Marathon Training – a journey of faith and prayer

My prayer life has significantly chanced since November 27, 2016.

I imagine this unhurried and exhaustive way of praying about everything and for everyone that is a special concern or blessing to me to be more like how Jesus might have prayed when He slipped away to be alone with the Father.

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Last fall, I confided in my dad that I had been contemplating running the 25th Walt Disney World Marathon in 2018.  His immediate response was to mark the dates of the race weekend on his calendar with a note one year out (January 2017) to call and make hotel reservations.  What a supportive father!  Before I could even register for the race, he already had our rooms booked.

Oh, to be that kind of an encourager to my own children and to cheer them on in their “impossible dreams”!

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The images in this post are from the spiral notebook I made to contain all the information I collect pertaining to the Disney Marathon.

I have fallen back on his confidence in me several times since registering in February.

Since then, I have had a surgical procedure that corrected my heart issues which has allowed me to come off all my medications.  What a grace filled and faith building experience this journey has already been!  But, it also required me to take a significant break from running and then to begin again, building up my miles from a slow walk.

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I had to adjust to a normal heart rate, which felt abnormally fast when I  started to run, but with that came the blessing of higher blood pressure, which meant an end to the lightheaded and slightly tired feeling I had grown accustomed to.

Two months later, feeling unprepared and uncertain that I would finish before the course closed, I ran my fastest half marathon, thanks to a dear friend who paced me every step of the way, taking more than 10 minutes off my previous times.

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What is extra special to me is how I ran it.  This was the first half marathon I ran without music.  Instead, I meditated on scripture and prayed.

This approach to racing began for me one Sunday afternoon while running at the school track.  I began to pray, but my mind was racing.  My rambling rabbit-trail conversation with the LORD felt rushed.  My thoughts hopped around like a frantic bunny chased by an unseen enemy, bounce on and off of every thought and concern as if to tag it with a blessing.

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I stopped.

Standing still for a moment, I asked myself, “What is your hurry?” 

I had planned to work on a run/walk ratio for an hour and a half to two hours.  I wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere and neither was God.

I pulled out my phone and wrote a start of a prayer to the LORD as I walked.  It began like this:

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And then I ran.  I ran and prayed about all that I wanted the LORD to be for me as I set out to pursue a dream.

After a while, I’d walk again, quiet my mind, ask the LORD to guide me in my prayers; type out the next theme that came to mind, and set off in prayer and in a run again.

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What developed from this list is my go-to prayer pattern for when I exercise.

  1. LORD, this is what I need You to be today…
    • LORD, be my Personal Trainer.  Push me, pace me.  Write my training plan and outline my cross-training workouts for me…
    • Great Physician, be my Physical Therapist.  Help me to strengthen my supporting muscles and keep me from injury…
    • Creator of all things, my body and all the food I will eat, be my Dietician.  Help me to know what to eat, how much, and when…  protein, carbs, etc…
  2. Head to Toe blessings (literally from my hair to my toenails)
    • my brain/thoughts – naming distractions and concerns
    • senses & emotions – starting by asking the LORD to sort out how I “feel” and then naming all five senses in this order:  sight, hearing, smell (concentrating on each one to take in my surroundings with thankfulness), taste (to even include the water/fuel I’ve carried along), and saving my sense of touch for last (focusing on the temperature, sun, and wind on my skin); which also brings me to…
    • my body – naming every organ, muscles, tendon, ligament, function, form, common injury, etc. that I know of (for an increase VO2 Max, to efficiently breaking down fuel into energy, from short to long muscle fibers, to thankfulness for a steady heart rate,…).
  3. Blessings on family and friends.
    • Since registering for my marathon, I chose a person to pray for on each of the 26.2 miles of my course.
    • My “mile 26” has more than one person.  Here I pray for all my friends who are training for a marathons.
    • Matthew DobsonMy “.2” to finish is for Matthew Dobson, an amazing Christian role model and the only American to win the Disney Marathon in 2004 with an amazing time of 2:27:58(Just as a reference, my best time for a half marathon was 2:26:26.    That was really moving for me, and a pretty fun number for someone dreaming of  running 26.2.)  Because his blog and books have  been a real encouragement to me  and  because I have tired to copy many of his tips, I also pray for him when I lace up my shoes.

