Me and Rocky!Less than 12 hours ago I was finishing my first half-marathon… 13.1 miles – the Philly Distance Run. It’s been a dream for a number of years to do a long run – especially since I saw Laura run this same race four years ago (she made it look fun and that really got me interested) – but for the last several years my attempts to do this race have been thwarted by various injuries. This year, however, I was able to do it (and get my picture with Rocky finally – although it is disappointing that it’s not at the top of the art museum steps like in the movie). Not without injuries/soreness the last few weeks, but God once again proved faithful (has He ever not??) and allowed me to do it.

Overall, I’m happy with how I did. My goal was to come in under 8-minute miles, but I didn’t quite make it. For about the last 5 weeks I’ve had a nagging on-again, off-again pain in my right knee. Sometimes I could run 10-miles with no problem and then the next run of 4 miles would find me limping home after just 3. But I made it until about 9.5 miles before the pain showed up and really kicked in. I ended up stopping a few times to stretch my knee out – determined to finish this race. Had I not had to stop, I would have made my sub-8 goal. But for the last 12 hours I’ve had to remind myself that… um… I was able to finish it! So next year I’ll be more prepared and ready to try for it again.

A few quick things I realized while running – usually the best place for me to clear my mind enough to actually communicate with God for a little bit.

  1. This was impossible to do without Him. At about mile 8 I realized that I was running about 10 sec./mile faster than I thought I would be at that point and I was still without pain in my knee – and in the same moment I clearly understood
    that it was not possible with God. Even when the pain started I had no one to rely on except Him. As hundreds of runners went by as I stretched, I realized that He was the only one waiting for me. This was, for today at least, the best way I could have done “church”. Laura reminded me before the race to think about the beauty of running especially once we were out by the river – and it was true. There are things there I would never notice driving by in a car. Even in the center of city, God’s creation is alive and well (despite us).
  2. I will always be a small fish in a very big sea. There were, supposedly, about 17,000 runners. Quite honestly, there were many people that ran by me, or that I was running with that I was kind of surprised by. They didn’t look like a runner or in tip-top shape. But like me (and in many cases better than me) they ran on just the same. For some reason, running is one of those things that the Holy Spirit has welled up in me as a desire to excel in – to the best of the ability He has given me. It’s very unlikely that I will ever win a race of any kind – but the more I run, the better I want to do. It is something that does push me to my limit and makes me want more. The only thing that’s ever been similar in my life was rock-climbing – but with running you don’t have to dangle on increasingly more exposed cliffs to excel. I’m excited to see where he takes me with this – at the very least I think I’m going to learn how to push a little harder to reach the next goal.
  3. This is analogous of life. In the last few years I feel like I’ve become more teachable than ever before. I’m still stubborn and prideful MUCH more than I’d like to be – but the hard work of doing this race and the pay-off to complete it PALE in comparison to what I’m called to in my every day journey of faith. My marriage is immensely stronger now than it was two years ago (when it nearly fell apart) because He called me to something greater out of my weakness (ok, stubbornness and pride) and I finally decided I wanted to do the work, to crucify Ryan in the flesh for something greater – a man that learns to “…love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” (Eph 5:25-33). The same goes for my life as a father, friend, neighbor or employee. When I can see that there’s real work involved in stepping to a higher level, something worthy of Christ’s call, something that requires me (the fleshy, selfish, needy me) to be crucified – it’s a good thing. I want more of that, like I want to be pushed more in running. I think right now, that’s the tool He’s using to work stuff out in me. Let’s hope I keep learning to enjoy the work as well!

So those are my few epiphanies. Not much, but it’s what I learned in an 1:46 minutes. I’m excited for more – I’m definitely excited for how Christ will develop me as a man of God through the process.

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