I like running. It’s my favorite workout – I don’t have to count, or learn tricky dance moves, and it requires no equipment other than a good pair of shoes. It gives me time to think, or not think, depending on the mood of the day. In the past I’ve had friends that ran with me, but I much prefer the solo runs. I don’t want to talk or listen to music. I just want to run.
Dogs are one of the greatest challenges to a relaxing run. I was only a half mile from finishing a nice run one day when I was spotted by a Rottweiler who immediately made a beeline towards me, the owners screaming “STOP, TANK!!”. Tank, an appropriate name for this enormous dog, was thankfully an obedient dog who returned to his master before devouring me. I believe I ran faster that day than I had in many years. Another time a different large dog came at me with greater success. He was very aggressive and actually bit me twice before I could get away. The bites weren’t serious at all, but my heart rate was seriously elevated from a combination of fear and anger, and for months after, I ran down that street with trepidation.
Big dogs are scary, but the small dogs are the worst. They tend to be very brave despite their diminutive size, and often get so close they make contact. Obviously the goal is to get past the little buggers without stepping on them or eating pavement. Most of the time I can get past them. But not always. I’d gone many years without even the slightest injury from running, before I encountered him. A deceptively cute little canine, he evidently believed the sidewalk was his personal space and I was the invader. In just a few short seconds from the moment I saw him, he was beneath me and my plan to side step went awry. I went down hard. This one little dog brought my run to an end sent me limping home, bruised and bleeding.
Along with my love for running, I am extremely competitive. When I run alone, I am usually focused on beating my previous run time, even if only by a few seconds. Having not run much since high school, I enjoyed returning to it when I was living in a small, rural town. In this area of the country, all the small towns had their yearly festivals throughout the spring, summer and fall, and each would hold a race. The races would draw familiar faces as all who liked to compete would go from town to town and run.
From my home town there was a girl that was very fast. She won the women’s division in every race, every town, every time. She became my motivation. My first goal: just keep her in sight throughout the race. Don’t let her get so far ahead of me that I can’t see her. This took a few seasons. However, my competitive nature drove me to practice harder each time, and before long I had met this goal. I could see her back throughout the entire race. Next goal: stay within 10 yards of her throughout the race. I practiced harder and met this second goal. Final goal: win, or at least tie for the win. I diligently mapped out my weekly run schedule, knew the time I had to beat, and practiced like never before.
It’s the day of the race in my home town. I am pumped! I’m confident that I can not only keep her in sight or stay near her, I can win! I ran like never before, remaining very close to her the entire race. I can see it – the finish line. I am right beside her running as hard as I can. We cross the finish line and they call a tie!! I did it!!
I am very proud of my finish that day, but that’s not what I remember the most about this race. What I remember are the fifteen to twenty minutes immediately following our grand finish. My muscles are throbbing, my knees are shaky, my ankles wobbly – it is all I can do to put one foot in front of the other. I am struggling to walk upright. I look over and this young woman is walking around with her friends laughing and talking!! She’s full of energy and I want to crawl back to the car and have someone drive me home for a hot bath and bed! In my enthusiasm to compete, my lust for the win, I neglected to take into account the age factor. She was a teenager and I was pushing forty!! That race made me appreciate the fact that they place you in an “age category” for a reason, and I retired from competing against teenagers that day.
“let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance and that sin which so readily clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us…” Hebrews 12:1
We are in a race and there are “dogs” after us. The big dogs are the unnecessary weights that we carry around – worry, shame, guilt, etc. When they show up, we live our lives in fear and trepidation. The little dogs that entangle us and trip us up are the sins we allow to remain – unforgiveness, resentment, jealousy, etc. They are pesky and hard to get rid of, and trying to side step them instead of removing them always causes us to fall. This verse instructs us to strip them off and throw them aside!! We can’t run and be steady with these things hanging on to us. And look at that last part: …let us run…the appointed course of the race that is set before us.
Whose race are we trying to run? Are we on our appointed course of this race, or are we measuring our success on how someone else is running their race? The finish line is the same for every believer and we will all see each other there. But we each have to seek the course God has for us so that we’re not exhausted and trying to crawl just to finish!!
I walked away from that race with a small medal of some kind that I have no idea what ever happened to it. There is something so much greater we’ll receive from this race we’re in:
“Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness that cannot wither.” 1 Corinthians 9:25
WooHoo!! See you at the finish line!!