It’s Not About the Race

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I have known Craig Bowler for as long as I can remember. We share the same birthday, and we are related in one of those ways that takes far too long to explain, so my kids just call him Uncle Craig and we leave it at that.

Whenever you spend any amount of time with Craig, you walk away knowing two things: Jesus loves you, and Craig loves you. He makes our lives better, and today I am honored to have him as a guest on this blog (even if he is a Braves fan).

Here is what he has to say:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I’m a runner.  I used to be a soccer player, a basketball player, and even played some football, but now I’m a runner.  I became a runner by mistake.  I didn’t set out to be a runner, but I am one. 

Running isn’t about a technique.  It’s not about the shoes, or the swag.  It’s not about a race, or a competition.   Running is more about time.  But, it’s not always about the time on a clock or a runner’s watch.  Running is about something deeper than that.  For me it’s about sacred time. 

I became a runner because I needed sacred time with God.  Being outside in His creation, being alone with Him, gives me space to contemplate His grace.  In my world I need that space.  I need His grace.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble—think about these things.

Running allows me space to think about these things.  It allows me to get in step again with the Spirit and to learn and relearn the unforced rhythms of grace.   Running takes me from the ordinary, to the sacredness in the ordinary.  Running becomes holy time.  Over the years I’ve run with friends and I enjoy those times, but l know my own deep need for solitude, so most days I run alone.   Well, until last year anyway.

Last year my daughter Adele turned seventeen.  Adele isn’t a runner.  She’s a soccer player. Adele was at the finish line when I finished my first marathon, and was excited when I got into the New York City Marathon last fall, but she was a soccer player.   “Running is too boring, dad.”  But during the New York City Marathon Adele discovered some of her favorite celebrities were running the race.  A movie star, a talk show host, a musician, even a teen idol.  Maybe running wasn’t so boring after all. 

A few months later I eyed the Nashville Half Marathon.  13.1 miles through Music City.  I thought it would be a good weekend getaway for our family before Adele, then a Senior in High School, would graduate.  On a whim, I asked her if she’d like to run the Half with me.  “Sure,” she said as she looked up from her text messaging. “That’d be fun.”  I wasted no time in signing us both up.  I quickly printed off the running schedule, circled the dates on my calendar, and looked forward to proudly crossing the finish line with my daughter.

Whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—think about these things.

What happened over the next thirteen weeks I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.  My daughter and I committed to doing our long runs together.  The first week we ran three miles.  I spent the run talking about technique, hydration, visualization, and proper gear.  I talked for thirty minutes without a break.  The next week four miles.   We spent forty minutes running together, but on this run I had less to say.  The next week five miles – fifty minutes together.

I began to understand something incredibly significant in those quiet fifty minutes.  This wasn’t about time on my watch, this was sacred time.  It wasn’t sacred time because it was fast, it was sacred because my seventeen year old senior in High School daughter and I had fifty undivided minutes together.  In the digital age, fifty minutes of uninterrupted time with your daughter is miraculous.

I began to realize that these were some of the most important runs I’d ever do.  During our training season Adele was voted onto the Homecoming Court and then later Queen.  She took her SAT exams.  She was admitted to college.  She was asked on a date to the prom, and week after week, mile after mile, minute after minute I got to run next to her and listen while she talked.  Sixty minutes, seventy minutes, eighty minutes, ninety minutes.  They became the most cherished minutes of my week.

As the training calendar began to have more X’s than blanks I realized my time with Adele was drawing to a close.  The finish line was coming too quickly.  I didn’t want to make it to the finish line. Heck, I didn’t want to make it to the starting line.  I wanted another practice run with my daughter.  I wanted another one hundred and ten uninterrupted minutes with my kid.

The end of our training runs came with a trip to Nashville.  We loaded up the car and headed for Music City – Adele with all the enthusiasm in the world for her first big run, and me with a heart swollen with pride, and a blister of sadness.

The gun went off and we set off from the back of the pack. We jockeyed together through the first couple of miles.  We laughed at Elvis and Gumby who were running side by side.  We talked about the neighborhoods as we ran through them.  I pointed out a college we’d visited in her sophomore year and we stayed on pace to mile 12.  “Only one mile to go,” I said reluctantly.   At mile 12 I didn’t want the race to end.  We slowed our pace for a moment, grabbed our water and ran strong to the finish line, smiling at 2:14 on our matching watches.  A great time on the clock for a novice runner and her dad, but a better time for a dad with his novice runner.

If anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Adele has since left home for college.  She doesn’t run much and I don’t see her much.  I miss her terribly. 

But I still run.   I still need it.  Today, I run by myself, but never alone.  Because of my cherished time with Adele I’m learning that God too cherishes His time with me.  I am recognizing that every step I take on my run, my Father is with me.  He listens as I talk.  He instructs as I listen.  He gently leads me through my run, healing me in places of pain, strengthening me to overcome obstacles in my path and eventually ushering me back to Himself.  I’m learning to run in and live in His indescribably amazing love for me. 

I need to think about “such things”.

I need to run. 

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To hear more from Craig, check out peppersaucecanyon.com.

See you tomorrow! 

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