I don’t really know what made me pick up the book.
It is called Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek.
I have never heard of the author.
My running days are long over, thanks to back surgery.
I had no idea what an ultramarathon is.
But I do like to eat.
At any rate, there it was on the shelf of the library, so I pulled it out to take a look.
An hour later, I was still in the library reading.
It turns out that an ultramarathon is an organized race that is anywhere from 50-135 miles long with no stopping!
The author, Scott Jurek has been the leading runner in the world of ultramarathons for nearly 20 years, winning 100 mile and 135 mile races time and again. Recently, he “set an American record of 165.7 miles in 24 hours—6 1/2 marathons in one day.” (book jacket).
He also does all of this while on a vegan diet.
As I read his story of triumph over adversity, the iron will and laser-like focus needed to be a champion, I realized how much of what I was learning so perfectly paralleled the Christian life, which the Bible often compares to a race (even though the book is not written from a Christian perspective).
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. —Hebrews 12:1
Jesus, who always goes before us, has marked out my race, just as He has marked out yours.
I find a lot of comfort in that, especially when the road gets rocky and difficult and I am weary of the climb.
It’s okay. Jesus knows. But better than that, He gives me the strength I need to go on.
Mr. Jurek wrote about tackling an enormous mountain during one of his training sessions: “The only way to survive an ultramarathon was piece by piece. So I ran Mt. Si piece by piece.” (p. 85).
First of all, life can seem like an ultramarathon, can it not? There are seasons that seem to go on forever with no end in sight.
This life is hard. At times, it can be harsh.
Jesus told us quite directly to expect it: “In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer (take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted!). For I have overcome the world! (I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you).” —John 16:33 (Amplified version).
We are not in Heaven yet. We live in a fallen world with other broken people. (Everyone is broken in some way. That’s why Jesus had to come).
What we are most in need of during those long seasons is perseverance and endurance.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” —James 1:5
In ways that we cannot see when we are in the midst of a long trial, Jesus is doing a powerful work in us. He is making us whole. With our limited vision, we cannot often see the areas of brokenness in our lives. But He sees each place and knows exactly what it will take to make the rough places smooth, heal the jagged edges of hurt…and ultimately set us free.
So often, we want an easy life, a safe life. I know I do.
But not only is the safe life in this world a mirage…safe lives make boring stories.
And Jesus, the Author of Life, is anything but boring.
I want to face the rough times with the attitude of the conqueror that Jesus says I am. (Romans 8:37).
Rather than react in fear and dread when a trial comes, what if we faced it with an attitude of conquest?
What if we just attacked the trial “piece by piece”?
One foot in front of the other.
One day (sometimes one minute!) at a time. Praying constantly. Quoting Scripture. Refusing to give any ground to the enemy. Taking the courage that Jesus offers me, the very same blazing courage that enabled Him to endure the Cross. Ruthlessly eliminating negative and discouraging thoughts. Resisting self-pity.
Mr. Jurek writes about having this type of attitude:
“There is no point at which the clock stops…that’s part of the challenge and appeal of the event. You keep going in situations where most people stop. You keep running while other people rest…I was used to attacking race courses, regarding steep ascents as obstacles to vanquish.” (pp. 5, 108).
What if we were among those who kept going when others dropped out?
What if, rather than cowering in fear before an unwanted obstacle or trial in our lives, we approached it as something to vanquish, with an absolute refusal to allow it to defeat us?
I can do all things through Christ who empowers me (I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me. I am sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency). —Phil. 4:13
At one point during one of his races, the author tore some ligaments in his leg and after taking stock, decided to keep running. In order to do that, he had to “mentally separate all my alarmed and distressed thoughts and emotions—‘Why did this happen?’ ‘This is going to really hurt.’ ‘How will I continue?’—and plop them someplace where I wouldn’t dwell on them. One way to do that was to focus on the tasks at hand and on the benefits of the situation.” (p. 117).
So often, we allow ourselves to be swamped and overpowered by a strong wave of feelings, which can paralyze us or make us want to quit.
Feelings are just feelings. They possess no power of their own.
They only have the power we choose to assign them.
If we are ever going to be the conquerors Jesus declares us to be, we must determine to force our fickle feelings to submit to timeless, rock-solid truth of God’s Word. This will remind us that God is still fully in control…even when things feel out-of-control to us.
Mr. Jurek told his longtime friend Dusty about the tear at the next station along the course but Dusty did not baby him. He did not tell him to stop. He just acted as if it was business as usual as he fulfilled his role as the pacer.
He went on to win that race and suffered no lasting damage.
During another race through the furnace of Death Valley, he felt like he could not go on and lay down in the sand. This same friend came up to him and yelled, “You’re not going to win this race lying down in the dirt! Get up!!!” (p.8).
Sometimes we are just after a sympathetic ear from friends, looking for permission to stay stuck…when what we really need is someone to lovingly but firmly tell us to keep going, to keep fighting the good fight, to keep trusting God’s Word over our feelings.
When pain overwhelms us, it is easy to lose sight of that, but we do so at our peril. Jesus is our Lifeline. If you woke up this morning, He still has a purpose for you here. He has important Kingdom work for you to do: that place where He floods your willing and open heart with His joy and your life overflows into a river of ceaseless praise and tremendous fruit-bearing effectiveness.
Don’t miss it!
At the end of his very first ultramarathon, Mr. Jurek wrote the following: “I had completed one of the hardest things I’d ever attempted…I lay face down on the grass…feeling totally drained. I didn’t have anything left. Was this what being a runner meant? Putting everything into a single race until you had nothing left to give?” (p. 51).
Whatever season you are in, live it full-throttle. Don’t hold anything back. As you run the race marked out for you on the topsoil of earth, be determined to leave it all on the field. Give Jesus everything you have. He gave His all for you.
He is so worth it.