“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what is in your ￼heart.” Deut. 8:2
I stood at the start line of the Wilmington 10k repeating this memory verse just before the gun went off. I was here to begin a journey of remembering where God has led me.
Seven years ago I started hanging out with a bunch of middle-aged men in parking lots at 5:30am. While working out with these men as a young thirty-something, I listened to these 40+ year-old men talk about entering the 3rd quarter of their lives. I looked befuddled at them as they described the life reappraisal this seemingly arbitrary number had caused in their lives. And then I turned 40 this fall.
Having been warned to not fall trap to the temptations of a mistress, motorcycle, or ministry-abandonment; I decided to turn my attention towards a completely foolish and self-inflicted endeavor.
I coined it as 40@40:
- The first half of the goal was to run a 40min 10k.
- The second half will be to complete a 40 mile race.
In these two extremes, I am seeking to transition from the first half of life where we try to attain goals and into the second half of life where I desire to attune my heart towards God. The first race is to attain a PR goal after an intense season of training, while the second race will be about attuning my body to the demands of ultra-marathon trail running.
So this past weekend became the time for me to attain this goal of running a 40min 10k.
Starting in July, I hired an awesome coach. A coach’s job is to help pull out of us what we don’t even realize we are capable of. Jamey and his band of Yonites certainly helped me discover a gear I never knew existed. He dialed in a race plan for me and answered my obsessive questions like, “Should my heart rate spike to 186 when I go up the bridge?”
I rolled into town feeling confident that I could achieve the goal, but worried that the precision left little room for error. My fastest ( and only official race) 10k to date had been a 41:40 so I knew I was close but also knew that I was nearing my limits.
The race I had chosen was the Battleship 10k in Wilmington. What I had failed to realize in my selection was that Google maps does not include bridge elevation in their data. So while my Google map showed very little elevation gain, what I discovered upon arrival was this course had three bridges. I knew there would be a bit more work than I had expected.
Therefore, this required that I get a good night’s rest. Since I had run that first 10k with an untied shoe, which my coach described as a rookie mistake, I couldn’t make another mistake. Unfortunately, my mistake this time was misreading the Airbnb listing that described our condo as having a rooftop bar. What I did not realize was that the rooftop bar, in actuality, was a private night club that would be hopping from 10pm until 2am directly above our bedroom. Not only that, but at 1:47am the fire alarm went off. So Lindsay and I exited the building with 400 extremely intoxicated people and stood on the streets of Wilmington for an hour (which ironically cost us only 7 minutes because it was daylight saving night…so that extra hour was spent anxiously wondering how this would impact the race).
Race day afforded perfect weather, except for a strong head wind for the first mile. Thankfully, though, my plan of attack was to come out at 6:45 in mile 1. So the wind, hill climb and bridge all helped hold me in check.
Mile two, however, included the second unexpected bridge. I had hoped to lock into my goal pace, but I had to push up the bridge while holding my heart rate in check. This is where a gap started to form between me and two other 10k runners.
Mile 3 had us circle around the battleship, and I hit the 3.1 halfway mark at 19:54. I felt strong and right on pace.
That is until I began to head towards the final and largest bridge. As I approached the bridge I got an excruciating side stitch that caused me to hunch over and feel like my day was done. It was then, that I channeled some advice I received to look up the hill climb and I began repeating Psalm 121: “I lift my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and Earth.”
As the side stitch faded, I crested the bridge and started to hunt down the other 10kers. Along the boardwalk I caught the woman directly in front of me as I spied my wife cheering me along. However, when I was a quarter mile from the finish, I heard someone gaining on me and could not comprehend how that woman had recovered to chase me down. It turns out it was Lindsay trying to get to the finish in time, but her pursuit pushed me to finish strong.
As I hit the finish line I hit my watch.
It read 40:00.6.
In perfect fashion, the goal was accomplished to a precision that couldn’t have been manufactured. While the official chip time said 39:58…I relish the poetic perfection of the 40:00.6. I had attained my goal.
In fact this was my prayer goal on Thursday, and here are my split times:
Now it is time to attune my body, mind and soul to God.
Therefore, I also got the privilege that night of preaching at a friend’s church. I’m not sure exactly why, but I sort of bullied my way into his pulpit by calling him a few months prior saying “Hey, I’ll be in town running a race, can I preach at your church?” To which he graciously relented. The gift he gave me was incredible as I found the perfect day.
It started that morning with me running a race, setting a PR and coming in 2nd. Then it closed with me getting to share my heart for the gospel. Spending the day with my wife among those two experiences helped me see how the Lord has led me all the way these 40 years.