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Lenten Devotional: February 29, 2024

by Chad Simonds, Hospitality Coordinator

That Time I Tried to Outrun a Tortoise

I ran the St. Petersburg Distance Classic Marathon this year on Sunday, February 11th. I have run at least one marathon every year for the past decade or so, and this was my 3rd time running the one here in St Pete. By now it’s pretty much habit – so habitual that I don’t remember how many marathons I’ve run. I don’t even remember precise times – so even my personal record is a vague set of numbers.

Of course, it’s not exactly a cake walk. What makes a marathon the perfect race in my opinion is that no matter your fitness level or weekly mileage, you still have to train for it. I run an average of 50 miles a week, but there’s no way I can run 26.2 miles in one go on a mere whim. After a setback from a minor injury which prevented me from running a marathon last year, this year’s race was my chance to prove I still had it in me.

Training went as expected – no major surprises or setbacks. But on that Sunday, I began to feel a tightening in my upper left leg – at a mere 4 miles in! Truly unprecedented. It wasn’t painful, but I began to worry that it could become something far worse. The Serenity Prayer began to loop in the back of my mind.

At the 15-mile marker, the tightening became a bona fide cramp, both painful and debilitating, and in both legs. With 11 miles to go, it occurred to me that I may not be able to finish the race. I wasn’t looking forward to the 11-mile walk of shame to the finish line, but at this point it was beyond a matter of willpower – the electro-chemical mechanisms powering my legs were simply not cooperating. Reduced to walking, I wasn’t sure I would be able to start running again.

This is not a story about the pitfalls of complacency, although it easily could be. I suppose it could also be a story about humility. But I prefer to frame this as a story about patience – not “The Tortoise and the Hare” kind of patience, but the kind of patience that serves us regardless of the outcomes.

Philippians 4: 4-8

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.”

Would failing to finish the race be the end of the world? Disappointing, to be sure, but let’s put things in perspective, shall we? Marathon training is an investment. It’s exhausting. Like any sane person, I would prefer my investments to pay off in some capacity. So let’s take a moment to explore – nay, Rejoice! – at the plentiful bounty provided to me. February 11th was a beautiful day. I am blessed to be healthy enough to get out of bed in the morning. I am blessed to huff and puff for hours and hours in the fools’ errand that is running. I am blessed to live in a swamp that is thoroughly landscaped into what we call paradise. For all this and much more, I will not be anxious. I will be patient to arrive and grateful to be there, wherever that may be, whatever happens.

Meditation: What setbacks in your life offer opportunities to flip the script? No really, think of one and start flipping. Repeat as necessary.

PS: I finished the race. I was eventually able to hobble forward long enough and gain enough momentum for my legs to start moving. It was like pushing a boulder up a hill to get going again when I had to stop and walk periodically. Worst marathon time ever, but I still did it in less than four hours. Rejoice!


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