A Tale of Two Marathons (Philippians 3:14)

Last Sunday I had the privilege of preaching from Philippians 3:12-14 (one of my favorite passages) on the subject of finishing well. Because the context of this passage points towards a race, I used running stories during the message.

A major point was finishing strong….

which led me to talk about my two marathons.

While serving in Australia, my brother encouraged me to run a marathon with him while on furlough. Since running was something I did regularly (almost every day) I agreed. The big problem with this is I did the marathon training in Australia, and wasn’t as serious about it as I should have been. This kind of training should normally be done in a group with partners, on different courses, and include more strenuous workouts. None of those things were true for me!

To make a long story short, my lungs weren’t prepared for a marathon. I ended up getting what is called a “side stitch” which is extreme pain in your side, and ended towards the cut off line of runners.

In other words, I ended in shame.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I committed to doing things the right way. This meant getting involved in training programs for shorter races, and eventually going through a six-month program in preparation for my next marathon. Though that program was challenging, it ensured I was ready for the next marathon race.

Part of the fun with running a long race is getting the crowd to encourage you. This is especially true with marathons, since you will be in some serious pain towards the end. Crowd participation makes a huge difference in how you finish the race.

Because of this I had a shirt made that used the popular Australian sports chant “Aussie aussie aussie, Oi oi oi. The idea is someone from the crowd would chant aussie, and I would respond with oi.

For 24 miles of the 26.2 mile race nobody chanted it!

I was in a good bit of pain in mile 24 (which is normal) when a man from the crowd shouted “aussie aussie aussie!” I tried to respond with oi but there was not enough breath in my body! Thankfully others hearing him began to shout it more.

As I came down the last hill I was able to respond to every “aussie aussie aussie” with an emphatic “Oi” and actually sprinted! There’s a picture in my parents house of me crossing the finish line with my fist in the air.

Of course, it wasn’t the chants that made a difference in that second marathon….

it was the months of putting the work in.

Finishing strong is not a one-time event. Instead, it is many small choices that nobody sees. Choices to put in the work instead of being lazy.

The Apostle Paul finished his life as someone who “put in the work” spiritually, so he was able to finish his race with confidence instead of shame. Thankfully I got a chance to make up for the poor finish in my first marathon, but there will be no do-overs in the race of life.

Let’s put in the work today friends so that we can finish the race strong.

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