Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why Do Runners Race? (and my New Year's Resolution..)

I love watching races because there more that meets the eye than one would expect. Imagine twenty men competing, pouring their soul into 4, 8, or 25 laps of grueling running. I truly believe that these races mean more than men competing. It takes a lot even just to get the privilege to wear a jersey, to be racing in collegiate track and field. There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into running just to simply be on the starting line. Lonely hours are spent on the roads, on the track, in the maintenance room, enduring cold, sweat, pain, or even tears. Perhaps runners who race were injured before, maybe they are struggling to pay their rent, maybe, they are battling addiction. We simply don't know what they have gone through to get to the exact moment in time where their feet, heart, and soul are on the line for the next 15 minutes of their lives.

Feeling the heat of racing during 2014 Texas Relays
Because of all this time, energy, and efforts spent in preparation, runners don't just show up to a race to simply run. There is so much more. A race is in essence an avenue built for men who want to experience something greater than the normalities of life. These runners are soul-searchers, putting everything on the line in the heat of racing.

Spending time spectating this weekend, I could see so many emotions in the competitor's faces. Sometimes it reveals the excitement of a PR, the pangs of a bad race, or simple disappointment or relief after the race ends. What is funny is that even if a guy is in 17th place, he still could have run the race of his life. This is what makes running so happy, seeing people overcome the battle within themselves.

What I have learned is that the physical results however, are insignificant compared to the lessons every runner learns or takes from a race. We go through pain, struggle, joy, and determination with each step we take. It is in these moments we feel the most alive, because every thought is magnified. We enter a world with ourselves, our competitor's, and God himself. A world unknown to most people.

And it is a beautiful thing to watch…

I like to sit in on races and think, what has that guy/girl gone through to get to this exact moment? Or why does he run? What's his purpose for running? What's he going through with every step?

I believe every runner races because he/she is searching for something. Maybe it's a time, an opportunity to better themselves physically. Perhaps a chance to compete, or feel the spirit of competition. Or possibly an opening to search for meaning beyond themselves, to feel something, maybe even God. All of these things seem so readily available when the body has nothing left, when we are broken to the point of exhaustion. We can see it in competitor's faces, the look when they are relying on pure guts or heart to finish a race. That's my favourite moment in the race, because it's a chance to see what someone really has in them, to see every fiber of their being and soul pushing towards the finish line.

In my opinion, the best runners have utilized this search by desiring both victory and meaning behind their races. They push their bodies to physical victory, but look for the meaning in every step, even if the race turns out poorly.

I thought a lot about a resolution for the year 2015. As I prayed and sat in my room, I came across a verse that embodies these thoughts on racing, as well as what I personally strive to accomplish in running.

(Note: I do not solely read the Message translation; however, I really like the way this passage is interpreted)

You've all been to the stadium and seen athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. Your after the one that's gold eternally. I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition! I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone about it and missing out myself." 1st Corinthians 9:24-27 (MSG)

I want to run fast, but more importantly experience God through running, become closer to Him through it, and make His name more known through my running career.

So thats it. This verse is my resolution. To train, race, and live a life that goes for the gold in everything, to maximize the gifts God has given me. However, I pray that I would recognize that the medal I strive for won't be here on Earth, but when God says, "You have fought the fight, you have finished the race. You have kept the faith… Well done my good and faithful servant!"

And you know what?

I bet Jesus and I go for a run after!