I've recently been kicking around the idea of finishing a book I started writing a few years ago. It's not so much a book about running ultra marathons (my level of experience and expertise is quite inadequate for such a book), but it's a book about training for and racing in the great ultra marathon of life--more specifically, the Christian life. Along the way, our race is filled with many challenges...and failures.
I left off shortly after my first 100 miler. I am thinking about adding the next race to the book. It was a forty mile race in Kansas. About four or five months after my first 100 miler, I decided to try a trail run at Clinton Lake in Kansas. I was WAY unprepared for it, but I thought I could "tough it out" since I managed the 100 miler. But I was in for a surprise.
The course was very hilly--more so than any course I had ever trained on. The course was wet and muddy. I didn't even bother with socks as they would only collect moisture and cause blisters. Several times I actually lost a shoe down in the muck. To top it all off, I started out too fast and kept forgetting to hydrate myself.
Needless to say, things didn't turn out so well. By mile 20 I wanted to quit. By mile thirty my dad was the only thing keeping me going (he had started running with me and kept encouraging me not to quit). Mile 35, 36, 37, and 38 were among the most miserable in my life. I was cramping so badly throughout my body that only lying flat on the dirt/mud could temporarily relieve the pain. But the instant I would move, it would start again. I made it those four miles (35-38), but I quit at mile 38.
After all that work, only two miles from the finish line, I was credited with a "DNF" (Did Not Finish). I was helped off the course in a truck and lots of water was forced down my throat. My sister, who is a nurse, was going to take me to get an I.V., but after a half-hour or so, and after consuming what seemed to be a gallon or two of water, I was feeling much better.
I convinced myself that I didn't quit, I had kept going until I simply couldn't go any further. But the truth is, If I lied on the course for 15 minutes to a half-hour longer and had some water brought to me, I could probably have gotten up and walked TWO more measly miles.
So I said all that to say this: All of us Christians have some things in our race (our Christian lives) that cause us to have to lie down in the mud from time to time. Sometimes Christians feel that their marriages have come to an end (I am seeing many people at this state of their race take a "DNF"). Many of us have had hills at mile twenty, if you will, that looked impossible to climb. I know I have had battles in my Christian life that jeopardized everything I was as a Christian. I was tempted to give up and drive away from it all.
But here I am, learning to love my wife more and more each day. Learning to keep serving the Lord no matter what. Taking time out when things get rough to to remember, "Oh yeah, I have forgotten to hydrate myself with the Words of God." I have sat in the mud many times, but this race is one I for one am not going to quit.
Christian brothers and sisters, let's encourage each other. Like pacers running along side each other, let's sit down with those who are down. Bring the life-giving Water to those who have forgotten to drink. And let's finish the race that is set before us.