the burden of the distance

I don’t write a great deal about running and triathlon on my blog, despite the fact that these are two of my favorite hobbies.  They’ve been on my mind a lot this past couple of weeks, though, because I’ve increased my training and started looking for nearby races in which to compete.  Here are some of my recent thoughts:

Training for distance races doesn’t lessen the mileage, but it prepares us for the wear that accompanies those miles. We learn discipline.  We learn efficiency.  We learn how to endure the pain.  We find the rhythms of our running, and we learn to enjoy the miles.

Preparing for these races is a learning process.  The burden of the distance never disappears, but our abilities are heightened as we learn how best to carry the weight of those miles.  And we feel lighter.

It reminds me just a bit of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We don’t have to be overwhelmed or weary from our burdens.  Jesus offers to share with us his yoke as he teaches us his way of life.  He empowers us to run the miles with joy.  And we have rest in him.

Wow, that sounded trite and fluffy (reminded me of a particular writer with my religious tribe).  I think I’ll just let you make your own analogies.

Do you run/bike/swim distance races?  What are you training for?  What have you learned about life from your training?



Filed under barefoot running, running, sports, triathlon

21 responses to “the burden of the distance

  1. wow! thats an awesome accomplishment!

  2. (i dont do any of those except the casual bike ride)

  3. Debra and I are currently training to run a half marathon here in Murfreesboro. It will be October 16, so our training program is picking up pace. Neither of us have ever run so much before. Our distances this week were 3, 4, 3 & 6 miles. When my lower legs were tender after the 4 mile run I began to question whether or not I would make the next two runs. Then I began to question why I was doing this at all.

    Some ice packs, more rest and a lot of prayer later and we just completed the 6 mile run a little while ago. Our times are not great, but our goal is to finish, so we are building endurance. This training program gives me a different perspective on Hebrews 12.

    • congratulations on the 6-mile run. is this the half-marathon that benefits neema house orphanage and (is it) greenhouse ministries?

      • No, I think the Neema House run is four miles and takes place on Thanksgiving Day. This one is called the Middle Half and I am not sure what cause the proceeds benefit. We are running it for the motivation to get in better shape.

        • oh, i knew the neema house run was a shorter one. i wasn’t thinking. well, i hope the 1/2 marathon goes well, but even more i hope you are successful in becoming a healthier version of yourselves.

  4. Ike

    Keep it up “JB”……’ll be the healthiest dead man ever! I played football for over a decade of my life. I can’t explain the pain I live with each day.

    “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

    The sacred center of Christianity is Christ himself. Coming personally to the Person. Coming directly to the Mediator. No one but Jesus can call us with such authority, and no one but Jesus can encourage us with such a promise. No one else can give us rest.

    If our primary purpose in church is to connect with one another and build community, that’s what we’ll get — one another. And we’ll end up angry. Only Jesus gives us rest. If we will put him first and come to him first, we’ll have something to give one another.

    If our primary purpose in church is outreach and mercy and justice and all those good missional things, we’ll end up exhausted and empty. Only Jesus gives us rest. If we will put him first and come to him first, we’ll be renewed for endless mission.

    Only One has ever said and can ever say, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

    His offer stands. But he comes first.

    • JMF

      I always appreciate your insight, JKK.

      Being said, I find myself tremendously confused by what you write. Sometimes I find myself connecting with the idea of a personal relationship with Jesus, but most of the time I don’t.

      I consider myself to be a 1 yr old Christian. That is, one year ago my faith became my own. I am 33, and I’ve spend many of those years being very religious. I was highly successful at communicating to others why they were going to hell. And then I became less religious. And less. And less.

      I won’t bore you with how I came to have my own faith (not the faith my parents gave me), but I struggle with knowing exactly how to “know” Jesus.

      I was all on-board with everything you were saying in your next-to-last paragraph about being missional, until you said “you will end up exhausted and empty.”

