I started training in November. I had hoped to compete in the Cowtown Marathon in Ft. Worth, which I’ve finished three times.
But then Sharon was diagnosed with a large ovarian cyst that turned out to be cancer. The chemo treatments were such that February 24 was not a good time for us. So, I found another Marathon in the area, the UT Arlington Marathon on March 31.
I haven’t been able to run for about twenty years due to knee and hip issues. Oh, I can run. But if I run more than 100 yards my right knee and hip ache for days or weeks. I switched to race-walking in mid-1998 and in December 1998 I completed my first marathon (Dallas White Rock Marathon). My time was five hours and twenty-seven minutes.
Since then I’ve completed one marathon every three years or so. My last was in February of 2017 when I was sixty-four.
My longest walk in training for the March 31, 2019 race was twenty miles, which is far better than my last few marathons where my longest were fourteen and eleven, respectively. Those were my first marathons that took me over six hours to complete (6:31 and 6:35).
Three weeks before the marathon I completed 16 miles in a pace of just under thirteen minutes per mile. If I could do an entire marathon at that pace, which I thought I could not, I’d finish in 5 hours and 39 minutes.
This was a small marathon with around 200 runners. I was hoping to place 3rd in my age group. Last year was the first year for this marathon and the third-place time in Men’s 65-69 was 5 hours 53 minutes.
I did not sleep well the night before. Then driving over there I got a slightly upset stomach, a first for me on marathon day. Fortunately, my stomach settled down.
It was cold and windy at the start. 7 AM. I took off at a very easy pace. I thought. I wanted to do the first mile in around twelve and a half minutes. I went through the first mile in eleven minutes and the first three miles in thirty-three minutes. Too fast. I slowed down after that. But knew I would pay for my fast start later.
Just after mile eight we went into a park with a trail. It turns out that the next ten miles were in this park. In my head I called it the never-ending park. We went five miles one way and then turned around and went back. At around mile ten I was hurting and slowing down significantly. At mile thirteen, I started pushing. I passed the two people who were just ahead of me and suddenly there was no one in front of me. When I exited the never-ending park, I wasn’t sure where to go. (We were returning the way we came, but I could not remember how we came.) In several places there were no signs indicating which way to go. I guessed and asked a fireman in his vehicle and later a police officer in his vehicle. Fortunately, I was guessing right.
The last five miles were hard. But I finished. 5:41:50. Nearly an hour better than my last two marathons! That is my second-best time ever.
I just checked the results online. It turns out that the three finishers in men’s 70-74 all beat my time. And it turns out I was competing against myself as there were no other men in my age group. Hah. (Plus, there was one woman in the 65-69 age group, and it turns out she beat my time by nearly ten minutes. But women have their own prizes. So, I still got first place!)
Everlasting life is a gift received by faith alone, apart from works, apart from perseverance in the Christian race (John 3:16; 4:10-15; 6:28-29; 11:26; Eph 2:8-9). That is the greatest gift anyone can ever receive.
But the Christian life is indeed like a race. Paul said, “Run in such a way that you may obtain it [the prize]” (1 Cor 9:24; see also Heb 12:1-2, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…”). He goes on to define the prize that believers can win as “an imperishable crown” (1 Cor 9:25). I am focused on that prize. I want to rule with Christ forever (“If we endure, we shall also reign with Him,” 2 Tim 2:12). I want to hear Him say to me, “Well done, good servant” (Luke 19:17).
Marathons are a good way to stay in shape. But for me, they remind me of a much more important spiritual truth. As believers, our entire Christian lives are one big race. We need to endure not just for five hours, but for as many years or decades that the Lord gives us.
For finishing the marathon, I received a nice medal. For winning my age group, I got another nice medal. But these are of little, if any, eternal value. What I want—what we all as believers want—is that imperishable crown!