Monday, June 20, 2011

The finisher's medal

"Are you going to win, Dad?" my five-year-old son asked me as I got my running gear prepared the night before I ran a half-marathon a couple of days ago. I told him I would do my best. "I hope you win," he said over and over.

I ran the half marathon in 1:52:53, my fastest time yet among the three I've done over the past year.

I like running. I missed it so much when I didn't run for 15 years, until September 2009. Now I am the older runner. I've never fit the bill of a star runner. I know my limitations. For me it's not about getting to the finish line first, but getting there having done my best, using all my strength and endurance and hopefully learning from mistakes in training and performance and getting better and reaching, not just making, difficult but worthy goals.

Running is such a great analogy for the Christian life. Paul used it in his letters. When that day comes when I have breathed my last, I just want to hear Jesus say "Well done." At that point, to even have made it to His presence would be joyous. I am running to win the ultimate prize.

I noticed when I was heading into the finish line (with my legs feeling increasingly like lead weights) I had salt foam bubbling out of the bottom of my shorts by my left thigh. That was weird. I was sweating like a racehorse! Now, it's kind of icky, but it also was really kind of cool. Can I really push my body to its limits? What does that look like? What will happen when I run a marathon in 14 weeks? I'd better not see that salt foam for that could spell disaster and could find myself being too dehydrated. Nevertheless, it's strangely fun to experiment, make some corrections to hydration and training and see where that takes me.

When my family saw me come in 27th out of 78 runners, I told my son I beat a lot of people but again stressed that I just wanted to do my best -- and I did. He saw my finisher's medal and I put it on his neck. In fact, each of my kids took turns wearing the medal, sharing in their dad's success. I ran well, and that was the important thing.