      So my idea of being closer to Christ by being Christ-like doesn’t work, either. And then I read from others that “worship” is best translated as what we do OUTSIDE the sanctuary, not inside. I understand these are all great things, but by reading what you wrote above, I still feel that I am missing the forest for the trees.

      Man, I’d love some direction.

      It seems my confusion is over the primary command of: “Love God with all of your heart, mind and soul.” My response is, “If you love me, keep my commands.” What are the command(s)? “Love one another.”

      So “love one another”, to me, always tied back into Command #1. Yet, I feel I am missing something.

      • Ike


        Our ability to respond to Christ’s commands like “love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul” , or to serve others with the love of Christ, are gifts of God’s grace. To be Christ-like, you must “know” Christ. Apart from Him (and therefore apart from faith) even our good works are like filthy rags. We are not able, in our own strength, to please, glorify, or to obey God. Apart from the Truth, we create a god in our own image. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to know God exactly as He has revealed Himself.

        To know Jesus, and more importantly, for Jesus to know us, we must have a biblical… cross centered relationship with Him. We must understand and value God’s absolute holiness, righteousness and love. For God cannot over-look our sin and remain holy… just.. or loving. This creates a major problem. We all sin and have broken His law. God must punish our rebellion and sin. And God did this through the atoning work of His only Son. Jesus died on a cross and rose again from the dead in order to give His life for law breaking sinners like you and me. Jesus’ work on the cross enables God to be both just and the justifier. When we come to Jesus and place our faith & trust in Him alone, God credits Jesus work and righteousness to our account, and then places our sin debt on the cross work of His only Son. Jesus paid our sin debt. We know God by accepting this Jesus and His work on our behalf. When we do this, we are adopted as real sons and daughters into His permanent family. God will enable His children to be increasingly Christ-like.

        God has given His children means to know Him. To know this Jesus ,we must seek to Know who He is, and how He chooses to reveal Himself to us. The best advice I can give you is to study His infallible and inerrant Word. Dig into the Scriptures and ask Jesus to help you. Read the gospels over and over again. Second, seek your joy in Christ alone. Above all things, seek your satisfaction and joy in the God who created you and loves you , and gave His life for you… revealed in the Bible. The final thing is to find a solid Biblical church in your area. This church must have a high view of Scripture and the preaching of God’s Word. This church must point you to the God of the Scriptures. These are the means of grace God has given us to know Him.

        • JMF

          Thanks, Ike. I want to think on this for a day.

          Brett: Upon reading Ike’s response — and knowing my religious background (similar to yours, with my growth coming later) — where is it that I am disconnecting from what Ike is saying?

          I know that seems weird to ask you what is going on inside my head — yet I imagine you’ll understand. There is just something about what Ike has written that I feel disconnected from, yet I can’t put my finger on it.

          My guess is that it will come back to me still having latent feelings that I can work my way to Heaven. Although I’m very comfortable in understanding that works don’t justify, I still feel my salvation is based upon my sin frequency/goodness frequency.

          I don’t know… Brett? What is it that Ike is saying that is foreign to me?

          I tremendously appreciate both of you guys’ time…I really do.

          • Ike

            “‘Come unto me,’ he says, ‘and I will give you.’ You say, ‘Lord, I cannot give you anything.’ He does not want anything. Come to Jesus, and he says, ‘I will give you.’ Not what you give to God, but what he gives to you, will be your salvation. ‘I will give you‘ — that is the gospel in four words.

            Will you come and have it? It lies open before you.”

            C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), I:175. Italics original.

