Run the Race

“Let us run  with perseverance the race  that is set before us.”

Hebrews 12:1


Two weeks ago I did something unlikely, spontaneous and exhilarating. I ran the St. Jude Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Nashville to posthumously honor my friend Billy Pirtle. He was one of the most courageous human beings I knew. I decided the best way to mark the one-year anniversary of his passing was to do something that would call forth my own courage.


Around mile marker 3, the light bulb went off. Oh! This is why Paul favored the metaphor of “a race” to talk about the journey of life and faith! Following are some spiritual truths I gleaned from my first race.


To begin, while finding my starting heat (they line you up by your mile time) in a sea of almost 25,000 runners, a gentleman in a ball cap and St. Jude’s Pediatric hospital jersey, asked me if I “knew” the course. He was from Kentucky. “Of course,” I said. “I have lived in Nashville for over 20 years. I know this city like the back of my hand.” Boy was I naive.


Two miles in, I had no clue what was ahead. It is a very different experience driving Music Row, then running it! Out of nowhere a hill would pop up, and I had no idea how long the challenging incline would last. Just when I got comfortable on a relatively flat stretch of road, came another grueling incline. There were sharp turns, bridge crossings, and blessed downhill stretches when you least expected them (and humbly needed them!). It is the same with life experience. We have no idea what tomorrow holds. We think we “know” the course of our lives. We have a vision for how we would like our lives to go. For a while, it may even appear that we hold the reins. Quickly we are humbled. Life is unpredictable, and sadly not designed for our comfort. The aim of life’s course seems to call us to dig deeper for what truly matters; to expand our souls so they become far larger than our physical presence. This takes immense courage across many exquisite and brutal miles. Expect anything, everything, to happen to you along the road, terrific love and knock-out defeat.


Around mile 9, my heels were burning as if I was running on hot coals! Thank goodness for my husband popping up with his smile every couple of miles, the rock bands blasting uplifting music at every corner, and the creative, (hilarious) spectator signs. Here are some of the funny ones I remember: “If Biden and Trump are stilling running, you should be able to keep running!” “Me this morning: Coffee, Bacon, Toenails. You: Pain, Sweat, Free T-shirt,” “Cheer up, you are beating all the people behind you!” My favorite was held by a precious little girl in ginger pigtails at mile 9. Covered in glitter, rainbows, and unicorns, her poster read: “Touch Here to Power Up!” Running by, I tapped her poster, and took her offering of a mini-cup of Gatorade. She yelled to me, “You’ve got this! I believe in you!” Thanks to her “hope words,” mile 9-13 were my very best!!


One of our most important jobs on this planet is to encourage one another on whatever mile we are on. Often it is someone else’s belief and hope in us that gets us down the road. A dear friend has had a really challenging last few years with a disappointing divorce and the new and unwanted experience of raising kids as a single mother. She said, “I have been working so hard to build a new life. When will God bring me back into the province of joy, especially new love? I’m growing tired of being alone.” God’s timing rarely matches ours. We have to cheer each other on until a new way opens. On this particular day, I was called to be her cheerleader on the sidelines of her race. “Keep going. Open arms and open heart!” Next time, it will be her sending love back my way.


The truth about the race that is our life is we have no crystal ball, only divine promises. Jesus proclaimed, “I came so you would have life and life in full.” Jeremiah repeated God’s promise, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Sometimes the course is blissful and we thank God Almighty for the remarkable gift of life and the chance to participate in a redemptive story. On the uphills, sweating with no end in sight, we find out who we are, what we are capable of, and our need for divine reinforcement. Sometimes faith is less about what one believes, and more about one’s capacity to persevere in hope.


Best thing to do is be there in body and spirit for the leg of the course you are presently on. Do not spend too much time looking behind you, as that will only trip you up. Angsting over the future is a waste of valuable energy. We will never be able to conceive how God is putting the puzzle pieces into place. Our job is to trust the generosity of God’s imagination, providence, and especially love. God is always working on our behalf.


Although the course is constantly changing, there are three things that never change. Number 1: We know the final destination! For the Rock and Roll Marathon, the finish line was Titans Football stadium, surrounded by cheering crowds. The race of life finishes at the gates of heaven, hopefully with angels singing, a face-to-face with the Great I am, and the promise of more soul adventure ahead.


Second, the course will change, you will change—God never changes. Wherever you find yourself on the course, soul-spent or sprinting with hope, God is with and for you. Let that give you the assurance that whatever happens, you will not be alone. No one has more investment in you finishing the holy race than God.


And finally, Love is our supernatural fuel. Love allows us to accomplish more than we thought was possible. It is the propelling force in a life of consequence and joy.


Despite the long hours, the uncertain course, the spirit-grind, the aches and pains, there is nowhere else I would want to be, but in the race! The revelations of beauty, experiences of love, ridiculous joy, camaraderie, personal sacrifice and reward are more than worth it. Not to mention, the expectation for what new, redemptive and hopeful thing God has just up ahead for us. Keep going!


I would like Cece Winans playing on every mile please!!

  • Diane Tucker

    May 13, 2024 at 11:14 am Reply

    Wow! Running a half Marathon, you’re amazing! You’re my hero for May! Hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day! Hugs!

  • Anonymous

    May 13, 2024 at 11:37 am Reply

    thank you for the wonderful encouragement!! one day you will hear “well done, good and faithful servant”.
    until then, we will stay in the race!

  • Laura Crenshaw

    May 13, 2024 at 12:03 pm Reply

    You encourage us in our walk on this earth!

  • Elizabeth Biber

    May 13, 2024 at 12:45 pm Reply

    Congrats on your first race. Hebrews 12:1 is engraved in my engagement ring! It’s a great metaphor for life. Love the signs from the cheering fans!

  • Jade Forlidas

    May 13, 2024 at 1:01 pm Reply

    Great insight, inspiration, and hope for those in the marathon of life!
    Thank you, Jade

  • Corky Herbert

    May 13, 2024 at 3:20 pm Reply

    Oh how meaningful a metaphor (or several) was this piece on running. I will share it with several family members and friends. Farrell, thanks for opening up on-line with so many experiences.

  • Francis McMeekin

    May 18, 2024 at 12:18 am Reply

    God has given you a gift. A gift of the Holy Spirit, so you can spread His word, revealed in scripture. I am so grateful you said yes to God. We know that our Redeemer lives. Thanks be to God🥰🤸🏽‍♂️

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