You many ask, What is the Ragnar Relay? This is where teams of twelve runners pay a fee (that will be partially donated to a charity) to tag team and complete a run of around 200 miles. The first runner on each team begins early on a Friday morning and the teammates run around the clock until they finish sometime the next day. In a few cases, a team of only six runners (Ultra Ragnar Relay) complete the race.
Your next question might be, What kind of nut would do something like that? That’s a good question! It is one I asked myself a few years ago when I first heard about this run.
Honestly, I’m not sure exactly why I signed up. The team needed two more runners. I was assured that it was just for fun and they weren’t out to win anything. My friend, Kathy, had participated in it a few years ago and said she loved the experience, but she would never put herself through it again. So right away I gave her a call, knowing my level-headed friend would talk me out of it. Instead of the expected, No way, Girl! Don’t do it! She excitedly said, If you do it, I’ll do it!
WHAT??? You said you would never do it again! Kathy cheerfully responded, Oh, it will be fun! We will make some good memories together! So that’s when I signed up for this run a few months ago and my awesome teammates and I ran from Chattanooga to Nashville, TN this past weekend. Although I didn’t know most of my teammates prior to this event, these Christian people inspired and encouraged me. It was a wonderful experience.
I’ve been forced out of my comfort zone in so many ways this past year with the passing of my husband. With God’s help, I’ve done things and made decisions I never thought I could. And I’ve found that this stretching has made me rely more on God, has proven God’s faithfulness and power in my life, and has given me more confidence to let God use me. This event was another good stretch for me.
There are so many analogies in running a race to running the race of life.
I’d like to share some things I think about while running.
- Pace yourself
While on the farm when I was young, I would begin working in the early morning at full speed and my dad would say, Gaye, you have to pace yourself. It’s going to be a long day. I still have that problem. At the beginning of a race, my adrenaline is flowing and I want to give it all I have. But I must be careful, because I must not run out of energy before the race is completed or I won’t be able to finish.
This is the way it is while serving the Lord. In the past, I have gone full speed ahead trying to serve God and I haven’t taken the necessary time to pray, meditate on God’s Word, and know God while doing so. It isn’t long before what started out as God’s work being led by the Holy Spirit turns into “Gaye’s work” which will burn up, leave a pile of ashes, and have no reward in the day of judgment. If I am too busy to spend quiet time with God, I am too busy. If I’m obeying God’s schedule for my life, I will have time to spend with Him.
- Keep the run in perspective
I’m more competitive than I should be. I know that how you run the race is much more important that winning, but I have to continually remind myself of that. P.J. Simmons provided the perfect example this weekend of giving your best whether or not it looks and feels like you are winning. She had been having ankle pain before the Ragnar. The doctor confirmed that the bones were not broken or fractured and that it must be a damaged nerve or tendon. P.J. rested her ankle and didn’t run any for two weeks prior to the relay. As she began her first leg of the relay (5.5 miles), sharp pains immediately began radiating throughout her ankle.
We tried to talk P.J. into letting us do her run, but she insisted on not letting her team down. Her husband lovingly supported her by running with her, checking on her, and asking about her condition. As I fought back tears while watching her limp/jogging in excruciating pain, I wondered how God could stand to watch His only son, Jesus, be tortured and then die on a cruel cross for the sins of the world.
P.J., like Jesus, was so determined to follow through with her commitment. Her tenacity and perseverance inspired and humbled me. What if the sinless Jesus had caved in and said, No! I don’t deserve this pain! I will not do this!? He could have. No one would have blamed Him. But mankind would have been doomed to hell for all eternity if He had. Jesus bridged the gap for sinners to be redeemed (bought back) by paying our sin debt.
- Weakness is not a bad thing
When I’m feeling good, the run is fun! But it is also easy to forget where my strength comes from. When my strength is gone, I’m begging for God’s help! When we have enough money, our health is good, our relationships are happy, when the car is running, etc., it is easy to trust in ourselves and not seek God like we should. But when the problems come and we don’t have the solution, we are much more inclined to start calling out asking for God’s help.
After only 9 hours of sleep in two days, not much food, and running 11 miles, I was out of gas by my third and last leg of the Ragnar Relay. My teammates had done so well and I sure didn’t want to let them down, but all my energy was gone. Even the peanut butter and energy jelly beans did not seem to help. I almost panicked. I asked my friends to pray and I claimed Isaiah 40: 29, He giveth power to the faint (weak); and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. I said, God, I guess I was crazy to think I could do this, but here I am. Will you deliver me? As I began running, His strength was made perfect in my weakness…just like He promises in 2 Corinthians 12:9. It was amazing to feel strength that I knew was not my own.
- Let’s cheer others on
After the runner starts running his leg, the other runners drive on ahead and pull off the road to cheer their teammate on as he runs by. This encouragement goes a long when you’re tired. It motivates you to keep pushing forward.
Kind words of encouragement are necessary as we daily run the race of life. Texts, cards, and calls can motivate and inspire others to live life well when they feel like giving up.
- Be careful who you follow
Near the end of the race, one teammate had an eight mile leg to run. I couldn’t imagine having a long difficult stretch to run at that point in the race where there had been so little sleep or food.
Everyone wears their running bib on the front of their shirt so as they approach the gate, the new runner can identify their teammate. Not being able to see the bib, our teammate began following the runner in front of her only to realize at one point that he was NOT a Ragnar runner! To her dismay, she found herself 2 miles off course and lost! This is such an easy mistake to make. Eventually, her teammates were able to locate her and help her get back on track.
We must be SO careful to keep our priorities right in life and not get distracted by the world. Spending time reading the Bible keeps us heavenly focused and combats the lies of the devil. When we do stray, hopefully, there will be other Christians who have the courage to lovingly lead us back on the right path. AND, hopefully, we aren’t too proud to allow them!
- Keep the end in mind
During the night runs, everyone is required to wear safety gear that includes a headband with a front and back light and a reflective vest. When I did my night leg of the race around 1am, I could see no other runners in front or behind me. I was running in the country with only the moon and stars shining, a cool breeze, the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle, and the occasional sound of dogs barking.
This reminded me of the lonely times in my life when God’s sweet presence was the only thing I had. There aren’t distractions from the world, but I have to fight the enemy of self-pity to persevere through the dark valley.
Just as I became weary and wanted to stop and walk, I saw the bright flood of light that marked the end of the run….the exchange station! The place where I could stop running. The place of rest. Then I heard the cheers of encouragement to make it to the end! What a wonderfully exciting time!
Our teammate, Kathy, shared with us how this reminds her of how special it is going to be to enter heaven at the end of our race on earth! Our loved ones who have gone on before us along with our Savior will be welcoming us into our eternal rest! The struggles of life will be over for those who have completely trusted Jesus Christ and made Him Lord of their lives.
In conclusion and most importantly, I think our team enjoyed this relay. As an added bonus, we were happy to place 14th out of about 200 teams! Whether you ever choose to run or not, you are in the race of life. May you run well the race God has called you to so one day you will hear Jesus say, Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of thy Lord! (Matthew 25:21)
Keep looking up,