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A bad day can also be a spectacular day.

As an endurance athlete, just as in everyday life, I have seen this lesson come to light countless times.  When I am training for a marathon or a triathlon, I would obviously prefer to envision the race unfolding under best conditions; the weather is crisp, my body is well rested, my mind is determined, my diet is on track, my legs are loose, and the course is easily conquerable.

However, if I were really hard-core, I would relish in the pain of things going wrong and still pressing on.  In my last marathon a year ago, I tackled the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Rock Seattle Marathon.  I had decided to tag along with the group that was shooting for 3:45 finish time which would be my new personal record (PR).  I scoffed at the advice of the other pace group leaders who advised that I should not attempt to PR on this very tough course because it was very hilly and challenging.  I smirked internally as they did not realize all the great training that I had done.  So, against the advise of veteran marathoners, I set out to blaze the trail.  Well, needless to say, in one respect, it didn’t turn out so well.

For the first 9 miles I was dialed in which that meant that I was going faster than I had ever gone before.  As it turned out, these were the easiest miles of the 26.2 mile course.  Then I hit the hills!  I thought, “what am I doing?”  I felt like I hit the infamous “wall” 11 miles too early.  This was supposed to happen at mile 20, not mile 11!  I thought of quitting many times, but since this race was undertaken to raise funds for cancer research and to honor a good friend’s fight, that was not an option.  So, I trudged on, digging deep, well beyond my physical ability.

It became painfully clear to me that I was going to miss my time goal by a wide margin.  It was hot, I was in a lot of pain, and the finish line seemed to get further, not closer.  As I entered downtown Seattle, I felt the a rush of adrenaline as I sensed the closeness to the goal.  I mustered a sprint to the finish for a time of 4:11.

Yeah, I missed the goal by a good 26 minutes, but I have to say, that of all my races, I can sincerely say that this race is the one that I am most proud.  In spite of my early meeting with the “wall” and my disrespect of the hills, I was able to call for the strength and determination to give it all that I had to finish as if I was going to win the race. 

You know what?  I did win the race!  I could have given up at any point in the race, but I didn’t.  I conquered my fear of failing.  I conquered the temptation to quit.  I finished the race.

Earlier in that training season, I remember running with a training partner.  We both agreed that the worst running workout is sometimes the best mental workout.  That couldn’t be more true in our everyday lives.

We have visions about how are lives are going to turn out, but life doesn’t always go to plan does it?  Sometimes our marriages, our families, our finances, our careers, and our faith can hit the “wall”.  We are so tempted to throw in the towel because it would just be easier than having the suffer the pain of disappointment.  But, I am here to urge you to dig deep.  Know that God has a plan for you that is greater than the despair that you find yourself in.  Dig deep into what God has for you.  Dig into His strength that can only really work when we give up on trying by our own means and methods and reliance on our own strength. 

How can we experience God’s strength until we have come face to face with our weakness?  How can we be humbled by God’s faithfulness until we have been demoralized by the unfaithfulness of others?  How can we be exposed to the grace of God until we have unleashed the rivers of tears in our hearts?  How can we taste of God’s never-ending provisions until we have found ourselves in positions of great need?  I think that picture is pretty clear…

So, when you are in the middle of a bad race, remember that bad races are the breeding grounds of spectacular finishes!

~Steve

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