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Principles from the 2011 Cross Country Season


Principles from the 2011 Cross Country Season

 

I volunteered just before midseason to help with my son’s cross country team.  My nephew runs on this team too, so it was extra fun for me.  I hadn’t run in about 3 years after battling major knee problems…so my start was slower than I wanted.  Nonetheless, I gained a new understanding of some basic Biblical principles.  I wanted to share them with you as we come up on the Thanksgiving season.  I want to always be thankful for the way God reminds us of who He is and how His principles and wisdom work.

Running is not easy.  But running can be fun.  I understand that there are some people who simply hate the idea.  That’s ok.  But there’s a reason that Paul wrote about training and running a race in 1 Corinthians 9.  I was reminded of this verse last weekend when I watched my son run his race…and then watched the rest of the Jr. High and High School runners ran theirs.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 says this:

24 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. 25 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. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 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.

The temperatures hovered around 48-49F degrees and the wind was absolutely brutal.  There was nowhere to hide from it.  The land near Marlington High School was flat without many windbreaks.  The first race of the day was the kids race (for those below 7th Grade).  Micah would be in this 1000m sprint.  At 9:15AM the gun sounded and around 30 youngsters took off, many in their team’s running uniforms…shorts and tank tops. Some had t-shirts or tights underneath, but that didn’t help much with the windchill.  To beat all, the starting 100 yards was directly into a headwind.

Micah’s been running well the whole year taking 3 – 1st place finishes before this day.  He planned nothing else but another 1st place finish.  We walked through the path of the course from a map and then looked up to see the actual course in the distance.  Roger Tubbs then took the group out to stretch and warm up.  The start time came close and the young group approached the line…not wanting to take off their coats and sweatpants.  It was cold.  Everyone took their spot, and waited for the gun, then sprinted into that wind that forced all of them to breath extra breaths as they battled for position.

Micah quickly made it to the front with a couple of other girls who were planning to not only match his time but beat him.  The three of them quickly outpaced the others and midway had close to a 40 yard lead.  One girl, who trains all year long, passed Micah, but he wouldn’t have that and quickly jumped in front again not looking back.  She stuck close and the other girl closed in on the two of them.  As they rounded the last corner Micah started a 100 yard kick.  As he got closer to the finish I could actually hear him breathing over the crowd cheering.  His limbs were moving as fast as they could.  He was coughing with each breath attempting to scream his way a little faster.  The cold air wouldn’t allow him to get a yell out, so he hacked his way to a first place finish.  I’ll never forget the look on his face as he ran the last 20 yards.  He was working harder for this 1st place than he ever had before.  Partly because he didn’t want to get beat by a girl, but also because of the weather conditions…and he simply wanted to win.

I now have a very personal picture of what Paul was talking about as he penned, “…run in such a way as to win the prize.”  I am thankful for this picture.

Question.  Do you run your life in such a way?  I’m now asking myself that question every day.

The weather did not improve for the rest of the races.  Many of my Sr. High friends ran their races next.  More than a few were covered with mud showing where they fell or were bumped around.  These were the district races, so all were fighting for a chance at being mentioned All District or to have their team place well.   The Jr. Highers, who I had run with on and off the last couple months, ran their faces off, as coach Amy Eibel often encouraged them to do.

Roger Tubbs took this group, like the first, out to stretch and warm up.  I met the group at the starting line.  I had just run from the finish of the girls High School race.  I was sitting with another friend of mine, Kayla Bloodworth, who not only ran her face off but almost her foot.  She kicked the last 200 yards faster than she probably ever had…and on a foot that was not 100%.  But she finished as one going for the prize.  She dropped underneath the flag-rope forming the chute and went down crying.   She was in pain, but in a few minutes I and a few other runners were around her helping her move telling her how great she just finished.  This took me back to one of my final races in High School Cross Country at South.  We ran at Malone College and my coach pushed me like never before.  I ran one of my best races and I collapsed in the chute after crossing the line.  The runner who came in front of me and the runner who finished behind me carried me through the chute to an open spot on grass where my coach met me.  There’s something all runners know.  Runners are inherently family.  Some runners are so competitive they run by themselves…but for the most part kindness and compassion run heavy in this global group.

As I got to the Jr. High guys after making sure Kayla was ok, I could hear coach Eibel getting the boys mentally ready for their race.  A huge smile was on her face.  Roger was nearby nodding with each phrase.  The boys were bouncing around trying to stay warm.  The wind had not died down.  They just wanted the gun to sound so they could get finished and back into their long pants and long sleeves.

The stronger runners on the team didn’t disappoint.  Jacob, my nephew, ran as strong as he has all year.  He and a friend battled for first place on the team most races this year, Jacob taking the majority…but they were all close.  The runners who weren’t usually as strong…again…ran their faces off and didn’t seem to realize the temps, mud, and wind they were running through.  They plowed through.  Their girls team surprised us as well as they ran maybe not faster, but stronger than they had all year.  One of our competitive girls nearly got sick 300 yards before the finish, but didn’t let girls from another team pass her up.  “…As to get the prize,” even when you don’t feel like it or when you feel tired or when you feel sick or when enemies are chasing you down.

All this, again, is my picture of 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.  These kids ran hard.  Another thing I saw was there were not only two coaches driving positive mental, ‘can do’ images into their hearts and brains, there were hundreds of parents and adults placed nearly evenly around most of the course to cheer them on.  These adults were out, some in full winter garb, travel mugs in hand, cheering on not only their kids but other kids as well.  There was a stretch of the course where the runners were all by themselves.  It’s here when your body ‘talks’ to you saying “this is too hard” or “you’re too tired” or “the person behind you is better than you.”  Sometimes we run life thinking there’s no-one around.   But all of us ‘onlookers’ could see them in the distance…ready for them to get close again to push them on to a great finish.  It’s great to have family around you cheering you on…sometimes when you can’t see or hear them.

Simple Biblical Principles:

  • It’s great to know you’re being led by people who believe in you and care and push you to your best performances.
  • There are things in life that sting like the cold wind.  But the cold wind can’t stop us.  Jesus said, “…and the gates of Hell will not overcome you.”  (Matthew 16:18)
  • It’s great to run with a team.
  • It’s awesome to know that around every turn and after every straightaway, there are people who look you in the eye and tell you, “You can do this!”
  • It’s so nice to know there are people to meet you at the finish line…and if necessary carry you.
  • Whether you had a great run or your worst day, they volunteers at the finish still smile when they hand you a cup of water and say “Good job!”

Can you see the image of Christ in the above principles?  Is running the perfect sport?  Is every runner a shining model of Jesus?  No and no.  The church isn’t perfect either.  Running simply gives me many, many mental images that put skin and bones on the principles that Jesus wants us to live by.  My prayer is that we all start being contagious with our kindness, generous with our support for and belief in the abilities of others, and forgiving with each other when we have bad days.

 

Thanks everyone for reading my ultra long article,

Ed

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