Hitting the Wall

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I ran my first 42.2km in June 1980. I ran my second marathon three months later, in September. The experiences were like chalk and cheese—much like the first part of our lockdown and the second part, which we enter today.

In the first marathon, I had little idea what to expect. I had read a lot about marathons and had often trained with a man who had run a 2:14 in the US Olympic trials. I listened closely to him, especially as he warned me about “hitting the wall.” He said that I would probably feel strong for the first thirty kilometres but then “hit the wall.” He said that, at that point, I might feel like I couldn’t go any further, but this is where my training would kick in. I’d need to discipline myself to persevere till the finish.

In that first marathon, I felt great for almost the whole race. I ran the race of my life and never hit the wall. But then came September and the Chicago Marathon. I learned, memorably, what it means to hit the wall.

I took off very fast thinking, “No problem.” I hit the halfway mark way ahead of my goal and felt confident about how well it was going. This confidence only lasted a few more kilometres, and then, well, I encountered the wall. To change the metaphor, it felt like someone had placed a piano on my back. My legs cramped something fierce (I’m pretty sure an ambulance started following me, but that might have been a hallucination). With so much painful discomfort, I seriously considered quitting. But that is where my training kicked in. I began to remind my body that this is what it had trained for. Even though I had run a dumb race, I knew I could go the distance. I simply needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other. My training got me to the finish line.

I’ve been thinking about that experience as we finish our third week of lockdown. With another two weeks to go, I feel like I have hit a wall. Do you?

The novelty has worn off. The daily grind of working or studying or teaching from home, or perhaps the monotony of eating in and exercising at home, has perhaps hit you. Personally, I’m finding the livestreaming of my preaching increasingly challenging. The inability of face-to-face ministry is frustrating. My mind battles with pessimistic thinking and sometimes irrational scenarios (like the “ambulance” in Chicago). Yet, I’ve concluded that God has provided what I need to get to the finish line. I’ll get there by looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1–2). I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Let me encourage you to join with me and let’s get past this wall, together.

It’s possible that you have not trained well for this part of the race. Perhaps you neglected God’s appointed means of grace, including corporate worship, corporate and private prayer, and regular Bible reading and study. You can’t change the past, but you can do what is right in the present with a commitment to do better after this part of the race. With such commitment, God will surely strengthen you to keep on keeping on. And when we have completed this “marathon,” we will gather, encouraging one another that, though we may have hit the proverbial wall, our God brought us to the end. What a day that will be!

Doug