People who know me are aware of the fact that I like jogging. On Sunday, June 18, 2000, I ran the Bern Women's Race. I can still remember that day.
I awaken and eagerly anticipate the day ahead. For the second time, I am participating in the annual Bern Women's Race. The race is only five kilometers long so I know there will be a crowd.
At 11:10 a.m., I begin warming up for the race. It is already 27 degrees centigrade. About 13,000 women are participating. Several Olympic champions, including Anita Wcyermann from Switzerland, are competing.
The countdown for the elite runners begins at 11:30 a.m. With a shot, the race begins. I, along with the runners of my caliber, advance to the next position. Our beginning shot sounds at 11:36 a.m.
The first 500 meters are downhill. I try to get out of the crowd, but I have to take care not to use all my strength early in the race. I remember the last kilometer is uphill. Last year, many runners broke down on that hill. I do not want the same fate.
After running two kilometers, I feel the sprinkle of rain. No, it isn't actually rain. Spectators are sprinkling us in an effort to cool us down. Refreshments are located on the sides of the road. Fresh banana pieces and water can be had by all. Not all the runners take advantage of the food, but I do.
I'm feeling pretty good. I mentally congratulate myself on not having dessert yesterday.
It's really getting hot now. Perspiration runs in rivulets down my back. I begin to wonder why I ever started this race. I know I'm not going to win first place. The only thing I'll get for participating is a t-shirt. But then I realize how much enjoy the atmosphere.
I see more sprinklers ahead. Tt's hard to believe I've only gone three kilometers. Think positively—I'm over half way to the finish line. I see more refreshments at kilometer four. I don't stop though because I'm afraid I won't be able to regain my speed. That hill is looming ahead.
The spectators along the side of the road cheer us on. I pass a mother and daughter running side by side. The daughter is breaking down and the mother tries to encourage her. "The goal is so close; we're almost there."
I reach the entrance of the station. Only 300 meters to go. The sun is particularly hot on the tarmac. With a final burst of energy, I manage one last spurt and cross the finish line. I am totally exhausted but incredibly happy. I sip on a bottled drink as I head for the showers.
On my way, I meet an old lady who ran the race in 26 minutes. I ask her if she will tell me her age and her training schedule. She says she has just turned 70 and she trains with her granddaughter three times a week.
Like the 70-year-old woman, I like to exercise. The verses found in 2 Timothy 4:7,8 have special meaning to me. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished [my] course, I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
The participants of the race have varied fitness levels; some are trained athletes, some walk the whole distance. They can he compared to Christians. Some have a good knowledge of the Bible; some are just beginning to read God's word.
Many cheered me along as I ran the race. In the race of faith, many have encouraged and supported me.
During the race, I was given refreshments that helped me keep up my strength. What are the refreshments in my spiritual life? Perhaps it was that sermon that spoke to my special needs. Or maybe it was that retreat that soothed my soul.
During the race, many are tempted to stay too long at the refreshment stands. Is that what happens when we visit one retreat after another, listen to joyous experiences other people have and neglect our own Bible study? Do our families, careers and hobbies keep us from personal Bible study?
A vehicle follows that last block of starters in a race. Any people slower than the vehicle are no longer considered race participants. Those who neglect their relationships with God will also be considered "too late."
That 70-year-old woman made the race. She trained constantly and had the support of her granddaughter. If we constantly train with God and spend time with other believers, we can finish the greatest race ever. Jesus and His angels are with us always; they cheer us on and give us renewed strength and encouragement
I experienced great joy when I finished the Bern's Women's Race and won a t-shirt. But that joy will pale in comparison when I finish this earthly race and receive the crown of righteousness. That is the ultimate prize and makes the race worthwhile.