When I ran my first marathon this past spring, I wrote two posts about the “life is a marathon” analogy: one that described the training process as an analogy for life as a whole (The “Life is a Marathon” Analogy: The Training) and one that described the marathon itself as more of a metaphor for specific life situations, because I had concluded that “Life is NOT a Marathon, After All…“
This past weekend, however, has caused me to reconsider. Several of my friends in my running group were participating in our local marathon, and I went to support them. Watching, cheering, waiting, and even running the last several miles with one friend, I had a different perspective from which to reflect on the symbolism of a marathon than I did when I was actually running one myself. I recognized some parallels to life as a whole that hadn’t stood out to me before:
- Everyone handles life differently. Among runners in the race, and even people just in my running group, there were all different strengths, abilities, and styles. Some people do better when it’s warm. Some people do better when it’s cold. Some people stretch before. Some people don’t. Some people groan when they see hills. Some people are thankful for a break in the monotony. Some people are aiming for a certain time goal. Some people just want to make it through. We all approach and experience life differently, too. One isn’t better than another… just different.
- People come in and out of your life. As I walked and drove to different parts of the course, I saw several of my friends and team members, and enjoyed cheering them on. I even saw a few people I know from other contexts, but hadn’t expected to see them at the marathon. I ran the final section with a friend, and heard several other stories of people encouraged by others running portions of the race with them. I think life is a bit like that. Some people are with us for a time but don’t reappear again, some weave in and out of our lives at different points, some we interact with briefly, some we simply pass by.
- Maybe heaven is like the end of the race. As I accompanied my friend towards the finish line, the clouds started to break a bit and the suns rays shone on the spot where we knew the end would come. We joked that it was God saying, “Come on in!” Then I thought–wouldn’t it be great if that actually was heaven? If once we were done with the race, God would welcome us in? I don’t mean I was hoping we’d keel over at the finish line or anything, but I do hope heaven is somewhat like the joy of finishing a grueling race, being welcomed by familiar faces, congratulating you on making it. I hope we can say, as Paul writes to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
I loved cheering and encouraging my teammates, but I confess, I was a bit jealous, too. I really wished I were participating. The event was so exciting, and afterwards, I kept thinking about when I could sign up for my next race. I only hope that at times I’m able to approach life with the same enthusiasm!
(Of course, my purpose in these “marathon” posts isn’t to actually answer the question of whether life can be compared to a marathon. It can, and it can’t. My hope is, as I’ve played around with the idea, that you’ve found something worthwhile that makes you think about life in a different way than you may have before).