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I despise long distance running.

In high school, I was forced to run track because playing football (my real sports love) was contingent on running track. No track, no football.

I was a sprinter by body type, but for some reason our track coach thought having me run the mile was a better idea. Not only did I have a less than optimal physique for running long distances, I had idea how to run that race. So on multiple fronts, running the mile was a struggle, yet every week, coach trotted me out to the starting line of the mile race, and every week I’d finish last or next to last. In some ways, long distance running as a high-schooler foreshadowed a much longer and more important race—the one I find myself running as an adult.

In life, in our calling, and in our relationships, God hasn’t called us to a sprint . . . He’s called us to a marathon. He wants us in the race for the long haul. He’s created us to be long-distance runners. The problem is, many of us are either running a race we’re not suited for, or we are utilizing a less than ideal approach to the one we are suited for. We try to sprint, without understanding that we can’t sprint a marathon. We’ll run out of gas before the finish line. We’ll make a mess of our lives (and unfortunately, often mess up the lives of those closest to us) when we take a sprinter’s approach. For sure, at times in our race we need to accelerate the pace, but other times we need to decelerate.

God wants us to finish our race strong. Question is . . . how do we increase our chances of doing so? I think in a large degree by taking a smarter approach. With that in mind, I’d like to share 3 smart ways we can not only run and finish the marathon God’s called us to.

Pay attention to pace

Experienced marathoners eventually discover a pace that works for them. No matter our calling, God expects us to run diligently; to produce good outcomes; but to run at a sustainable pace. Pace in the race of life has to do mostly with our schedule. If our calendar is consistently crammed with little to no white space, it won’t be long before we’re running on fumes. We can’t run a marathon on fumes. Not promoting laziness here—I’m promoting sensibility and sustainability.

Pay attention to friendship

Even though marathon-running appears to be the ultimate individual sport; every marathoner has a network of people who encourage him/her. Many have a running coach, a fitness trainer, a nutritionist; etc. Very few (if any) run and finish without some form of expertise, support, and encouragement from other people. So it is with the marathon of life. To run your race, you’re going need a team who will take the journey alongside you. Running alone increases the probability of failure. So create space for healthy, replenishing, and helpful people in your life, and you’ll find your chances of finishing the race God has called you to will increase exponentially.

Pay attention to a plan

Experienced marathoners run strategically. We would do well to follow their example. If you’re not following an intentional roadmap to consistently recharge your emotional batteries, chances are one day you’ll find yourself running on empty. It’s impossible to run a marathon on empty. Here are tried and true ingredients to increase your chances of finishing your race strong:

  • Add regular doses of laughter: Laughter is a strategic part of emotional maintenance. It releases chemicals in our brain that reduce stress and lift our mood.
  • Mix in equal parts exercise: I hit the gym four times/week. Why? Because regular exercise helps me run my race. When I’ve had a stressful day, lifting weights or doing cardio brings relief. Exercise is a good use of time and it helps most people run their race better.
  • Inject a little boring: This may seem counterintuitive at first. Doesn’t a race imply continuous running? With a physical race—yes. But running our God-given race should include well-placed moments of downtime. God doesn’t expect you to run nonstop. He didn’t wire you or any other human being that way! Find a hobby or a recreational activity that allows you to pause momentarily, one that refreshes you, and make it a regular part of your calendar. A little boring will help you run better and longer.
  • Top it off with the right amount of sleep: Your brain repairs itself when you sleep. Skipping sleep drains your emotional tank! Sleep-deprived Christians can’t run the marathon God has called them to run.

God hasn’t called you to a sprint. He’s called you to a marathon. Pay attention to your pace. Your friendships. And run with a plan in mind.

My book, Unshakable You: 5 Choices of Emotionally Healthy People will help you run strategically and finish strong. You can find a copy here.

I’m rooting and praying for you!

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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