Run for One. It’s a saying that has stuck with me since college. In my senior year of high school I had finally narrowed down my list to five schools. I had held on to hundreds of letters and offers from colleges and universities all over the United States but these five made my final cut. Oklahoma University would be close to home and I had grown up a Sooner fan. Then there was the intrigue of going to Florida and running at Florida State University or to focus on academics and running at an Ivy League School like Brown University. Yet, the two that I was leaning most towards was West Point Military Academy and Grace College. Where is Grace College? I had no prior knowledge of this school at all. Opening the letter was different than any other letter I received. I remember getting the chills down my back before I even got the letter fully opened. From there my eyes quickly saw that it was from the coach and he had something clearly laid out for me to see. He had made a list of five things. The number one thing on that list was my relationship with Jesus Christ and running was number five. I knew immediately that this was where the Lord wanted me to go to school. I didn’t waiver.
It was at Grace College that my coach and spiritual mentor Kirk Heng began to pour into my life. He did it through his example as an incredibly loving, generous, and caring person. I cherished every meal and conversation I had with this great man of God. Coach had this saying that we “Run for One” and I couldn’t think of a better battle cry for a runner like myself. Maybe not everyone understood what the phrase meant but I did. I understood what “running for One” meant because of a major event changed the “racing course” of my life. However, before I can tell you about that event, let’s start at the beginning where running came into my life.
When I was six my mom introduced me to running by using it as a form of discipline or to help me get my energy out. My mom owned a restaurant and in the summer I had to hang out with my mom all day. I was a pretty annoying nuisance so my mom would send me across the street to a park and have me run laps around it. I became a a pretty good runner at an early age because of this. All this running helped me in soccer, basketball, and baseball as well.
In the fall of 7th grade I went out for cross-country and officially fell in love with the sport of running. Naturally, I took up track in the spring. I was having a lot of success early on in running and I became super competitive. In high school my cross-country coach began to take a group of runners to a USATF running camp in Colorado. I instantly fell in love with running in the mountains. One day I went with a small group to a trail called “Sky Pond” near the YMCA we were staying at in Estes Park, Colorado. Being super competitive I ran ahead of the whole group and raced to the top to be first. I was pretty proud of myself that I had made it to the end of the trail and to the top of the mountain first. So far my running career was going as planned. Little did I know that God wanted to take over those plans.
It was beginning to get late and I had to start running back down the mountain to meet up with the group. I was way above the tree line and all around me was nothing but rocks. All of the rocks began to look the same, and I became eager to keep moving down the mountain. After awhile I realized that nothing looked familiar and that the rocks I was scampering down were only getting larger and larger. Being a young and experienced mountain runner, I panicked. My only thought was to keep moving forward. I would find help at the bottom, but I took one jump down onto a mountain ledge that ended my journey. I was now stuck on a thin ledge with little room to maneuver. I peered over the edge but I couldn’t see the bottom. I knew that one mistake, and I would fall to my death.
Naturally, I tried to devise a solution myself but I quickly realized that the jump, grip, and strength I needed to get myself off the ledge would be risky and most likely fatal. I cried out for help a few times but I heard nothing back. I was all alone. I stood there for awhile. Shaking, scared, and thinking to myself that this was it. My life was going to end. I was going to eventually fall to my death. This was humiliating and humbling. I had no choice but to jump and try to pull myself off this ledge but as I began to ready myself for the jump I got a charlie horse in one of my legs. Great! A cramp out of nowhere! I’m in no condition to even jump!
I leaned back against the mountain completely discouraged and defeated. My life flashed before me and it was nothing to be excited about. Was this really it for me? What about my running career and all my other ambitions for life? It was then that God got a hold of my attention. So I prayed. I simply pleaded and asked God to save me. I told Him that if He took me off this mountain that I would live the rest of my life in service to Him. My plans and my dreams were dead! What happened next is something I had never experienced in my life before.
Immediately, I remember peace and calmness washing over me. The shaking, cramping, and fears were completely gone. Suddenly I was facing the mountain and leaping into the air and this incredible power surged through my body to give me the ability to pull myself off of the ledge. I was conscience of what was happening but it was as if the Spirit of God was in perfect control of what I was doing. My heart raced with joy upon getting off the ledge but it was short lived. I remember telling God in a sarcastic voice, “but what now? I’m still lost”. Suddenly my body was thrust into a direction. It was as if God gave me a kick in the butt to say, “go that way”. I began to march by faith in the direction God wanted me to go. That march turned into a jog and that jog became a run as I grew in faith in where God was pointing me. Sure enough, I suddenly heard voices. I knew I was near the main path and made my way to it.
God saved my life that day. He also changed the RACE I am now running. Before that day I was living and running for myself but after that day I began to seek God and to run the race for His glory. Life and running is a gift and privilege. Our lives and our runs can be worshipful and used to intimately connect with our Creator and Father. God gave humans the amazing ability to think, communicate, feel, have relationships, and do incredible physical feats. Running was intentionally created by God and God can use it to help us grow closer to Him. To “run for One” isn’t about finishing first. There is way more to life than medals, plagues, prizes, fame, and our name at the top of a list. It’s about moving our bodies and lives for the purposes and glory of God and sometimes this means we might finish last. I run to love God and to love others. I run because He enables me too. I run because I am thankful for the ability too. I run because I understand that God can teach and show me so much through this incredible physical discipline. As I run I see that God can give me the confidence to discover that I am capable of so much more and in the end of every run…..I am reminded that God can help us through anything; because nothing is impossible with God.