Monday, June 27, 2011


Fr. Dale Matson
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NASB).

I quit smoking in 1983 and gained twenty pounds within the next couple of months. Exercise can be an effective behavioral substitute for smoking and I began walking. My first mile took eighteen and a half minutes and I thought I was going to have a heart attack at the end. I began walking daily and decided on the goal of running for a mile. After this, it was a 5K then a 10K run. Making progress in one area of life can keep one optimistic even when other areas are less than satisfactory. As a side effect, my weight diminished. Eventually I ran (and walked) my first marathon in six hours twenty minutes at age 48. I finished last behind a lady who had to give up her moniker “Last place Grace”. I used a marathon training plan by Jeff Galloway.

Since that time I have run over one hundred marathons and ultra-marathons (for me, everything worth doing is worth overdoing). Because of occasional overuse injuries, I later learned to mix running with swimming and biking and have remained relatively injury free since adopting this method of training. I must also say that I am physically unremarkable and did not participate in school sports. I personally believe that completing a marathon as a runner or a “double century” as a cyclist is a breakthrough experience that can forever positively impact a person’s life.

Let me now discuss what can happen along the way. Either of these or similar goals requires dedication and discipline from the individual. These are goals arrived at only incrementally and over time, often in the company of individuals with which you will forge lifelong friendships. These are goals which require patience, persistence and focus. These are goals that require priority setting and boundary setting. Perhaps the most important thing these goals require is self-discipline or self-regulation. Along the way one gains a sense of self efficacy and respect for one’s own body. Food is seen as fuel not something to appease a mood. Sweat comes from places a shower never reaches and physical fatigue helps one sleep better.

If you find that your schedule is overwhelming and that you can’t seem to get closure on things, maybe it is a self-regulation issue and not the demands of your work. Goal setting and attainment require the skills one must acquire to complete a marathon. Time management and task accountability are problems I continue to see with professionals who even have masters and doctoral level preparation.  If you are a Christian and your life is still a chaotic mess, then maybe a marathon is in order. Run two and call me in the morning.

Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air.” (1st Corinthians 9:26, NASB).       

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