I’m a marathoner and also, I guess, an ultra-marathoner. I ran my first marathon just over 30 years ago and my most recent one was last fall. A marathon is 26.2 miles long and as runner I have often thought that it was my best distance. I am glad that God gifted me with the athletic ability and temperament to enjoy a discipline that even other runners can find to be daunting. Perseverance honed on the roads can be a good thing to carry into other parts of life.
I hesitate to call myself an ultra-marathoner, which is someone who runs distances longer than the marathon. I ran one last spring, as a back-up plan for my intended spring marathon, which conflicted with my work schedule. It was 50 kilometers, or 31 miles, and I figured if I was trained for the marathon I could add another five miles without a problem. I also planned to run it at a slower pace than I would run for a marathon. Just keep it low-key and enjoy the run. Which I did.
Now I am on the verge of running a second ultra-marathon, which is probably the essence of the definition of ultra-marathoner, i.e. someone who has done it twice. For all practical purposes the training is essentially the same. I believe the most important part of the training is to get out and run for 20 miles several times before the race. A race of 26 or more miles is a long ways to go, and a runner needs to be used to being on their feet for a long time in order to make it to the finish line.
Today I got out for the last 20 mile run of this training cycle. It was beautiful day for a winter run, with a temperature in the 20’s and the roads being fairly clear of snow and ice. I checked the weather before going out and the wind speed was 12, with gusts into the upper 20’s, coming from the south. All-in-all it was a pretty good forecast for February.
The ultra I am training for is going to have lots of hills, so I planned to run three loops of a hilly route near our home. It was pleasant on the first leg, heading west, sheltered by a hill. Then I turned south. I could feel the wind now, not too bad but strong enough that I wished I had something warmer on my hands.
The south leg is about 2 miles long, winding through some trees as it climbs a long hill. And the farther south I went the more intense the wind became. When I got to the top of the hill I was out in the open and there was no 12 mph wind. It was blowing steadily at over 20, stiff enough to noticeably slow my pace. Then I turned east, running on a road with bare farm fields on both sides. The crosswind was intense and unabated.
Eventually I reached the place where I turned again and headed north, essentially downhill towards my starting point. It was mostly sheltered and with the wind at my back I was hardly aware of its presence. While the respite was nice I was mindful that I was on my first loop. I would go into that stiff headwind and crosswind two more times before finishing this morning’s run.
Running 20 miles takes a bit of time and as I ran I found my mind pondering the wind, both its physical presence this morning and also the ways wind is referred to in the Bible.
Climbing the hill the wind was my adversary, something I had to persevere with, or against. It brought to mind seasons in my life when I just had to keep on going. Things in life were hard but I had to endure and hope that a better time was coming.
The Bible teaches that Job heard God in the whirlwind. For Elijah, God was not in the raging wind but in a whisper. And the Holy Spirit was poured out to those following Christ in wind of Pentecost.
The Pentecost moment reminds me that unlike the wind, which comes and goes, God, poured out on us in His Spirit, is a presence that never leaves us. Like the wind at our back, we may easily recall the times when God has been with us.
But God is also just as present in the times of calm or when we are in storms that seem to rage without end.
Whatever your season, your moment in life, may you know His presence and His voice.
“For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.”
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.