          • fife, i’ve thought about it for a while, and i can’t figure out what it would be that would make for a “disconnect.” unless, as you suggested, obedience here sounds too much like something given to me (in which i don’t have to try)? sorry i’m not of more help in sorting that out.

            i do believe that it is by God’s grace that we are transformed to be more like Christ, and that the Spirit empowers me to be a more obedient person. but i also think some would read that as christianity not requiring discipline or even hard work. i think they would have missed the point.

            you said, “Although I’m very comfortable in understanding that works don’t justify, I still feel my salvation is based upon my sin frequency/goodness frequency.”

            i’ve been studying some lately on this subject, and am torn on it just a bit. i think the problem is we’ve separated justification from sanctification when we shouldn’t have. i’m not just saying we’ve done one and neglected the other. i’m saying we’ve done a dangerous thing by even studying them separately, leading us to believe one might be possible without the other. i don’t think it’s possible to have one without the other. and so when we say someone’s forgiven of sin, but is not a disciple, i think we’ve erred (and they are not indeed forgiven of sin). i think?

            anyway, what i was going to say is that, on some level, we are going to be judged by our works. the bible states this clearly in several places. but those works are a natural part of faith. NOT an outcome of faith, but a part of it.

    • ike, it happens really often that we attempt to make the 2nd command the 1st one.

      • Ike

        If you don’t mind I would like to add a few more thoughts to our subject. We can only obey because of Christ transforming work in our lives. Obedience is enabled by the grace of our Lord and necessary for final salvation (Hebrews 12;14). Obedience and faith are both a gift of God’s grace and also our responsibility (John 6:65, Eph 2:8-9). For apart from Christ we can do nothing. This may sound a bit paradoxical to our finite minds, but I believe Scripture clearly teaches it.

        I also think “JB” is right on target with his thoughts. We should not separate discipleship from salvation or justification from sanctification. We can distinguish these concepts, but they belong and are held together in the life of the Christian. God freely justifies and sanctifies those who come to Him by faith.

        That’s basically my point when I wrote: “When we come to Jesus and place our faith & trust in Him alone, God credits Jesus work and righteousness to our account, and then places our sin debt on the cross work of His only Son. Jesus paid our sin debt. We know God by accepting this Jesus and His work on our behalf. When we do this, we are adopted as real sons and daughters into His permanent family. God will enable His children to be increasingly Christ-like.”

  5. You continue to inspire me. I’ve always wanted to run a race – or actually be able to run alone on a daily basis but I think I try too much too fast and get shin splints – always!

    However, as a novelist and author I have pushed to the finish line over and over to complete those works, gone to retreats to focus on nothing but the story and completing – and prayerfully make it to those final words – The End. There’s a lot to be said for starting but it needs to be partnered with completing.

    Thanks for the post.

    • thanks, river. i have a tendency to think really big and have these really great ideas — and then get bored with them before they’re completed. i want to one day write a book, but this tendency may very well be what prevents me from doing so. keep up the disciplined writing.

      oh, and if you’re thinking about starting to run again, my advice is to register for a race — but one far enough away that you don’t have to add miles too quickly.

  6. JMF

    Oops, I was addressing Ike.

    Brett — I forgot that this was a lighter post about running. 🙂 Ike forced me to start thinking.

    I still equate running with punishment from sports. I do, however, walk 3-4 miles a day! So I guess that makes me an endurance sport athlete of sorts.

    I am better at strength than endurance. I hope to by the end of the year hit a military press of 300 x 5, a bench press of 455, and a 405 x 10 Olympic squat. And yes, 10 reps on heavy squats is about equal to doing the Ironman. The lifts where I am more apt to get hurt I try to set my goals for reps.

    • i don’t mind you turning a lighter post into something deeper. but if you’re going to do that, i might stop taking the time to write the deeper ones…

      i hate that running is just a form of punishment for most sports. it seems to me similar to making kids eat vegetables as a punishment.

      i bench pressed 220 once, which was my weight at the time. and i do pushups some days and pull-ups other days. but that’s the extent of my weight training. i just intend to be able to run faster than anyone stronger than me.

  7. I am training for a marathon on October 17th. I have run 2 marathons before, but my goal time for this marathon is 45 minutes faster than my PR. Yes, I said 45 minutes. I’ve found that speedwork has increased my speed. How about that for obvious!?! Really, I was wanting to get faster (primarily for shorter distances, like 5K), but I couldn’t do it without putting in the grueling work on the track.

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