A Lesson in Pace

Yesterday I ran the Florence Marathon–my 10th marathon to date–and maybe my last. But never say never. This is the 2nd largest marathon in Italy–only to Rome, which I ran two years ago. There were about 10,000 runners who participated this year–a record. One of the other guys on the Campus Crusade team here ran with me. We had done most of our long runs together through 16 weeks of training. The day had finally come to run the race in our beloved city.

The temperature was perfect for long distance running–around 45 degrees. The only problem was a cold rain that had settled in about 30 minutes before the start time. It was the sort of rain that you thought might last all day. We did endure the wet conditions for about an hour–and then the rain stopped for the remainder of the race.

Because it had been two years since I had run my last marathon I set modest goals and trained at a lighter regimen than usual. I finished in 3:44 and was pleased with my results. But what I was even more pleased with was my overall pace. I stayed within 9 seconds of my desired average pace per mile–which was an 8:20 mile. I never averaged less than 8:14 and never more than 8:23. This is always one of the most difficult aspects of long distance running in my opinion. There is always the tendency to simply want to pass everyone in sight–and many runners blow right by you in the first 10 miles–but you often see a number of the same runners around mile 20. Often they are walking.

I wish I was a better student of pace in my leadership life. This too can be very difficult–especially in the ministry. Most people in the ministry are need driven–we are responders to the needs of others and it is difficult to say “no.” Certainly my first year in Italy was marked by too fast of pace–I was crawling at the end of that year. I think I am doing better now. I feel like I am resting more strongly on Christ and the grace of the gospel–and not so much on my efforts to simply produce. The other problem in ministry when one paces poorly is that you are not the only one effected. Often everyone around you suffers from your driven nature to “win.” I want to be one of those who is still standing and running at the end–not merely walking or crawling to the finish line–there is no glory for Christ and His kingdom in that!

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