Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV
That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.
A call to dig deeper
Each workout comes with a choice – how much blood, sweat and tears am I willing to commit today? Some days we just don’t have it. Some times those days pile up into weeks of half-hearted workouts. But when we dig deep to really give it our all in a key interval workout or really go to failure and not just a little tiredness during a strength set or plank hold in the gym, there is a both a fitness and psychological gain to be had that we can call upon during a race that we really care about. Being willing to suffer through wind, rain, and more effort than we would normally want to give allows us to push through adverse conditions on race day.
As the 2013 triathlon season winds down and key races are happening, I am witnessing and hearing about athletes who exemplify what our sport (and really any sport) is about – digging deep to push through momentary pain and suffering to achieve a goal that lasts.
Sara dreamed about doing an Ironman, and did everything she could for 1.5 years to be ready. On race day, it was windy on the lake, and she finished the swim in 1 hr 43 min with a belly that was visibly distended from air and water taken in during the swim. She then rode a very hilly bike course for 112 miles, hillier and longer than she had ever ridden before for eight hours. She was more physically miserable during that ride than she had ever been before, but she didn’t stop because she wanted to finish that Ironman so badly. And she did.
John, a great local duathlete, traveled to Switzerland to compete in the Age-Group Long-Course Duathlon World Championships for Team USA. John wrote the following about his experience at that race: “Powerman, ‘World's Toughest Duathlon’ lived up to its name. I had a few adventures during the day....stung by a bee on my lip during the second loop on the bike; breaking a spoke with 32 miles left to ride (which made those 32 miles hairy since I didn't know if the wheel would hold up on the descents or during braking in the corners); missing a water hand up when I was out of fluids (the guy pulled the bottle back!).” Any one of these challenges might have ended a typical workout early. He had to dig deep to finish!
People in our midst are digging deep in other ways. Some are enduring the loss of a wife, a husband, a parent to sudden and unexpected death, and carry on for the sake of children day by day into a new and undesired reality. Others spend months in chemo treatments, surgeries and the physical impairments that result, struggling to return to some semblance of what they once were. And don’t forget the parents caring for kids with special needs who wonder who will care for these children when they no longer can.
Whether we endure by choice in sport or by necessity in life, we all look for a source of strength to help us continue when the going gets very tough, and the road feels especially long. We call upon the example of others to help us push through (Heb. 12:1-2). We hold onto the belief that how we handle the situation will somehow make us stronger as human beings, as spiritual beings, as parents, as pastors and teachers, as coaches, as athletes. We persevere in the face of adversity because we believe that continuing toward our goal is more important than what we feel in the moment. The desire to just give up and go home is defeated.
This is the call to true greatness in life, in sport. Perseverance in the face of adversity. Embrace it every day, every workout, and see where it takes you in 2014.