“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 1:24
We all run for different reasons. For many it is a way to stay healthy, others crave the excitement of competition, and some raise money or awareness for a specific cause to name a few. However, I know that when I say that I enjoy running 100 mile races, none of these responses will work for most people. The responses I receive would suggest that to them, running that far is foolish.
Part of the struggle I have in trying to explain why running distances people don’t like to drive (which is probably the #1 response ultra-runners get) is that it doesn’t always make sense to me either. The time it takes to train is a challenge when you factor in raising 4 kids (thanks to my amazing wife who does over 90% of the work), having a career, and numerous other responsibilities. It seems even more nuts when you include the travel and entry fees required to allow us to inflict pain upon our own bodies by running beyond the point it wants you to stop.
So why run that far?
Ultimately the reasons I run are for intangible things that occur before, during, and after a race. For me it is about the sense of accomplishment of doing things I never before thought possible. It is about enjoying nature in a way that I feel many have lost touch with as a result of iPhones or letting sports, politics, and the news about Ebola and ISIS keep them focused on the wrong things. Running ultras is about disconnecting from that, getting in tune with oneself as well as the camaraderie of fellow runners who share the same challenge and goal to finish. It is all these things and so much more.
It took me 33 years to learn that I love to run and another 5 to realize running an ultra was something I wanted to attempt. It was a realization that happened because of my friend Bob who asked me to pace him at his first “century”, the Mohican 100 miler. At this race I saw how deep he had to dig to finish and I experienced the connection of the runners and their crews who were so supportive. This self-determination and support of strangers experienced on the trails further drew me to this sport.
I know for many, faith in Jesus is also foolish. The idea that a carpenter from over 2000 years ago is our Lord and Savior is hard for some to accept. Much like running Ultras, I struggle with doubt myself, never mind trying to convince someone who outright rejects Him.
However, like trying to explain why I run these long distances, attempting to describe why I believe is not enough. The big difference is that it is not up to me for one to believe but requires the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, I do have a responsibility to live in way that glorifies Him and to share His message. Unfortunately I fall short on these requirements like many other Christians. When we do not live in a way that shows His love, those who doubt or reject Christ see this as hypocritical and reinforces their position. However, if we live in a way that shows others the kindness and support I have experienced by the ultra-community, we would draw others in to hear His Word and possibly come to believe.
I realize there is more to my belief than that… MUCH MORE. It is truly something hard to explain. Hebrews 11:1 does a wonderful job at reminding us that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. Reading this passage reminds me that belief requires much more than I can explain without His help.
Opening Hearts and Minds
I know I will have difficulty getting someone who hates running “1” mile to believe that running 100 is an amazing experience. I also know that I alone can’t get someone to understand how trusting in God can change their life here on earth and after. However I know that I have come a long way in a short time and while I don’t know what is next for me, I will do my best to trust Him and His plans for me. I will continue to do my best to live in a way and share His message to hopefully help people to come to know, rather than run further from Him.