Mardi Gras is intended to mark the start of journey towards Easter. How did a cheap medal cost me so much and how did a journey help me overcome some unhealthy comparisons in life? I’d like to share a part of my race in hopes that it will encourage you to run yours. Before you bow out because you don’t like running or you’re not in the mood for a physical accomplishment, just come along for the run to be amused a little at my expense.
I signed-up for Mardi Gras Mambo as motivation to get in shape. In reality I knew if I spent some money to race I would not waste-it by backing out. Insuring I didn’t back down worked, motivating myself to train for the race did not. Prior to race day I had run a few miles, but nothing close to a 10K. Mildly irritated at my failure to train I chose the console myself with a simple goal of completing the entire 6.4 miles without walking. Apparently the way these races work is to line at the start in pace groups, groups of people that can run a particular speed for the entirety of the race. I found my group and began to get a little excited; I felt good and the people around me were full of energy. My goal for the day was simple; start at pace I could handle and finish at the same speed. My mind was filled with, “I can do this!” just about the time the race announcer started a countdown. The pace group behind me got excited and began to cheer. Their excitement drew me in so I turn around to enjoy the moment only to stare down their pace group sign.
I was proud every time I told people I was running in a 10K and I was proud 10 seconds earlier for pushing myself to do something bigger than I had ever done. However, when I saw the sign “All Walkers Start Here”, nothing about my run seemed very spectacular. It was sad to line up in the 12 min/mile group where I thought I could be successful and it no longer felt good enough. But, I gave myself a pep talk and a quick reminder that the goal of the day was simple, finish at the pace I started. I was ready to conquer the course again and it was time to move on. It was a cool day and I moved along with my group well. In fact I even passed a few people who had started in the groups ahead. My world was once again right.
Let me break in here with a little history. One of my lifelong disappointments has been not finishing well. Whether it was starting a school project that I did not leave myself enough time to finish, tiring out in the fourth quarter of a football game, not following through with the details of a work project or not following through with disciplines that will help me grow spiritually; I struggle to finish well. In some ways I was running the race to overcome my struggle.
Back to the race. Around mile four I was very tired when God and I began a conversation, prayer, about wanting to finish well. If you have ever had a good conversation with God you know it can be a quite an energizing experience. Quickly my mind was filled with, “I can do this!” In fact I was running a few seconds faster than my target pace when out of nowhere this happened.
In fact it happened twice. Two moms passed me pushing strollers and just chatting about how nice it was to be out on an easy jog. Defeated; what I was aiming to accomplish felt insignificant and the pain in my legs no longer seemed worth the effort. I did the only thing I knew. I hung my head, stared at the ground and tried like never before to forget that anyone else was running this race but me. In that moment I believe God helped me focus on my race and avoid comparing it to the one set out for anyone else.
Paul encouraged the Philippian church to run the race of life like this, “…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way…” [Philippians 3:13-15]
I finished the Mardi Gras Mambo, and this Good Friday I am incredibly thankful that the God-man Jesus Christ ran the race marked out for Him. It is Jesus’ willful obedience to pay the highest cost that gives us each and eternal goal to cling to this Friday. That cheap medal hanging on my wall cost me my pride, but it is a marker on a day that I matured a little in my thinking. I may not be able to run as fast or as far as others, but today I am a little better at keeping my head down and running my race; straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God.