Did you know that Thanksgiving Day is one of the biggest (perhaps THE biggest) running day of the year? It’s true. In our area, there were two big races, one with over 1500 runners and the other with over 2000 runners. And, remember, I live in a small town. In Raleigh and Durham and other larger towns around RDU, there were even larger races.
Last week on Thanksgiving Day, I was given an awesome opportunity. I was asked to lead one of the pace groups for the Skinny Turkey half marathon (13.1 miles). What does a pace leader do? Well, it was my responsible to run the race in a constant pace in order to finish at a certain time. For me, I was asked to lead the group that finished in 2:30 (two hours and thirty minutes). Now, this is quite a bit slower than I normally run a half marathon. So for the week before the race, I practiced running at the slower pace.
During the race, I was responsible for encouraging the runners who wanted to stay with my pace group. Of course, we encouraged and cheered other runners as well, both those who were running faster than us and those who were running slower than us. (Runners are usually a very encouraging group!)
As I was running this race and leading the pace group (trying to keep my pace as consistent as possible and to stay on schedule to finish in 2:30), I realized that there were some similarities and differences between pacing a race and discipleship.
For instance, it was very important that I understood what was happening around me, how the other runners were doing, and to help those who were struggling as much as possible. I think this is similar to discipleship as we help one another follow Jesus Christ.
Of course, there is a big difference here as well. Why? Well, I could not change my pace in order to slow down for runners who needed to slow. Also, I was always the pace leader, but in life and discipleship, the one “pacing” often changes based on situations and circumstances.
Then, I started wondering what a “pace group” for life would look like. People would help one another along. They would “slow down” or “speed up” based on the group as a whole. Those who were stronger at any one time would help those who were struggling. Of course, at any one time, some of those who were stronger at one time could be the ones who need help later. Perhaps different ones would be stronger going “uphill” while others would be stronger going “downhill.”
Along the way, the group would help one another keep the “goal” in mind. But, of course, the “goal” isn’t 13.1 miles ahead; it is a lifetime of “running.” We rest together when necessary; we keep running together when we can.
Of course, that’s the church as it’s described in Scripture. I love it when God uses running to give me a glimpse of how his children should live together in Jesus Christ.