It was the run/walk that caused us all to cringe in "fear"that we would be "disqualified" from receiving the autographed certificate from President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The girl's Phys Ed instructor, Mrs. Sperry, coached us concerning the run/walk. "Don't try to run hard the whole distance, you'll never make it. Better to run half a lap, walk half a lap and then repeat the pattern. Don't over do it!" From the whistle that began the 600 yard "marathon" I had a plan. I determined to jog steadily. I would keep the same pace throughout the race. Not too fast and not too slow. I would not allow myself to walk, but I would not sprint or run full throtle either. After the first lap, I felt pretty sure of myself. When the other girls were walking, laughing and coasting along, I was jogging with commitment. By the fifth lap of the eight required to makeup the 600 yards around our grassy oval, my legs were jello. I wanted badly to join the ranks of the "uncommitted" walkers. But, I had made an inner vow that I would not walk and I refused my screaming muscles incessant requests.
It was the final turn of the eigth lap that disaster struck: I stumbled...I fell...face down and breathless. As I went down I heard a collective anguished sigh from those that had finished ahead of me. And at that point voices in my head were telling me to give up.... I would not...I could not....I had committed and I would not stop....a louder voice screamed from deep within me "Get up!" And I did. Pushing myself upright, I began the same paced jog that had carried me the previous 7 3/4 laps...my lungs were burning and my mind foggy...through sweat filled eyes I saw the finish line with Coach Sperry and several other classmates jumping up and down and cheering me on as I fell across the line. Who knew?
Completing that 600 yard run/walk (continual jog) solidified something in my heart. I would reflect on the strength of that inner vow fulfilled more than once during the coming years.
Our spiritual race can be like that 600 yard run/walk. Some believers will run without abandon the full course, hoping to maintain the "sprint to the end", without burning out. Others will run awhile and walk awhile depending on their emotional entanglements with the world. Then there are those who determine to never stop, but commit to steady progress regardless of pain or importunity. Without warning, however, the most experienced and determined may find themselves face down in the dirt. It is at that juncture of life that every panicked pilgrim has a decision to make: wallow in the agony of defeat or rally to the inner-man's vow to victory to rise from the fated falls of life and finish strong. Many times as we re-enter the fray we can hear the cheers of those that have gone one before us, calling to us to complete our vows and finish our race.
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith...'Hebrews 12:1-2