My Ragnar Relay Revealings

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Jeff, P.J., Katrina, and Kathy waiting for the last runner, Jamey, to come across the finish line in Nashville!

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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.

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The crazy, fun, happy Van 2! Katrina, Kathy, P.J., Jamey, Gaye & Sergio excited about beginning the Ragnar Relay 2016.

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.

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Van 1 and Van 2 relaxing while Kathy runs down the mountain!

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.

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Jamey, P.J., Gaye, Sergio, and Katrina

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.

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Katrina, Kathy, Gaye and Sergio

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.

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P.J. cheering me on at my night run.

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,

Gaye Hughes

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Gaye and Kathy- Ragnar Relay 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Running the Race of Life

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From left to right. Gaye- 2nd place for 50-59 Nathan- 1st place for 15-19 Bethany- 2nd place overall for women

 

This past weekend Nathan, Bethany, and I ran the Mayberry 10K (6.2 miles) in NC.  Bethany had won first place overall for the women two years ago so she was wanting to defend her title. Nathan hadn’t been able to train much because of work and school. I had been able to train, but I had the age thing going against me.

We were all in different circumstances, but in the same race. Isn’t that just like life?Comparing life with a race is so interesting to me.   As I was running, the analogies flooded my thinking, but I wasn’t able to write any of them down.  I’d like to share a few that I remembered.

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Chilly 42 degrees before the run!

  • We have no control over some of our conditions in life

After unusually balmy weather for November,  the temperature was to drop the night before the race.  We were hearing it would be 32 degrees the morning of the race. Ouch! This complicates things because it’s cold before the race and you want warm clothes, but as you get into the race, you warm up and don’t need the extra clothes heating you up and weighing you down.

In Hebrews 12:1 Paul said, “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us…” Sin holds us back from living the abundant life God has for us.

Although we sometimes reap negative consequences due to our poor choices, often times while striving to live for God, we are thrown into circumstances in which we have no control. In these times, we must pray for God’s help, trust that He is in control, and seek to learn how to be a better person as a result of them.

  • Pace yourself

This has always been a challenge for me. At the beginning of a race, I am SO excited!  The adrenaline is rushing. I feel good.  When the horn goes off, I’m like a caged rabbit being released.

This is what happened Saturday morning. Bethany shot off like a streak of lightening and was out of sight in no time.  I was rearing to go, but Nathan was holding back.  He said, “Mom, I haven’t had time to train.  You go ahead!” It’s at times like this that I hate my competitiveness.  I wanted to stay with him, but I wanted to do my best. I decided it would make him feel bad to know I was holding back for him, so I ran on ahead.

At about 2 miles Nathan caught up to me. Now he was feeling good, and I was feeling tired.  As we approached a steep hill I glanced over at Nathan who was looking like he was just warming up. I said,  “Nathan, I’ve messed up.  I started out too fast. I’m afraid I’m going to run out of gas and not make it.” He encouraged me to keep going.

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Nathan finished one minute ahead of me. 🙂

He had been walking up the hills while I tried to jog up them. It had been a wise decision on his part.  Note to self: When life gets tough, you may not be able to keep up the speed you’ve been living life. Don’t give up. Give yourself time to recharge. Spend extra time in God’s Word and in prayer.

I’ve seen Christians really on fire for God.  They are impressive. They work hard in the church and serve God fervently.  But a few times I’ve found that some years later,  they no longer attend church at all.  Maybe they burned out. We must constantly make time to nurture our personal relationship with God and make sure we are being led by the Holy Spirit.

Then there is the aspect of spending lots of time in Bible study and church going, but neglecting to share that knowledge with others or practically apply what I’m learning. I must be careful to not equate church attendance with serving God. I believe God gives us opportunities every day to serve Him and love others.

  • Just do your personal best

Bethany had trained hard, but came in second place by 12 seconds. She did her best and had a great time of 45 minutes, but had to watch another cross the finish line ahead of her.  While we were all so proud of her, she was disappointed.  My mom asked me if I had known that I would miss first place by 1 minute, could I have done better.  I responded, “No, I actually did the very best I could.”

God requires our best….no more.  He has equipped each of us uniquely for the special purposes He has for us alone. It is not wise to compare ourselves with others. If we think others are better than we are, we get discouraged.  If we think we are doing better than others in a particular area, we tend to get prideful.  Neither is beneficial.

