“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 Cor 9:24).
Thousands of runners recently took to the road to run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in the Comrades Marathon. I have the utmost respect for these Comrades runners. There are no shortcuts to the race – you cannot make it to the finish line have you not built your training on a rock-solid foundation of fitness, nutrition, and mental and emotional preparation.
Running the race also means facing your fears, running through your pain; at times, on blistered feet. It means setting your focus, unwaveringly, on the finish line. Even during the hours of gruelling preparation, you have to have a good enough reason, in your heart and mind, for running.
Each year’s Comrades Marathon has its own success stories. In this year’s event, two runners stayed back to help a woman who collapsed within minutes of the finish line, shortly before cut-off time. These men literally carried her across the finish line – compromising their own finish to help her. They crossed the finish just after cut-off time and didn’t manage to finish in time to win medals, but they challenged many people’s perceptions of what it means to run the race well.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of our journey through life as a race. I wonder if he had been a citizen of today’s society whether he would have used the Comrades Marathon in his race analogy – the need for effective training, discipline, focus… the necessity of faith and a compelling motive.
Sometimes it’s good to see life with a fresh perspective. Considering life in the light of Paul’s race metaphor; the tough training, the uphills, the blistered feet, seem more tolerable.
But considering life as a race also demands an identified vision, prize or finish line. There is a saying, the man who runs without being chased is foolish – but you could just as easily say the man who runs without chasing anything, without a burning vision, is foolish. When you get up in the morning, know why you are putting your running shoes on. Suddenly everything will take on a whole new meaning.