It is Twin Cities Marathon weekend.

I’ve had a chance to run this beautiful race in the past, and continue to be struck by the ways Marathon running parallels the rest of life. Here are a few “life lessons from the marathon.”

What you put in… matters

I’ve made the mistake of eating the wrong thing the night before a race. Trying something new, or something that will not benefit my running, can cause issues with the stomach, and overall energy. I have had friends drop out of races because of something they ate. The week leading up to a marathon, I focus on only eating things that will help me get to the finish line (and save the ice cream for my post-race treat).

As we look at the things that influence our lives, our entertainment, friends, and ideas, let’s work to put in only the things that will help us be more effective in carrying out God’s mission. Putting the wrong things into our lives can distract us, or hinder our effectiveness.

Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything ie excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things (Philippians 4:8, New International Version).

You don’t have to have experienced pain to support pain

Some of the best moments of my races have been the times I see friends or family along the Marathon course. There have been moments when I feel alone, and tired, that seeing my wife, parents, and kids down the block have been just the “pick-up” I needed. They often give me just the right words of encouragement.

Many of them have never run a marathon, and have never experienced the highs and lows of such a race. But their support still helps. They help me focus on finishing.

We don’t have to have experienced cancer to support a cancer patient. We don’t need to have lost a child to support someone who has. We don’t need to have dealt with addiction to support an addict. There is certainly value in hearing from those with experience. But sometimes all you need to do is be present in the journey to help ease the pain.

A friend loves at all times

and a brother is born for a time of adversity (Proverbs 17:17, New International Version)

Running to finish and running to win are not the same thing

“I just want to finish” – I’ve heard this from many at the starting line.

I run in the back half of the race pack. I run to finish, and do a little better than I did last time. In my first marathon, I had just passed the half-way point, when I heard two spectators talking about the race winners. They had finished, and I had 13 miles left to go. I couldn’t fathom the work and speed involved in running to win. If I wanted to run to win, I would need to make some significant changes. They feel beyond my ability.

As we work through life, we can just try to get through it with as little damage as possible, or we can pick up our game and try to live a life that can make a significant impact for God’s Kingdom. The latter is probably more painful, and certainly not safe, but it’s the life God called us to. We can get to the finish line of life, with a lot of energy left… or we can spend it all and end well.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24)

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