During the COVID pandemic my husband and I decided to take up running together as an activity. We both had more downtime because of pandemic guidelines and found running was a new passion we could share. We completed our first virtual marathon (San Francisco) during this time and then got bit by the ultramarathon bug. Ultrarunning was appealing because we had already conquered the distance of a marathon. As all the road races closed during 2020, the trails and state parks flung their doors wide open. We ran a 50K in December 2022 (Red River Gorge Ultra), another 50K in April 2023 (Bluegrass Ultra), a 50 mile race in April 2023 (Big Turtle 50 Miler), and we have a 33 mile race this Saturday (Yamacraw).
Three weeks ago, we both completed our first 50 mile race accomplishment and I felt compelled to share post-run thoughts. Why do middle-aged, educated individuals choose to run massive mileage amounts as a mid-life crisis? Many co-workers, friends and family members think we might have lost our minds. However, running for hours solidarity in the woods against time restraints certainly have mental effects. First, you question why you thought running for miles in the woods by yourself sounded like it would be a good idea? Then you begin to battle mental demons about quitting, not finishing, crying, or making excuses as to why you want to DNF (did not finish).
You are ultimately not in competition with other runners, whom you cannot even visualize because of the dense forest. You are in competition with yourself, with your time goals, and with your willpower. This mental struggle causes you to focus on the small things: the number of breaths you take in a minute, the small clusters of colored flowers beside the path, or the sound of the trees in the wind. It forces you to think, to contemplate, and to slow down. It is a break from the barrage of struggles the world brings, allowing you to meet God in the forest.
Why in the world does this remind me of Christianity? Ephesians 6:12 tells us that, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the ruler, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We are not fighting against non-believers around us following the ways of the world; we are fighting against the unseen forces of Satan. Just as we are not fighting against people in the races to win, we are fighting against ourselves to keep the course, to stay on the path, to follow through. Hebrews 12:1 compares Christianity to finishing a race because of similar reasons. It is easy to throw up our hands amidst a sinful world and give up, fleeing inwardly to our churches and waiting for Jesus to return. Jesus calls us to a greater purpose, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Time passes and children grow, we age, acquire more wrinkles, and before long we have lived half our lives. What are we doing with the time God has given us here on earth? I feel like I ultimately entered into the Ultrarunning community to be challenged. Halfway though my life on earth I still want to be challenged, still want to live actively.
As Christians we need to view our journey on earth with the same vision. Whatever season of life you're in, are you running this Christian race with effort in your steps, or have you given up and ready to be a DNF? God desires for us to finish the race with strength. 2 Timothy 4:7 tells us to, "Finish the race and keep the faith." With the Lord we can accomplish greater tasks than we could ever imagine if we follow Christ and run with endurance until the end, just like an ultramarathon.
Five Races to Learn More:
Yamacraw Trail Runs
Red River Gorge Ultra
Big Turtle Trail Runs
Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race