Running & Faith
I’ve read Christian books, and I’ve read running books. But I’ve never read a Christian book about running. As a pastor and long-time runner myself, I was instantly intrigued by the premise of Ryan Hall’s book Run the Mile You’re In: Finding God in Every Step.
Ryan Hall is a former professional runner who has run the fastest American times in the Half Marathon and Marathon. He has represented the United States in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. In the book, he shares lessons he has learned about faith from his running experience.
It is a great book, especially if you are a runner at any level. There are 26 chapters (or “miles”) taken from the 26 miles of a marathon. Below are my Top 5 favorite quotes and lessons.
Mile 3: Sacrifice. “When I told my dad that I planned to go out for the high school baseball team, he gave me some wise advice: ‘You can be good at multiple things, but if your goal is to be great, you need to choose one.’” - Ryan Hall, Run the Mile You’re In
In retrospect, it seems obvious that an Olympic Marathoner shouldn’t waste his time playing high school baseball. But all of us in our daily lives get caught up in the numerous conflicting ambitions. Think of all the goals you have: career, finances, home, fitness, family, faith, hobbies, and the list goes on and on. When we try to be good at everything, we are not great at anything. Instead, we should pray through our priorities and discern which things are the most important to focus on.
Mile 5: Failure. “If we are to live out our destinies and accomplish greatness in our lives, we must realize that failure is a necessary part of the process and something we shouldn’t try to avoid. Failure can teach us and make us stronger, but this doesn’t mean that we should dwell on it.” - Ryan Hall, Run the Mile You’re In
One month before Ryan Hall ran a record-breaking 2:04 Boston Marathon, he suffered an unexplainably slow half marathon in NYC. I appreciate his honesty in relating his struggle to deal with disappointment. I have suffered my fair share of running, leadership, and life failures. I also have difficulty letting things go, and I’m way harder on myself than any other critic. The helpful lesson that Ryan teaches us is not to dwell on failure. You never know how God might want to redeem your story. His mercies are new every day.
Mile 9: Identity. “My running didn’t change for the better, and my depression grew worse. I remember lying in bed all day feeling like I had absolutely no reason to get up. On days when I attempted to go for a run, I would jog about half a mile and then walk home—not because I was physically tired but because I was so broken up on the inside.” - Ryan Hall, Run the Mile You’re In
In Chapter 9, Ryan shares how he lost all motivation to run when he was a Sophomore at Stanford. His performance wasn’t meeting his expectations, and he spiraled down a negative rabbit hole. The turning point came when he began prioritizing his relationship with God. It was only when his identity was grounded in God’s love that Ryan was able to break free from the performance trap. You can experience that same kind of freedom when you find your core identity in being a son or daughter of God.
Mile 15: Pain. “Forget about how hard the hill at mile twenty is going to be, forget about the pain I’m going to feel at mile twenty-five, because on the starting line, I don’t yet have the grace to handle the hill at mile twenty or the pain of mile twenty-five. I only have the grace to handle the moment I’m in, so I need to stay present with Jesus, fixing my eyes on Him so I can endure the pain.” - Ryan Hall, Run the Mile You’re In
Running is painful. It’s why so many people hate it. Life can also be full of pain. One of the greatest lessons that running can teach us is how to keep going despite experiencing pain. Ryan Hall advises us to receive grace from Jesus for each moment. You’ll get too discouraged to keep going if you dwell on the future. If you are going through a trial, stay in the present and look to Christ for strength.
Mile 19: Fearless. “But one thing I know for sure, not one of the best performances of my career would have happened had I not taken a big risk.” - Ryan Hall, Run the Mile You’re In
One of my favorite stories from the book is Ryan’s first half marathon. He had an extremely rough lead-up to the event. Nevertheless, he took the lead from the start and attacked each mile. In the end, he broke the American record in the half marathon with a time of 59:43.
God’s calling always threatens our comfort. When we live boldly for God, we experience His grace in a whole new way. If you never take any risks, you may not fail, but you definitely won’t win. I don’t know about you, but I want to see God do the impossible in my life. That only happens when we stop playing it safe.
What lessons have you learned from running? Let me know in the comments!
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