If you have run or plan to run a marathon, the question you are likely to get is “Do you know what happened to the guy who ran that distance the first time, Pheidippides?” In case you didn’t know, he supposedly dropped dead when he finished!
That is at least how the story is often told although many believe it is only a legend. However, if you believe it is a historical event, then 2 other important “facts” should be included from the story. First is the distance was closer to 25 miles and not 26.2. In addition, he had supposedly run 150 miles in the 2 days prior (an impressive Ultra marathon) to running from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia in the Battle of Marathon (490 BC).
There is another amazing story that many have unfortunately never heard and that I have more confidence and faith in from the Bible. In the verse above from 1 Kings, Elijah the great prophet ran from Mount Carmel to Jezreel approximately 75 years prior to Pheidippides. The distance varies and while most scholars indicate it was approximately 17 miles, others suggest it could have been as far as 30 miles. Either way he was not just running to deliver a message like Pheidippides, but rather was running to beat Ahab and his chariot of horses after God had answered Elijah and his prayer for rain.
I am obviously NOT a biblical scholar and I would never doubt the amazing miracles Elijah performed with God’s help. However, his run and the idea of a man racing against horses didn’t end there. One race I aspire to run and which started as a race for horses is the Western States 100. Another race that was started in 1980, Man versus Horse Marathon has had a humans beat their 4 legged friends as well. Based on these more recent events, I do not question the incredible accomplishment of Elijah . However I believe his run was less of a miracle and instead reinforces that the Lord blessed Elijah in many ways we do not understand, something I think He often does with us if we were aware enough to see His work all around and within us.
What does running mean to us today?
Running has become an important part of my life over the last several years. The fact that there are so many wonderful references to our sport in scripture gives me comfort that it’s spiritual meaning has existed long before me or its popularity. Some of my favorite running verses from scripture that provide inspiration include: Proverbs 4:12; Isaiah 40:31; Hebrews 12:1-2; Acts 20:24; and 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Unfortunately the biblical connection to running often goes unnoticed and yet these references clearly reinforce that running is not new or a fad. The reasons to run have ranged from being a form of transportation, a way to communicate, hunt and survive, as well as many others. However, most individuals nowadays initially take up running to improve their health.
For me running has allowed me to appreciate nature and God’s creation in ways I might not have noticed otherwise, to pray and grow in my faith as I run, and to reflect on my life and clear my mind as I prepare for each day. I guess it’s no surprise to acknowledge my bias in that I don’t think any other activity allows you to do as much for your physical and spiritual well-being as running provides!
God Bless and Keep Running!