2 Corinthians 10:12 says, For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

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Part of our cheering section on the left… my mom, Mary Brewster and my son-in-law, Wesley Crews.

  • We need the support and friendship of others

My sister couldn’t stay for the race because of other obligations, but she came to encourage us before the race.  Wesley, Bethany’s husband, my Uncle Charles, and my parents came to cheer us on. What a blessing they were to us!

Their cheering reminded me of Hebrews 12:1 where it says, “Seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…”

When we know others are watching and cheering us on, it motivates us to do our best. We have loved ones who have gone on before us.  I believe they are watching from the banisters of heaven and are cheering us on.

We need the help of others to get to the finish line in this life.

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Uncle Charles isn’t a runner, but he is a loyal supporter!

If you aren’t regularly meeting with a group of believers around God’s Word, please find a group you can join to do that. Nathan and I enjoy going to Community Bible Study as well as attending church.  It is vitally important that we continue to learn how God wants us to live and then be encouraged by others’ examples and have sweet fellowship with them.

  • “Why are you doing this?”

Along about mile 5 while climbing a hill in the race, Nathan and I passed some men at a shop. They called out, “Why are you doing this?” It is a legitimate question. It is hard for people who don’t like to run to understand those you do. And to be honest, as my lungs were screaming for air, I had to wonder too! Here is why I run.

I had cancer last year.  My grandmother died of a massive heart attack at age 67 and my daddy had a massive heart attack when he was around 45 years old.  By a miracle from God, he lived through it, but heart trouble runs in my family. I want to live life to the fullest. I want to be as healthy as I can be.

I want to make memories with my children and be a part of their lives.

There will come a day when I can’t run so I want to run while I can.

So that was a good question and it is one I try to ask myself often. “Why am I doing this?” My motives need to be good.  When it comes between choosing to please myself or meet another’s need, this is a good question to help me make the right decision.

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Aunt Denise Davis on the left crossing the finish line

  • Life isn’t always fair

My Aunt Denise competed in the Mayberry 5k.  When her only competitor in her age group fell, the true colors of my sweet aunt shone brightly.  She stopped to help her up. They became friends as they continued the race side by side. When the awards were given out, my aunt errorously received the second place medal. She crossed the line first, but the judges made a mistake. Was it fair? No. Did she deserve first place? Yes. Was she properly rewarded what was due her? No. Was she a winner? Definitely! Knowing she had earned first place, she graciously received her second place medal without a word. She made God smile and set a beautiful example for the rest of us.

  • My father’s at the finish line

As Nathan and I were in the last mile of the race, we could not see anyone ahead of us. Nathan asked me if we were bringing up the rear.  I knew we had passed a lot of people, but there were also several  half marathon runners going the same route so we weren’t sure where we stood in the race. That’s when I turned and looked behind us.

I instantly remembered what Jesus said in Luke 9:62, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  I felt like Lot’s wife in Genesis 19:26 who looked back while escaping Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt.

Anyway, there was no one in sight. So we just kept running. I was getting really tired and felt like walking, but then I realized that this race was different from any I had ever ran before.  My daddy was waiting at the finish line! I wanted to finish well and make him proud of me.

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Bethany, my dad, Cordell Brewster, and me

When life gets hard, it is helpful to remember our Father is at the finish line. I want to finish well and hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

  • The end of life can be an uphill climb

The finish line was at the top of a hill. Ugggghh.  As I neared the end, I was tired and looking forward to being done…. but there was one more hill to climb.  As life here on earth draws to a close, it can get tough.  Sometimes the heartaches of life seem to increase and become more intense.  We long for relief.

Maybe God does this to help ease our hold on life here and make our transition easier.  As Christians, when we begin to see what is at the end of this race of life, we can be excited! We will forever be with Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. There will be no more pain, sorrow, or sickness. All will be well.

Along with the closure of pain and suffering though is also the end of opportunities to prepare for the next life. While we have breath and our being here, we need to seize the opportunities to lay up treasure in heaven. I believe what we do here will affect us in eternity.

May we run our race well by being obedient to what our Father has called us to be and do for His glory.

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

I Corinthians 9:24-27  “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is self controlled in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown; but we an imperishable. I therefore run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I discipline my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”