Going The Distance

Olympic Marathon Runner Ryan Hall grew up in Christian home, but even though his parents did their best to instill godly values into his life, Ryan admits that he was heading the wrong way spiritually. As a teenager while pursuing sports such as baseball, basketball and football, he was involved in a lifestyle that found him in the middle of the cool crowd and an increasingly active party scene.

He says, “We were young, so we weren’t into drinking and drugs, but it was heading that direction. But when I started [long distance] running, my lifestyle changed a lot. I lost a lot of those friends. So I was around a whole different group of people. That put me out of the cool group. I remember just feeling a void at that point and a little bit lonely. Socially I wasn’t fitting in anymore. I was kind of struggling with that. Jesus really became my best friend at that point. When I was feeling that void, I would go to Him for that relationship that I was looking for and that was the real beginning of my walk with Christ – and it’s been growing ever since.”

Hall excelled through the years in long-distance running. He won championships at the high school and college levels. He made the Olympic Team and finished in tenth place in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics, a remarkable accomplishment.

Throughout his career, Hall has found inspiration in a friendship with legendary runner Jim Ryun and his family. He is also a big fan of Scottish Olympian Eric Liddell, whose story was told in the film Chariots of Fire. Some of Hall’s favorite verses are listed below.

Read 2 Chronicles 16:9 (HCSB)
9 For the eyes of Yahweh roam throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His. You have been foolish in this matter. Therefore, you will have wars from now on.”

  • When God’s eyes fall on you, what do you think He sees in your heart?
  • How would finding your identity in Christ change your motives for excellence?

Read Philippians 4:12-13 (HCSB)
12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret ⌊of being content⌋—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

  • How does an attitude of contentment give strength to those striving for excellence?
  • How do you think verse 12 relates to the inspirational truth found in verse 13?

Read Leviticus 25:2-4 (HCSB)
2 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you, the land will observe a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 You may sow your field for six years, and you may prune your vineyard and gather its produce for six years. 4 But there will be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to the Lord: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard.

  • How can this passage in Leviticus apply to both our physical and spiritual training?
  • When did a time of rest allow you to push forward and be successful in competition?

Read Proverbs 24:16 (HCSB)
16 Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up, but the wicked will stumble into ruin.

  • Hall believes that the key to endurance is not getting emotionally down after making a mistake. How does this passage in Proverbs inspire you to never give up?
  • Describe a time when you stumbled or failed but chose to continue. Where did you find the courage to do so?

Hall says, “Before all of my big races, I like to watch the movie The Passion of the Christ, because that’s the amazing picture of how Christ endured so much for us. I think about His motivation and what it must have been like for Him to endure the type of pain for that long of a time. It makes me feel that what I do isn’t that big of a deal in comparison. I think about His motivation and how He was thinking about other people. Sometimes I can be a very selfish runner, so I try to think about others more when I’m running. That helps me to endure more than I could endure if I was just doing it for myself. So obviously I think about the Lord when I’m out there running. I think about Him taking that cross up to Calvary. I think about other people who I love. I think about my wife when I’m out there running. I think about the kids in Africa who we’re helping through World Vision. Thinking about doing things for others rather than making a selfish endeavor really brings so much more meaning to my running and helps me to endure through those tough times. The Bible says that Christ endured the cross for the joy set before Him. There’s a prize waiting for us at the end that we can fix our eyes on. It will allow us to endure things that we never thought we could possibly go through.”

  • Take a few moments to think about Hall’s words.
  • What do you think about what he says?

Prayer: “Lord, help me to endure. Help me to remember that you are always watching over me. Help me to stay focused on your path for my life, and even when I fall, help me to get back up and continue to walk – even run – with you!”

_______________________________________

Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 8, “Going the Distance,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes

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