Lessons from an Ultramarathon

My husband ran a 50-mile ultramarathon two weeks ago. It was the second time he’d raced this distance – but one thing about this race was an eye-opening first.

In his previous ultra, the course had wound through a large city – past neighborhoods, through parks, up and down city streets, into a business district… There’d been an endless array of visual diversions and the question, ‘I wonder what’s around the next turn?’ to keep things interesting. But this race was different. It was 50 laps around a 1-mile loop.

So, he went around… and around… and around… and around…. As I watched him, encouraged him, and did my best to support him while he ran (and ran and ran), I thought about the parallels to the infertility “ultramarathon.” You might be interested in some of what God showed me:

At the start, everyone’s optimistic. Before the race to parenthood begins, everyone’s expecting success. No one anticipates failure, heartache, or tragedy. But, that doesn’t mean problems won’t arise. If/when they do, remember:  Unexpected challenges don’t determine the race outcome – only the runner’s response to them does.

Those who start fast don’t always finish well. When you see others breeze past you with apparent effortlessness, it’s easy to get psyched out. Don’t.  Everyone looks strong initially, but fastest isn’t necessarily best. Speed doesn’t guarantee successful-ever-after. Success in an ultra means focusing on the quality of the race, not just the outcome.

Don’t set your pace to beat others; run your own race. An ultra- marathon is too far to go at someone else’s speed. In the same way, years of infertility treatments are too challenging to undergo on someone else’s terms. Take your eyes off the world (and all the people you think are watching you) and focus on running your own race at a pace you can handle.

This is virtually guaranteed to be harder than you think. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Expect challenges and they won’t seem so intimidating. Cling to the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and trust that when your strength fails, God’s won’t.

What you think about matters, so choose wisely. During a race, your thoughts send signals to your body that affect your strength & energy. Your body, in turn, sends signals back which affect your outlook and determination. Fill your mind with thoughts that will help you get where you want to go – hopeful, confident, positive, God-trusting thoughts.

Rest when you’re tired and “fill the well. The smartest runners listen to their bodies. They understand the need to take breaks periodically, and to fuel their efforts with the right kind of sustenance. So, don’t push beyond your limits when rest will do you good. And don’t fill your Self with junk (thoughts, behaviors, choices) that won’t fuel your efforts. Take the long view, pace yourself, and be a good steward of your mind and body.

Get help when you need it. Whether you need advice, encouragement, sustenance, or cause for hope, ask for what you need. There are people constellated around you for the sole purpose of helping you succeed. If they can’t provide what you need, take your requests to the One who always can.

Pray God’s words back to Him. This race is long and it can be lonely, but you are never alone. If you’re tired of struggling, pray for help. If you’re too tired, angry or stressed to pray, ask the Holy Spirit to pray for you. Claim God’s promises and remember that, because He is faithful, He must fulfill His word. He cannot do otherwise. Ask Him to confirm His presence and His determination to see His will done. Then, thank Him and press on.

Don’t let endless repetition dishearten and defeat you. As you run through cycle after cycle after cycle, trying treatment after treatment, remind yourself that you are making progress. It may look as if you’re wandering in circles, but God always has a purpose. Sometimes, forward progress just looks like a circle. Don’t let appearances deceive you. Trust God’s perspective on your progress.

Wherever you are in your race, know that the finish line is waiting. If God placed this dream in your heart, He will see you through. He will equip you. He will strengthen you. He will go with you. He always does. However long it takes, trust that He will help you get there. With God, all things are possible.

Press on.

Finish strong.

And give Him the glory.

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