I like to run. I have run for quite a few years, accumulating quite a few miles on my feet and participating in quite a few events over those years and miles. Of all the various events I have run I would say that the marathon is my favorite one. The marathon is 26.2 miles long. Some days those miles just fly by and some days it seems as if the next mile marker will never come. As of last Sunday, when I ran my most recent one, I have completed 45 marathons, along with six races of still longer distances.
The marathon wasn't always my favorite event. It was hard! I ran ten of them before I came to believe I "had it figured out." Then I ran ten that stand out in my memory as nearly being works of art. Then there were seven that were somewhat mixed as far as my performance goes. And then due to a variety of circumstances I didn’t run any for ten years. I still ran, but I passed on the marathon. And ten years ago I started running them again, not as fast as before, but in some ways they have been every bit as much fun as "the works of art."
My least favorite running activity has been trail running. I have never felt comfortable when off the road and on the trail. When I ran with friends back in Minnesota and we went onto a trail I dropped to the back of the group, so that my heightened caution did not become a hazard for anyone else. All six of the longer-than-marathon races I've done have been on trails. Four of those were run in the mountains and one thing those four have in common is that somewhere along the way I fell.
Last week a friend on mine from Minnesota came to visit and we took part in an event that involved running four marathons in four days at the Four Corners monument. Unbeknownst to us at the time we registered a significant part of the course on three of those days would be on rocky trails.
Our adventure began on Thursday. About 12 miles of the course was a rocky trail, 12 miles were dirt trail, and the remainder was paved. We were pleased with our efforts and looked forward to seeing what would happen on Friday. Neither one of us had ever run marathons back-to-back and we were entering brand new territory, so to speak.
Friday was flat and paved. It went well and we figured that barring any catastrophe four marathons in four days was an achievable feat.
Saturday turned out to be an altogether different kind of animal. The course was about 21 miles of rocky trails, ending with five flat, paved miles. The trail segment was a loop course that we ran a total of 8 times. The scenery was beautiful, or so I was told. For me, running a trail means always looking down to see where your feet are headed next.
When I least expected it, it happened. I fell. I was at mile 18, a brief flat spot on top of a hill, when I lost my balance and fell forward onto my hands. I scraped both palms but was otherwise uninjured. I got started running again, being more cautious than before.
Very shortly after my fall I had a new insight into trail running. Trail running isn’t necessarily about being nimble or light or any other characteristic that might seem to offer an advantage on irregular terrain. The essence of trail running is being able to control your center of gravity. If a person can simply keep their body upright while going up or down hill everything else about trail running is gravy.
This concept of the control of one's center of gravity is also important to the Christian life, although with a significant difference. As a trail runner I need to control my center of gravity, while as a Christian I need to yield the control of my life's center of gravity to Christ. He guides me one way and yet so often I think I know a shortcut or a better route. And pushing off for the way I think best, when it differs from His way, always ends in scrapes, bruises, or worse.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
In all things in life our best choice is to always let God have His firm and loving hand on our center of gravity. Any attempt by me to do better is just a foolish risk, for His hand will never stray from the right path. Amen.
Two tired runners, still smiling after four days.
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.