The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” Over the years I have heard it said that life is not a sprint, but it is a marathon. There is some truth to this but even more so I have learned life is not just a marathon, it is an ultra marathon. Life is an endurance race all the way to glory. In order to understand why I say life is comparable to an ultra marathon, you must first understand what a regular marathon runner endures. A marathon is a foot race in which a runner runs for twenty-six point two miles (26.2 miles). Legend says this was the length the soldier Pheidippides ran from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece to Athens to bring a message of the defeat of the Persians. This runner, soldier had run the entire distance, announced the victory, then collapsed and died right there on the spot. Such is the birth of our modern day marathon.
One of the greatest obstacles a runner faces in a marathon is toward the end of the race. It is what runners train, both physically and mentally, to overcome. All runners running in a marathon know that at some point in toward the end of the race they will ‘hit the wall’. Sometimes a runner ‘hits the wall’ at mile eighteen or it may be a mile or two after, but every marathon runner knows it is coming. The reason why it is called ‘hitting the wall’ is because that’s exactly what you feel like your body is doing. You see, hitting the wall is a place of breaking point. This is when all your natural energy reserves are gone and your body begins to ache. Many times the pain can become unbearable and each step can bring with it an excruciating pain. To top it off, it is not just physical pain but this pain is also coupled with an onslaught mental torment. As the runner’s body begins to send off these signals of pain, the runner’s mind begins to voice it’s opinion. It talks to the runner and when talking doesn’t work the voices begin to scream at the runner. It begs the runner. It derides the runner. “Why are you doing this?” “What were you thinking?” “How stupid are you?” It is in this place of pain you, the runner, find out what you are truly made of. This place will either break you or make you. You only have two choices. You can quit or you can endure until you cross the finish line.
When you are training for a marathon you are taught to train to prepare for this moment because it will test your will and it will test your character. When it happens, and it will, you are to reach deep within yourself and begin to preach to yourself. You are to grab ahold of every thing you have been taught and rehearse them through the pain. You didn’t start this thing to quit. Your goal was to train for this and you have not run the last twenty miles to quit six miles before the finish line. Your mind has to be fixed on the prize and that prize is to cross the finish line. You must see yourself crossing the finish line long before it ever happens.
I have run and finished twelve marathons and I can tell you this is completely true. In all twelve marathons I have ‘hit the wall’ and each time I have had to preach to myself. Sometimes the pain was so excruciating I almost did quit, but it was the training and teaching I had within me that pushed me forward toward my goal. Sometimes the pain wasn’t as bad nor did it hit as soon in the race, but no matter when I ‘hit the wall’, the moment was always enough to raise up a legion of voices from within on the ‘why’ I was so dumb as to run twenty-six point two miles. It was and always will be the marathon runner’s breaking point. This is the place where you find your ‘why’ and this is the place you found YOU. Not the superficial you, but the real YOU. All eighteen weeks of training always laid in the balance of this pain. Would you quit or do you fight through ‘the wall’? Twelve times I ‘hit the wall’ and twelve times I conquered ‘the wall’, and twelve times I learned another facet about myself.
So many people ask ‘why do you run twenty-six miles?’ and when they ask me this question, within myself I wonder why they don’t. Dean Karnases, the runner who has so aptly been called ‘The Ultra Marathon Man’ has said, “There is magic in misery!” So many times we run from the pain of life and yet, it is in the pain of life…it is when we ‘hit the wall’ we find out who we truly are and confront our true selves. In this life all of us have ‘hit the wall’. All of us have reached breaking points. All of us have been confronted by the pains of life and had to make a choice…do we quit or do we resolve, regardless of what we feel, to run on toward the finish line. Such is a picture of our lives and such is a microcosm snapshot of this 365 Day Challenge.
(Look for part to of ‘An Ultra Life’ tomorrow!!!)