1 Corinthians 9:24 says: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
I had read this verse in my Bible many times. It is perhaps the most popular verse in the Bible for runners, along with other verses such as Isaiah 40:30, “They will run and not grow weary.” It’s verses like these that I used to use to justify putting all of my time and effort toward running fast and winning. Its verses like these that I would hear in church and nearly jump out of my seat excited because it mentioned “running!” Isn’t it funny how I never jumped out of my seat with excitement if I heard “God” mentioned outside of church. Its also interesting if you actually take the time to read the rest of 24-27, which goes on to say,
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
This verse pretty much captures everything I was doing wrong with my running. I was running for a prize, a medal, a trophy. I was unaware that the prize was something intangable, something bigger, it was and always is, Jesus Christ. We were put on this earth for a reason. Placed into our very home, school, town and country to do what God had planned for us to do. For me, that has been running, just like the book, “Born to Run.” I was put here to run, but not for an NCAA trophy, an Olympic medal or a crown leaves that will wilt. Instead, I was put here to run for the crown that will last forever. I’m here to run for the king of kings, the only one who gives eternal life. I was put here to run for Christ.
This idea of “Running for Christ,” has slowly revealed it’s meaning to me throughout the past year. After cross-country ended on a bad note for me, I went home to my family and realized they were what truly mattered in my life. Seeing them and feeling their love and support reminded me that they are worth far more than winning all the races in this world. My sister and I both had a really rough finish to our cross-country seasons, and over break we sat down and did a lot of thinking. At this point I hadn’t conjured up the exact idea of ‘running for Christ,” but I did begin to recognize how much more I needed Him in my daily life. My sister and I decided that we would make plans to go on a mission trip in the summer. However, search after search revealed that we were lacking two things: money, and willingness to give up a week or two of our ever-so-important summer training plan. (I laugh about this now, because I ended up taking off four weeks of running throughout this past summer do to injury). It was that time I came across The Altitude Project, a Christian running camp for collegiate runners. My sister and I signed up and made plans for our summer trip to Mammoth Lakes in the summer. I’ll admit, my real incentive for the trip was going to California, being up at altitude in Mammoth Lakes and training where Olympians trained. Deep down of course, I wanted to grow closer to God, and give my sister the ultimate present of having a special week together before she went off to college. But at this point, running was still the ginormous priority in life, and I had no idea how one summer was about to change my whole perspective of everything.
I returned to school from Christmas break with a better attitude for my running. My track season was centered around one thing, “Just doing my best every day.” I no longer centerd my running around do-or-die goals, or focused energy comparing myself to others. Sure, I was competitive, and I still ran to a new personal best, but I learned that there are some things you cannot control. I remember one particular long run I had with a teammate where we discussed the frustration that comes with bad races. I remember being surprised at how carefree her attitude actually was as she told me an account of one of her worst races. She told me, “All you can do is YOUR best, and if you have a bad day, but you know you gave your best, then it was meant to be. It’s a part of God’s plan.” It was then that I realized, it wasn’t that she was carefree at all; she simply had and immense trust in God, and was at peace with his plan.
Since that day, this is how I’ve tried to approach my goals in life and running. Goals are very important things, but in the end, we can only control so much, and the rest is up to God. By trusting that he had a plan, I was able to go through the highs and lows of my performances this past track season without getting too emotional. In fact, it was right when I let running become too important to me, and started putting too much pressure on one race, as if it was all that mattered on this earth, that God came down and set me straight. I ended track with another disappointing race, but this time, I walked off that track stronger and more determined than ever. And so there began the summer that would change my life forever.
At the start of summer, I was hungry and determined coming off a disappointing performance, just as I had in cross-country. The difference this time, however, was I was dealing with injury. The worst part about being injured was, not only did it effect my track season, it stopped me from taking out my anger and jumping into high summer mileage that I desperately wanted. I’ve always dealt with minor injuries here and there, but since this one was a muscle strain, it stubbornly kept lingering and pushing my training back more and more. For the first time in my life, I found myself going out for four mile runs over eight minute pace, while my own younger sisters were doing almost double my mileage. While it was certainly frustrating at first, I accepted this was a part of God’s plan. I accepted it, whether it meant I would have to redshirt, or if I’d be back at full strength in a few weeks. I took things day by day, and began focusing on enjoying everything good that God had blessed me with.
