Parallels: Christianity & Running

Running has irrefutable parallels to Christianity. 


At some point, these parallels became perpendicular; I let running break the focus of my Christian race. Spending all weekend at a track meet made it very easy to become selfish with my rare free time. I hadn’t had a free Saturday in three and a half years. Did I forget the one who gave me that time? The one who gave me that talent and every opportunity I’ve ever had?

Hebrews 12:1″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.”

As the Hebrew writer indicates, the Christian race requires endurance and steadfastness. There are countless lessons I’ve learned on the trail, track, or treadmill that parallel the Christian life. 

If I don’t put in the work, I don’t get stronger. After four months without running after completing my final cross country season, I still expected to run a decent marathon. What could have been a four-hour race was an extremely unpleasant five and a half hour race. I would have had a much better experience if I prepared.

My faith isn’t going to get strong if I don’t put in the work.

“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.” -Juma Ikangaa, 1989 NYC Marathon winner

I expect the best results without prioritizing the things that will get me there. I know when I’m not giving it my all in preparation, yet I still hope for a PR when I put my training to the test. 

I expect to have a strong faith without spending time studying or praying.

“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.” -David Bly

Be zealous, but beware of burnout. The 10 percent rule has been engrained into my brain. “To avoid injury and burnout, do not increase mileage by more than 10 percent each week.” But it happens every year: I watch Rocky 4, hear the perfect running song, witness a record break, or find a sudden gust of inspiration, and I increase speed, intensity, and volume, thinking this time I can handle it. My current onset of plantar fasciitis is a good testimony to the inevitability and fatality of that pattern.

With a strike of spiritual conviction or burst of realization, I see that I need to do more. Instead of taking baby steps, I think I must read the entire Bible in a week or be as well-versed in scripture as someone with a master’s in Biblical proportions.

“Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:58

Harsh conditions are unavoidable. Runners will endure rain, snow, heat, and wind. If you’re comfortable, you’re probably not doing it right.

Persecution in the lives of Christians will come.

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12

In my weakest moments, I am my strongest. The end of a race: you exhaust every muscle, endure every hill, sweat out electrolytes, deplete glycogen storages, flood your body with lactic acid, and exert more mental brain power than a chess match. You might be physically weak, but it is because of your strength that you are capable of running and reaching the finish.

I don’t have to rely on my inadequate strength because it is in my weaknesses that God’s power is revealed.

“I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

Comparison will ruin you. Not all runners train the same, race the same, or have the same genetic makeup. It used to shatter my confidence to look at other girls’ training logs to see that they logged more miles than me that week until I realized everyone has different training needs. Every time I lined up for the start of the 10K, I was nearly a foot taller than every other runner. I used to hate it and question whether or not I should be standing there. Then I realized I am just as capable of dominating those 25 laps as the runner next to me. Running is not about being better than someone else, it’s about being a runner. 

Comparing my faith with someone else’s is no way to build myself or them up.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” -Henry Ford

When I don’t see results, I lose patience and wonder if all the hard work is even worth the trouble. There is very little instant gratification when you are training. Results do not come overnight.

Sometimes I lose sight of the Christian goal and want to give up. The reward is not on earth.

“Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter; long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform our best.” Michael Johnson

I don’t always want to obey what I don’t understand. There were some things my coach told me to do that I didn’t understand. For a while, I thought running two miles before a race was the dumbest thing I had ever heard of. As I matured, I realized how much better I race after warming up my muscles, loosening the joints, and increasing blood flow. It prevents injury and enhances performance. My coach had my best interest in mind.

Sometimes I don’t understand God’s instructions, but I must still let down my nets.

“Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” Luke 5:5-6

I run to win. Unfortunately, trophies are fleeting.

By faith, I live with purpose and direction as I strive to be like the victor and receive the eternal prize.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly…” I Corinthians 9:24

The internal struggle is a lot worse than the physical struggle. Running is a constant argument between your brain wanting to stop and your heart wanting to keep going. If you let them, inner demons will strip away every ounce of morale you have.

Don’t underestimate Satan in spiritual warfare.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

I never regret when I do, but always regret when I don’t. It’s easy to skip runs and find “easier” things to do. But it’s always worth it in the end.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 1 Timothy 4:7


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