by Andreas Pitti Heerwagen
22 kilometers to the finish! But, then I suddenly felt a cramp in my hamstring. I stopped immediately, and tried to stretch out the pain. After 30 seconds, I continued walking and then started running again. Something like that can totally throw you out of rhythm, and as a runner, you know it can come back at any time.
I’m a passionate endurance athlete, and this story comes from my participation in the 2019 Hamburg IRONMAN. It was my seventh IRONMAN attempt at achieving my goal of qualifying for the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. If something unexpected happens in a competition, I always use my own checklist to refocus:
Where am I?
What do I have?
What can I do?
It is important to answer these questions clearly and without emotion. In this case, I accessed my situation. First, I have completed 3.8k, cycled 180k, ran 20k and only needed 22k
to the finish line. Second, I have no more severe pain and I am overall okay. Third, reduce my running pace, refuel at every refreshment station, and never give up. Fourth, run one kilometer after the other towards my destination.
Each of us certainly has that one thing in life that hurts, screams, distracts, or calls for attention. What knee pain might be to one runner: alcohol or an unhealthy relationship is to another. It is mostly the one thing that paralyzes or hinders us from moving forward to finally reach our goals and dreams or to have the relationship that God intended for us. Unfortunately, the enemy also knows what our weakness is and always tries to start right there. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
I like this verse because it says what we should do, which is to be sober and watchful. How quickly do you fall into emotions, let yourself be pulled down, and distracted from the actual goal?
A number of things raced through my head during my competition. “Now I can’t qualify for Hawaii, it was all in vain, I can give up right now, then at least I’ll save myself from the pain of defeat…you must keep moving forward, and take one step at a time.”
For God it isn’t about winning, He wants us to be overcomers.
God gave us everything with his Son, Jesus. With his victory on the cross, Jesus conquered the world. He is the ultimate overcomer (John 16:33). And, we as his children can share in this victory! With him by our side, we too can be overcomers. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37) And we don’t have to do it alone, we can forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead. We can press towards the goal (Philippians 3: 13-14). He promises us in his Word that he will complete what he started in us (Philippians 1: 6).
As the clock showed 10 hours and 5 minutes, I ran over the finish line. I earned the seventh Ironman “finisher” that day. At 44 years old, and in spite of the setback, I achieved my fastest time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to qualify for the World Championship, but I learned an important lesson that day. God wasn‘t interested in a trophy. It was more important to Him that I honor my commitment, that I lead my children by showing them not to give up when things seem tough, that I finish the run that I started. “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” Proverbs 24:16
I will hold on to my dream of qualifying for the IRONMAN world championship, and Lord Willing, I will make my eighth attempt in the future. It doesn’t matter how many times we “fail,” as long as we don’t give up, we are “in the race.” Michael Jordan, one of the best Basketball Players of all time summed it up his missed opportunities like this, “In my career I have messed up over 9,000 shots. I lost almost 300 games. My team trusted me 26 times to hit the last winning basket and I missed. I’ve failed again and again. And that’s why I succeed.”
With this in mind, I would like to encourage you to not give up and keep going. God is with you, hold fast to Jesus in all your circumstances and challenges. He wants to help you be an overcomer. Remember, as a child of God, you are always on the “winning team.” With Him, you are a winner!
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