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What Kind of Runner Are You?

The Bible tells us we all are in a spiritual race. It’s a race you and I must finish … and win

By Dennis Rainey

Joggers, or “pavement pounders” as I call them, put me to shame. I had lunch one day with a runner who was so good that I didn’t even feel guilty. Max Hooper was a serious runner—a world-class ultra marathoner.

After knee surgery on both knees, Max was told he would never run again. Three months later he ran a 2:47 marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon. Since then he’s run in additional Boston Marathons, and when I interviewed him he had competed in six Pike’s Peak Marathons—I get lightheaded even thinking of driving up there!

He was one of 410 men who qualified for a world championship for ultra-marathoners, the Western States 100 Mile Trail Run from Squaw Valley, Utah, to Auburn, California. Only 210 finished the race due to extreme temperature changes, rugged terrain, and altitude sickness! He prevented dehydration by consuming more than 50 pounds of liquid during the race.

And he has run in a 52-mile race called the “Double Rim to Rim Run.” Got any idea where that might be? Just thinking back to one summer vacation and standing on the south rim of the Grand Canyon makes me weak in the knees. But Max ran from the south rim of the canyon, down, down, way down to the Colorado River and then up, up, way up to the north rim. Then the runners turned around and ran back to the south rim. Without stopping. If you want to ask someone what the Grand Canyon looks like ask Max—he’s been across it many times!

Are you beginning to understand why I didn’t feel guilty at lunch with this bionic runner?

But Max’s ultimate race was completed on his 40th birthday in some of the most hostile environments planet earth could offer any runner. The start: Badwater, California, in the oven of Death Valley, 282 feet below sea level—the lowest point in the United States. The finish: the summit of Mt. Whitney at 14,494 feet—the highest point in the contiguous United States. Total mileage: 146 miles.

Hooper and a Marine buddy started the race in the 100-degree desert floor of Death Valley running by moonlight. They began by hurdling sidewinders and ended scrambling on all fours up a glacier (the last six hours of which they ran above 10,000 feet) to complete the task in 63 hours and 12 minutes—an American record. He wore out three pairs of running shoes and his feet were swollen 2 sizes by the time he reached the summit.

Max said that he was able to do it because he didn’t run alone.

Did you know you’re in a race?

Like Max, you and I are in a race. A race that God has set before each one of us. A course of extremes. There’s the agony of the valley of the shadow of death, contrasted with the summit of joy because of the birth of a baby. And there are miles of rugged terrain and climate changes in between. Life is a race for every Christian. It is a race you and I must finish … and win.

How are you running today? Winning? Losing? Did you know that the omnipotent God of the universe has instructed us on how to avoid losing and ensure winning?

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

What about you? Did you know you’re in a race? What kind of runner in the race are you?

There are at least five kinds of runners:

The casual runner. He runs when he feels like it and when conditions are perfect. For these Christians the sacrifice demanded by the race is just too high.

The cautious runner. He thinks a lot about the race. But instead he plays it safe and seldom leaves the starting blocks.

The compromised runner. Unwilling to lay aside present pleasures, he has given into temptations to run outside his prescribed lane. His life is filled with short cuts—and dead ends. Few convictions. And no costly stands on issues at work. He just blends in with the pack!

The calloused runner. This is a veteran runner who’s become a cynic, or sarcastically critical of people. Scared by the puzzling, unfair circumstances of life, the calloused seldom see God in their everyday circumstances. Preoccupied with their injuries, their hearts have layers of thick tough tissues made of bitterness, envy, or apathy.

The committed runner. One who knows where the finish line is and is determined to win. In training at all times, they know that victory will never be achieved by the faint-hearted—they have decided to run to win.

What’s my point, you ask? Well, if you’re in the race and running, don’t let anyone hinder you from running well. But beware—look at Paul’s warning at the end of verse 27—you and I could be disqualified.