I have also chosen a verse for each of the 26.2 miles, for a total of 27 verses/passages, which I turn into prayers for myself and for the person I am praying for.  I don’t always start with “mile 1” (the first person or verse), rather on different runs, I pretend to start a different mile on the Disney course.  It is also a fun discipline of my thoughts to think through the various parts of the Disney property I would be on and pray for the LORD to give me strength for each specific mile.

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I made prayer cards to give to the people I am praying for as a reminder that I am praying for them. The card has the mile, the verse I am claiming for them and for myself, and a few of my running prayer concerns.

At first my 27 scriptures were for memorization, but now I just take phrases and turn them into rhythmic mantra to meditate on.

For example, when I’m running up a steep hill and wanting to walk, I’ll tell myself to say the phrase 10 more times and count them on my fingers, “Strong and Courageous” (Joshua 1:9) or “Consider Jesus.  Do not grow weary; do not lose heart”  (Hebrew 12:3) .  Or on the final stretch, I push myself as hard as I can repeating, “I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Before I know it, I’m concentrating on that spiritual truth and the hill is behind me or I’m across that imaginary finish line.

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This is the list of verses I carried with me for my last half-marathon. The font is just large enough for me to read. On the back I have a copy of the course map. I covered it with packing tape so it would hold up under sweat and rain over all my training miles

(When I’m running I’m running with someone, I have a much abbreviated version of this.  It I’m running with a family member, I often pray aloud but keep it brief.  Though I sometimes pray with my friends and even share the verse I’m on if they’re interest, but usually I try to cover most the first two parts while I’m getting ready or while driving to meet them or before they arrive at my house.  Then, I mentally tuck in prayers for others when there are lulls in the conversation.  But, when I am running alone, this is my favorite mental discipline!)

I still use my prayer notebook first thing most mornings and other prayer tools on days I’m not running, but I feel such a new fellowship with Christ in this season of life.  I imagine this unhurried and exhaustive way of praying about everything and for everyone that is a special concern or blessing to me to be more like how Jesus might have prayed when He slipped away to be alone with the Father.

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Though it may sound very structured, it really pretty free flowing for me.  Having a frame work to get me started and to return to when I’ve reached the end of a rabbit trail in prayer is such a help to me.

If you’re reading this, I’m praying for you…

for your physical discipline to tackle your responsibilities while still taking care of the temple God has given you, for physical activities that you are able to do safely and enjoy, for the discipline to start and the perseverance to continue, for the mental discipline to make the best choices for your health, for spiritual disciplines that thrill your soul and that you can make intimately your own, for contentment without settling for mediocrity, for the God’s truth to inspire you in the areas you seem to have the most excuses, for friends to share with all the wonders you find as the LORD answers these prayers specifically and practically in your life.

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May the LORD help you to begin something wonderful today!

And, may He give you the desires of your heart as you delight yourself in Him!


The following images are included incase anyone is interested in the type of information I’ve gathered to help me mentally prepare for the race:

 

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The historical weather conditions for the previous Disney marathons (starting temperature, high and low for the day, humidity, and wind speed).
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Pace charts for various finishing times

 

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chart to log my miles and cross training exercise for the entire ye

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Maps of the Parks:

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a pocket in the back for loose papers and maps of the course from previous years
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pages to journal and log times from long runs
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LOTS and lots of quotes, many from Disney, but many more from famous athletes and trainers and others from articles and books I’ve read
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a list of thoughts for the night before the race, another for the morning of race day, and a page of thoughts that might be an encouragement when considering the second half of the race
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a small section for each mile of the race to log prayer request for the person I am praying for, details of that section of the course (what to expect, locations, elevation water, food, etc.), and any thoughts I want to journal that might pertain to this part of the race  (Several people have worn cameras running the marathon or in ride-a-long videos from wheelchair racers; so a lot can be learned about the course on the days I run indoors on the treadmill.)

I’m sure this might seem over the top to some, but I love to research and study everything that interest me.  This first marathon  is such a stretch for me (my longest run previous is only 14 miles); so the more I learn about it the more excited and less nervous I become.

I hope, as I share this side of my personality to you, that you are encouraged you to be yourself, live deep and indulgently enjoy what you love, and chose to become an expert in those things that interest you.

And, remember, you can make anything and everything a matter of prayer“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”  Proverbs 16:3

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