Hebrews 12:1b-2a And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…
I was excited to hear about the “Breaking2 Project”[i], Nike’s highly anticipated quest to run a sub-2-hour marathon. Early in the morning on Saturday, May 6, 2017, three world-class runners lined up on the Autodromo Nazionale track (home to Formula1’s Italian Grand Prix) in Italy to take on the challenge. For Nike, this was essentially a science experiment to test the human potential. They controlled everything they could including the choice of athletes, course, location, time of day, hydration, fueling, and the gear they wore and ran on. A pace car drove ahead with a time clock and laser beams which lit up the road in front of the runners. A large crew of pacemakers took turns coming on and off the track allowing the three actual competitors to draft behind them. Fueling stations were frequently located and easily accessible. Anything that could be done to make the conditions as favourable as possible for success, was done.
In the end, however, three actual people lined up to take on this monumental feat – Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopa, Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea, and Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. To run a sub-2-hour marathon you need to consistently run at a mind-boggling 4 minute 34 second pace each mile for 26.2 miles. This means running four 10k’s at 28:26 and then a couple more kilometres to finish off the marathon. As someone who did some racing including marathons (albeit not in the same stratosphere as these athletes) I can totally appreciate the awesomeness of that pace. The average racer could not run more than a few hundred metres with these men. In the end, Desisa and Tadese could not maintain the tortorous pace but Kipchoge continued on and not until the last 10km did he fall off the pace. He finished in an excruciatingly close 2hrs, 0 minutes, and 25 seconds. While he didn’t achieve the sub-2-hour goal, he certainly proved it is doable.
Today’s scripture from Hebrews 12 uses the analogy of a racer running a race. The word perseverance is an apt description of the characteristic required in a marathon runner and it is also a vital trait of any true disciple of Christ. We are promised by God that we will face trials (John 16:33), but a believer who has faith will persist through those troubles. One of the keys of perseverance is where we are focussing our eyes. Watching Kipchoge in the Breaking2 event, it was obvious that his eyes were focussed on the pacemakers directly in front of him, not looking around taking in the scenery of the Italian track. Likewise, the Hebrew writer says we are to be: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”. (Hebrews 12:2a). A second key to running the race with perseverance is to run in ideal conditions. The Nike project participants did what they could to limit the negative factors around them. In the same way, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” (vs. 1b). Imagine if the Breaking2 runners had to run with a backpack, or they had to run through ropes every ½ lap that would entangle them. The sub-2-hour project would become more of a Tough Mudder event than a running race. Likewise, how can we possibly run a Christian race of perseverance, one fraught with so much of what we cannot control, when we choose to partake in the unhelpful, or willfully choose to carry on sinning in areas of our lives where we know God has convicted us to repent. Pray to God today and ask Him to show you areas of your life where you are living in either an unwise way or in sin and ask Him to help you remove those from your life.