I was luck enough to take a three-week trip back to my hometown in Ohio. I got to see all of my enormous family come together to celebrate my older sister’s wedding. I got to get up and dance with my grandparents and cousins, and new brother in law. I also took my two younger sisters on trails I used to run back when I was just 14 years old, and for once I wasn’t worried about hitting my seven minute miles, I was just running, and sharing with them the very trails that seven years ago made me fall in love with this sport. Having the whole family together, and being back in the great O-Hi-O reminded me of a life I had before running. You see, no matter how important “we runners” think our sport is, the reality is we all had a life before we were runners. Our family was there long before our first 5k, and recognizing their importance is a lesson worth far more than any training advice from a coach. It’s the little things, like how my grandparents would ask how my leg was feeling everyday, or how my sister sat by the pool to talk to me while I aqua jogged for an hour. Or even the sacrifices I made, like wearing heels for the first time since God knows when, for my sister’s wedding, her special day. A part of me, although it would have been nice not to get hurt, is glad I was. It forced me to slow down over the summer, and really come to realize what’s more important in life. Running sixty miles the week of my sister’s wedding would have been nice, but by not getting to run at all that week allowed me to see the beauty of God’s blessings more clearly. I’ll be able to run those sixty miles any other week in my life, but I’ll never be go back to sitting at the head table of the wedding reception, watching my older “Sissy” dance with our Daddy to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella” as tears of joy and awe rolled down my face.
By now you’re probably wondering if I’ll ever answer the question, “why do you run?” Well, in the middle of my summer, this is the very question I found myself asking. I started wondering things like, “If taking time off running has helped me realize how much more there is to life than fitting in my ten mile run, then is running a bad thing? Could my busy running schedule really be holding me back from doing the things that really matter in life? Where did running fit in to my spiritual life? What did running have to do with my relationship with God?” It wasn’t until I had the chance to hang out with my friend Allyson, that I first got a glimmer of an answer to these questions. Allyson and I had been teammates in high school, and after a busy year of school and running we were beyond excited to finally catch up. As we’d been discussing all year, the plan was to spend our summer once again fooling around and making another YouTube hit for the fun of it. You see, the summer before we’d been fairly bored, to say the least, and decided to remake the Ke$ha song, “Your Love is my Drug” into our own version, “My Run is my Drug,” in which we enhanced our awful singing with the help of autotune, and filmed ourselves in a comedic parody of the life of the obsessive runner. Somehow tht video miraculously (or perhaps through Let’s Run) got almost 15,000 views.
When Allyson came over my house this summer, we were excited to brainstorm ideas for our next “big hit.” It was then that she mentioned how cool it would be to make our new video have a message about God. Allyson had just returned from an Athletes In Action camp, and was full to the brim with excitement about God, and how she wanted badly to share her new found joy in Him with the world. She shared stories with me about how her running had hit its low and how getting in God’s word and by spending more time with him it completely changed her perspective on why she runs and her whole view on life. At first I was a bit skeptical; sure it would be cool to make a Christian song and put it on YouTube, but really, who would listen to that? Even truly talented Christian artists on the radio rarely broke into the top 40, how were two girls playing around with auto-tune and a digital camera ever going to get any hits? But that’s when something shook me, what was the harm in it? Was it more that I was embarrassed of making a song about God and putting it out there for the world to see? In reality, that was part of it. Truthfully I was a bit more scared of people seeing the video and laughing than worrying about not getting up to 15,000 views. Just as these horrible thoughts were going through my head Allyson brought up a point that snapped me back into reality, “If this video can at least reach one person,” she said, “and change their life the way mine has changed, then it’s served its purpose. That’s when it really hit me hard; all my life I’d said, “I’m a Christian, and I’m proud to stand up for my beliefs,” but here she was, truly putting that to practice. Of course she was right, of course I was in, and that’s when the idea for our video came to me. “I know!” I said, “Last year we make a video about running being our drug, but this year let’s make it about how we are running for Christ!” From that point on, those three words, “Run for Christ” began to completely reshape my life. I went off to California and spent one of the greatest weeks in my life at the Altitude Project (another story in itself) where we learned about how God wants us to use our talents to do our best, and that even sport can be a way to worship God and reach out to others we interact with. By the end of my summer I began to realize something: I’m not running for a win (or even A-Win as my “rap name” is spelled) I’m not running for the glory, I run “to share my story”. Whether it be through a Youtube “hit”, or through this blog, I hope you realize like I did that the real answer to why I run is quite short and simple, “Why do you run?”
–Answer: I run for Christ!