do we want the world to see? After all, you are what you eat.
“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
~ Matthew 15:11
- Push through the pain
Most of my time training was spent in pain. There were moments of enjoyment, but a lot of it was pushing through my lack of motivation and stitch. But, oddly, I found that it was harder to complete my training session if I stopped running and walked for a bit. It was much easier to keep running, even if I slowed down. Keep running, keep praying, keep reading the Bible, but don’t stop while you’re training.
- Train hard, fight easy
Preparation is everything. It suddenly dawned on my one day that we train so many hours for such a short time running the actual thing! But those training days are no less important than the event itself. In fact, they are more important. They are the opportunities we have to build the muscles and lose the weight. So don’t underestimate them. Study the Bible, pray hard, and when the tough times come, it will be easier to draw back on what you already know and have established with God. Train hard, fight easy.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
~ Romans 12:12
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope in salvation.
~ Romans 5:3-4
- Don’t be too proud to slow down
Sometimes I would pass a group of runners, or someone out walking, and immediately all my energy would be put into showing that I could run, even if I had just committed to slowing down. Sometimes slowing down means looking weak, but if we constantly try to look strong, we burn out and can’t go on. Slowing down is an important process of building up those muscles.
“Be still and know that I am God!”
~ Psalms 46:10
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
~ Matthew 11:28-30
- Rest days are important
My heart was set on training and achieving, but I realised early on that resting was just as important when I hurt my calf muscle. I realised that over achieving can erase any motivation and create disappointment. Equally, resting allows the muscles to recover, allowing us to achieve more the next time we train. Likewise, we weren’t designed to do life in our own strength. Resting and simply acknowledging where our strength comes from is a good way of letting those lessons sink in and do their work, so that we can come back refreshed and stronger.
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.
~ Exodus 20:8-10
- Comparison is lethal, but social support is paramount
Yes, I started to get competitive. But as the weeks went by, I felt that familiar nag as we would compare times and training sessions. I realised that that wasn’t healthy. For one, we weren’t training in comparable conditions. For another, it didn’t matter. One person’s progress was nothing compared to another’s, but sometimes we are so blinded by the overall achievement that we forget to look at our own road, not someone else’s. Having said that, social support is so important for motivation and progress. Don’t compare, but lean on others when times get rough. This is why church is so important. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, share your burdens, do a Bible study together or pray. Healthy community is key!
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.
~ Galatians 6:4
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
~ Hebrews 3:13
- Running is a good stress-reliever!
As much as I did not always enjoy running, there were moments where I literally ran for joy. When I realised what I was doing, what I had achieved and where I was going, I couldn’t help it! I saw some beautiful sunsets when out running, and ran through changing weathers. I was reminded of my past prayers and answered prayers, of what I used to be and what I had become with God’s grace. And all those endorphins felt great! Sometimes it takes the things we enjoy least to enjoy life the most.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
~ Isaiah 40:30-31
- After the mile stone, don’t give up!
I reached my target, and though the race itself took place on one of the warmest days here and it was such a struggle all the way, I was so happy to get through it and proud that I had persisted. But this isn’t the end. It’s no good training for a race to keep fit and then quitting the whole thing. And it’s the same with our spirituality. Once we’ve reached a target, we need to keep practicing it so as not to lose that dexterity. We need to set new goals, new targets. Whether that means shifting our focus or just intensifying it, don’t stop. Remember, it’s always harder to get moving if we stop!
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
~ Galatians 6:9
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, 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 oppositions from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
~ Hebrews 12:1-3