Sprints and Pandemic Marathons

I was a long-distance runner through high school and college, and continuing into my adult years. In the fall of 1978, my friend, Stan Brown, and I decided to run the Chicago Marathon. It began at 8:00 in the morning and wound through the streets of downtown Chi-town, finishing with the last few miles along the lakefront.

Several thousand runners lined up for the 26.2 mile adventure. There were so many runners that the start encompassed two different streets that merged back together a few blocks later.

Excitement filled the air as the runners awaited the starter’s signal. Whooping and hollering expressed the adrenalin in the crowd. The verbal expressions continued for the first mile or so and then most of the runners were silent.

For a number of the participants, reality hit them square in the face. Their lungs and legs were letting them know that a marathon is not a sprint. It’s an experience in perseverance that taxes a person’s mental, physical, and emotional limits.

It seems that a number of people entered this weird time of a pandemic with a sprinter’s mentality, not prepared for the long stretch of slowed pacing. A sprinter’s mentality believes the finish line is already in sight from the beginning. A marathon mentality understands that after this mile, this day, there will be another mile, another day. It’s a slow journey in what seems an endless direction.

I had a teammate on my college cross-country team who never quite understood pacing. The starter’s pistol would fire and he would sprint the first two hundred yards, always leading the pack of runners. But our race was four and five miles long. As his lungs screamed at him after two hundred yards it occurred to him that there was still 97.5% of the race to run.

In our little effort-fast results culture, there’s been little preparation for a long journey. We’re a society of sprinters, fatigued by a finish line nowhere in sight. Many of us have come to the realization that we need to be fueled by prayer, fitted with patience, and focused on the promises of God.

I finished that Chicago Marathon…not well, but I finished! The last four miles I had cramps in both legs and looked like a stick figure trying to take each step. I remember the crowd of bystanders cheering each finisher on.

And here’s the thing! I was stronger because I finished. That is, I knew that if I could do a marathon then I had the God-given strength to see other challenges to their completion.

This marathon pandemic may be able to teach us a lot about our resolve and character. Just don’t sprint!

people doing marathon

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

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2 Comments on “Sprints and Pandemic Marathons”

  1. mbmankin Says:

    Bill, This is such a wonderful perspective on the pandemic we are experiencing! Thank you for the insight. Mary Beth

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