Wow! Eliud Kipchoge has broken the two-hour marathon mark for the first time in Vienna this weekend. The commentators were describing this feat in comparison to the four-minute mile of Roger Bannister and then more outlandishly to the first man on the moon! However it is framed, it is an amazing achievement, not only by Kipchoge, the four-time London Marathon winner, but by the amazing team which surrounded him as he went about the attempt.
As a sports fan and a Christian, it was hard not to watch and have Hebrews 12 in my head:
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Eliud Kipchoge and team did everything they could to break this barrier. This was the second attempt at the record and the planning was meticulous. Nothing was left to chance with the planning involving scouting a location with the right air pressure, the ideal temperature (9-12 degrees if you’re interested) and within three time zones of Kipchoge’s Kenyan base. On Saturday we then saw the 41 strong team of pacemakers assemble behind a specially built car projecting lasers onto the road to help with pacing. Kipchoge’s diet and sleep were closely monitored and analysed - nothing was left to chance in breaking this barrier.
Kipchoge was utterly ruthless in his preparation to make sure he finished the race, and he finished it strong. If you’re a Christian reading this, the call of the writer of Hebews is to make sure you do the same. “Throw off anything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” the apostle says. The call is to live the life of faith, on the basis of Christ’s amazing death and resurrection, with a steely determination. The imperative here is not to stroll, not to walk, not to aimlessly wander but to run as if it is a race with finish line, run as if it’s all on the line like it was for Kipchoge.
And this is why the call is to lay off ANYTHING that might hinder your race. Not just the “sin that so easily entangles” but anything that might distract from your running. This can flip our thinking from asking ourselves “what’s wrong with that” to “does this thing help me to run? Does this thing I’m doing help me to follow Jesus?”
Be like Kipchoge - plan your race and throw off anything that might distract you.
One thing which struck me as I watched the attempt was the amazing team of pacemakers they had assembled. 41 of the finest distance runners you could find were gathered, including a five-time Olympic gold medalist in Bernard Lagat! These pacemakers had one goal and one purpose, to get Kipchoge the record. They were amazingly sacrificial in how they went about their work, working for his race, not their own.
Earlier in the letter to the Hebrews we get this exhortation to the church:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
We can’t run this race on our own. Kipchoge had an immense team behind him to help him finish that race. As well as the pacemakers, he had cyclists to give him his food and water, nutritionists planning that food, a logistics team looking after every aspect of the race and a highly skilled sports science team leaving nothing to chance.
As well as his own team, the main difference between this attempt and the same attempt in Monza in 2017, was the supporters that lined the Vienna circuit cheering him every step of the way. This was even the first ever race his wife and three children had attended.
Life is not to be done on our own - we were built to do it together. To help each other as we run the race of faith, to encourage each other and cheer each other on. Who are the pacemakers in your life helping you run your race? Are you plugged into a local church where you will be with fellow ‘runners’, helping each other as the “day approaches?”
If you are in a church, will you be a pacemaker? Self sacrificially helping others to run the race and going out of your way to point others towards the goal, to help them to throw off anything that might stop them. Did you see the joy of the pacemakers as Kipchoge neared the finish line and the record? Will we be a people who joyfully cheer each other on as we run the race?
In Hebrews 12 we see what keeps the runner going is the finish line as the call comes to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Kipchoge broke into a massive grin and sped up as he neared the finish line. It was amazing to see as he honed in on the record and sped to the end. At that moment he must have felt it was all worth it. All the hours away from home, all the miles in his legs, all the planning up to this point, worth it as he achieved the goal and set the record.
The greatest incentive for the Christian as they run is the finish line - the moment when we will see God and be free from all sin. There will be losses along the way as we run, there will be pain, there will be difficulties but they will be worth it in the end. Jesus calls those who follow him to count the cost before they run but he says, although there will be loses, there are more gains.
Unlike the hashtag they used saying #NoHumanIsLimited, we are. All of us will one day die but the call now is to run the race, run it with others and run it with Jesus in view and the glory to come.
Jonny is the Communications Team Leader at Christians in Sport, one of the leaders of Town Church Bicester and playing his sport at Bicester Hockey Club.
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