“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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

“I am never signing up to do this again!” I scold myself as I’m half a mile into my race. “I don’t know what I was thinking wanting to get up before dawn to come out here and run this early in the morning.” If you know me, you know that I am NOT a morning person and I am definitely not an early morning exerciser. So the mere fact that I am running a race before dawn, or just after, tells you how much I love it. But right now, the road before me is long, crowded and already my legs are feeling heavy. But somewhere just beyond the first mile mark, something changes. My steps get secure. My breathing is under control and the crowd has lessened a bit. The distance before me is still daunting, but it seems do-able.

No matter what distance you run, the first mile is always the hardest. It’s crowded from the people clamored at the start line. Your pace is hard to find because you’re surrounded by people who run different speeds. And until the air clears a bit, it’s almost hard to breathe. But somewhere around that first mile mark, the dust settles some. The challenge is still there, but instead of being overwhelming, you realize that you do have the strength within you to tackle the race ahead. It’s in those moments that follow that you really begin to learn what you are made of. All of your preparation has reached a pinnacle and it’s time to put your training to the test. There’s so much that we can learn from running a race, but there are three main points I want to look at today.

1. Find a steady, but challenging pace.
The starting line of a race is one of the most congested, chaotic places. There are hundreds and sometimes thousands of people all standing together with the same goal: get to the finish line as fast as you can. And as soon as that buzz sounds signaling the start of the race, everyone takes off. It’s crowded and hurried and often hard to find your running speed because you are surrounded by people running different paces. Sometimes you don’t realize how fast you are running until you start fighting fatigue prematurely. The key to running well is to find a pace that is steady, yet challenging. You want to find a pace that you can hold over a long period of time, yet one that will allow you to meet your time goals.

My favorite place to start in a race is at the back. I may be one of the last ones through the starting line, but I typically don’t feel the pressure to keep up with everyone. As the race continues, the crowd clears. People are finding their own stride and are starting to lay claim to the race – it is theirs to run. The competition lies within themselves…can I do better this time than last? What can I do differently this time that I messed up on last time?

As we are running through this life, the best thing that we can remember is to stay in stride behind Jesus. He is the ultimate pace-setter. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” Don’t try to run ahead when you feel strong or go around Him when the terrain seems rough. He sees the road ahead when we don’t and He knows which way is best. Follow Him. Keep your eyes focused on Him. Speed is important in a race, but more important than that is steadiness and consistency. Following Him will be challenging at times, but His steps are always secure; He is worthy to be trusted. Other paths and other people will look tempting to follow but He said, “There is only one way to the Father and that is through me” (John 14:6, paraphrased). Surrender the desire to run your own way and your own pace and stay focused on Him. Let Him guide your steps. Learn the way that He runs and mimic it. Because I can promise you one thing: He won’t let you down.

2. When things get tough, slow down, but don’t stop.
Races are never flat. I gave up on that wish a long time ago! Pavement is uneven. Hills come and go. Running against the wind is a fight you can’t control. But one thing is certain: for every uphill you climb, there is always a downhill, or at least a flat road! Life happens. Trials come. But Jesus told us to run with endurance the race set before us. I love the definition of endurance. It is the ability to endure a difficult situation without giving way. It is the ability of someone or something to remain active for a long period of time while gaining immunity to fatigue. We are told to run with endurance the race set before us. When we place our hope in the Lord, we are told that “we will find new strength…[we] will run and not grow weary…” Isaiah 40:31. When that road ahead seems daunting, we place our hope and our trust in the Lord and He will give us the strength to endure. We press on toward the goal that Christ has called us to (Philippians 3:14). If we are in stride behind Him, we can have absolute certainty that the direction we are running is the right direction. We can know that when we encounter difficult circumstances that we are where we are supposed to be because HE has led us there. We can find JOY in the journey because we are running in step with Christ. Is He going to give us more than we can handle? YES…Because He wants to grow our dependence on Him. We run with endurance. We endure trials and suffering and pain and heartache because He is growing us and strengthening us to become more like Him. When those hill climbs are making your muscles burn, slow your steps but keep on running. He won’t run off and leave you, He still there marking out the path in front of you. Press on. The finish line is near!

3. Have a good playlist.
As silly as it sounds, a critical component for me to run a good race is to have a good playlist. The beat of the music helps me keep my pace and when I am focused on the empowering words of the songs, I am able to mentally press through the tough times. A couple of years ago, I made the decision to only listen to Christian music while I am running. Music has such an impact on me and seems to go straight from my ears to my soul. Because of that, I made the choice that if I am going to be using music to get through tough workouts, I want it to point me to the one who can get me through all things- Christ. And there is nothing like worshipping while you’re running J

All that to say, it is vital that we surround ourselves with things that are going to uplift and encourage us on a daily basis. We need to have good, Christian friends to challenge us to be better people. We need to listen to music and read books that have positive, Biblically centered messages. We need to be involved in ministries that put Christ and others first. In our life-race, we need a good playlist to get us through the tough times. We need to be able to pull those messages from our subconscious to get us through the dark, unsteady times. The messages that you feed your mind will filter out into the way that you run and the way that you live. Make it good ❤

By the time I get to the finish line I feel strong, accomplished and ready to take on the world. All thoughts of how hard the race was are gone and it’s in those moments that follow that I sign up for another race. Because there’s nothing like being welcomed back at the finish line with a loved ones arms around you, proud of you for what you have just done. Well done, faithful friends. We made it.

Have a great weekend!
Jennifer

Crafty Details
I started this page by stenciling some diamonds with Twisted Citron distress oxide and adding some texture with Texture Tiles 1 in Broken China. I printed the digital stamp Turtley Awesome and colored him with my Prismacolor colored pencils. I stamped the words with a combination of Messy Stamped Alpha and Teeny Alpha and finished with a few strips of washi on the top and bottom.

Running the Race Series:
Part 1: Stay Hydrated
Part 2: Wear the Right Clothes
Part 3: Train Well
Part 4: Run With Endurance (currently reading)

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