I trained for my first marathon in a month and was surprised to finish.
Each year, as soon as the spring breeze has a hint of warmth, I find myself looking through my closet and hoping my clothes will fasten over my once-hibernating body. This was how I returned to my running routine; I wanted to feel healthy and make sure my shorts fit.
I joined a local running group. Each morning, a crew of women gather at the break of dawn, tie shoelaces, strap on water bottles, and light up safety gear to hit the trails. I joined them on the unfamiliar course in my old Target attire and tread-less shoes. As we sweated through each step, I quickly learned that every single woman was training for an upcoming race.
Running with “Sole Sisters”
After a few weeks of running with and learning from this band of “sole sisters,” I increased my mileage. I began thinking about signing up for a race too. As I researched various races, on a whim, I also entered my name into a Facebook contest I came across for an upcoming marathon. I entered it because I thought I could win an entry for a friend who had told me she wanted to sign up but couldn’t do so for financial reasons. When I won, my friend told me she had already registered, so the opportunity was all mine.
The next morning, I woke up at 4 am, joined some friends who had been training all summer, and with trepidation, ran 18 miles to see if a marathon was even realistic. We were up so early that within the first five minutes, we startled a sleeping deer! For the next five hours, my friends talked to me about the essentials of marathon running: pacing, fueling, and gear.
I returned home with a wobble and felt exhilarated that I completed the run. I was also salty, sore, hungry, and fearful I would need to buy so many new things to manage the long race. I shared with my husband the list. Since our budget was tight, we prayed.
Later that day, the running company who had said I won an entry in the marathon contacted me to tell me that they were mistaken; they did not have a free registration to giveaway. The race would actually cost $175. To be honest, I was a bit relieved, even as my aching muscles seemed to groan aloud. As the news settled in, I messaged my friends who spent the morning traipsing all around the county with me. They were dismayed. They had been so instrumental in getting me through each step of those 18 miles. Within a few hours, I was notified that they paid my entry fee. I was so touched by their kindness and enthusiasm!
New adrenaline kicked in. Now I really had to try; I couldn’t just run and see how many miles I could pull off. If I was running a marathon that my friends paid for, I would need to seriously train, and obtain all the gear I needed. Just as I started to fill my wish-list on Amazon, I heard from the running company again. As an apology for their mistake, they wanted to gift me with $300 worth of new running gear, including shoes.
My head was spinning, but my feet knew what they needed to do. Everything changed. I began an intentional training regimen. Alongside these sisters who loved me enough to purchase my entry, I found the courage to endure each day’s challenge as I prepared for my first marathon.
Running Life’s Marathon with Our Soul Sisters
Scripture compares our spiritual journey with that of a race. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). In this race, Jesus already paid the entry fee, blazed the trail, and supplied us with everything we need to venture forward in faith. Along with these gifts, we’ve been given the gift of others who race alongside us.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
On trembling legs, we run our spiritual race in light of the gospel, side by side our sisters in Christ. We urge each other on and remind each other of the One who has already won the race for us. We learn to pace ourselves for the long haul and keep fueled on God’s Word. We discard the things that keep us from running well, drink at the water stops along the way, celebrate God’s provisions, and behold the beauty of his creation around each turn.
As we come across unfamiliar paths or terrain, we navigate them through the help of other women who have traversed them before. These “soul sisters” we run with do not compete against each other, but remind one another that the festivities at the finish line are closer with each step we take. We are changed as we learn from and train with women who fix their eyes on Jesus and strive to finish well. Though we may trip, slip, and run out of courage as we encounter obstacles, enemies, or our own weaknesses, we have the support of our sisters who pick us up and remind us of the power of the gospel at work in us and point us forward to Christ.
At the end of the race, our glory will not be that our old clothes fit, but that together we will look more like Christ. The One who paid our entry is the truly victorious One and meeting him at the finish line is our ultimate Prize.
What does your course look like today? How can you run it intentionally and encourage another sister alongside you?
About the Author:
Meaghan and her husband Paul live in northern Virginia with their five children. Paul is the pastor of King’s Cross Church, a PCA church plant started by McLean Presbyterian in 2016. Meaghan currently serves the Lord while loving the women and children of their church and training with Parakaleo. When not under a pile of laundry, Meaghan enjoys exploring the East Coast with her friends and family, writing, cooking, reading and running.