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Marathon lessons from Major Rettig of Trinity District

June 04, 2020
Story by Major Rettig
Congregational Resource Minister, Trinity District
Mountain Sky Conference of the United Methodist Conference

I am a runner. At least that is what I like to believe. My running has been very sporadic for several years, but I am pleased to say that this past month I have picked it back up with decent regularity. To better relate my passion for this sport, in my mid-20s I ran a couple of half marathons. That is 13.1 miles. I hope to run more half marathons in the future. My current average run is 3 miles.

Given the frequency of saying living in the pandemic is “a marathon, not a sprint,” I would like to share with you a few things that I have learned from the running world.

First, it’s OK to pace yourself. In fact, it is better to pace yourself. In a sprint, the run is relatively short and you can give a full burst of your energy to get to the end. In marathon running, if you do that, you will never make it to the end. Instead, use what energy you can now, knowing that you will need more energy later. While you want to stay in the race, moderation is important.

Second, listen to your body. Where do you ache? What are you feeling? How can you be mindful or tend to these sensations now or in the very near future? In shorter races, we can push through pain that flares up until the race is over (except in extreme cases). In a marathon, however, tending to what we are feeling is best to do at the moment, otherwise, we may never make it to the distant end. If you are tired, slow down, walk, or rest for the moment. If you are hungry, eat something. If your body is hurting, do what you can to tend to it now. Change your pace or form to relieve the pain as you are able.

Third, the race is long. While we are in the midst of a race it can feel like we will never finish. It’s been a while since we started. And we are not sure where the end is. Don’t lose sight of the goal that the end will come. Keep running the race. It is easy to want to give up or check out. Keep pushing forward as best as you can. Yes, pace yourself. But keep going as you are able.

Fourth, we are in this together. I have found that in a marathon, though we are competing against each other to finish the race, most people are kind and generous in the midst of a run. We will run beside others for a stretch. We will cheer and encourage each other. We make space for all of us to share the road.

Running a marathon is not an easy task. However, it is a shared experience. And by following the above guidelines, we will do more than survive our time through this pandemic marathon. We will have a great sense of accomplishment. We will feel tired, but we will learn some things about ourselves, others, and the road along the way.