Friday, January 7, 2022

Why Run an Ultramarathon?

The ultramarathon. Why do runners do it? 

Every human being wants to find fulfillment in life. We are hardwired to seek a life filled with rich experiences, a life that you can look back on at the end of your earthly existence and feel a sense of accomplishment, a life that challenged you, a life where you grew personally and where you were able to pass on to the next generation a sense of core values. Our deepest values always arise in the face of adversity. 

An ultramarathon is a way of testing ourselves with the ultimate goal of reaching the finish line with its incredible feeling of achievement, a feeling we share with those we care about. It's that voice within us telling us not to give up despite the discomfort. It's courage, tenacity, and passion all rolled into one. It's a journey that builds what the Scriptures so often talk about: resilience that strengthens the character and the mind, as well as the body. The distance is one we need to respect and one that can grant us a sense of completion as we finish the voyage once started, coming out on the other side a stronger and better person. Could this be what drives runners to do an ultramarathon? 

At some point you begin to wonder if you'll be able to make it to the finish line. You need to grind through despite the pain. You realize you are stronger than the discomfort. You realize you're going to make it after hours and hours on the trail. The race was brutal on your body but you never gave up. It was an apotheosis  -- a day when you grew as a person, a day when you grew in perseverance, a day that made you stronger to confront the obstacles in your life.  

As an aging runner, I often think of an old saying: "It's never too late to start, and it's always too soon to stop." As a soon to be 70-year old, I ask myself, "What next?" The answer comes with crystal clarity. No matter what you have done in life, there is always more to do. Run again and again and again. Immerse yourself in pain and fatigue, and you will never exhaust your potential. Offer whatever strength you have left to the Father until your restless heart finds its final rest in him. 

At the end of an ultramarathon I say to myself, "You are still striving for the impossible." And for a brief moment in time, I catch a glimpse of eternity.