i have been processing through the marathon i ran on sunday and longing to articulate it in a justifying manner to those that ask. the reality however, is that the experience was (and is) so much bigger than words can even begin to describe. how do i communicate the tangible ways in which i received the graces of god - and received in an immeasurable capacity for an entire 26.2 miles? i suppose i will start at the beginning...
18 weeks ago my friend courtney and i began training for the san diego rock and roll marathon. we signed up to run this race out of a desire and intentionality to spend more time together, especially since we are both moving away in less than 2 weeks to completely different cities. the first handful of weeks our hearts and minds were void of any selfish ambitions. the motivations that caused us to wake up with the rising sun and pound out anywhere from 12 to 20 miles were pure and beautiful. the time we had together during our runs was priceless and the conversations we entered into are the sort that bring about transformation. as the weeks progressed, my intentions began to take on a tainted hue. and from here on out, i am only able to speak for myself.
running has been a passion of mine since i was a child. just a few weeks ago my grandma reminded me of how i used to run around the house over and over again simply for the fun of it. 'round and 'round i'd go until my legs couldn't carry me anymore, and i'd rest for a while and start all over again. i've been running for as long as i can remember. now as an adult i continue to embrace this passion and it has grown into a form of rest and meditation. but when i am not careful it can twist and manifest itself into something hideously prideful. the latter half of our training became an idol. there was something very sick inside me that received a toxic satisfaction in telling people that i was running a marathon. it's rather comical now when i think about that. running became my identity. the sad part is, this ill-placed identity has existed on more than one occasion. it's a temptation for me to draw a sense of value from the fact that i run.
when the initial motivation dimmed and my selfish pride stepped up, my body began to endure some debilitating injuries. it started with an excruciating case of shin splints (but i've had those for over 10 years now), which led to achilles tendonitis, which carried into a very painful case of runner's knee. and through each of these injuries my frustrations grew exponentially. i would direct my anger towards god and spew ignorant and arrogant questions. i would argue with him over how he could give me a desire to run, and then take it away with injuries.
2 weeks before race day courtney had to pull out because of a horrendous IT band injury. so there i was, all alone and still crippled by poorly operating knees. i questioned whether or not i should even run the race at all, so i did the only thing i know to do. i prayed. in lieu of the brokenness of the world, praying over whether or not i should run a marathon sounds ghastly trivial, but to me it was real and i believed it mattered to god. what began taking place was a stripping of my false identity. in my weaknesses god entered in. because i couldn't run, he began to teach me who i am and more importantly, he revealed who he is. days before the race god had softened my heart in such a way that the race didn't even really matter. running it i knew, would not offer any more value to who i am as a woman of god nor did it make me more beautiful to others. through it all what i discovered is the initial motivation for running the marathon. i wanted to run for the sheer enjoyment of it.
through prayer an idea was formed. this race was going to be a dedication to prayer. i was filled with a longing to pray for different individuals at each mile and it was an all consuming joy to think of the possibility of spending 26.2 miles interceding for others. i wanted to run so that i could combine my desire for a life of prayer with my desire for running. and what happened was something much bigger than myself.
at 6:20 sunday morning the race announcer called all runners to their assigned corral. when courtney and i registered for the race we signed up with the anticipation of finishing with a rather over confident time. i knew that with all of my recent injuries there was no way i could complete the race in the time we were aiming for. i climbed down the ladder of pace time and found a comfortable spot somewhere in the middle. as i stood there waiting for the gun to go off i began praying. with psalm 27:4 as the theme verse for the race i said to god, "lord i am here to pray. it is only by your grace that i can run. i would like to pray for all 26 people. but this is your race."
and for one powerful moment i stepped outside of myself and reflected on the significance of where i stood. i never thought i'd be running a marathon in san diego. i never thought i'd be living in san diego. i couldn't believe that i only had 2 weeks left in san diego. and then i thought of how courtney is not running the race with me. all of these thoughts sent a surge of overwhelming emotion that released itself through the pockets of my eyes and streamed down my cheeks. before i could collect myself the gun went off and 15,00+ runners went barreling through the streets of san diego.
the prayers began and every ounce of my attention was focused on things above. it is nearly impossible to formulate into words the joy that i had - it was far greater and bigger than myself that it can only be attributed to god's good graces. i felt as though i was literally gliding over each mile and as the mile markers passed my line of vision, i would glance at my prayer wristband and pray for the person(s) dedicated to that mile to. there were specific prayers i spoke over people, there were miles where i didn't have enough energy to think about the diffinitives and so i asked god to pray for them, and there were certain miles where god spoke through my great feebleness; like mile 24. i was fully exhausted and there was a very large and true part of me that wanted to quit all together. yes, 2 lousy miles away from finishing the race and it sounded deliciously alluring to quit. i was in desperate need of the perseverance that comes only from the strength of christ. and it was this personal need of mine that god entered in and reveled to me that perseverance is what i ought to be praying for on behalf of the friend to whom i dedicated mile 24.
i remember thinking to myself during the entirety of the race, "i can't already be at mile 6... there is no way i'm at mile 10... how did i make it to the half way point so quickly... only 3 miles left, no way...". there was so much joy, that is truly all i can say - joy, joy, joy! my closest friends were at miles 12, 18, and the finish line. it was their love and support that exploded the motivation needed to complete all 26.2 miles.
in all honesty i did not think i would finish. there were far too many injuries that caused such set backs during my training that i anticipated the completion of 9, maybe 10 miles. but god wanted to show me something huge. god wanted to show me that is it only by his provision that i can run. god wanted to humble me. and god blessed 26.2 miles in order that i may pray for 26 beautiful people.