A Marathon, Not a Sprint – by Ed Dunn

Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) – “…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint…”

Chariots of Fire

I remember this verse well from my youth.  The year was 1981 and the hit movie, Chariots of Fire, had just been released to widespread appeal and critical acclaim.  In one of the most memorable scenes within the movie for me, the Scottish sprinter, Olympian and missionary, Eric Liddell, stood in the midst of a cold rain surrounded by soaked yet eager on-listeners.  As the wind blew, he recounted these poetic words from the book of Isaiah.  In a heartbeat, Eric Liddell had become my personal hero and the words he quoted took little time to become my own.

I spent much of my younger years and early adulthood as a long-distance runner.  Early on, my running took place in support of a small high school track team, followed by lots of running in college and the eventual rigors of the 5- and 10-K road racing circuits.  Later on, I ran mostly for my general health or for the simple enjoyment of just getting out to “put in a few.”  No matter the time in life of the running, I never forgot those poetic words and the strong connection they helped me form to a deep and personal faith.

We can all relate to the idea of life being much like a challenging, long-distance running race.  This idea is not a new one.  The authors of many great works of literature have drawn on this well-tested analogy.  The Apostle Paul himself used this imagery on several occasions in his writings to diverse groups of people.  Many of us may’ve even had parents who reminded us quite frequently that life is more like “a marathon, not a sprint.”  I know I certainly did.

In these times, I often return to the words of Isaiah.  As a younger man, I took the words literally, especially in the context of running and the movie, and looked to the Lord for physical renewal and strength.  As an older man now, I love the words more as poetry and artful metaphor, looking to the Lord for peace, spiritual renewal and strength.  We may well face physical challenges in life.  Some challenges may come in the form of what is happening around us.  Some may simply come from our natural aging.  No matter what, we face these challenges together. 

The beauty of Isaiah’s words reminds us of our ultimate renewal.  These words remind us of the source of our ultimate strength.  “And, where does the strength come from to see us through?” Eric Liddell asked his huddled audience in the cold wind and rain.  Eric Liddell’s answer to the crowd is our answer to each other: “Our strength and renewal comes from our hope in the Lord.”  Although our lives can feel much more like a marathon and not a sprint, we can take great comfort in this hope.

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