“I thought I was going to die.”
I have mentioned before that my husband and I really value and plan for quality time spent together. Since arriving in Chile, we have taken up trail running together in the nearby mountains. Let me rephrase that. Jon has enthusiastically taken up trail running. I follow his lead kicking and screaming … and maybe complaining just a little.
In efforts to stay on track with our quality time together, we researched and signed us up for a series of races in the upcoming months. We had our very first official trail run this past weekend: The North Face Endurance Challenge, 10k in Santiago. I could tell you that I wasn’t nervous, but then Jon would stand behind me vigorously shaking his head from side to side.
I know my title for this blog is pretty dramatic, but it is also entirely accurate. I have run races before, but running in the mountains is a whole different beast. This weekend we ran a 10k which is only 6 miles, BUT that 6 miles was much much harder than anything I had ever run before (even a half marathon). Three solid miles were straight up, some sections so steep that I could have used my hands to help me. The other three miles were straight down which sounds like heaven but in reality were equally difficult thanks to the steepness and the rocks.
As I ran, I quickly realized and was proud that I was thinking in Spanish. Too bad the phrases I was repeatedly thinking were “No puedo” (I can’t) and “No es impossible” (It is not possible!). Headlines for Chilean newspapers crossed my mind entitled “USA Gringa found dead after Saturday’s race” or “Gringa faints and falls to her death while running.”
The wonderful news is that I obviously didn’t die! Jon and I both crossed the finish line (he much farther ahead than me), and now our medals hang proudly in our living room. After seeing our pictures posted to facebook following the race, my faculty members at school assumed I had won the race because of my medal in the picture. I am slightly ashamed to admit that I was greatly tempted to not correct them … finishing that race was like winning it.
While brainstorming this blog post, I wanted to stay far away from referencing the typical “run the race” passages that most know and love so well. That would be cliché wouldn’t it? But then I reread the passages and remembered why they are so loved. Sometimes the things that everyone seems to know are the very same things that everyone needs to be reminded of time and time again.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3
Like any good English teacher, I absolutely LOVE the imagery described here in Hebrews.
Cloud of Witnesses: The passages suggest that we are running in a grand stadium, “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” These witnesses are the heroes of faith and inspiring examples to Christians today including Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and David.
After our race this past weekend, we went to see the World Cup Sub 17 soccer matches in the National Stadium. Although team USA lost, and team Chile ended their game in a tie, it was and is always a moving experience to be surrounded by hundreds of people, all with their eyes on the people below and all screaming together. I can only imagine the adrenaline and excitement that the players must feel on the field.
At the end of races, I am almost always able to sprint the last couple 100 yards. When running through a cheering crowd something else takes over and pushes you to your max. It is a beautiful and powerful thing to imagine being surrounded by hundreds of heroes of faith and feeling the roar of their chants and cheers. These “witnesses” bear testimony to God’s faithfulness and the power of faith. I can only imagine the passion and strength behind their cheers for other believers as they continue to run.
Throw off the unneeded: Sadly, before the race this Saturday, I noticed and quietly made fun of others who were geared up to run with water packs. I thought, “this is only 6 miles…that is overkill!” Oh what I would have given for a sip of their water already in mile two! #lessonlearned. When running, it is important to pack light yet be prepared.
In each of our spiritual races we each have so much baggage to toss! Our consuming desire to be the best at work, our striving to make a little more in order to afford a more comfortable lifestyle, friends who are steering us down dark allies… etc. It’s pretty difficult to run weighed down! If your ultimate goal is the finish line, then all you really need is the strength even through Christ and some water through His word.
Run with perseverance. Fix your eyes on Jesus: At one absolutely horrid moment during the race, at about mile 2, I turned a corner into a clearing. Through the clearing, I could easily see the line of people headed straight up the mountain, the steepest and part of the run. As I kept running, I could hear the moans and groans of others behind me as they turned the same corner as they realized that same thing I did.
I think it was at that time that I began to imagine the “Gringa dead” headlines, but I also imagined a watering station sitting just out of view at the top of the mountain. That was enough to keep me going because it was either water or die. Imagine my disappointment when there was no water to be found at the top.
It is incredible to run with the end in sight. It is easy to get faster when you can see the finish line or a water station coming up. Your eyes lock-in with that cup of water and then nothing can stop you!
The author of Hebrews declares: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus … consider him so that you will not grow weary or lose heart. The race is marked. God has planned out the trail and will guide us through it. If we daily sprint towards Him through prayer and His word then how much easier will it be to run with perseverance!
Contrary to popular belief, I did not die this weekend.
None of us will die in our daily spiritual race if we keep our eyes fixed on our Savior.
Take a drink of your pre-packed water (my favorite book is John) and keep going!
A couple more pics from trail running and this weekend