When I began running about 8 years ago, I started so I could keep in shape, look and feel better, compete in races, and relieve stress … oh, and I also did it for my own glory. About three years ago, I had a conversion and have since begun finally to live the life I was meant to live, a life with and for the Lord. It is wonderful how, after the Lord calls you, you begin to look differently at how you go about things in your life and about what motivates you. Today, I still run to keep in shape, relieve stress, and compete in races … only now, I do it for God’s glory.
This past weekend, I competed in a 4-mile race. This was my first race after having taken a busy year off running. When I first decided to run the race, I had a certain goal in mind for my “race time.” Throughout my training, I began questioning whether I would make this goal. Regardless, I still had it in my heart that I would compete and finish strong and I would give God the glory, not myself.
After several weeks of getting back into running shape, I was finally ready to compete. The night before the race I had a good night’s sleep, I woke up early to have some prayer time and ate my race day breakfast of peanut butter and honey toast. I drove to the race site and got there with plenty of time to spare. It was really a beautiful day for a race; it was not raining or snowing (which typically happens during this race), but this year we had good weather, besides the clouds. After getting stretched and warmed up, I found my way over to the start line and huddled with about 350 other runners. It was such a good day: a great turnout of people and good weather. God was certainly blessing us that day.
The moment neared for the start, the race official began his countdown, then the horn blew and we were off! For the next several minutes, I fought through the pack of people, seeing an open hole and darting for it to get past some of the other runners. Finally, there was some room to run, and I began to get into my rhythm. I then began to pray, “Lord, I offer this race up for You and Your glory.” I said a decade of the rosary, asking for our Blessed Mother’s intercessions. If I was going to run this race, I was not going to run it alone. I prayed for Jesus and Mary to be with me and help me through. Shortly after, I came to a mile marker on the side of the course — mile one completed.
Along the course, I began to hit some hills. They were challenging and I had to push myself through, remembering to persevere through this race as we are called to persevere in our “spiritual race.” I started thinking how I still had three miles to go. It began to seem overwhelming, but I chose to refocus on God, clear the negative thoughts, just run, persevere and finish strong … mile two, finished. Half way there! I came upon the water station; the sips of water were cool and refreshing. My legs were feeling good, so I decided to pick up the pace. “Thank you God for this ability and for the strength to carry on.” I kept thinking “finish strong” … mile three, completed.
Here I was on the last mile. My legs were feeling a little tired, but still okay. I was into a good rhythm. The clouds above begin spitting out a little rain, which actually felt refreshing. I still had some gas, so I picked up the pace even more. I was thinking, “just run, hold nothing back.” Finally I came upon the last stretch. While my legs were feeling very fatigued and sore at this point, the only thoughts in my mind were “go all out … time to move … pick up the pace … God, this race is for You.” As I sprinted near the finish line, I took a look at the time clock and thought, “Was that time right? Was I really going that fast? Thanks be to God!”
I crossed the finish line. My legs were burning and I was breathing heavily. Before I took off my race timing chip and turned it in, my hands went together, my head bowed and I gave thanks to my Creator for that moment. It was all for Him. I made the sign of the cross, then bent down and took off the timing chip that was around my ankle. I turned it in and it was finished.
Then as I was walking away from the finish line towards the food and drink station (a bonus of competing in a race) my wife came over to greet me and told me what a great job I did. I was very thankful to have her there. As we walked towards the food and drinks, I kept thinking of the time that I got (far surpassing my goal), the great weather we had, how tired I was and how sore my legs were, and all that I could do in that moment was thank God for it all.
During the race, I may not have set a world record, won a gold medal, or even come in first in my age group; but there is no doubt in my mind that I had a great victory that day. I ran hard, achieved my goal, and used the natural abilities that I was given to honor my Lord and Savior. Each time I run (whether for a race or workout), I am reminded of the words of the prophet Isaiah; “Those that hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar as with eagles wings; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint” (Isaiah 40:31). During that race, God gave me the strength to finish, for I kept Him with me in my thoughts and prayers throughout. I ran hard; I ran until my legs were tired, but I did not grow weary, or did I grow faint. After the race, I stood strong and gave thanks to the divine Creator.
There are few joys in the world that compare to using the talents that you have been given by God to the best of your ability, and to give all the credit and thanks to Him. In the past, I ran for myself, but never really ran towards anything. Now, I run for our Lord, and I run towards Him and the heavenly kingdom that He has set before us. Each of us is given abilities and talents to use, some are very natural to us, while others require training; whatever the case, we should always strive to serve our Lord and to give Him thanks for all that we are and all that we can do. Whatever I am doing, whether working or running, with my wife or family, I am reminded of and strengthened by Saint Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
For me, running is about more than just winning. It is about the blessings that God has bestowed upon me. I pray that in no matter what we are doing, we do not make it about us, but rather we make it about God.