Of the many components to a race, the one that most often goes unexamined: the purpose. Or more specifically, your purpose for participating in it. Maybe it’s because you love group events. Perhaps you’re the competitive type and love a good challenge. If it’s really intimidating, maybe you just want to prove to yourself that you could do it.
In my case, it was something a little more insidious.
The first marathon my wife ever registered for, she ended up getting injured during her training. This was a bummer for a number of reasons. Of course, she was disappointed, as she had been hit hard with the running bug. But she had also gotten sponsored to help raise money for a non-profit. And plus, the Chicago hotel reservation was non-refundable. So I decided that if she couldn’t run it, I would. I just couldn’t bare the thought of the registration, sponsorship, and hotel money going to waste. Well, I trained the best I could in what time was remaining and when race day came, I completed it. In fact, I did surprisingly well for someone who doesn’t like road running… especially road running for 26.2 miles.
A handful of years later, the feeling of being a one-and-done marathon hack was getting to me. I also began wondering how well I could do if I had a full 18 weeks of training, rather than the six I had for the first marathon. And a thought crept into my head, “I have long legs, I can handle a fair amount of suffering before I quit, I’m reasonably disciplined. I bet I could qualify for Boston!” And so the running started up again and was going quite well save for one small detail: I hated it. Remember, I don’t like this sort of thing! It’s long. Boring. Monotonous. Yuck.
But I persisted with one thought in the back of my mind propelling me: “It will be pretty impressive if in only my second marathon ever I qualify for Boston, especially since I don’t even like running.” A pathetic motivation that’s hard to admit, but I’m being real.
Well, three weeks before the race, the Lord allowed me to have a hamstring injury that would sideline me for the marathon. All that training down the drain. All that dread the night before a long run was for naught. All my Boston-qualifying hopes dashed. And to add insult to injury, wasted registration money. Ugh.
There are a lot of great benefits for us when we take our fitness seriously. We look and feel better. We can serve and do more. We will likely live longer, more enjoyable lives. All great things.
But these should not be the purpose for our fitness… they’re benefits. As Christians, the purpose for our fitness should be no different than the purpose for all areas of our lives: to honor God… to bring Him glory. This was certainly not the purpose for what would have been my second marathon. My purpose was my disgusting pride.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” – Psalm 139:23-24 (TLB)
And for many people, pride is the purpose behind their fitness. Or maybe they’re motivated by guilt. Or influence. Whatever it is, it all makes God sad.
Don’t misunderstand, there’s nothing wrong with being pleased with the results of your fitness anymore than there’s nothing wrong with having fun doing a race. We just need to be mindful of asking God to test our thoughts and to lead our paths.
There’s no better motivation for our fitness than pleasing our Father. So keep your purpose pure by keeping your eyes on Him.
“Father, please forgive me for my pride. Guide my thoughts, my heart, and my path. Amen.”
You are the focus of my fitness.