Tag Archives: Hebrews 12

Marathon Challenge Completed (for now)

Sunday I finished my eleventh marathon, my first in over two years. As forecasted, the weather was cold at the start. Many runners were shivering in the starting chutes. Fortunately for me my son Jonathan came to support me and took my warm-ups a few minutes prior to the start. I even took one shirt back after tossing it to him. Cold muscles do not function well. Later at mile five I handed him my gloves, ear band and warm-up shirt, finally warm enough to run comfortably in shorts and t-shirt.

The marathon has sometimes been described as a twenty-mile warm-up and a six-mile race. By mile twenty the leg muscles are often depleted of glycogen and overall fatigue sets in. The description is especially appropriate for the Twin Cities Marathon, since after mile twenty the race course climbs out of the Mississippi River Valley towards the hills by Macalester College and St. Paul Cathedral.

Through mile twenty my race had gone well with no big surprises. I did discover that I did not need to drink as much Powerade as I had during hot summer runs. Fortunately there were plenty of porta-potties along the way. I also discovered that I had not practiced enough specific pace workouts, in which I practice running the specific pace I planned for the marathon. I wanted to run 8:46 mile pace, but as I checked my watch at each mile I learned that I did some miles in 8:20 and some at 9:15 (stops at porta-potties did not help). As I have written before, each marathon has something new to teach me.

At mile twenty, the real challenge began. My legs, especially my hamstrings and quadriceps became heavy and sore. My run became more like a fast shuffle.  As I approached the hill at Summit Avenue my pace slowed. My lofty goal of 3:50 had already slipped away and my secondary goal of 3:55 (my Boston Qualifier) was in doubt.

Jonathan supported me in 2003 TCM

But that is when helped arrived. My son Jonathan met me at mile 21 to run the last 5.2 miles with me. He has done this in my past two marathons when I had really struggled at the end and had to walk a lot. This time his strong words of encouragement and support kept me moving forward at a 9:20 pace. He reminded me that “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:25) and “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Though I felt this overwhelming urge to walk I knew that my goal of 3:55 was in doubt and any walking breaks would kill it. We powered on.

At mile 22 I heard above the many cheering spectators the loud strong voice of Tim Torgerson as he bicycled the course, shouting encouragement to me and others. “Relax your jaw, keep your arms pumping, stay strong.” He would not let me stop, but pushed me to do my best.

I am reminded of Hebrews 12:1-2 where the writer reminds us of “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” In the preceding chapter the writers highlighted the heroes of faith in the Old Testament that now cheer for us in our race to Jesus. I felt like Jonathan and Tim were my own unique witnesses who gave me the specific words I needed to accomplish my task.

As I pushed the final mile to the finish line, I knew it would be close to 3:55. As I stopped my watch, it read 3:53:53. I had finished with 1:07 to spare.* I had my BQ!  A decade-old dream of running the oldest, perhaps most prestigious marathon is now possible.

My next challenge will be to prepare well and to stay injury free for the Boston Marathon in April, 2014. I just hope I have a similar cloud of witnesses that day.

Lord Jesus, thank you for being with me in the challenges of life.

*My official chip-time was 3:53:54.  I must have been a little fast with my watch.

National Running Day

Today is National Running Day.

Running is one of my passions.  I was introduced to marathon running in 1998 and have finished ten since then. I continue to find the training and mental preparation for a marathon stimulating. Though all marathons are a challenge, some are more than others.

Six years ago I ran Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN. It was not a “pretty” marathon for me. Not only did the high humidity and warm temperatures zap the strength of most runners, it also shrouded scenic Lake Superior in fog. The clouds kept it bearable for the first hour, but then the sun broke out and turned the race into a steam bath. I finished in 3:47 but I was not a pretty picture coming across the finish line.

What gave me strength was the community around me. I started off with my friends Steve Libby, Gary Van Cleve, and Bill Treiber near the 3:30 pace group. Steve and I stayed together with the pace group through mile 13; Steve was running strong and hoping to BQ (Boston Marathon Qualifier). I had to drop back at that point due to a four minute port-a- potty break. (I said it wasn’t a “pretty” marathon!) I struggled alone from mile 13 to 22. Then on Lemon Drop Hill, my son Jonathan showed up and ran with me to the finish. His words of encouragement kept my feet moving forward.

In Hebrews 12, the people of God are reminded that we are surrounded by a cloud of invisible witnesses, those faithful people of God who have died and rest with God. They are cheering for us in our life marathon as we race, walk, struggle, waddle, crawl towards Jesus Christ, the race director and pace setter. But I don’t think “cloud of witnesses” is restricted to the dead. Some of those who witness to me are my fellow runners who continue to give words of encouragement and inspiration as I struggle to run life’s course. Many have given me courage and strength. Thank you.

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Thank you Jesus for the ability to encourage others.

The US Run

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

The physical exercise of running appeals to many for its solitary nature. Unlike other sports, one can easily do it alone. When I run by myself, I can do some mental reflection and prayer, seeking peace and tranquility in the steady rhythm of breath and footsteps. I run my own pace, walk when necessary, sprint when desired. Alone, I can enjoy many running benefits.

Yet I also know the power of a community run. The group gives me encouragement and incentive, pushing me beyond my normal boundaries. I especially appreciate other runners during the long runs of marathon training. The Saturday morning ritual of gathering with others gets me up early. I feel a certain obligation to be ready for the sake of other runners. The group conversation can keep me going when the miles are long or when I struggle with some bad patches. I have discovered that a good running group is essential for my development as a runner.

The writer of Hebrews seems to have that community focus as well. In chapter eleven, the writer highlights a number of Old Testament heroes who demonstrated faith in God: Noah, Abraham, Moses and Rehab. And at the beginning of chapter twelve, the writer describes these deceased heroes as “a cloud of witness,” rooting and cheering us on in our faith race. We do not run alone, the writer makes clear. He does not write, “Let me run with perseverance the race that is set before me.” Rather, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Our faith, though personal, is never in isolation.

I am so thankful for those friends and companions who have pushed me to become a better runner. I am even more thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ, who push me to become a more faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Together we can finish the race of faith.

Lord Jesus, connect me to your people that I might look to you, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.