Running a Marathon All Your Life

I ran my first marathon years ago. I call it my first, because that sounds better than calling it my last. But both are true.

At mile 26 in the run, I learned something I had never known before: a marathon is not 26 miles. Don’t believe it when people tell you that. It’s a bald-faced lie.

Running a marathon all your life

(Photo: Jon Rawlinson, The Long Road Ahead, via Wikimedia Commons)

As I stammered past the 26th mile marker, there was no finish line! I discovered—to my surprise—a marathon is 26.2 miles.

I learned some valuable lessons from that decimal point—as well as from all the running I did to get ready for that crazy race.

Two Completely Different Races

The summer Olympics prove that we prefer a good sprint to a marathon. (Notice I didn’t say, “a good marathon”?)

The stadium will get far more attention. Here’s why:

  • A sprint is more exciting. Marathons are, well, boring to watch.
  • Our attention spans are brief. One race takes seconds. The other takes hours.
We prefer the sprint

(Photo: by Petey21, via Wikimedia Commons)

We prefer the sprint. I’ve discovered the same is true in life. We want to run our lives like a sprint. Here’s why:

  • From a runner’s perspective, we see the tape the entire sprint. But in a marathon, we have no idea what turns lie ahead.
  • In the stadium, cameras and fans are everywhere, cheering you on! But on the long roads, you’re all alone.

True, our busy lives may look and feel like a sprint, but life is a marathon.

The Race is Longer than You Think

Remember, it’s not 26 miles. It’s 26 POINT TWO miles. If you set limits to faithfulness in your life, you’ll never finish the race.

The marathon of life isn’t even 26.2 miles. It’s always .2 miles more. The race never ends.

We’re Tempted to Take A Shortcut—or Just Quit

This was huge. Especially during training, I felt tempted either to quit or to take a shortcut.

Think about the marathon of life:

  • Your marriage is much, much more difficult that you thought it would be. You may be wondering what it would be like just to quit the race or start over.
  • As a single in your 40s, you may be so lonely you’re considering compromising your relationship with Christ in order to have a relationship with someone else. Anyone who’ll love you.
  • You’ve worked in your field for so long, but your financial net worth fails to meet your expectations. Time is short. What will you do?

As we run, we have to recognize the lie that says the answer to our struggles comes by quitting the race. Faithfulness seems too hard. But it’s essential for the race  (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

A new race only means a new struggle, not no struggle. It will probably mean even more struggle, because we start another marathon with the mindset that we can always quit the race if it gets too tough.

Keep running until you break the tape

(Photo: courtesy of US Navy, via Wikimedia Commons)

Keep Running until You Break the Tape

In the movie, Chariots of Fire, the runner Harold Abrahams lost his first race. He sat pouting in the bleachers and said to his girlfriend: “If I can’t win, I won’t run!”  His girlfriend replied: “If you don’t run, you can’t win.”

Are you weary and tired of what faithfulness requires? Feel like quitting? Take a deep drink from Isaiah 40, read in this scene from Chariots of Fire.


A lot of people never see God working in their lives because they refuse to hang in there long enough for God to show Himself to be God. When we quit the race, we teach ourselves that it’s really up to us alone and God has no value to our struggling lives.

The finish line is not in this life. We don’t break the tape until our hearts stop beating. That was the Apostle Paul’s view (2 Timothy 4:7).

Until then, we keep running.

Tell me what you think: What keeps you running when you feel like quitting? I’d love to know. To leave a comment, just click here.

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