Some Spiritual Applications of Running a Marathon

Article by: Bridgehaven Team


On November 15, 2014, I had the opportunity of running my first marathon. On that chilly morning of November 15 as I lined up with everyone else who trained for several months leading up to the same goal—completing 26.2 miles—I felt a commonality among us. Whether an elite runner setting out win it all or as a runner just with the goal to finish the race, each of us was setting out on a journey—a journey that would entail crossing the finish line. I couldn’t help but to think of Hebrews 12:1-2:


“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”


Though there are many spiritual lessons that one could apply in running a marathon, here are a few that I thought of along the way:


  1. The Christian life is like an endurance run—not a sprint. The author of Hebrews notes that we are to run with perseverance. The Christian life often entails waiting, hardship, highs, lows, and valleys. Endurance is required.


  1. As Christians, we are not alone in the run. Lining up with thousands of runners on the day of the marathon was a sight to behold. There was energy in the air. At some point along the way, all of us hurt in some way or another. Something about knowing that fellow runners were beside you in the race kept you motivated and kept you going. I had friends that were spectators that called out my name at several points along the course. When I heard my name at mile 20 and heard encouragement from my friends, I was able to find energy to keep moving, even though I was hurting. Not only do we have the body of Christ to encourage us, but the Lord Himself promises us that He will never leave us or forsake us.


  1. We are to run our race—not someone else’s. One piece of advice that someone shared with me the day before the race was invaluable: she encouraged us to run our race—not someone else’s. She knew that it would be tempting from the start to take off with everyone else and to run as fast as everyone else was running. She encouraged us to hold back and to run our race. The way that I run is different than someone else. Applying this principal spiritually speaking, the Lord creates us in unique and distinct ways to image Him differently. If my eyes are focused on my neighbor and the gifts and abilities the Lord has given him or her, not only am I negating how the Lord has created me to be, I also take my eyes off of the Lord. If my gaze is on the Lord, then I can steward my gifts and abilities for Him. If my eyes are on my neighbor, then there is temptation to become prideful, envious, or focused on self.


  1. The journey is important—not just the destination. My goal on November 15 was to finish, but I also had to focus on the journey. That journey necessitated focus on the months leading up to the marathon itself. You cannot cram for a marathon—it requires discipline, hard work, and consistent training. For believers, our destination is to one day spend eternity with the Lord, but for the here-and-now, we must be focused on the journey. Faith, discipline, day-by-day obedience, and focus on the Lord are required of us.


  1. Day-by-day, moment-by-moment focus (i.e. daily bread) is important. At mile 23, several people yelled to (at) all of us running, “Just a 5-K left!” I know their intent was to encourage and be helpful, but if I am honest, my initial thought back to them was, “I AM JUST RUNNING MILE BY MILE RIGHT NOW!!!” I could not think about running three miles after running 23. I had to focus on mile 23, then mile 24, then mile 25, and then mile 26. Spiritually speaking, the Lord reminds us in Matthew that each day has “enough trouble of its own.” We often focus on tomorrow, next week, or next month. That is when worries and anxieties set in and fester. The Lord is the Provider of daily bread (Ex. 16). He promises to daily bear our burdens (Ps. 68:19), provide new mercies and compassion for each day (Lam. 3:22-23), and to renew us daily (2 Cor. 4:16).


  1. Fuel is vital. Nutrition is important for an athlete. During the days leading up to the marathon, I had to carbo-load and take in enough fluids. I wouldn’t have dreamed of walking up to the starting line without having properly fueled my body. If I hadn’t eaten in the days leading up to the marathon, it wouldn’t have mattered how many miles that I would have previously run because I wouldn’t have had enough fuel in my body to sustain me. Why then, do I often think that I can run the race of life without having fueled my heart, mind, and spiritual body with the Bread of Life and the Living Water?


  1. It may hurt at points along the way. Running a marathon entails pain. Not only did I experience pain while running (e.g. lower back, calves, etc.), but I experienced soreness in the days following. In our Christian lives, there will be times that we will experience pain and suffering. There will be struggles with sin. As we keep our eyes focused on the Lord, we can endure.


  1. The finish line is worth it. The euphoria and exhilaration of crossing the finish line was amazing—almost indescribable. To have someone place a medal around your neck and say, “Good job!” is amazing. For believers, there is a day that is coming, when we will cross the finish line. We will be clothed with the robe of righteousness because of Christ’s work, and we will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” We will live with the Lord and all of creation will be redeemed. There will be no more crying, no more death, no more mourning, no more suffering or pain. The Lord will make all things new (Rev. 21:4).


You and I are to run—run the Christian life with our eyes focused on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. When we get weary and tired, we can rely on Him for our strength.


“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Is. 40:28-31).