In just two weeks I will be running the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis. Obviously, that has meant that I have tried to ramp up my training appropriately--and "appropriately" for a marathon means a whole lot of running and a whole lot of time. And that necessarily presents a whole raft of problems.
A running friend wrote me recently to express his own concerns about time management, stewardship of calling, and the very real threat of self-absorption during the months of training leading up to any big race. He said, "My family has been amazingly supportive, but I'm bothered by the fact that when I'm marathon training I spend alot of time thinking about me! My runs, my injuries, my times, blah, blah, blah."
How do we--indeed, how can we--balance our lives so that even good things, like running, do not come to dominate us and our families?
This is actually something I've thought about a great deal. Though I certainly have not been able to gain any degree of mastery yet, I have done several things to help me balance my priorities:
1. I quit worrying about times a couple of years ago. I run for fun. Certainly, I have more fun the better I do--but, I am at the age and stage where it's all a matter of diminishing returns anyway. So, I figure I have much better things to talk about and think about than my times.
2. I have a prayer strategy for every race and even most training runs. I stick to the strategy doggedly.
3. I try my best to memorize Scripture as I run.
4. I stopped using an iPod for most of my runs--and I no longer use a Nike+, a Garmin Forerunner, or even a pedometer as I once did.
5. I always dedicate every marathon and half marathon to someone in need--I particularly love running to raise funds for one or another of the causes I care about most.
6. I always allow the important stuff in life to interrupt my training schedule--or even my racing schedule. I try to never let running take over my life. And I always try to hold my running loosely.
Running is healthy. It is a great stress reliever. I love meeting the non-Christians among my fellow runners because they are often the only people I ever meet who don't know what I do vocationally. And I enjoy the whole culture of running. So, needless to say, I want to be able to continue to run as long as I am physically able. But, I also want to make sure that running stays in its place and does not ever intrude upon my family, my church, or my calling.