Most runners who run a marathon experience something known as “The Wall”. This is a point during the race where it becomes exponentially more difficult to run. When I was researching the marathon, most of what I read said “the Wall” was usually felt somewhere around mile 20. The training program I used (Hal Higdon’s Novice Marathon Program) had me run 20 miles as my longest run 3 weeks before the marathon. That day I felt really good, so at mile 18 I decided to run 22 instead of 20 in hopes of hitting “the Wall” just so I would be prepared when I hit it at the actual marathon. No such luck.
Now, flash forward to the marathon. Right at mile 24, I hit it. “The Wall” literally felt like, well…a wall. From that point on, I had to concentrate on every single stride.
A year or so ago I watched a 78 minute video of Rob Bell using a 30 foot whiteboard to explain that “Everything is Spiritual“. He talked a good bit about creation, but one of his key points was that in Jesus’ day, there was no Hebrew word for “spiritual”. For Jesus everything really was spiritual, and it should be for us as well.
I started thinking back to my experience running the marathon in 2004, in particular the final 2.2 miles, and how spiritual that was for me. What I remember very vividly (besides having to concentrate on every stride), was feeling God’s presence right there with me. I know that sounds strange, but I really could feel Him. I felt like I could almost hear Him telling me: “I’m right here with you. I’m not going to take away the pain or make it any easier on you, but I’m here and you can get through this.” And something else amazing happened: not once did I even think about stopping to walk or slowing down. Not once did I say to myself: “4:10 is respectable. No one will care if I don’t break 4 hours.” When I think back on my previous life, that might be the most astonishing thing about the entire marathon experience.
My goal was to finish in less than 4 hours, and as you can see I left very little margin for error. I finished in 3:59:45. Thank you God for being with me throughout the marathon and giving me the strength and courage to finish, but mostly I want to thank you for never giving up on me.