Thursday, June 14, 2007
Reflections from the Life of a Runner... Part III
"In every race I’ve ever run,
there came a moment
when I wanted to quit."
One would think, in order to run a fast time during a race all one would need to do is run and run and run daily preceding the race day. This is certainly true, but there are some other significant factors in addition to running alone. Muscle memory (discussed two days ago) is crucial for pacing yourself and knowing where you are at during the race. Likewise, understanding the principle that “feelings lie” is also paramount, especially on those days when you would rather be any where except training (discussed yesterday). There is another area that has proven to be fundamental to me.
In every race I’ve ever run, there came a moment in the race where I wanted to quit. It usually wasn’t during the first mile (unless I was absolutely getting ‘smoked’ J). I could never predict when these thoughts would come, but come they would. Sometimes they would start out faint and build with every step, every muscle ache, and especially with every person that passed me on the trail. Though, I could not calculate when they would come, I did begin to recognize patterns and times of vulnerability to these empathetic-wanna-quit-mind-sets. Often, when I was alone in the woods for a long time during a race, the desire to slow down, or the thought that I would never catch the person ahead of me was pretty pervasive. However, the worst of thoughts typically comes after the first 2.5+ miles (the race was typically 5mi/8k).
Two runners will be running next or near to another runner. The one will begin to do what is known as a “surge.” This is where you are running right next to another runner and you begin to pull out in front of them, but not to far, just a couple of feet. The other runner will without doubt attempt to follow your lead and keep up. At this point, you let them remain with you, perhaps even slow down a touch, resuming the pace you were at before you surged. Then about twenty-seconds later, you will do it again and again. After a couple of minutes, the other runner will begin to hear those dreaded thoughts, “I can’t keep up with this guy!” “He’s just too strong.” “He won’t budge.” “Just let him go…”
A practiced runner understands how this battle goes on within his opponent and knows when and how to implement these various techniques to ensure his victory.
It takes much more energy for a runner to keep up with a “surger” than it does to be the one “surging.” For the one trying to keep up, there are all these mentally realities that begin to come into play…. “I want to quit.”
I’ve been in races when my mind began to sing this sad song. It’s amazing how many ways you can think of to “throw” a race during these moments! “Coach, I got a bad stomach cramp.” “I fell.” “Someone pushed me down.” “I’ve been kind of sick the last couple of days.” “Something I ate didn’t sit well with me.” To just name a few of the excuses that race though one’s mind.
To be sure, the battle rages in the mind and the skilled runner is one who knows when not to listen to the silent counselor. This pseudo-counselor is always looking for the easy way out, and in short, he is a “wimp!”. The trained runner is one who understands how the mental battle rages and has developed the character in practice to endure the mental-war on the course.
Scripture speaks of specific and strategic moments in the “race of life” where we are susceptible to similar mental battles. The Greek word for these moments is kairos. Kairos is the word commonly translated for “time.” It doesn’t just mean time as in chronological sense or calendar time, it is used in the context of a very specific and strategic time. “There will be an open door at this place, at this specific time, and that is the moment to strike.” This word is used to describe how Satan comes against and attacks followers of Christ, even Christ Himself.
For example, “when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him (Jesus) until and opportune time (kairos) (Luke 4:13). In other words, the devil would pull back, but not too far. He would be watching from a distance, waiting, looking, longing for a moment when he could “surge” against the Son of Man and bring Him down.
Satan knows at what “mile marker” we are typically most vulnerable. It is during these “times” the he “surges” against us, bring strain to relationships, circumstances and situations. At these moments, the battle will rage in our minds. What will we allow ourselves to think…? “Just quit.” “It’s not worth it.” “This will never change.” “I’ve been in this place again, what’s the use.” “No one will really notice if…”
It is the skillfully trained runner who is not surprised by these thoughts, nor thrown off course.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial,
because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life
that God has promised
to those who love him.