persevering in running
Body,  Mind,  Soul

Persevering through the middle of the race


If you’ve ever tried to get leaner, fitter or healthier you know that it can be a long arduous process. Many of us start the new year with such goals and resolutions but by mid-February, you have either given up already or you might still be going strong but feeling frustrated because you are not seeing much of a physical result yet. It is difficult when you are stuck in the middle and the end is not in sight. In our instant gratification society, we get frustrated when anything takes too long, especially reaching our goals.

I am not a fitness or nutritional professional, but I am a professional dieter, and I can tell you that real, lasting change takes time. A lot of time. When you make lifestyle changes including healthy dietary adjustments and don’t fall into the quick-fix trap it can take many months to reap the benefits.

Along with tracking my macros and doing strength training, I have also changed my running style so that I train in my optimal aerobic heart rate which is MUCH lower than my usual heart rate when I run. It is so frustrating to run so slowly (not that I run extremely fast on a good day) but experts (a.k.a. my sister and other insta-stars) assure me that the beginning feels sluggish, but it gets a lot better. During this phase, I feel like I am a tortoise running through peanut butter, but I constantly remind myself that the middle is hard and that it will be worth it when I can run faster for longer with a lower heart rate.

I remember training for the Two Oceans Half Marathon many moons ago and feeling so frustrated in the process. There is a massive difference between running 10km and surviving 21.1km. Working on adding those kilometres can break your confidence meter by meter. The long runs can be brutal but when you get to the end and you check the final results on your Garmin you almost can’t believe what slow and steady progress can add up to. On race day it is a similar story. Everyone warns you about Southern Cross drive which is an infamous 1km steep uphill in the middle of the race. However, what almost ruined my race was the last 2km, which is a long low incline uphill towards the UCT sports grounds and the finish line. After 19km a sneaky surprise like that is most unwelcome, but on the other side of the finish line, it is all worth it.

Southern cross drive
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Saturday 4 April 2015, General View during the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. Photo by ImageSA

All this slow running, meticulous calorie tracking, and back-breaking strength training have given me a lot of opportunities to draw analogies between getting fit and running the race of life. Our lives are basically a series of “middles” with highlights of beginnings and endings interspersed in between. Our school years are one example of a middle, then we finish school, start university or our first job, which is a middle until the next phase. Dating is a middle until he (or she) pops the question and then the engagement is another middle to the wedding day. You get the point. But when the middle is long and seemingly endless, it can be gruelling and frustrating. We know how long our school years (should) take, but most things in life do not come with a timeline or an instruction manual.

So how do we not only survive but thrive in the middle? The difference between success and failure is consistency and persistence. Even Albert Einstein humbly remarked that “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Sticking it out is hard. If achieving success was easy, would it still be considered a success?

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”

E. James Rohn
Success quote EJ Rohn

Success means getting back up time after time, failure after failure until you reach your goal. This is true in our work, our health, relationships and ultimately, our faith.

Our battle of faith is also a series of many middles while we are in the ultimate Middle. We fight battles daily. We conquer our addictions, sins, and desires. We pray for healing, a spouse, or financial release. Some prayers are answered soon, some take years, and some go unanswered this side of heaven. All of this happens while we wait, impatiently, for the return of Jesus Christ. We anticipate the day when all the middles will be over, and all our cravings will be satisfied in Him. We don’t know when that day will come, so what do we do in the meantime?

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 12:1b-2
Let us run with perseverance

Jesus is our perfect example of perseverance. He endured poverty, scorn, ridicule, betrayal, frustration, and disappointment because he was a perfect human walking with imperfect humans on this imperfect earth. He knew exactly how bad things were going to get and how it would feel to die on the cross. He knew he would be separated from His Father for a short time and bear all the world’s sins on his shoulders. Yet, he persevered. He loves us so much, he died for us. He loves us so much he overcame sin for us. He loves us so much he sent his Spirit to guide us and strengthen us. He loves us so much that he is getting heaven ready for us.

We persevere because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19). We endure because we trust that he works all things for our good (Romans 8:28), no matter how cruel or brutal they might be. We know that our Father carries us (Isaiah 46:4) and that his love will never cease (Lamentations 3:22-24). We continue fighting this war against the devil and his schemes because we know there is a crown waiting for us on the other side (James 1:12). We rest in the knowledge that Jesus will complete his work in us.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:16
Philippians 1 verse 16

The good news is, ultimately, that as a follower of Jesus, we do not have to graft and fight this battle on our own. The harder the battle, the more Jesus is asking us to leave it all in hands.

As many of you know, Prince Charlie and I are fighting an incomprehensible battle. Through grace, we are on the path to healing, but some days are still very tough. Once in a while, I will wake up with a heavy heart and leaking eyes with no way to stop the flood of emotion. On those days I can only pray for Jesus to help me through the next moment because the load is too heavy. I cannot carry it anymore. Time and time again he intervenes in miraculous ways to make the load lighter, the day easier. In this way, his love strengthens my faith in the hardest days.

One of my favourite things about running in a race is the camaraderie. Except for the first couple of runners in the front, the rest are all running to improve on their own personal best, not to beat anyone else. There is so much encouragement and cheering amongst fellow runners and spectators that you almost feel guilty if you slow down or stop for any reason. While running my first Wally Hayward 10K a few years ago I didn’t know the course. The race is quite flat, but it has these sneaky long, low-degree hills that drain every bit of speed from your muscles (can you tell I hate a sneaky uphill?). A fellow runner who had obviously run this course before, noticed me battling in the last few kilometres and encouraged me by telling me that this was the last uphill stretch before the finish line. I did not know this woman from a bar of soap, but she helped me finish that race strong and fast because I knew the end was near. 

Two oceans completed

Similarly, one of the most famous aspects of the Two Oceans race is the substantial crowds that gather all along the race to shout encouragement to strangers. For this race, your first name is printed on your race number so people are actually cheering for you by name. When I was running (really shuffling) up Southern Cross Drive those enthusiastic cheers do wonders for the legs and the heart.

Two Oceans finish line

That is exactly how we should encourage each other on our journey of life. We share our struggles with each other, so we remind each other that no one is on this walk by themselves. We reassure each other that we will endure and carry each other on hands of prayer, and even sometimes physical hands, towards the Finish Line.

Very often the long middle we find ourselves trudging through might not end any time soon, but if we persevere together with each other and with Jesus we are assured that we will reach The End, lacking nothing.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

James 1:2-4
Persevere in faith James one verse two to four

So, dear friend, I want to encourage you. Put one foot in front of the other. Give me one hand and reach out with the other one to Jesus and let’s finish this race strong.

We’re almost there.

We will be champions.


2 Comments

  • Chantelle

    🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼 Hardly have the words… this is a powerful reminder, as I’m reading through the tears – and aiming to persevere… 💪🏼💪🏼🏆🥇
    Thank you!! 🙏🏼💜

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