It was at the beginning of this year that my sister and I discovered the Altitude Project. When searching for a summer mission trip we came across this running camp for Christian collegiate distance runners who were seeking not only an awesome place to train for a few weeks, but also a few weeks of fellowship with other Christian athletes across North America. The camp, which is based at altitude up in Mammoth Lakes, California, welcomed college runners to come for one, two, or three consecutive weeks and draw closer to God while training and bonding with the other runners. Immediately I knew this was somewhere I had to go.
Growing up, I’d never been to any camps like this, and the main reason being time and money. When I talked to my sister about it she was of course “all in,” but realistically, there was no way she could afford a flight across the country, let alone the cost of the camp itself. But something about this camp was really drawing me in. Something about the whole situation makes me think that God was calling us there. Suddenly money was no longer an issue, and I knew I was going to do whatever it took to make it to this camp, and hope to God that it would be worth it.
Today, as I look back, words cannot describe how worth it that it actually was. Despite spending half of my savings to pay for me and my sister to make the trip, and even after I stupidly scheduled our flights for the wrong day and had to reschedule them for a fee of another couple hundred dollars, and finally, despite having a nine hour layover overnight in the Phoenix airport (cleaning staff keeping us up the entire night with their vacuums); every single dollar was worth it in the end. Some things money cannot buy, and yes for everything else I had my Master Card, but the money I spent to fly out to Mammoth wasn’t what bought my sister and I happiness. It wasn’t even the running that “bought” us happiness. Sure, running up in those pristine mountains, feeling the warm, dry air at altitude, seeing the rainbows in the misty waterfalls, and the crystal blue lakes surrounded by summer snow was a wonderful experience. But it wasn’t money that provided these things; it was the creating hands of God. It was God who brought me there, and introduced me to a Christian running community, and taught me the exact lessons that I needed in that moment of my life.
The theme of this years Altitude Project was “Be Transformed:” Romans 12: 1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God
—this is your true and proper worship.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
his good, pleasing and perfect will.
In this reading, Paul is urging us to make our lives a living sacrifice. Paul is not saying we have to give up everything we have as a sacrifice to God. Instead we are called to give up the unimportant things, and hold onto the talents and tools God has provided us with to honor him. Something I never realized was that God made me a runner for a reason. God set me out on that path at the beginning of life and wanted me to use the opportunities and skills he provided me. In Romans, we are asked to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. There are many ways in which we can do this, but the easiest way is by simply doing what we were made to do, and doing it for Christ. I’ll never forget that moment of revelation during my one week long stay at the Altitude Project this summer, that I realized that God was calling me to run for him. One of the girls at camp, Bethany, taught me one of the greatest lessons on applying my sport to my faith. She taught me the concept of an “Audience of One.” That being, competing for an audience of God alone. Since then, every one of my workouts and races has not been to receive praise from other people, but to compete for the sole purpose of worshiping my God.
It’s amazing how this concept, running acting as worship, has transformed my life. Just as Romans says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” my entire outlook on running has really changed. As the title of my blog suggests, I’m not running for a win anymore. Of course, in the moment of the race, winning is my goal, and of course that is my goal for races of the future as well. However, the reason that I run isn’t just to win a race. If that was the sole purpose, I would have stopped running long ago. The fact is, the real reason why I keep running is because running is the tool God has given me to grow closer to him, as well as bring others to Him. God has invited me to “run” down the path he has paved for me. Of course, there may be some bumps and hills along the way, but by focusing on Him I can over come anything. In fact, Matthew 7:13-14 tells us, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” But thanks to God, we are able to find this narrow road and narrow gate through which we are meant to travel. My hope is, that someone reading this today might be transformed, and that through my running, I can somehow reach other’s hearts and instill in them the idea of being a living sacrifice for God. Not all of us may be called to run, but all of us are called to a plan. By giving our lives to God, following His plan, and doing it in a way that honors and glorifies him, we begin a journey of transformation that will change us more than we could ever even comprehend.
|A few of us met Meb on his run
As I look back over how God has transformed me over the past year, I’d really like to thank some of the people that have helped begin this transformation. Greg Jimmerson and Avery Blackwell, the founders of the Altitude Project, have been true models of living sacrifices in what they have done with the Altitude Project. They took their love for running, and for God and combined it into an experience that has changed my life, and the lives of many others no doubt. My one-week stay at the Altitude Project really did transform my life. It was so inspiring hearing someone like Meb Keflezighi tell stories of how his faith has helped him, “Run to Overcome.” (also the name of his book he recently wrote) I was glad to get to know and hear stories from all of the other girls at camp through discussions and bible study; Jane, Julie, Adrianna, Dana, Bethany, Rachel, Claudia and Victoria and even my own sister, Vicky. Everyone at camp was really nice and helpful, and I hope to go back again and see how everyone’s lives have been transformed since we last met. Any collegiate runners interested in the Altitude Project can find out more info on their website: http://www.altitudeproject.com/
I guarantee, once you center your eyes on the real prize, Jesus Christ, and offer your daily life as a living sacrifice for Him, your life will never again be the same!